Attachment Theory (2021)

by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B09HPD7ZDY
Publication: October 7, 2021
Series: The Brodie Brothers #2

Attachment Theory is the second book in Loring’s The Brodie Brothers series. It features the youngest Brodie brother Dylan searching for love. Unfortunately, his past partners–of which there have been many– have all been co-stars. Their relationships have never lasted longer than the length of their joint movies or projects. He keeps looking for that one person he can form a lasting relationship with. Scarlett is a marriage and family therapist. Having been betrayed by her ex, she is reluctant to date actors. A chance encounter with Dylan Brodie, however, left a lasting impression. When they finally meet again, in her office no less, it will take a lot of willpower to refuse his advances and ignore her attraction to him.

Kayley Loring has been strumming my heart and making me laugh for nearly a year. Attachment Theory (2021), while embodying everything I adore about Loring’s novels, surprisingly bears a tinge of sadness that hasn’t been nearly as present in her other novels. Much of it stems from both Dylan’s and Scarlett’s past. Scarlett is still recovering from her ex-husband’s betrayal and seems hesitant to start any relationship, especially with an actor. She blames herself for not being enough for him, but also believes that she has never really been in love. While Scarlett has put a pause on her love life, Dylan’s failed relationships haven’t stopped him from looking for “the one.”

Dylan isn’t the most likeable of Loring’s leads. He’s confident but there was also this arrogance about him that I didn’t really like. However, he displays a deep sense of insecurity along with a less pronounced vulnerability that also made me want to hug him. He’s looking for a relationship that will provide him sustenance, someone for him to love and to be loved in return. Despite having been programmed by his multitude of short-term relationships to believe he may not be enough, he continues to war his heart on his sleeve.

I’m torn about how I feel about this book because instalove isn’t my cup of tea, yet there’s something different about Dylan and Scarlett’s foundation–a woman in a red dress and the man who bends down to tie her shoelaces. It’s terribly romantic because this one moment is burned into each of them, feeding them until they see each other again. I enjoyed the slow burn of the first half as Scarlett struggled with her feelings. Unfortunately, the second half felt rushed just as their relationship was beginning to feel solid. I can’t quite be sure if I believe in their happily ever after because the ending felt so abrupt to me (e.g. more groveling was needed). The three epilogues didn’t make up for it either.

This would have been four stars, possibly even five stars, had the second half been as equally moving as the first. The ending was too sudden and would have fared better with an additional few pages or even a chapter. While fun reads, the three epilogues didn’t make me feel better, because I wanted better closure. Also, I’m looking forward to the audio book. I love the duet narrations. It’s really an ensemble when it comes to the text messages.

Additional highlights:

  • It was refreshing to have characters who had good relationships with their families. Scarlett’s relationship with her parents was a highlight for me. Her banter with her mom was probably my favorite as they traded sayings, her mom’s Chinese ones with her American ones. My mom and I have had similar conversations. We can agree to disagree. Hmm…
  • I love the character cameos. As a fan of her Name in Lights series, it was fun to see the mention of the That’s So Wizard family–Shane and Nico make appearances but, alas, Alex is only name-dropped.
  • I enjoyed the text messages and the emails. They add so much humor to the book and provide insight into the relationships between the characters, especially between the Brodie family.
  • The Garçon commercial. Everyone needs to watch the commercial.

Chances for Serendipity (2021)

by Natalie Chung
ASIN/ISBN: B099X6L8R2
Publication: August 16, 2021

Chances for Serendipity begins with a meet cute. While playing tennis with her best friend Liz, Serendipity (“Sere”) accidentally hits Aiden with a tennis ball. They spend an entire day together teaching kids to play tennis, and it’s not until years later when they meet again. Serendipity means “an occurrence of an event that happens by chance in a happy way.” Playing on the concept, the chapters in-between their first and second meeting is filled with time jumps. Sere lives her life, from helping at the bakery to contemplating college, all the while mildly paying attention to Aiden’s tennis career. While I ultimately enjoyed the book, it took me a while to warm up to it.

Serendipity takes a long time to hit. Because this is a contemporary romance, I was extremely disappointed when it took nearly half of the book for Sere and Aiden to meet again. With each chapter focusing on different moments in Sere’s life, the time jumps made sense with the overall theme. The problem was I kept expecting Aiden would show up any moment, but he didn’t. When they finally see each other again, it moved too quickly for me, and I wasn’t entirely on board. There are cute moments, one or two that made me all fluttery, but the lack of relationship development and interaction in the first half prevented me from being emotionally committed to their potential HFN/HEA ending. However, the last tenth of the book ultimately bumped it up by half a star. I wish the majority of the book had been more like this.

The themes explored are relatable ones, and that’s one of the highlights of the book. Family plays a strong role in both their lives. Sere’s indecisiveness over what she wants to do while also trying to fulfill promises she’s made to her family is apparent throughout the book. It’s difficult when you want to find what’s best for you but it potentially means disappointing those around you.  While the hints are placed throughout as to her decision, I was still left somewhat perplexed because her feelings about her passion always felt subdued to me. Aiden’s predicament is also hinted at in the beginning as his relationship with his father seems to be a tumultuous one.

Overall, I liked the concept of the book and its focus on serendipity. However, the book didn’t always hit the mark for me. As a side note, there is bonus material from Aiden’s point of view if readers sign up for the author’s newsletter. I enjoyed the bonus chapter. If most of the book had been like the ending and the bonus chapter, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. It’s a good first novel, and Chung is someone I will look out for in the future.

The Hawthorne Legacy (2021)

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
ASIN/ISBN: 9780241480748
Publication: September 7, 2021
Series: The Inheritance Games #2

**Proceed with caution. There may be spoilers for The Inheritance Games.**

At the end of The Inheritance Games and even at the beginning of The Hawthorne Legacy, I kept wondering how there were supposed to be news clues. Tobias is dead, so who created this next round? The new game managed to surprise me and was cleverly incorporated. Tobias Hawthorne was very clever when he put the games together. As Xander tells Avery in the first book, “even if you thought that you’d manipulated our grandfather into this, I guarantee that he’d be the one manipulating you.” 

The experience of the first book provides the framework for this second one resulting in a mystery and search for clues that no longer feel as novel. Of course, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going on the adventures; I still wanted to find the answers to this game. I was hoping this one would allow Xander a chance to shine and even provide greater insight into Alisa and Nash. Unfortunately, I didn’t get either.

I was disappointed because Xander kept getting left behind. Are there any Ouran High School Host Club fans out there? Xander reminds me a lot of Honey-senpai. He’s smart and often underestimated because of his generally cheery nature, but he’s actually a force to be reckoned with if given the opportunity. As with the first book, he’s not given a chance even though he tries hard to be part of the game. Don’t worry, Xander, I completely adore you!

As much as I like the sort of triangle between Libby, Nash, and Alisa, I really like Alisa for some reason–please don’t break my heart Alisa–and want better closure between her and Nash relationship. I don’t know if I will get it. I’m dying to know what happened, and there have been hints throughout both books. Can’t Alisa and Nash work things out even though they annoy the hell out of each other? There’s so much Barnes is purposely not saying that it is frustrating.

With regard to the main triangle, Avery had me smacking my head on my desk because she still has mixed feelings. It doesn’t help that Max, her best friend, doesn’t see a problem and encourages some things too. Despite Avery learning information about the boys from the first book, she doesn’t learn from it. I was not very happy about it. Again, I get it. She’s still young, and anyone can make mistakes or fight their feelings, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The themes remain the same, emphasizing the importance of family and how money can corrupt, but the stakes are a lot higher for nearly everyone involved. The Hawthorne Legacy was nearly as engaging and fast-paced as The Inheritance Games, although the games themselves lose their luster just a bit. I was somewhat conflicted at some of the events and revelations at the end. It wasn’t seamlessly concluded and even felt a bit from left field compared to the ending in The Inheritance Games. 

If you enjoyed the first book, the second book is a must-read, especially if you want to know more about Avery and are looking for some closure. But, there is a third book, so I’m not sure how much closure may mean here…dun Dun DUN!!!! (heh…)

Discussion: Ebooks and Print Books

I used to say I would never read an ebook. Well, I lied. Ebooks have become an essential part of my reading experience. I currently read more ebooks than I do print books. Although I’ve learned to love ebooks, I still love print books as well. And, I don’t think you necessarily have to choose one or the other.

Here are 5 reasons I love ebooks and 5 reasons why I still cannot give up print books.

WHY I LOVE EBOOKS

  1. I can take it anywhere with me.

When I’m on the go, it’s usually just my keys and my phone, which my wallet is now conveniently attached to. With my books on my phone, it’s made living a bookish life easier. I pull out my book when I’m in line, when I’m in the car, when I’m in a waiting room, and just about anywhere I have a few minutes to spare. These moments have added up to a lot of pages read.

  1. Language barriers can be minimized.

Sometimes books have words or phrases in different languages that I might not understand. With the translate feature on my reading app, it’s easy to find out what most words or phrases mean by highlighting and selecting translate. Of course, not all languages are available, but it’s still helpful. This is one of my favorite features.

  1. Highlighting and taking notes are at the palm of my hands.

I like annotating because it helps me process information and helps with my recall. I don’t need additional accessories to highlight favorite quotes or to write thoughts down; my finger(s) will do the trick. I can look over my annotations by clicking on my notebook. This is especially helpful to refer back to when I’m writing a review or when I just want to bask in the warmth of a lovely scene.

  1. There is minimal lag in delivery.

Being a mood reader means I usually read what I feel like at the moment. Rather than a planned TBR, I often discover it along the way. With nearly instantaneous delivery while I sit at home, I can read a book right away, unless I’m checking it out from the library and there are a few people in line. On the other hand, it will take longer to get a book delivered, and delivery times are not always reliable either.

  1. The savings can be significant.

The financial strain of reading can be significantly reduced. New hardcover books can cost as much as USD$ 30 while their ebook counterparts may be half that, or even less when on sale. Because I mostly read ebooks now, a few dollars can go a long way.

…BUT STILL CANNOT GIVE UP PRINT BOOKS

  1. I take my time when reading print books.

I noticed I read a little slower when I have an print book open. After switching to mostly ebooks, this bothered me until I realized what was going on: I read nearly every word. I don’t feel as rushed when I have a book in hand, and I’m also much more calm for some reason.

  1. My hands are thankful.

I have a tendency to binge and to stay up all night to finish a book. When I’m ready to set my phone down, my hands have turned into lobster claws and are likely cramping. Books do not give me the same aches and pains because I am much more likely to set my book down on a table to read it than I am with my phone.

  1. The presence of a physical book is comforting.

I love being able to hug a book especially if it was particularly good. The physical act of closing a book when a series ends is also very satisfying–you’re closing a chapter on a life you’ve just lived. Both bring comfort in different ways. Reading an ebook and hugging my phone hasn’t given me the same kind of comfort.

  1. I love seeing books on my shelves.

This sounds materialistic of me but hear me out. I didn’t always like reading–gasp!–but when dislike turned into love, the library became a sanctuary. We couldn’t afford many books when I was growing up, so now that I can, I try to fill my shelves when possible. I’m creating my own personal sanctuary at home and trying to share my love of reading with my family–so far my nieces are resisting it.

  1. I’m always afraid something will happen to my ebooks.

Reformatting portable hard drives, laptops refusing to turn on, and phones crashing instilled in me a need for backups, and in some cases, backups of backups. Electronics and the cloud are great, but there’s always a possibility they can fail you. These were traumatic experiences because I couldn’t recover important documents and photos. When I love a book, a print copy sometimes serve as my backup of the ebook. It gives me a sense of security.

What are your thoughts? Do you read both formats? Are you clearly one side over the other? Or, maybe it doesn’t matter and a book is a book? I would to hear what you think!

Fall Bucket List Book Tag

I’ve been trying to catch up with tags. I’m so sorry if I haven’t completed some of them. Sometimes WP doesn’t show me if I have any pingbacks so I’ve been trying to search through what I can. I was tagged by Francesca Lucy from Rarely in Reality. The Fall Bucket List book tag was created by Read With Tiffany. It’s perfect for the season!

Light a Scented Candle – A Book That’s Lighthearted

Wow. This one was a hard one! I think Blade of Secrets fits this pretty well because Levenseller infuses the story with a lot of humor. At one point three of the characters loudly discuss the other and what his intentions might be while he pretty much just tells them, “I can year you all.” I’m definitely looking forward to the second book. There’s magic. There’s adventure. There’s romance. (My Review)

Drink Pumpkin Spiced Lattes – A Book That Has a Lot of Hype

Don’t kill me, ya’ll! I must confess that I’m not the biggest fan of anything pumpkin-flavored. I’ve never actually had a pumpkin spiced latte, although I hear it’s all the rage. Iron Widow was a book I was excited about. While there were things I didn’t like about it, Zetian is such a kickass protagonist. (My Review)

Go Apple Picking – A Book That Has Fun Friendships

The Bone Shard Daughter has one of my favorite friendships. Jovis is a smuggler and he ends up saving a creature from the ocean, Mephi. What is it exactly? I’m not sure, but Mephi steals the show, and their friendship is one of the highlights of the book. At first Jovis doesn’t want to keep Mephi but they slowly become inseparable. Mephi is all sorts of adorable. (My Review)

Wear a Cozy Sweater – A Book That Warms Your Heart

When I think of autumn reads, especially one that is warm like a sweater, the first book I think of is A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. I read it in November and now I associate it with the season, not only because of the warm tones of the cover but the sweaters Lila wears. It also gives Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan” vibes. Read this with a cup of tea. (My Review)

Bake Cinnamon Rolls – A Character Who’s a Talented Chef

This one is a short story that I recently read. I’m working my way through the entire Love All Year 2021 multicultural anthology but “Yes, Chef” is about a lawyer who enlists the help of a sous chef to teach him to cook when he tells his mom he will cook Lunar New Year dinner. It’s short and sweet. If only all short stories could be like this one. (My Review)

Jump Into a Pile of Leaves – A Book That Made You Jump For Joy

I jumped for joy when I was approved for The Bone Shard Emperor. I couldn’t keep my excitement down. I pushed pause on everything and read the book in one sitting. If you enjoyed The Bone Shard Daughter, you will love it’s sequel. It’s possibly even better than the first book. Yes, there’s a lot of Mephi! I’m still working on a review for this. (Review from Under the Radar SFF Books)

Thanks for tagging me, Francesca Lucy! I TAG:

Quarterly Progress 2021: Q3 (July – September)

YEARLY GOAL

  • READING GOAL: 125 Books
    Woohoo! Smashed this goal!
    • Q1: 60 books
    • Q2: 51 books
    • Q3: 72 books

QUARTERLY GOAL

  • 2nd QUARTER GOAL: CATCH UP ON NETGALLEY BACKLOG
    Current NetGalley Ratio: 74%
    Hey! Look! It went up by a few peecentages! It will probably head back down soon. I reviewed 4 ARCs from my backlog. I am very happy because it means I’ll be able to request new ones! Ha! The life of a reader, right?! Looking for new books when there are still so many unread on the shelf.
  • 2nd QUARTER GOAL: READ JADE CITY & THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS
    So…I forgot about these because I was too wrapped up with other things and other books.

GOALS ACCOMPLISHED

Yearly

  • Blogging Goal: 51 Posts
  • Blogging Goal: 1 Year Milestone

Quarterly

  • Read Cinderella is Dead

FINAL ASSESSMENT: THREE out of THREE YEARLY GOALS HAVE BEEN SMASHED! WOOHOO!

  • readathons are more likely to be accomplished in the summer.
    I successfully completed all the prompts for Trope-ical Readathon: August 2021. It was as I suspected during March that I would be able to be productive with reading when it didn’t contend with work. I’ll still participate in the Spring round of it but will keep in mind that it’s okay to not complete all the prompts.
  • it’s good to venture into different subgenres when a slump is lurking.
    Romances are my comfort reads, but I generally stick to the same type of contemporary romances. When work and school got a little too much for me at the beginning of the semester, I turned to rereads. As some of the books started to feel dull, I dove into subgenres I normally do not read. I read a few military romance thrillers–something I wouldn’t have considered before– and it helped me get out of the slump. Of course, I kept wanting to turn to the last page to find out the ending.
  • scheduling and structure help me blog and plan ahead. Who knew?
    Obviously many of you did! (Those of you who plan ahead are friggin’ amazing! I don’t know how you do it!) I was just slow on the uptake (heh…) because I am such a mood everything, and I was still trying to figure out what worked for me. I finally found a schedule and structure that work for me with scheduled memes posted during the work week. Reviews alternate depending on when I’m able to write them. Because of this new found schedule, I’ve been able to plan a week or two ahead, although not all the time. While it’s not a lot of time, it gives me some wiggle room and I don’t feel as overwhelmed.

I’m still working on the review for this because I have a million things to say and I need to make it shorter. This was an amazing space opera. Ia Cocha is my new favorite hero. She is fantastic. I hope Milan will write more novels! (Review from A Myriad of Books; Quote: The girl slammed)


BROUGHT Me COMFORT

Around the end of August and September, I started heading into a slump because work and school got overwhelming. I turned to one of my favorite reads His Road Home (2014) and it helped a lot. It’s a short novella with a uplifting fake-fiance romance. (My Review)

INDUCeD A (BOOK) HANGOVER

I love Kennedy Ryan and her writing is superb! I both loved and hated this book because there’s a trigger here that I didn’t know about (cheating) when I picked it up. But…it’s Kennedy Ryan so I couldn’t not read it. This is an enemies-to-lovers romance that exudes so much emotion that you’ll feel drained but want to reread your favorite parts. I spent a few weeks reeling in both love and pain over the book. (Review from ReadingFrenzyBlog; Quotes: Odds don’t tell, What if)

EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATiONS

Despite attending an author event with Amber McBride, who is amazing by the way, where so many of the attendees loved her book, it was still completely unexpected when I burst into tears. I loved the book so much! It was a 5-star read for me. (My Review)

  • I will try to catch up on my backlog of ARCs. I have slowed down tremendously in requesting ARCs, although I just requested some a few days ago. I really need to complete a few I still have from Q1 (3 books) and Q2 (4 books)–I’m not including the ones for Q3 or else I might keel over…hahaha. I cannot believe this is the last quarter of the year! (Reindeer Readathon here I come!)
  • Let’s try this again…I will finally read:
    • Jade City (2017).
    • These Violent Delights (2020).

Yes, Chef (2021)

by Jasmine Luck
ASIN/ISBN: B09FHDM55L
Publication: September 21, 2021
Anthology: Love All Year 2021: A Holidays Anthology
Edited by: Elizabeth Kahn

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

“Yes, Chef” is part of Love All Year 2021: A Holidays Anthology, a set of multicultural short stories that feature non-Christian holidays and cultural celebrations. The short story centers around the Lunar New Year, and I completely adored it. Despite not being able to cook very well, Nate agrees to cook dinner for Lunar New Year. In need of help, his colleague connects him with her flatmate Zoey, who is a sous chef at an upscale restaurant. Within a few pages, I was convinced that Nate and Zoey would one day have their happy ending.

Rather than a full-blown romance, “Yes, Chef” focuses on the attraction between two individuals who share a cultural holiday, hinting at the potential of something more in the future. It’s a snapshot of a burgeoning new relationship, and I completely adored it. I enjoyed the pace and appreciated that the romance was not rushed. Zoey and Nate had great chemistry, which was further strengthened by inner dialogue that made me smile. (Ah, the butterflies that swarm and flutter when you find yourself liking someone and the insecurities that start lurking.) It was fun being in their heads as their attraction grew.

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than a billion people throughout the world, but to many others, it might be a celebration they are not familiar with. Food and cooking is a clever way to not only connect Nate and Zoey but also connect readers to the celebration. Food, like music, is a universal language. We all can connect to the importance of not just any food but good food (preferably cooked by your mom…heh) during a celebration, thus making it easy to understand why Nate enlists Zoey’s help. Yes, there’s good food here. Yes, have food handy or you’ll have cravings.

The only thing I didn’t like about “Yes, Chef” was how short it was! Not only did “Yes, Chef” introduce me to a new author, but it also convinced me to read the anthology, so I’ll be doing that soon. I also have Luck’s recently released Say You’ll Stay on my TBR now. I hope I’ll be getting to that soon.

**Thank you to the author for providing me with a digital copy of the anthology.**

The Last Graduate (2021)

by Naomi Novik
ASIN/ISBN: 9780593128862
Publication: September 28, 2021
Series: The Scholomance #2

**Please proceed with caution. There may be spoilers for A Deadly Education.**

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.

El has survived her first three years in the Scholomance and has just one final year to go. With graduation looming, survival training is also around the corner because graduation isn’t walking across the stage to pomp and circumstance but a fight for your life against mals that are ready to pounce and devour you. With an alliance in place and friends standing by her side, El might have a real chance at freedom.

The Last Graduate continues El’s journey to subvert the prophecy that has dictated her life and the expectations of those around her. While there are changes to El’s life and her character, her growth since A Deadly Education and during The Last Graduate doesn’t turn her into a completely different person. Thank goodness because I love her just as she is. In this book, the layers are peeled back further to reveal El’s true nature, the one she’s tried so hard to hide underneath her prickly attitude and sarcasm. Her actions in the book and her vulnerability felt true to her character.

El learning to navigate her new relationships is a highlight of the novel.  Her friendships with Liu and Aadhya, which always felt tentative to her before, are strengthened and reaffirmed. Of course, her fight or flight response continues to rear its head when conflicts arise that may affect her new relationships, but she’s learning to understand what it means to have friends. They don’t up and leave at the first sign of trouble; they stick with you, especially when times get hard. They stick with you even when you give them an out. Finding friends and realizing she is no longer alone has also led to weight being lifted off her shoulders. She can smile and laugh, imagine life beyond graduation, and even want to change the world. These changes underscore how lonely she was in the first book even though she refused to admit it. El is such a complex character, and I completely adore her.

Orion’s appearances are sparser here, but he remains a thorn in El’s side, albeit one that doesn’t hurt as much anymore. She continues to be his advocate, and I love her for seeing him and treating him like the person he is rather than the oddity his family, his enclave, and mostly everyone else thinks he is. See? She’s all prickly and sarcastic, but it’s just to hide her big, bleeding heart.

The writing remains the same as in A Deadly Education with El explaining origins and context before she gets to what is going on. Because there was a learning curve to understanding the Scholomance, I didn’t mind it in the first book, but there were a few moments in The Last Graduate where I wanted to skip forward. The amount of information provided can be overwhelming–there is so much. I just wanted to know what was going to happen rather than what led to the moment she was in. However, skipping also meant potentially missing the connection between whatever she was talking about and her current predicament, so wanting to skip never turned into actually skipping. 

The Last Graduate is not as fast-paced as the first book, but it is nearly as engaging. Attacks by mals are expected, and people trying to kill you are just a normal part of the day. These aren’t as surprising anymore. I finished it quickly, but I needed to take a break to process the damn ending. To be honest, I’m still processing it. I haven’t been able to reach out for a new book because my brain is still asking myself why I didn’t see this being the particular ending when it was one of the alternate endings I had come up with. (Any else like to think up the many possible endings to a book?) I’m giving fair warning that it is a cliffhanger. I sort of wish I waited for the last book to binge the entire trilogy, but I didn’t have any self-control. Now, I have to wait a year to know what happened. If you enjoyed A Deadly Education, you’ll enjoy The Last Graduate. A year will feel like an eternity as I wait for the final book.

**Some remaining thoughts I wanted to put out there.**

One of the reasons why I like The Scholomance Trilogy is how it illustrates the prisoner’s dilemma. The prisoner’s dilemma happens when rational individuals pursue their self-interest, refusing to cooperate, and so end up with an outcome that is not as ideal as the one they would have received if they worked together. In the book, individuals must fight for their survival and learn to increase their chances of making it out alive by becoming part of a collective. With El’s focus on reciprocation–ensuring those who might ally with her know she always pays back favors to those she receives them from–she works toward securing an alliance that can help increase her odds of living through graduation. The Last Graduate gives a glimpse of how the prisoner’s dilemma can be solved, how building trust between individuals can be the difference between life and death. Yeah, I’m nerdy like that.

Love, Comment, Subscribe (2021)

by Cathy Yardley
ASIN/ISBN: 9781542030007
Publication: October 1, 2021
Series: Ponto Beach Reunion #1

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Love, Comment, Subscribe begins with the past before it leads us into the present, providing insight into what may have motivated Lily to become a beauty influencer as well as to leave her friends in Ponto Bay behind. However, the past comes back to bite her in the form of her high school frenemy and fellow Nerd Herd member Tobin Bui when she needs to increase the number of her subscribers. Although they’re complete opposites, collaborating allows them to see a different side of each other, discovering chemistry where there was just irritation before.

The story provides insight into the life of social media stars through Lily Wang and Tobin Bui, both with very different strategies for creating content. Despite being opposites, Tobin and Lily have great chemistry with each other. Reading their thoughts as both realized their attraction to the other person was swoon-inducing. I smiled. I giggled. I wanted to scream into a pillow at how cute they were. Just for the record, I shipped them way before their followers ever did. 

Although I grew to like Lily, it was difficult at first. She seems a genuinely nice person and is relatively drama-free on social media, but I always felt like I had to be careful because I wasn’t sure when or if she would turn on her current friends. It was hard to completely sympathize with her. She feels bad about not connecting with Tobin for so long, but she is also more than willing to use their past when it’s advantageous for her. This feeling of waiting for the show to drop was instigated by her willingness to leave behind friends, the Nerd Herd, who always accepted her for who she was. It also made it difficult for me to embrace the reason Lily gives for becoming a beauty influencer because even she seems unsure of it. I would have liked more to help me understand her better.

Tobin was easily my favorite character because he is like a Labrador–fun, loving, and easy to please. Additionally, his friends are important to him. Often disorganized and at his best under pressure, he is well aware of who he is and stays true to himself. This contrasts greatly with Lily. She is a planner and extremely organized, maybe even too rigid when it comes to adhering to structure. She cares immensely what people think of her, especially those who are popular. The great thing about opposites is how they can balance one another out–mannered and organized Lily with fun and spontaneous Tobin. They are exactly what the other needs. 

Although the book may have started a little slow, it was an enjoyable read once the collaboration started. They were cute together even when each refused to admit their attraction. Despite their past and being opposites, together they learn to face their struggles. Individuals who enjoy contemporary romances where frenemies turn into lovers and opposites attract may enjoy Love, Comment, Subscribe.

The Children of Camelot (2021)

by Amy Bartelloni
ASIN/ISBN: B0923Q8J82
Publication: June 15, 2021
Series: The Children of Camelot #1

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

At night on the island of Avalon, Arynn and Malik look toward the mainland, trying to guess the meaning of the colored fires. Unable to leave because of the ongoing war on the mainland, it’s all they can do. When Malik finds a way off the island, he asks Arynn to leave with him. Despite her concerns, Arynn agrees to go, and together they discover that they haven’t been told the entire truth about the war.

I was initially hesitant to read The Children of Camelot because while I love the magic and intrigue of the Arthurian legend, I dislike the love triangle. Bartelloni puts a twist I liked on the story and focuses on the children of Camelot. The story is told from Arynn’s point of view. She is somewhat shy and cautious, always trying to adhere to rules as best as she can. With magic forbidden and talk of other creatures not allowed, she hides her connection to dragons from everyone except her best friend Malik. Malik is Arynn’s opposite with his ability to easily charm people. He is constantly looking for adventure, willing to bend or even break the rules. Because of their close friendship, he knows Arynn will follow him if asked. Their friendship is an aspect of the story I liked, but it changed into something else too quickly and without much warning.  I wished their friendship had been better explored, building up to any hint of romance. When the romantic feeling bits do pop up, they sometimes feel out of place.

The book retains many familiar elements, including the round table and King Arthur, but it also introduces new characters along with an enchanting world. I enjoyed the world-building the most with its details and abundance of magical creatures.  It’s been so long since I’ve read a full-length book with dragons that as soon as I met Nissa and her kin, I knew I was going to enjoy it. Along with dragons, there are additional magical creatures such as fairies, dwarves, and elves. The vivid descriptions contribute to a new imagining of a familiar world.

While I liked the story, I sometimes felt like I was missing pieces of information that led up to statements being made or events occurring. The characters would jump three steps ahead, and I would be left wondering what just happened. I was also frustrated with the secrets surrounding the missing king because the secret could have been disclosed sooner. I was also curious about the magical system, which seemed unclear to me.

I generally enjoyed the retelling. As the first book in the trilogy, there is no big battle or confrontation, but it sets up what appears to be an impending fight for Camelot. I am curious to see how it all ends, so I already have the next two books lined up and ready to go. Fans of medieval fantasy and those interested in a new spin on the Arthurian legend will likely enjoy The Children of Camelot.