by Emily Houghton ASIN/ISBN: 9781982149505 Publication: May 4, 2021
**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own. **
Alfie and Alice share a ward in St. Francis’s Hospital, both recovering from traumatic accidents. While Alfie is sociable and can hardly prevent himself from talking to anyone he meets, Alice prefers to remain silent and hidden by her curtains. Although she is initially annoyed with Alfie’s attempts at conversation, little by little he draws her out enough that she begins to look forward to conversations with him. From disgruntled roommates (at least on the part of Alice) and then to becoming friends, their relationship begins to feel like something more all without ever seeing each other.
The experience of reading Before I Saw You for the first time is one that I will be unable to replicate. Even if I reread it somewhere down the line, it’s unlikely that the first time Alice speaks to Alfie will be as exciting. And that ending, that damned ending, will not hit me the same way. I mean, I don’t know if I will ever feel about it the way I do right this moment because for some books, there’s nothing like the first time. I’m currently basking in the loveliness of this novel. If I could, I’d like to bottle up what I’m feeling so that I can feel this way whenever I wanted. My one regret is that I waited so long to read it. It’s an absolute gem.
If you’re looking for something exciting, this isn’t going to be the book that will satisfy that search. The book is slow and might even be perceived as repetitive, but oh how I savored the inner dialogue and the connection between Alfie and Alice. This is a moving, character driven story that follows two people in need of healing and unexpectedly finding solace in each other, all the while separated by a curtain and never laying eyes on one other. It’s an uplifting story of the power of the human spirit and the connections we make that can help us thrive even in trauma.
Alfie, with his generally cheery attitude and talkative nature, is like the sun with its gravitational pull, grabbing hold of the people around him and pulling them into his orbit. No one can really help it because he’s affable and genuinely enjoys making human connections. Even I wasn’t immune from it. I have to commend Houghton for capturing his personality so well, for making his excitement so infectious that he immediately brightened my mood as well. I was so happy at how happy he was when Alice spoke to him for the first time.
Alice, on the other hand, is his opposite with her dislike of socializing, preferring instead to keep to herself and having just her best friend. The accident adds to her insecurities. Although Alfie is immediately likeable, Alice is the one that spoke to me, shattering me in several places throughout the book. Although she tries to resist, eventually she is also pulled into Alfie’s orbit. They become friends, but more than that they become confidantes, sharing things they would rarely, if at all, tell anyone else. I loved how their relationship developed and the eventual change they inspire in each other.
Houghton had me chuckling one moment and near tears the next. Alfie and Alice would share these significant pieces of themselves that ripped my heart out, and then the most sarcastic thing would come out of their mouths. These are my kind of characters, and if they were real, they’d be my kind of people. Having been inside their heads so long, it felt like I was saying goodbye to friends. The book is a slow read that requires immersing yourself in this difficult period in Alfie’s and Alice’s lives, to connect with them as they connect with each other. I adored the book.
Debut author Arnée Flores spins an exciting and original tale about hope in even the darkest of places, perfect for fans of Shannon Hale.
The Kingdom of Lyrica was once warm and thriving, kept safe by the Firebird, whose feather and song was a blessing of peace and prosperity. But the Firebird disappeared, and Lyrica is now terrorized by the evil Spectress who wields her powers from within a volcano. All that remains is a mysterious message scrawled on the castle wall in the Queen’s own hand: Wind. Woman. Thief.
Young Prewitt has only known time without the Firebird, a life of constant cold, as his village is afraid to tempt the volcano monsters with even the feeblest fire. But he has heard whispers that the kingdom’s princess survived the attack . . . and he is certain that if he can find her, together they can save Lyrica.
Princess Calliope has no memories beyond living on her barge on the underground lake. But as she nears her twelfth birthday, she is certain there is more to life than the walls of a cave. When Prewitt finds her, he realizes that she is the missing princess: the only hope for Lyrica. Determined to decipher the meaning of her mother’s strange message and find the Firebird, Calliope and Prewitt set off on a quest that puts them in more danger than either of them ever anticipated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arnée Flores spent her childhood shifting across rural Washington towns, lugging along boxes of books, and switching schools nine times before her family finally settled down on a wheat farm in the tiny town of Reardan, Washington.
Arnée identifies as Vietnamese American, but as a transracial adoptee raised by a Caucasian family in small-town America, she grew up feeling displaced.
It took a long while and a winding path for her to find herself. She spent a few nomadic years exploring, working odd jobs, and studying subjects from Piano Performance at Washington State University to Pre-Law and Political Science at Gonzaga before she finally understood that all she really wanted was to stay in one place and write the kinds of stories that had helped her feel safe during her chaotic childhood.
Today, she can be found collecting rocks, shells, and other curiosities on the beach near her Seattle apartment, all the while dreaming up wild and magical tales, her little white dog splashing along behind her through the tide pools.
**I was provided a copy of the book through TBR and Beyond as a Tour Participant . I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
I was immediately hooked as soon as I started reading because the book begins with the legend of the Firebird and hope so true that sprang forth from a small girl to save the world. The story revolves around the legend as Calliope, the Lost Princess is no longer lost but trying to bring back the Firebird to defeat the Demon that has taken all the light from the world. Prewitt, the Bargeboy, accompanies her so they can restore the world to what it once was. The Firebird Song is a wondrous adventure, filled with courage but most of all hope. There is so much packed into the story and so many elements to enjoy about the book but I liked the sense of hope it inspires all because a boy and a girl believed anything was possible.
Prewitt is stubborn, but it works in his favor because his stubbornness leads him to the Princess. It also helps him find the courage to do something about the present situation he is in and to not accept defeat. Had he been less determined, things might have turned out differently. Calliope, despite not having much experience on the outside, takes on her duty in strides and is intent on fulfilling her destiny. At times she seems naive, Prewitt as well, but it’s this belief and this sense of wanting to do what is right that allows her to do what adults may have deemed impossible. Where the adults had so many fears and doubts, Prewitt and Calliope are still able to see beyond their present, they are at the age of hope where anything is still possible.
The story moved at a fast pace, and there were times I wished it would slow down just a bit so I could enjoy the magic of the adventure. A lot is going on but I enjoyed it immensely. With one of its themes that being “just a girl” actually means being able to do anything, I know my nieces will enjoy it as much as I did.
by Nora Roberts ASIN/ISBN: 9781250272614 Publication: November 24, 2020 Series: The Dragon Heart Legacy #1
Breen Kelly is riddled with student debt and working in a job she doesn’t like. After discovering her mother has been keeping an investment account in her name with money sent from her dad that she never knew about, Breen decides to take charge and use some of it to change her current situation. She sets off to Ireland with her best friend in search of herself, to understand her past, and possibly to find her dad. She finds more than she expects: a portal to another world, a grandmother she didn’t know she had, and more weight placed on her shoulders.
This is my first Nora Roberts novel. I’ve been itching to get my hands on it after reading many positive blogger reviews. When the library finally alerted me it was available, I quickly jumped at the chance to explore Ireland and Talamh with Breen. While it’s not the amazing read I expected, it’s also better than average.
The Awakening is a slow build-up to what’s to come in the next books of the trilogy. When I say slow, I really mean it because nothing particularly “exciting” happens in this book. There are minor skirmishes here and there but they are nowhere near the scale I was hoping for. As the title suggests, it’s an awakening of sorts: the beginning of a trilogy, an introduction to a whole other realm, and, most importantly, the beginning of Breen’s journey toward self-discovery.
Raised to believe that her father abandoned her and that she is less than, the Breen first introduced is insecure, has low self-esteem, and is more than a bit miserable. By the end of the book, although remnants of who she used to be are still present, she carries herself with more confidence. Breen is a dynamic character with her transformation a powerful one as she learns to take charge of her life rather than allow someone else to dictate her worth.
I enjoyed the beginning of the novel because it starts quickly with Breen finding the financial documents that set off her adventure to Ireland. However, it slows immensely once Breen arrives in Ireland. While I appreciated the lush landscape of Ireland and the fun Breen was having with best friend Marco, I was ready to jump or dive or whatever I needed to do to find Talamh and its inhabitants. The book doesn’t get there until a third of the way through. Talamh is where things get interesting; however, it also becomes repetitive with the constant training and Breen’s back and forth between her cottage and Talamh.
The relationship she has with her best friend Marco is a highlight with the amount of love and support they provide for each other. Another highlight is her relationship with her grandmother, Marg. The opposite of Breen’s mother, Marg is loving, compassionate, and supportive. Then there is Keegan, the ruler or protector of the realm. Because of a promise to protect Breen, he’s bound to her, and he’s also set on ensuring she can protect herself. Where Marg has a soft and reassuring touch when teaching Breen, Keegan has no qualms about making sure Breen knows what she is up against. Their training often leaves her with bruises.
The romantic pairing between Breen and Keegan is also being established, scratching the surface of their potential as romantic partners. Their pairing is both expected and unexpected. It was obvious they are being set up to be a couple, but there is no hint of an attraction. Their majority of their interactions with each other seemed non-romantic at best, with limited introspection about their feelings–no heated glance, no slight touch, nothing much to make my heart beat for their pairing. They spend a lot of time training, a prime time for building the attraction through descriptions and angst, but neither was present. When Keegan suddenly declares his attraction to Breen, it felt unnecessary and not quite believable. I like their pairing but hope more is in store to further develop the relationship in the next book.
In its entirety, The Awakening is solely an introduction. The world is being built here, establishing an understanding of why Talamh is in the state that it is, the rules, who comes and goes, why they’re still tilling with horses, and why Breen is important. While it’s an amusing and often entertaining experience as Breen learns about her heritage, it also became repetitive in parts. Overall, I found it was a good book. While I’m not quite invested in the characters, I am interested in where the story will lead.
by Thien-Kim Lam ASN/ISBN: 9780063040847 Publication: May 18, 2021
**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Trixie is an independent sales rep for an adult toy company but has hopes to open her own boutique. While hosting a bridal party in a friend’s restaurant, she runs into her ex Andre. Not only is he bartending the event, but he also happens to be co-owner of the restaurant. Although still on bad terms, Trixie and Andre both decide it is in their best interest to team up to continue holding joint pop-up events. She needs to be the top seller to win a $10,000 prize to open up her boutique, and he needs to make more money to help the restaurant get out of the red.
Despite my conflicting feelings about second chance romances, I couldn’t stop myself from reading Happy Endings. The storyline sounded interesting, and there was a diverse set of characters. Trixie is Vietnamese American and originally from New Orleans, but she is now living in DC. Her best friends–the Boss Babes–are strong, independent women from diverse backgrounds. Andre is Black, and those he includes in his family circle are the aunties and uncles he grew up around. They’re a diverse bunch as well. And the food…I loved the mention of food from pho to collard greens to kimchi. Additionally, the book is sex-positive. Trixie not only loves what she does, but she also teaches sex education classes.
While I gravitated toward the book for the biracial romance and the promise of diversity, I was extremely frustrated with the central conflict that led to Trixie and Andre’s past break up. It’s one of my most despised tropes. When the multiple reasons for their breakup come to light, it still didn’t help temper my feelings because communication is key. It was severely missing from their relationship in multiple ways. Groveling would have helped a lot to bring me around to liking Andre but, alas, there was hardly any of it. Additionally, there were several things he did that led me to believe the two of them getting back together was not the best outcome.
I wished the writing had been more descriptive to evoke the images of such a beloved neighborhood or the aroma and taste of the delicious food Andre concocted. This also extends to the feelings Andre and Trixie had for one another. I never felt the emotions as much as was told about them. I might have been more open to the second chance had the writing evoked a sense of longing between the characters to support them getting back together, which would have helped push my niggling doubts aside. Additionally, the book is a fair length but felt long-winded at times. There was a lot to like about the book, but the delivery fell flat.
If I’d known he had dimples, I never would’ve agreed to marry him.
Some people are born for parenthood.
But I’m about to get it anyway, since there’s no one else who can take care of my wild child baby sister. I’m supposed to be spending my days running a flight adventure company with my best friend, but instead, I’m inadvertently getting myself into trouble, just trying to do the right thing and keep her out of trouble, to the point that it’s clear I cannot do this on my own.
But who else would want to help us?
Turns out, my biggest enemy.
Mr. Tall, Dark, and Cranky just inherited a country, but in order for Amoria to crown him as King—you know, that job they give to people with no more demanding qualifications than flared nostrils, proper manners, and a taste for crumpets—he needs a wife. Now. Obviously the only person he would ask is as irresistible (and desperate) as me.
And I see no better way to prove I’m ready to take care of my sister than to wear the crown of a queen. No one’s ever found fault with royalty, and hey, the job comes with round-the-clock security.
Except in return for helping save my sister, Mr. I’m-Not-Sure-You’re-Even-A-Real-Prince Viktor tells me he needs the teeniest, tiniest favor. You see, he doesn’t just need help saving his crown. He needs help saving his country.
Remember when I said no one ever found fault with royalty? Try asking that question after you see your frazzled face under the front-page headline of a small country’s leading gossip mag…
Hot Heir is a romping fun marriage of convenience romance between a surprise heir and a southern hot mess, complete with the bedroom to end all bedrooms, a run-down alpaca, and that thing with the hot air balloon. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a royally awesome happily ever after.
Taking a bullet or a knife, I can do.
But soothing a terrified, sobbing, otherwise competent woman is not something I’ve often—ever—accomplished successfully, nor have I ever found myself in many situations in which it was necessary.
I stroke her back, and gradually, they both cry themselves out.
Which is good, because seeing a chink in Peach’s armor is bloody terrifying.
“Papaya,” she says, her voice thick and wobbly, “you’re on kitchen duty for the next four weeks.”
“And if you get fired by the chef, you’ll be on maid duty. And if you get fired by the maids, you’ll be shoveling shit in the stables. And you don’t get to see Fred until your chores are done.”
I suck in a surprised breath.
Papaya gasps. “You can’t do that.”
“And if you don’t show up for kitchen duty, you won’t be going to Joey’s wedding next weekend.” She swipes at her eyes, which silences any objections I might have to keeping track of Papaya whilst Peach is away for a week. “You scared the ever-loving patootles out of me. I thought you were kidnapped. And instead, you’re here, spooking the daylights out of these poor guards who were trained on an invalid king who couldn’t even get out of his own bed to pee.”
Ah. I’m beginning to see from whom Papaya gets her creativity.
And it hasn’t escaped my notice that Peach is still leaning on me.
My knees are going quite numb from squatting, but I could crouch here for hours if that was what was required to make her feel better.
“You have two choices.” Her voice is growing steadier, more Peach-like. “You do your punishment, and we’ll find you a better outlet for all your creative energy, or we’re going to have one hell of a rough year.”
Papaya scowls. Her tears have also left her. “I don’t like those choices.”
“They’re what you’ve got.”
“I want to go home and live with my daddy.”
Peach’s entire body goes so rigid, I have to stop myself from grabbing Papaya and dangling her by the ankle for being such an ungrateful arse.
“He lost the privilege to keep you.” Peach’s voice wobbles again. “Meemaw and me and Viktor and Alexander and Samuel are what you’ve got.”
An emotion I cannot name blooms in my chest, swells into my throat, and renders me momentarily tongue-tied.
She’s just claimed us all as family.
“Get up. I want that armor shined and sparkling before it goes back where it belongs in the tower study, and don’t you dare give me any lip, or you’ll be shining and sparkling every single suit of armor in this whole entire castle if you so much as think at me wrong.”
I swallow hard, wishing my own voice were not so much more husky than I intend it to be. It seems emotions are going around. “I believe there are fifty more stored in the dungeons, my lady.”
My shirt is damp and cold where the tears from Peach’s cheek have soaked through, I’ve nearly watched a teenage girl outwit and terrify an entire team of guards who were quite ready to maim, if not outright kill her, and I’m playing parent for the first time in my life.
Being a team.
It’s disconcerting at best.
Irresistibly attractive at worst.
I’ve a kingdom to run. There’s no time to fall for my wife.
But I fear it might be too late.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.
**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
I’m not the biggest fan of the royal-plebe relationship trope in contemporary romances, but I’m willing to read it since it’s a Pippa Grant book. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Royally Pucked, which is technically the first book in The Heirs series but also second in The Copper Valley Thrusters series. Hot Heir is the third in the series and starts with a runaway air balloon and lots of bickering between leads Viktor, our king-to-be, and Peach, part-owner of an aviation company and guardian of her younger sister.
Like prior female protagonists, Peach is feisty and quite a character, with some vulnerability in her. She speaks her mind and rarely is one to ever back down, making her a good match for Viktor, a former royal bodyguard now turned king. Because Peach is always annoyed by him, Viktor purposely likes to rile her up–he enjoys it a lot. He’s an honorable person and seems stern, but he’s a pretty amusing character when reading his chapters. They’re perfect together, especially as the attraction builds and they struggle with the discovery that it could be more than attraction. I wanted to like Peach’s younger sister Papaya but I couldn’t. If she could have been given more to do than just to create havoc and laughs, I think I would have found a way to understand her better. Hopefully, she’ll get a book in the future.
I expected to feel about Hot Heir the same way I felt about Royally Pucked, but, interestingly, I liked Hot Heir a lot more. It likely has to do with liking Viktor a lot more than I liked Manning. Like all her other books, Hot Heir promises hijinks and lots of laughs.
Let’s compare covers!
I’m not really into the vest and open collar shirt of the new cover. He would look better buttoned up instead. I miss the hot air balloon too. Overall, I like the old cover better. Thoughts?
by Tricia Levenseller ASN/ISBN: 9781250756800 Publication: May 4, 2021 Series: Bladesmith #1
**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Ziva is a famous blacksmith, known for the magical weapons she makes, and people from all over commission pieces from her. Due to social anxiety, she prefers to stay in her forge, immersed in her craft, while her more beautiful and sociable sister Temra deals with the people side of things. After creating an indestructible blade that eats the secrets of its victims, Ziva and Temra go on the run to keep it away from the power-hungry warlord who commissioned it.
Blade of Secrets is a light YA fantasy full of laughs and likeable characters. It’s a fast read that felt like it was over as soon as I started it. Despite the fast pace, it never felt lacking in character development or world-building. I was immersed in the novel and engaged with the plot to outrun the warlord. With its medieval setting and Levenseller’s straightforward way of writing, the book immediately called to mind Tamora Pierce and her beloved works. I enjoyed the book for being uncomplicated and effortlessly itself.
The success of the novel also has a lot to do with a set of likeable characters.
Kellyn was a breath of fresh air for being so open and unguarded in his feelings. Being that he is a mercenary, I liked his honesty about what kind of a relationship he was looking for or could have if he suddenly found himself attracted to someone.
Petrik is a scholar and inexperienced in combat, but an asset for his cooking skills. It seemed like he would be annoying and even a hindrance, but Petrik ends up being the comic relief simply by being himself. I snorted a few times.
Temra is flirtatious and boy crazy but loves her sister, which is why she is more than willing to uproot her life to go on the run. Being the one without magical abilities, Temra can often feel overlooked.
Ziva, similarly, loves her sister but also tends to hide behind Temra during social hour. She also tends to smother her little sister and be slightly overprotective, but that’s what often happens when you’re the biggie trying to raise your little sister. She’s the book’s first-person narrator, and I found myself identifying with her at times, especially as she commented about her social anxiety. Her thoughts about how she wished people would just leave her alone often mirror mine, especially when forced to attend social gatherings.
I enjoyed the camaraderie that develops between our main characters as they begin to learn about each other and become more than just traveling companions. I have a confession to make though…After experiencing so many betrayals in books, I was a bit terrified of liking anyone too much. What if Temra actually hated her sister? What if Kellyn was leading them straight to the warlord? What if Petrik was a spy? I adored Ziva but was hesitant about everyone else. Any one of them could rip my heart out at any time! I’ve become utterly paranoid when I find a cast of characters I like. So…did they? You’ll have to pick it up to find out what happens. Ha!
I had fun reading and it was hard to put down. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and it’s been a bit difficult waiting to get my hands on the next book. I can’t underscore how much I liked other than to say it was soooo good.
Welcome to my leg of the blog tour for Hurricane Summerby Asha Bromfield (April 26 – May 10). Thank you to Wednesday Books for allowing me to be part of this tour. Links to different sections are below, but also feel free to scroll on through.
Publisher: Wednesday Books Age group: YA Genres: Contemporary
In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane. Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.
When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.
In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise―all in the midst of an impending hurricane.
Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic―and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
Content Warnings (For a more comprehensive list please see Book Trigger Warnings): abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, sexual assault
ABOUT THe AUTHOR
Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in CW’s Riverdale. She also stars as Zadie Wells in Netflix’s hit show, Locke and Key. Asha is a proud ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and she currently lives in Toronto where she is pursuing a degree in Communications. In her spare time, she loves studying astrology, wearing crystals, burning sage, and baking vegan desserts. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.
**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley as part of my participation in the blog tour. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Hurricane Summer is an appropriate title for the experience Tilla has in Jamaica while visiting her father for two months. Her hopes of reuniting with her dad and spending time with him over the summer go astray as soon as she gets there, proving once again why she feels the way she does about him. It hurt my heart to know that both she and her sister Mia waited so long to see their father only to hardly spend time with him. The father-daughter relationship was the heart of the novel but so many additional issues, including classism and colorism, piled on top of it that there was never time to fully explore each issue. The conversation Tilla has with her cousin about colorism is an especially poignant one though. This was one of my favorite moments in the book. I liked their relationship.
I’m a fan of emotional reads. The book tugged at me right away with Tilla longing for her dad’s love, secretly hoping to repair her broken image of him. As things slowly begin to spiral downward, with hurricane warnings abound, my anxiety level increased along with Tilla’s confusion about what exactly was going on around her. Just about everything that happens, except for moments of respite with her cousin Andre who might be the only character I liked in the book, is heart breaking. I kept wondering when it would stop. The answer? Like a hurricane, it’s unrelenting. However, as it neared the end, the final few chapters didn’t have the same impact. One event in particular did not add much to the story, and I felt it was unnecessary. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed by the ending.
One of the weaker parts of the novel is the romance. I couldn’t buy into it, and I was constantly questioning Tilla’s decisions regarding her love interest. The connection felt superficial at best, and when the word love is mentioned, I was taken aback. I couldn’t see how their limited interactions suddenly turned into love. But, the most difficult part for me was Tilla knowing the complications that would ensue from continuing the relationship yet still choosing to pursue it.
I was immersed in the book because of the writing. It’s poetic and the descriptions kept me reading–one of the most memorable being when Mia and Tilla bite into mangoes. Tilla feels a lot, and Bromfield was able to place me in Tilla’s emotional state of mind. It’s also well-paced. The plot moves along, never feeling disjointed or abrupt, despite the multitude of things that happen. I never felt the urge to jump pages or chapters to get to the end, with the exception of some of the heavier components of the book.
Hurricane Summer‘s beautiful cover hides a devastating coming of age novel about a young woman trying to come to terms with her relationship with her father while on vacation in what looks like paradise. It’s a heart wrenching novel filled with multiple events meant to break Tilly, culminating in what she decides to do: will she break, or will she overcome them? It’s a departure from the books I normally read, with a slew of triggers that pile on one after the other; it’s a heavy read. Despite the this, I did like the book even though it might not have hit all the marks for me. If you decide to read it, please be aware of the content warnings. I’ve listed them above in the book description, but I’ll include it here too: abuse (physical/emotional), cheating, colorism, death, incest, and sexual assault. Again, for a more comprehensive list, please see Book Trigger Warnings.
by Rachel Lynn Solomon ASN/ISBN: 9781534440241 Publication: July 14, 2020
**May contain spoilers. Please proceed with caution.**
When Neil is announced as the school’s valedictorian, it puts a dent in Rowan’s diabolical daydream of having him finally bow to her as the more formidable opponent. Now, she has only one last chance to beat him, the school’s annual scavenger hunt for graduating seniors known as the Howl. The competition takes an unexpected turn when she finds out a group of seniors are out to eliminate both her and Neil, turning the academic rivals into an unlikely team. Spending time working with each other as opposed to against one another has Rowan reevaluating her perception of Neil, seeing him in a different (possibly more rosy-colored) light.
As a fan of Sleepless in Seattle, Rachel Lynn Solomon had me at Seattle but my adoration of the book is all Solomon’s doing. “It was like…magic” mixed with a hefty dose of nostalgia when I first read it last summer. It remained much the same when I reread it recently. During my first reading, words evaded me when I tried writing a review. Even months after, I was unable to express how I felt about my best read of 2020. As May comes around with graduation ceremonies abound, I finally found the words to write something coherent.
Today Tonight Tomorrow completely and unexpectedly overwhelmed me. It felt like I was thrown back into high school. I was flooded with nostalgia as I simultaneously lived Rowan’s last day of high school and recalled celebrating my last days–mine was nowhere near as exciting as the Howl but I did get one last hurrah with friends.
Rowan and Neil were well-rounded characters. We learn about their hopes, dreams, and fears. I couldn’t help but adore them as they turned from rivals into an unexpected team. Initially, they have a one-dimensional relationship due to their rivalry but teaming up forces them into a different relationship that allows them to discover different sides of the other. While the events of the book take place in the span of 24 hours, the feelings that blossom in a single night don’t feel new at all–just newly uncovered. The feelings have been nurtured throughout their rivalry, and the layers of their relationship are now being peeled back, or maybe more accurately ripped off like a bandaid considering the time frame. With the book told strictly from Rowan’s point of view, it was entertaining to observe her thoughts and feelings, to see the different stages of her discovery, and to witness her initial shock that (gasp!) Neil is a person with feelings (I’m completely exaggerating here), that he could be someone she would feel anything other than antagonism toward. It was deeply satisfying.
There are so many things I admire about Rowan, including her passion and drive to go after what she wants (like bringing Neil down). One of my favorite scenes is when her friends tell her that for someone she dislikes, Neil occupies an alarming amount of her thoughts and time. Rowan thinks they’re clearly out of their minds for suggesting she feels anything beyond wanting to take him down. I couldn’t help but also agree that her friends were onto something. I also admire her commitment to her writing aspirations, which leads to Rowan explaining her love of romance novels. I agree with her assessment of the genre and the less than warm reception it generally receives. Solomon, through Rowan, helped me be comfortable with my love for romance novels even as my friends cringed when I (cautiously) confessed my undying love for the genre.
In an interview, she says the book is an homage/a love letter to Seattle. What a love letter it is! I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’ve always wanted to visit one day. Solomon created a sense of urgency to visit the rainy city, as though I should have done it yesterday. She does a tremendous job creating a sense of place with the vivid descriptions of the many places, both touristy spots and hidden gems, throughout Seattle. All this is possible because Solomon isn’t just a writer, she’s a conjurer of images and feelings, able to stir my long-forgotten memories of high school to life and make Rowan and Neil feel alive.
Today Tonight Tomorrow solidified Solomon as an automatic buy author for me. If you’re still wondering if I recommend Today Tonight Tomorrow, then I haven’t done a good job of divulging my love for this novel. I hope you’re itching to read it, even if you’ve already read it before. It’s my chef’s kiss of 2020!
To deal with the feelings you might have after finishing the book (book coma anyone?), here’s a short list of things that might help. I wish I had prepared them in advance. You know what they–whoever they are–say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”
He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world.
Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.
Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.
But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:
A crack. A melt. A fire that could end his world as he knew it.
Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.
But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.
Her brother’s best friend. Her neighbor. Her savior and her downfall.
Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.
Twisted Love is a brother’s best friend/opposites attract romance with plenty of heat and no cliffhangers. Recommended for 18+ due to adult language and explicit content.
Coming Soon! Twisted Games #2 Releasing July 29 (click for Goodreads Links)
Something smelled delicious, like spice and heat. I wanted to wrap it around me like a blanket.
I snuggled closer to the source, enjoying the strong, solid warmth beneath my cheek. I didn’t want to wake up, but I’d promised Bridget I would volunteer at a local pet shelter with her this morning, before my afternoon shift at the gallery.
I allowed myself one more minute of coziness—had my bed always been this big and soft—before I opened my eyes and yawned.
Weird. My room looked different. No photograph prints papering the walls, no vase of sunflowers by the bed. And did my bed just move by itself?
My eyes latched onto the broad expanse of bare skin beneath me, and my stomach dropped. I looked up, up—straight into a pair of familiar green eyes. Eyes that stared back at me with no hint of the humor from last night.
He flicked his gaze down. I followed it…and realized, to my abject horror, that I was touching Alex Volkov’s dick. Unintentionally, and he had on sweats, but still.
I. Was. Touching. Alex. Volkov’s. Dick.
And it was hard.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ana Huang is an author of primarily steamy New Adult and contemporary romance. Her books contain diverse characters and emotional, sometimes twisty roads toward HEAs (with plenty of banter and spice sprinkled in). Besides reading and writing, Ana loves traveling, is obsessed with hot chocolate, and has multiple relationships with fictional boyfriends.
**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
I enjoyed reading Huang’s previous new adult works, the If Love series, so I was excited to see her coming out with a new book. Opposites attract? Forbidden love/brother’s best friend trope? Count me in! Just as the title suggests, the book is twisted in all kinds of ways–in love, in life, in everything. While I was conflicted about the book as a whole, the parts I did like were simply titillating.
Ava is a “Pollyanna” who finds herself intrigued and ultimately falling for a dark and vengeful Eric, who explicitly tells her that she’s not his type and that she shouldn’t romanticize him. His warnings, of course, fall to deaf ears. Who would hear his words when Huang has created a seemingly unfeeling, single-minded hot male as the love interest? I’m not a fan of alpha males with their overprotective tendencies and possessiveness–all characteristics of the love interest here–but I can’t be mad at Huang because I knew what kind of love interest I was getting when I picked up the book. It bothered me, but putting that aside, Eric is hot. I mean, look at his eyes on that cover…**swoon** I also liked Ava for being such an optimistic character. She’s sweet and genuinely good-natured and is Eric’s complete opposite. While there is chemistry between the leads, I would have liked a more fine-tuned build up. I ultimately rooted for them because Eric needed good things in his life and she could possibly be that for him. There was some groveling…and that was nice.
The events of the book certainly live up to its title but not every thing seemed necessary to me. It would have been just as twisted had the book focused solely on the main plotline with a supporting subplot or two as opposed to the multitude of things that happen. The main plotline is an interesting one but sometimes I would forget what it was amidst all the other things happening. As much as I enjoyed the book when Huang gets it right–I mean, I relished those parts that I liked (one of my favorite scenes is Ava’s sudden appearance at an alumni gathering and it clearly has Eric hot and bothered)–there was also jumping from one event to the next that interrupted the overall flow of the novel for me. Some felt like unnecessary obstacles that didn’t move the plot forward nor established much about what I already knew about the characters; thus seeming more like filler than anything else. Overall, the book falls smack dab in the middle because the good stuff is really good but then it would be interrupted with other things that were not so good.
**This is a series review that contains spoilers for Scavenge the Stars**
Scavenge the Stars ASN/ISBN: 9781368051415 Publication: January 7, 2020
Amaya is nearing her final day on a debtor ship when she saves a stranger from drowning. He gives her an opportunity to take vengeance on the man who destroyed her family but things get complicated when she starts to fall for the mark’s son, Cayo.
I’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo so I likely missed the book’s references to the novel it is based on. Aside from this, having not read the foundational material doesn’t take away from enjoying the book. It might even be better since that means I’m less likely to compare it to what I hear is a phenomenal classic. Up until about the end of Scavenge the Stars, I felt this was what revenge novels should be like. Amaya’s chapters were my favorite, a lot darker and intriguing, while I was not nearly as invested in Cayo’s plight.
Ravage the Dark ASN/ISBN: 9780753555334 Publication: March 9, 2021
Betrayed by someone she thought was more friend than foe, Amaya and her friends narrowly escape with the help of a friend. Cayo and his sister also accompany Amaya and her colleagues. While it’s difficult to tell whether Cayo and Amaya will be able to overcome Amaya’s betrayal, everyone will have to work together to save the state of Moray.
Ravage the Dark focuses more on Cayo’s development as he searches for his place outside of his father’s household. There’s less of a focus on Amaya and she does a lot of brooding in this one–so much. Ravage the Dark is repetitive in many parts, following Cayo and then trying to figure out the source of the illness.
Characters: Amaya & Cayo
Amaya is trying to fulfill the revenge plot of her benefactor while also trying to understand why her mother gave her up to a debtor ship. Her time on the ship has stolen her childhood and hardened her to life, but has amplified her desire to protect the other children she served her time with–those too young to fight against the life their parents have given them to. There are two sides to Amaya: the hardened child slave seeking revenge on those who have wronged her and the girl who believes in love, yearning to break free of the chains of vengeance placed upon her. She is strong and full of conviction, ready to uncover what happened to her family.
While Amaya as this stronger, capable individual, Cayo is written less so. Aside from his father’s wealth and reputation, Cayo comes across as weaker in character. He is trying to overcome a gambling habit and hasn’t been able to live up to his father’s expectations. Except for loving his sister, initially his only redeeming quality, I wasn’t a big fan. Of course, he is trying to be a better person. Cayo is constantly trying to prove his worth throughout both books, but it’s not until Ravage the Dark that he slowly comes into his own. Overall, Cayo isn’t a particularly likeable character. In each other, Amaya and Cayo see qualities they desire in themselves. Additionally, in each other, they seek freedom from their obligations and even hope to find redemption.
This is a well-written duology, however, both books suffer from the same fate: a great build-up with somewhat lackluster endings. Sim does a great job of creating the world along with an intricate plot. I kept turning the pages, wanting to find out what would happen next. As I got closer to the end, however, I became increasingly frustrated. This happened with both books. I was able to forgive the ending of Scavenge the Stars, just a little, because most everything before the end was great. Also, I hoped it was building to something bigger in the next book. I was more frustrated with Ravage the Dark than I was with Scavenge the Stars. There was a character who had so much potential but was underutilized. Then, what could have been an epic ending happened outside the pages of the book! I was flabbergasted by this. Sim had me fully immersed in Amaya’s plot for revenge but the endings in both books reduced my overall enjoyment of the duology. I couldn’t return from that even though there was much to like, especially in the first book.