Girl Gone Viral (2020)

by Alisha Rai
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062877888
Publication: April 1, 2020
Series: Modern Love #2

Katrina is a former model who has since left that life behind and now tries to stay out of the camera as much as possible. After sharing her table with a stranger at a cafe, Katrina finds her privacy invaded when the whole thing is posted on social media in real-time. To escape the potential media frenzy, her bodyguard–whom she’s secretly in love with–takes her to his hometown so they can figure out her next steps.

Recently, I was skimming books I liked for my top 5 favorite romance tropes for a post and I came across Girl Gone Viral. It was one of the books I read right after overcoming a long reading slump. Skimming the book turned into a full-blown reread. I wondered if its effects on me had worn off but quickly realized I had nothing to worry about. It still put a goofy smile on my face 8 months and many romance novels later.

The Modern Love series focuses on love in the modern age with apps to swipe right, social media, and meet cutes going viral. Rai addresses the darker aspect of social media and issues around privacy. The conversations in the book surrounding this were thoughtful in presentation. It’s a bit overwhelming to know that anything you do can potentially be uploaded somewhere for entertainment. That’s always bothered me when someone is live posting as things happen to someone or to people around them. There is always the potential that your privacy is being invaded because someone decides to share a picture or a video online. Maybe sharing without audio/video and images might not be so bad but I am not a fan of sharing things that might make people easily identifiable without permission. For individuals like Katrina who value their privacy, this can be both frightening and overwhelming. It’s common decency to think twice about what or who you’re posting about.

A few things about Girl Gone Viral make it stand out among the romance novels I’ve read. Girl Gone Viral remains one of the most racially/ethnically diverse romance novels I’ve read up to date. One would think the diversity that exists in the real world would be reflected in the more books being published, but that isn’t the case. Katrina is biracial, half-White and half-Thai, and Jas is Punjabi but also with Mexican heritage. They’re both considered non-traditional leads in a romance novel, which shouldn’t be the case but is. Jas’s family is one of my favorite parts of the book. His entire family including mom, dad, brother, and Grandpa are all likeable. Although Jas’s relationship with his family is somewhat strained, they all love each other dearly. The person he seems to get along the least with is his grandpa but it’s mostly because they’re both so much alike.

The romance itself is another aspect of the novel I adored. A lot of my original review posted on Goodreads still rings true, especially as it relates to the progression of Katrina and Jas’s relationship. It isn’t all passion and hormones. Their romance is slow but they both have this sweet innocence that makes it so easy to root for them. They’re both adults but lack more recent relationship experience. Both constantly wonder and second guess about whether the other person feels at all the same because they don’t believe their feelings are returned. I thought it was endearing. They’re always thinking of each other as well. Katrina wants to do things for Jas, and Jas always tries to make sure Katrina has everything she needs. How more thoughtful could two people be? The ending remains as sweet as ever.

It might not necessarily be for everyone because the beginning is slow but it’s worth it to get to the end. It’s a well-written novel with a diverse cast of characters with two endearing leads suffering from what each believes is unrequited love and are caught in a slow-burn romance. Alisha Rai knows how to bring on the zings while also addressing meaningful topics like romance in the age of social media and viral posts. I am looking forward to her next installment of the series with First Comes Like out on February 16.



Romance Interlude 2.6


Dirty Talk (2020)
by Ali Parker
ASIN/ISBN: B08599MMXK
Publication: February 27, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Business of Love #1

The description gives away just about every thing that happens. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the book is able to follow through and fills it in with good details. First, I liked that Vanessa was curvy. I appreciated the plus-size representation. She starts off with low self-esteem and pretty much remains with low self-esteem all the way through. I kept waiting for her to have an epiphany that she is awesome the way she is rather than constantly thinking about how other people might see her. Then there was the radio talk show that seemed like it would play a big role but actually doesn’t. She was supposed to be a host that gave great advice but we hardly saw her in action. Additionally, there were some discrepancies in the book that confused me. Vanessa ends a chapter narrating that he doesn’t even know…O_o… but I swear she just told him a few pages ago. Then at the worst particularly moment she decided she deserved so much better than what she was getting in return. First, that needed to happen a long time ago and then I disagreed with how she handled the situation.


Boyfriend for Hire (2019)
by Kendall Ryan
ASIN/ISBN: B07H8SVQNJ
Publication: February 19, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Escorts Inc., #1

One liner: Bridesmaid falls for the date she doesn’t know the bride hired for her.

This is a trope I can’t help reading. I was waiting for the “I do everything but this” rule…and…yes, there is one. The first time I heard the “no kissing” rule in Pretty Woman it was novel, but then it popped up in a lot of different places. When it popped up here too, I couldn’t help but cringe a little but also chuckle, giving it the “I knew that was coming” side eye. Nick is pretty much perfect and Elle is the “normal” girl who doesn’t realize how great she is who gives him all the feels that he’s been waiting for that will make him consider changing his occupation. There isn’t anything particularly new here. It’s predictable and a fairly quick light read.


That Man Next Door (2017)
by Nadia Lee
ASIN/ISBN: B076J3GXYT
Publication: October 24, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Sweet Darlings Inc. #1

One liner: Woman who skips out on her one night stand finds out he’s her new neighbor as well as new co-worker.

I read a previous novel by Lee that got great reviews but I didn’t really like it. I thought I’d give another of her novels a try, and I ended up liking this one a lot more. If you’re not a fan of the virgin trope, you probably won’t like this but the premise is funny. Jan Doe, yup that’s her real name, goes on one-night stands intent on losing her virginity only to freak out and leave before it happens. This isn’t the first time that it’s happened. Matt is this genuinely sweet guy who is one of her attempted one-night stands. It’s pretty funny with all the situations Jan finds herself when trying to avoid him until finally she realizes that maybe he’s more than just a one-night type of guy. There was laughing and swooning on my end too. There’s more depth to Jan’s character than is let on by the description that added to this being 3-star read rather than a 2-star. Because of her past, she feels like the odd person out in her very large extended family. She’s still trying to figure out her place in the family so while she’s comfortable in her current position in the family-owned company, it’s also clear that she could be doing more. Matt might be able to help her understand that. This was a fun read.

Romance Interlude 2.5


The Strike Out (2021)
by Meghan Quinn
ASIN/ISBN: B08RNFL4C6
Publication: January 4, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Brentwood Boys (Baseball Romances)

One liner: Holt pursues Harmony but she isn’t looking for a relationship.

Harmony and Holt have such great chemistry together. As annoying as Holt was, I had to give him credit for working so hard to get Harmony to give him a chance. While their romance is the focus, I enjoyed Holt’s conversations with his dad the most. In many of the novels I’ve been reading, the leads usually have bad relationships with their parents or their parents are no longer with him so it was refreshing to read about a healthy one. It was sweet that one of the first people he wanted to talk to about Harmony was his dad. While it was a good read, there were a few things I wasn’t a fan of…like some of Holt’s tendencies. Then there were were a few things that happened closer to the end that felt like they came out of no where.


Rules of Engagement (2020)
by J.T. Geissinger
ASIN/ISBN:
Publication: January 28, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: N/A

One liner: Quarterback looking for a wife through a matchmaking service discovers his real match might be the matchmaker.

Mason needs a wife to help him clean up his image. Despite his grumpy nature, he’s a sweetheart but not many people get to see it. Maddie is the good natured matchmaker who Mason’s agent seeks out to help find a wife. She doesn’t realize Mason’s only looking for a marriage of convenience until they finally meet and, to make matters worse, there are sparks between the two. I liked Maddie more than I liked Mason because she’s so happy all the time and she loves pink–hahaha, reminds me of me. What I liked best about her was her ability to see through Mason’s prickly nature and how she would remind him what a great person he actually is. Their bantering was top notch–so fun–and they have great chemistry. Maddie’s aunt was unexpected with her talk of auras and seances. While most chapters alternate between Maddie and Mason, I liked the additional perspectives of Maddie’s aunt and Mason’s agent from time to time.

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (2016)
by Mariana Zapata
ASIN/ISBN: B01CDDTGRY
Publication: February 28, 2016
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone but appearances by other characters from other books

One liner: After quitting to work for herself, Vanny’s former boss shows up at her apartment asking her to come back.

Zapata has a way with slow burn romances. She makes her readers work as much as she does her characters and the ending is so satisfying. Despite her novels being tomes, I’ve never regretted picking them up. Especially with this particular book, the first 100 pages didn’t feel like it was 100 pages at all whereas I’ve read other books that make 20 pages feel like an eternity. I liked Vanny and how she was just genuinely nice despite Aiden being Aiden. What is Aiden like? He works hard but is closed off. He never greets her despite all her attempts at being nice to him. Despite living with his teammate Zac, they can’t really be called friends either. He’s a wall (physically and emotionally) and then as soon as he does something nice, I couldn’t help but swoon. Despite being over 600+ pages, I couldn’t put it down.

Feisty (2020)

by Julia Kent
ASIN/ISBN: B07VL5GXV8
Publication: January 28, 2020
Series: Do-Over #3

(Review at the End)

For a limited time, the ebook is only 99c & audio is only $7.49

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I’m not too proud to admit that finding Mr. Right involves swiping right. Right? Welcome to dating in avocado toastland.

Here I am, on my first blind date, ever, courtesy of a smartphone app and my two annoying best friends.

So what is Chris “Fletch” Fletcher doing, walking across the room, looking at his phone like he’s pattern matching a picture to find a real person he’s never met before?

Oh.

Oh, no.

The guy I drop-kicked in seventh grade cannot be my blind date. The guy who earned me this infernal nickname.

That’s right.

Feisty.

More from New York Times bestselling author Julia Kent as Fiona “Feisty” Gaskill gets her chance at love – drop-kick included.

The Do-Over Series is complete!

Do-Over #1
Do-Over #2
Do-Over #3
Do-Over #4

EXCERPT

My lungs have decided that the world is too dangerous to make a move, utter a sound, do anything. I’m frozen, the pulse inside me growing stronger as time ticks away. My own shut-down system is the barrier to oxygen. The disconnect between what my body needs and what my tattered psyche can handle is causing my overload to leak out in a really obvious way.

“Fiona?” Josh says, shaking me gently, Michelle looking to him for certainty.

And then suddenly, Josh is out of my sight, replaced by two clear, calm, green eyes, light brown hair, and hands that feel like anchors.

“Feisty? Feis–Fiona?” Fletch corrects. The sudden pivot to using my proper name is jarring, given the fact that every atom in the world is buzzing inside my ears and nothing anyone does will help me to breathe.

I make a strange sound. I know it’s strange because his eyebrows turn down in the middle, his facial muscles pushing them low enough to show concern.

Concern for me.

“Breathe,” he says slowly as he puts one hand on my diaphragm, fingers warm and firm.

I make a sound to indicate that I am confused and the speech centers in my brain have shut down. Empathy floods me as I realize this is exactly what my student with severe apraxia, little Myles, must feel like when he loses his words under extreme stress. For years, I’ve said “use your words” to four-year-olds having anxiety fits.

Never again.

“Breathe, Fiona,” he murmurs, taking a deep breath to demonstrate, his belly expanding in a comical way, though I know his technique is strong. Hypnotic and commanding, his voice and body tell me what to do, guide me back from being lost in the woods to a cleared trail where I can find my footing, take a rest, and possibly feel safe again, knowing I can find my way home.

I inhale, the insides of my nostrils cold, the air hitting my nasal passages a welcome assault, diaphragm spasming and sputtering back to life.

“That’s my girl,” he whispers against the curl of my ear, his breath like coffee, his hard forearm muscles all I can see, the ripped cord of his strong lines drawing my gaze. “You just breathe. It’s over now. You did it. You saved them. It’s okay to breathe.” He inhales, then slowly exhales. “Let’s do this together now.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julia Kent writes romantic comedy with an edge. Since 2013, she has sold more than 2 million books, with 4 New York Times bestsellers and more than 19 appearances on the USA Today bestseller list. Her books have been translated into French and German, with more titles releasing in 2020 and beyond.

From billionaires to BBWs to new adult rock stars, Julia finds a sensual, goofy joy in every contemporary romance she writes. Unlike Shannon from Shopping for a Billionaire, she did not meet her husband after dropping her phone in a men’s room toilet (and he isn’t a billionaire she met in a romantic comedy).

She lives in New England with her husband and three children where she is the only person in the household with the gene required to change empty toilet paper rolls.

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REVIEW

**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.**

The description doesn’t do the book justice with the exception that yes, there’s a dating app, and yes, Fletch shows up during Fiona’s blind date. The description focuses on a single moment and the use of the app itself isn’t pivotal to the story. The description has the potential to lead readers astray, like it did to me. I expected dating and the app to be a more significant part of the book and I was wrong. While the focus is on Fiona and Fletch, here’s what happens…

A situation at Fiona’s workplace leads to the need for emergency responders. One of the individuals to arrive at the scene is Fletch, who immediately comes to her aid. After the situation at Fiona’s workplace, they keep bumping into each other. She’s never been fond of Fletch because an incident in the past has characterized their entire relationship–she dropkicked him and he gave her a nickname she still despises–but now different feelings are also starting to form. As she’s trying to reconcile her feelings over Fletch and trying to find peace within herself, she’s also busy being part of her best friend’s wedding party and trying to date (hence the whole book description). There’s a few other things too but they’re all secondary to the feelings and the finding peace.

I was conflicted about the first half of the book because I wasn’t sure if it was a romantic comedy or not. What happens in the beginning is some heavy material, which was unexpected, and then there are a few funny things thrown here and there. It isn’t until about halfway in the book where it establishes that it is definitely a rom com and redeems itself for being unsure of what road it wanted to take me. I would have been okay either way just as long as it had been clearer.

Fiona and Fletch had chemistry, which is why I ended up giving the book 3 stars. While Fiona was indecisive and still figuring things out, Fletch was this somewhat smitten guy who kept trying to straighten out Fiona’s mixed signals. It’s not that she was being childish and couldn’t decide, it was her still trying to figure out who she was so she could better understand where he might fit into her life and if she even wanted him in it. Some of her findings resonated with me as well. Their bantering was enjoyable. Feisty is a good read if you’re looking for a couple that has good chemistry. Fletch has the potential to be a good choice for a book boyfriend (#fletchisacatch).

Romance Interlude 2.4



Happily Letter After (2020)
by Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward
ASIN/ISBN: 9781542025133
Publication: October 20, 2020
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Woman fulfills the wishes of a little girl writing to Santa Claus and falls in love with her father.

The set up is cute, and I’m a total sucker for the single parent trope but I ultimately didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would. Maybe it was all the “crazy coincidences.” I normally do not mind when there are one or two but when there are too may then it turns my brain off. A part of it was also about expectations and it was unexpected and not necessarily in the best way for me. Sadie is a likeable character, and Birdie is an adorable little girl. I liked the bond they developed. Add in Sebastian a devoted dad who puts his daughter first and we have an adorable potential family. It was a sweet story.


The Stopover (Year)
by T. L. Swan
ASIN/ISBN: B07QNKVR3N
Publication: September 26, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: The Miles High Club #1

One liner: A flight delay leads to a one night stand between seatmates and they meet again nearly a year later as boss and employee.

The book took off (hehe) quickly, immediately drawing me in but I became annoyed with Jim/Jay/Jamison. He’s someone who likes to be in control and wants things to go his way. When things don’t go his way, he pretty much pouts and continues to try to make things go his way anyway. He consistently ignored Emily’s protests/hesitation about certain things, and she mostly just gave in. Because Emily knows what she wants and can be assertive as well as snarky at times, Jim/Jay/Jamison is often asking her about her “b*tchy attitude.” I completely thought Emily deserved better. The book is well-paced and started out as an entertaining read but Jamison’s personality affected the experience.


Dirty Talk (2017)
by Lauren Landish
ASIN/ISBN: B078N6643J
Publication: December 26, 2017
Goodreads Summary
Series: Get Dirty #1

One liner: After phoning in to a radio show about her cheating boyfriend, Kat Snow ends up having a different kind of phone call after hours with show host Derrick King.

It’s called Dirty Talk and rightfully so. I had to fan myself a lot. WHEW!! Things get hot and heavy fast for Kat and Derrick after the initial phone call. The dirty talk is hot and the sex…yeah, that’s hot too. If you like those two things, this book is a good one to pick up BUT what I really liked about the book was it’s emphasis on communicating with your partner: talking, listening, and honesty. While I understand that romance novels (especially explicit, open door ones) are not for everyone, the book is a reminder of the many reasons that I love them. Sure, romance novels offer escape but they also provide introspection and reinforce sex positivity.

The Kinder Poison (2020)

by Natalie Mae
ISBN: 9781984835215
Publication: June 16, 2020
Series: The Kinder Poison #1

Rather than decide on an heir, the king chooses to invoke the Crossing, a race between his children that will take them across the desert and ultimately end with a human sacrifice. The first one to finish and kill the sacrifice will be named heir. Zahru’s desire to join in the festivities, unfortunately, ends up placing her in the middle of a sibling rivalry where she ends up becoming the chosen sacrifice. Now, she needs to figure out how to get out of it.

There’s just enough world-building to get a sense of the environment, including the politics and the social system but not extremely detailed. Magical ability is tied to one’s value, with those lacking ability seen as worthless and given limited resources. Interestingly, magic comes with a price such as a shorter life span for some and, after a time, some magical abilities will also completely disappear. Because magic has consequences, it’s (only somewhat) surprising that people would not also defend those born without magic to ensure they are treated as citizens of the kingdom as well. As you can see, I wasn’t a fan of how those without magical abilities are treated.

While the beginning was interesting, the race itself wasn’t all that exciting. I was invested in the book mostly because I wanted to know if Zahru would be able to escape her fate; however, along the way, I started to get increasingly frustrated with her. I liked her optimism–some may see this as her being naive but I would disagree–and her ability to try to see the best in people. She’s prone to speaking her mind but is also a genuinely nice individual. She is a capable individual but society only values individuals with strong magical abilities. As a whisperer, someone who can speak to animals, society deems her to be nearly useless, just above those without magical abilities. In viewing her worth through society’s lens, she doesn’t see herself as someone with much to offer. This lack of self-confidence carries through the majority of the book and irritated me greatly. She kept waiting to be saved while I kept waiting for her to save herself. Can you imagine being able to speak with animals? There is so much they can tell you especially if you need to escape!

While I liked The Kinder Poison, it wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped it would be. The ending makes up for a lot of the book and it does end on a cliffhanger. Good thing The Cruelest Mercy (The Kinder Poison #2) will be out June 2021. I will definitely be picking that up because I need to know what happens next.

Romance Interlude 2.3

Prince of the Other Worlds Series Overview
by Kara Lockharte & Cassie Alexander
Series Overall:

**Spoilers are going to run a bit rampant in this. I might also be more sarcastic than usual.**

This interlude focuses on the paranormal romance/urban fantasy series from Kara Lockharte and Cassie Alexander. It’s a quartet with an imaginative plot but also felt like a patchwork of different movies and shows. Rifts, doorways between realms, appear and monsters come into the mortal world (think Pacific Rim) while a rag tag team of paranormal beings try to prevent their entrance and the destruction of earth (think Ghostbusters without ghosts and the team is made up of a witch, dragon shifter, 2 werewolves, and a human with machine parts–pretty much a cyborg but mostly human). There is a cheese loving cat and a fire that erases memories of the supernatural as well as reverses the destruction caused by the supernatural to a certain extent (think the kids show Miraculous and Cat Noir’s miraculous who loves cheese). Of course, I didn’t mind it too much because it was good–at least in the beginning. While all this is going on human nurse Andie Ngo and dragon shifter billionaire Damian Blackwood fall for one another. It’s instalust/instalove under the guise of having found their mate with lots of open door bedroom scenes that sometimes aren’t in the bedroom at all.


Dragon Called (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B086XLV1XQ
Publication: May 3, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #1

The first book was a fun read, introducing me to Andi, Damian, and the rest of the gang. Andi’s personality shined here and she was quite witty. I immediately liked her. While life has not always been kind to her, she is not exactly the woe-is-me type and she still cares about the well-being of others. Being a nurse is a perfect occupation for her. This book had some funny scenes and I liked some of the banter between Damian and Andi.


Dragon Destined (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B086WX1QLW
Publication: May 17, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #2

The second book is more angsty with a remedied case of noble idiocy (Damian) that has now been overridden by a fear of being hurt again (Andi). What is noble idiocy you say? It’s the I love you but I’ll only hurt you syndrome which leads whoever is the noble idiot to then end up hurting who it is they love under the ruse that this is what is best even though it was to protect that individual from getting hurt in the first place. Andi is fighting her feelings for Damian and Damian is wondering why he put himself in this position. Monsters are still trying to come over from the other side(s) and Andi is still searching for her brother, although she might be getting closer this time.


Dragon Fated (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B088C45KFP
Publication: May 31, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #3

The plot thickens in Dragon Fated but it gets overshadowed by how frisky the leads are. I’m guesstimating that nearly half of the book was all sex. Just about every time Andi and Damian were together, they were going at it. I get it. After so much time away from each other (I think it’s only been a few weeks from the time they first meet in the first book), it’s natural to want to be all over each other; however, the plot is originally what led me to continue with the series and I was disappointed I wasn’t getting my questions answered.


Dragon Mated (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B089782J7L
Publication: October 13, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #4

Things got even more complicated in the final book. There were so many different things going on that it felt like the book spread itself too thin. The ending left me with more questions and the answers given to my other questions were not satisfying at all. The closure didn’t feel much like closure to me. All of a sudden people who probably wouldn’t work together were working together (what?! why?) even though the reasoning was somewhat flimsily established earlier. Sure, it’s possible that this can happen–you know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend–but I didn’t really believe it. Part of my disappointment is that I was hoping the fourth book would take a different direction. Book 3 hinted at the possibility of entering into a different realm and that doesn’t happen, so I was disappointed. Now I feel like there’s a loose ending floating somewhere.

Overall, this was an imaginative series that sets up the possibilities of additional books potentially set in different realms. It’s also possible for more Damion and Andi (Dandi? Andian?) centric stories. Despite having passed on the series a few times in my list of recommendations, I took a chance on it. I’m glad I did because at least the first two books were entertaining. I was disappointed in the last two books. I was left with an ending I didn’t really like, which then subsequently made me frustrated with the series.

Reindeer Readathon Wrap Up 2020

Started: December 1, 2020
Ended: December 31, 2020
Exchange: 8/10
Total points: 130/225

I started off strong, beginning my first book, The Impossible Girl, as soon as it hit midnight in my time zone. I was optimistic. I knew I was going to get this done! I was going to commit to my TBR. Unfortunately, I only kept to my TBR for that one day because I found Sleeper, and it spiraled from there. Do I have regrets? NEVER!!! (hahaha).

I tried my utmost to complete The Burning God and We Hunt The Flame. I successfully completed We Hunt the Flame but was unable to complete The Burning God and opted for a different book. Being on West Coast time, I completely forgot to turn in my points for Comet! ACK! I was unable to complete The Christmas Star (500+ pages), thus unable to get the extra points with Sleighing It despite reading Break Me with the hope that I’d complete all the prompts so that I’d be able to get points for it.

I had fun doing this and participated in the card exchange. The chat on Twitter was great! Participants were super supportive of one another and that helped me get through the prompts. Although I didn’t stick to my TBR, I read some good books.

THE FINAL LIST

Dasher – 15
*Comet*
Dancer – 10
Cupid – 10
Rudolph – 20

Prancer – 15
Donner – 15
*Sleighing It*
Vixen – 25
Blitzen – 20

Congratulations to the winning team!
I look forward to participating in Reindeer Readathon 2021. It will be here before I know it!

Romance Interlude 2.1

Happy New Year!! Here is the first interlude of the year. I contemplated posting last Saturday but was unable to review appropriately until this week. First, it seemed like 2020 would never end and then all of a sudden it was already 2021.


RomeAntically Challenged (2020)
by Marina Adair
ISBN: 9781496727664
Publication: July 28, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: When in Rome #1

One liner: Annie takes a job in Rome and gets a surprise when the owner of her rental unexpectedly returns.

There are multiple layers to the book that I did not expect. Annie is adopted and struggles in this in-between place, wondering where she belongs. Her adoptive parents are white but she is Asian, specifically Vietnamese. While I also struggle with feelings of belonging, I balance a different in-between. As a child of the refugees, I struggle with being enough–Hmong/Asian enough and American enough. Annie’s struggle resonated with me. The book is also largely about a father who doesn’t feel like he quite belongs in his makeshift family. He shares the privilege of fatherhood with two other individuals, his best friend and his daughter’s stepfather. Here are two individuals with different struggles, both trying to figure out where they belong and finding love along the way. Despite so many different things going on, the book never feels like it takes too much on its shoulders and provides a good balance. I enjoyed it.


Love on the Ropes (2020)
by Aviva Vaughn
ISBN: 9781947420205
Publication: September 25, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Love in Action #1

One liner: One-sided work crushes end up being not so one-sided during a work retreat.

I picked up the book because the beginning hooked me. I needed to know why Clint was sitting in his car spying on Erin, wondering if Erin had moved on, and why he thought it might be too late for them. It was a somewhat sweet romance between two coworkers who were attracted to each other but I struggled with how much I liked this book. Half of the book takes place during a work retreat involving a ropes course and building team work while the other half is back at their work place. Their relationship was a bit of a slow burn, which I didn’t mind but I disliked the lack of communication and secrets. I did like Vaughn’s writing and will definitely pick up her other books but the ending was just so-so. I liked that Clint wasn’t an alpha male and how he was a bit flustered to be around Erin. It was cute.


IOU: A Romantic Comedy (2020)
by Kristy Marie
ASIN: B087WJKCG3
Publication: April 29, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone but interconnected

One liner: After walking in on her cheating boyfriend and former friend/roommate, Ainsley James seeks out Maverick Lexington for a favor.

Sure, rumors are that Ainsley James is crazy but who wouldn’t be after coming home to find the two people you trust stabbing you in the back? I completely understood why she did what she did and loved that the book started with a bang…well, with flames (heh). I liked how feisty Ainsley was. Maverick grew on after I realized he wasn’t all that he seemed. My favorite part is when Ainsley goes back to her apartment to get her stuff and she takes the bread. She bought it so she’s taking it. Petty? Yeah. But I’d do the same thing if I was the one who bought the bread! I’m now sorry that I kept passing on this book when it constantly appeared as a recommended read.


Thrive (2020)
by Shain Rose
ISBN: 9780062672124
Publication: December 2, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Stonewood Brothers #3

One liner: Close friends realize they may be more than friends but different hurdles need to be overcome before they can be together.

I was hooked as soon as I started reading it. Rose quickly establishes the relationship between Jay and Mikka, and the attraction they have for one another despite both clearly trying to maintain they are just friends. I try to stay away from certain content but it wasn’t clear until a bit later into the book that an abusive relationship is one of the obstacles Jay and Mikka’s friendship has to overcome. Rose portrays what happens in an abusive relationship very well. She compares it to having an addiction, and I think in many ways she’s right. There’s the belief that it’s just a one-time thing and wanting to stop and leave but being afraid or believing it won’t happen again. One of the highlights of the novel is side character Lorraine, the owner of the bed and breakfast Mikka and Jay stay at. She tells it like it is and, like Mikka, I loved her all the more for it. This was nearly a 5-star read for me but I didn’t like Mikka’s back and forth on the status of her relationship with Jay. Additionally, I wasn’t quite sold on the ending. Overall, I liked the book and look forward to reading more by Rose. (Content Warning: It’s not immediately clear from the synopsis but there is an abusive relationship that is central to the story as well as drug addiction.)

Year in Review: 2020

Heading_Reading

Year: 2020
Goal: 150 Books

Read: 236 Books (267 including rereads)

I exceeded my reading goal…twice! Originally set at 100 books, I increased it as I inched closer to it and decided to increase it to 150. I met that goal, and then just kept reading. I read over 200 books (novellas included), and it was completely unexpected. I didn’t realize how much I’d read until I made more of an effort to track what I was reading on Goodreads. I went from a very, very long reading slump to reading nearly anything that sounded interesting to me. I’m positive this was an unprecedented year for me in reading so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to read in 2021.

*2021 READING GOAL*
Read at least 125 BOOKS

 

Heading_Blogging

Year: 2020
Goal: 1
Posted: 51

One of the best things that could have happened to me this year was discovering the bookish community and subsequently the bookish blogging community, which helped me to start my own blog. When I started reading again, I did not expect to become active on Twitter and I did not expect to start a blog…until I did. I reached out to Leelynn at Sometimes Leelynn Reads and she was welcoming and super helpful. It’s the end of 2020 and I’m still navigating a lot of things including being more consistent in terms of posting and my voice. However, I recognize that my posts are dependent on my mood during or after I finish a book…so I’m a mood blogger as well as a mood reader. The most consistent I may be will be how inconsistent I am. Heh…

*2021 BLOGGING GOAL*
Cross my fingers and hope for 51 posts
Celebrate my one year milestone

These are my five star reads of the year.

ttt_cover-1The Crown Jewel of 2020
This was my top read of 2020. I planned a review for Today Tonight Tomorrow but I could never get it just right. Maybe one day, I’ll actually be able to post up how amazing this book was, how it made me nostalgic, and how I sat smiling after I finished it and just thought about how much I enjoyed high school…and then I remembered the one that got away. (hahaha)

ON LIFE

  • “We’re so in love with our past, we can’t trust that there are good things waiting for us in the future. And we have to move on. We have to make bold steps and believe in ourselves and in each other.” — In Case You Missed It (Lindsey Kelk)
  • “Braveness isn’t always loud. Sometimes it’s silent. There’s braveness in sacrifice and kindness. It’s in doing a thing that needs to be done, even though it’s hard, and even though it hurts.” — A Thousand Letters (Staci Hart)
  • “You can be strong and have moments of incredible despair. Those moments are not weaknesses. They are simply moments. And they are not you.” — Hate to Want You (Alisha Rai)

ON LOVE

  • “I already know that every time with her, it will be perfect, but I could do a million takes and never feel like I got it just right. Because I didn’t get to be her first. Because she wasn’t my first. But if I can be her best and last, I might come close to showing her that it’s the first time that anything I’ve ever done with a woman has felt this good and real.” — Sleeper (Kayley Loring)
  • “A thousand leagues and a thousand sands. For you, a thousand times I would defy the sun.”  — We Hunt the Flame (Hafsah Faizal)

ON LOSS

  • “People say time heals all wounds, but that’s just a lie. Grief is a chronic disease. The pain just keeps on coming.” Midnight Valentine (J.T. Geissinger)