The Stolen Kingdom (2021)

by Jillian Boehme
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250298836
Publication: March 2, 2021

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

Mara goes from being the daughter of a well-known vintner to the heir of the Perrin Faye throne after her lineage is uncovered. Her appearance sets in motion a secret plot to free the kingdom from the Thrungraves, which includes killing the king and his two heirs.

The Stolen Kingdom is good but has the potential to be better. The plot is interesting with some twists I saw coming and others I did not. While I enjoyed the novel, especially as the magic system was slowly unveiled, I never reached that climactic moment where I thought it was too good to put down. I was, instead, continually thinking how great it would be as a duology or even a trilogy because there is a lot packed here that could easily be expanded had there been more details. For instance, with minimal descriptions, there lacked a sense of place with the world appearing generic even if the political intrigue and the magic system kept me interested in continuing to the end.

In addition to a lack of detail, there was little build-up to pivotal moments in the plot. I didn’t have to wait long to find out what would happen or how a problem was resolved. I only just inched toward the edge of my seats, and then it was over. While this wasn’t as much an issue in the beginning while the story was being set up, it was more apparent in the latter half when events happened one after the other. This also contributed to a pace I wanted to be slowed down so things wouldn’t just keep flashing by. Aside from these factors, I generally liked Boehme’s writing style, especially as it relates to characterization.

Mara and Alac, with their backstories and aspirations, are compelling characters even if I didn’t particularly connect with them like I have other characters in similar situations. They are similar in their desire to do something different from the paths open to them.  Mara is smart and has compassion for the people affected by Thungraves’ rule although her family has suffered less than most. She’s also quite frank. All these things have her fall into the “not like other girls” trope, but that isn’t a trope I particularly mind, and it’s also what draws Alac to her. Alac is “the spare,” and wants to get away from his princely duties secretly to have his own winery. Unlike his father and brother, he doesn’t appear to be particularly power-hungry and is considerate of others. His status hasn’t gone to his head either–his best friend is head of his guard. Mara and Alac seem like they’d be perfect for each other as soon as they’re introduced in the book. While their time together is sweet–the attraction is instant between them–I questioned how their feelings so easily overcame their common sense. 

I enjoyed the book. The book is written with all the pieces fitting together, which is good but almost too easy. I liked Mara and Alac even if the connection I had with them wasn’t entirely present. I look forward to more from Boehme, with hopes that future books will provide greater detail and keep me on the edge of my seat.  

The View Was Exhausting (2021)

by Mikaella Clement and Onjuli Datta
ASIN/ISBN: 97815301010
Publication: July 6, 2021

**A positive review of the book from a fellow blogger prompted me to read an excerpt of it through NetGalley, which then lead me to purchase a copy because I needed to find out what happened.**

The View Was Exhausting is a book about a relationship of convenience used to quell negative media attention. Win’s and Leo’s on and off again “relationship” is complicated by, what appear to be, very real feelings. Win is reluctant to follow those feelings and pursue what she and Leo could be. While Leo has a seemingly laid-back attitude, Win is overly conscious of media scrutiny, which is why they are constantly reconnecting. Although her life appears glitzy and glamourous, melancholic overtones are scattered throughout as their past and present relationship unfold on the pages. At times, the interweaving of the past and present leads to some confusion about what is happening at the moment, making some things a little hazy. Their friendship and even their potential for more are at risk when something in Leo’s past comes to light.

The first few chapters lulled me into believing I would not get hurt by this book. Wasn’t it obvious these two individuals who couldn’t be themselves around many people were often only genuine toward one another? Wasn’t it obvious they had such sizzling chemistry? However, the book did a number on me. I wanted to slam it (but carefully and gently because it’s still a precious book) on the table because it left me vulnerable to a trigger I didn’t recognize I had until some books ago. At one point, I wanted to stop reading but the need to know what would happen next was ultimately greater–a testament to how much I liked the writing and even the storyline itself despite the pain I incurred. Would the dilemma get resolved? Are they in love with each other? What will Win choose?

Win and Leo won me over with their fabricated romance. Like the public they are trying to convince, I had beautiful illusions of two people on the road to figuring out that love, above all, is a worthy risk. Win and Leo are more vulnerable than they seem. Win has learned to reinforce herself with armor–she’s isn’t always likeable–but Leo often seems lost, without drive or purpose. Together, they’ve created a kind of haven. They’re friends who put their lives on hold for each other, who show each other their true selves even if they have to put on a show for the rest of the world. Underlining their trust in each other and how readily they rely on one another is their scorching chemistry, even if they both (mostly Win) try to hide from it. 

The social commentary also kept me glued to the novel. The undue pressure on members of marginalized groups when they succeed is captured well in the novel. There is an expectation that the successful individual is now representative of an entire group of people, and there requires a delicate balancing act the individual must endure. Every action is scrutinized and there are those just waiting for the person to fall. People want to place you neatly into a box, and if you break out of the box, they wait for any mistake, big or small, to put you “where you belong.” Win’s success places her in such a position. She loves acting and she’s great at it, but it all gets overlooked as soon as rumors begin to circulate about anything. She can be described as cold and calculating, but she’s learned to be this way to survive in an industry that is ready to strike her, to replace her on any whim. She succumbs to the pressure, and even when she wants to speak up, she self-censors because there is a price for her every action. 

Ultimately, this isn’t a feel-good type of novel. That was one of the more difficult parts of reading the book. I tend to read less angsty novels, those that are more toned down and focus on the good as opposed to the bad, but the writing coupled with leads I couldn’t help but want together propelled me to keep moving forward. 

Romance Interlude 2.10


Give Love a Chai (2021)
by Nanxi Wen
ASN/ISBN: B08NS6V82S
Publication: March 18, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Common Threads #2

One liner: Tia needs to divorce her husband before she can get married to her fiance.

The book started off rather interestingly with Tia in her car trying to gather the courage to serve her husband with divorce papers…again. She didn’t realize she was still married when she accepted her boyfriend’s proposal. I has hooked pretty quickly from there but it didn’t pan out to be the romance I expected. It’s established immediately that even after 10 years, both Tia and Andrew still have feelings for one another but they’ve forged different paths. The book hit so many right notes for me and yet I felt a bit distant from their relationship, like the emotional aspect of it that would make me root for them was missing. Additionally, it didn’t make sense to me that the only emotion they seemed to display was desire for each other and the pain and anger were muted. They should have been pissed some of the time rather than just still feeling like they were still in love….even if they were supposed to be. There were things thrown in at the end that were unnecessary, so I had to drop a star.


Choose Me: A Small Town Romance (2021)
by Leah Busboom
ASN/ISBN: B093MPLQBZ
Publication: May 16, 2021
Goodreads Summary
Series: Connor Brothers Book 9

One liner: Austin decides he wants to date someone he normally wouldn’t so he decides to pursue Luci, a software engineer who took his ski course.

It started out as a cute opposites attract novel with non-athletic software engineer Luci taking a ski class from trainer, ski instructor, and rock climbing instructor Austin. Austin ultimately makes the first move and before long they’re dating. Before long, he’s pretty sure she’s the one. Before long, her parents object. And before long…well, the clichés pile up and make this one a pretty forgettable book. I actually forgot I read it even though I finished it not too long ago.


Love’s Defense
by Laura Marquez Diamond
ASN/ISBN: B092SZLNFS
Publication: April 16, 2021
Series: The Thrasher Series #2
Goodreads Summary

One liner: Daniel is attracted to Stella, his dog’s new vet, but different obstacles stand in their way.

The book started off interesting but for a somewhat short book at just under 200 pages, it packs in a little too much from Stella’s fear of starting a new relationship to Daniel’s complicated family. I would have liked it to stick to one main plot and have the subplots take up less space. The dialogue also gets a bit cringey at times. The book was okay the first time around but I don’t know if I could reread it in full again.

Six Crimson Cranes (2021)

by Elizabeth Lim
ASIN/ISBN:  9780593300930
Publication: June 6, 2021
Series: Six Crimson Cranes #1

**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.** (Loved it so much I had to purchase a copy though…just saying)

Six Crimson Cranes is a retelling of The Wild Swans that incorporates other legends such as Chang E the Moon Goddess and Madame White Snake. It reads as magical as a fairy tale with a princess, a kingdom in peril, and the deceptions of a stepmother. Lim’s descriptive prose, from the rendering of lush landscapes to the decadent food, immediately transported me to Kiata. I’ve always appreciated this nearly dreamlike quality that accompanies Lim’s novels that make them so enchanting.

After discovering her stepmother’s true identity, Shiori’s brothers are cursed and turned into cranes while she is forced to remain silent about their conditions lest she kills a brother with each word she speaks. Shiori begins as a headstrong troublemaker, used to being indulged by the family and getting her way. The curse forces her to be more thoughtful toward others while still retaining her headstrong tendencies. I appreciated that she didn’t completely transform into someone new because I liked her curious nature and willingness to stand her ground.

The sibling dynamics is another element I enjoyed. Despite their duties forcing them to spend most of their time apart, Shiori and her brothers all love one another dearly. There isn’t as much one-on-one time between her and each brother, but it’s easily discernible that her relationship with each is different, but she is cherished among all her brothers. (Being the youngest and the only girl can be so hard…hehehe.)The curse reinforces how much they love one another as they search for one another and work together to break the curse. 

The romance is both expected and unexpected. I couldn’t help but smile at the direction the book takes in terms of love interests. It’s gradual, beginning soft and subtly, seemingly not like much until a few key lines made me swoon. The book hints at a potential love triangle, and I’m hoping if that becomes the case in the next book, it is short-lived. I dislike love triangles a lot.

Lim includes a letter at the beginning noting the different tales she includes in the book. I grew up with similar tales and also watched some as wuxia movies. Familiarity with the stories does not take away from enjoying the book nor should being unfamiliar with the tales. Lim creatively weaves them effortlessly into each other, although there are a few times when just a bit too much was going on. It was fun identifying details from the various stories as well as trying to figure out how different parts would play out in the novel. Although more still needs to be done, the increase in diverse books creates positive opportunities like this one, allowing readers to not only see themselves in the books they read but also the stories they grew up with. Six Crimson Cranes is now my favorite of Lim’s novels.

Quarterly Progress 2021: Q2 (April – June)

YEARLY GOAL

  • READING GOAL: 125 Books
    I am nearly there. I think I might hit this goal by the end of Q3 (July-September). I am just 14 books shy of 125 books. Woohoo! I’m hoping there won’t be a slump. Also, Trope-ical Readathon will commence in August for it’s second round of the year. It should help me stay on track, and possibly even help me exceed my goal.
    • Q1: 60 books
    • Q2: 51 Books
  • BLOGGING GOAL: 1 YEAR MILESTONE
    It’s July! I hit my one year on June 27. I’m ecstatic! I really didn’t think I’d make it a whole year and I did. I posted a blogiversary post too! Who woulda thunk that was gonna happen? Not me!

QUARTERLY GOAL

  • 2nd QUARTER GOAL: CATCH UP ON NETGALLEY BACKLOG
    Current NetGalley Ratio: 72%
    I’ve been working away at those with the latest publication dates but I need to pick up my pace with those published in in February/March. Surprisingly, I kept my distance from the request button for most of the quarter but then I went on a small spree in June.
  • 2nd QUARTER GOAL: READ CINDERELLA IS DEAD
    I read it all the way through! Woohoo! I’m ecstatic about this because I’ve been trying to read it since it first came out last year.

GOALS ACCOMPLISHED

  • Blogging Goal: 51 Posts

FINAL ASSESSMENT: ON TRACK. TWO out of THREE YEARLY GOALS HAVE BEEN SMASHED!

  • one of my favorite blog hopping activities is to search and read reviews of books I’ve read. Not only does it help me keep my TBR down since I’ve already read the book (hehehe), but it allows me to interact with more bloggers. On the other hand, this also means the amount of bookmarks of reviews has slightly increased since I like to bookmark reviews of books I’ll be reading soon so I can return to the blog post and comment.
  • memes and tags help me take a break from reviews, allowing my mind to reset if necessary. Memes are a great way to interact with the bookish community but it’s also a chance to let my mind relax from writing reviews. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading one book after the next without giving myself time to breathe, to fully contemplate and appreciate what I just read before I’m moving on to the next book. Meme creators are awesome! Music Monday, Six Degrees of Separation, First Line Fridays, and Let’s Talk Bookish are now part of the blog and I hope to add a few more.

I read this in April and have not forgotten about it since I first read it. This is my favorite read of the second quarter. It’s a second chance romance but the massive amount of groveling swayed me to root for the couple. MacLean’s writing was also beautiful. There were so many quotes I loved from it. (Review)


MADe ME CRY

Nicole Lespearce throughly pierced me with Eli’s longing for her mother. I ugly cried heading into the end, and also missed my mom dearly. My partner also happened to find me in my sad state, wanted to record it for viewing later, and was immediately kicked out of the room so I could cry in peace. This was a memorable read for multiple reasons. Hahaha…(Review)

DESERVES MORE ATTENTiON

Please read books by Anela Deen! After reading In the Jaded Grove, I picked up more of her earlier novels to read and I’m excited to get started on them. (Review)

EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATiONS

I promised this book would show up again. I tend to gravitate toward emotional reads, which often ends up being slower paced as well. I was not expecting to like Before I Saw You as much as I did. It mostly took place in a single hospital room and yet I didn’t get bored. Most of the time we’re in Alfie’s and Alice’s heads and the bond that forms between them is lovely and sigh-inducing. It is such a lovely read. (Review)

  • I will try to catch up on my backlog of ARCs. This is likely the goal for the foreseeable future. My NetGalley ratio keeps fluctuating up and down. A book I requested long before the publication date was finally declined…a month after it was already published. Hmm… I promise I will try to keep my requests to a minimum while I play catch up. Keyword is TRY.
  • I will finally read
    • Jade City (2017). A friend recommended it and then I tried participating in a Jade City readathon, but still came up empty. I need to finish this especially with the final book coming out soon.
    • These Violent Delights (2020). I tried reading this for the Trope-ical Readathon and then for the Asian Readathon but was unable to complete it. I need to finish this because it’s companion is also going to be coming out soon.

Blogiversary: Celebrating My First Year

This blog started out as an outlet to talk about books, and now it’s officially been a year as of writing this post. Actually posting it is another story since after more than year of not seeing one another, it was decided we needed a vacation of the reunion type.

I have had wonderful experiences so far. The bookish community has been welcoming, and I’ve loved being able to commiserate with bloggers over some books as well as share the love over other books. Now, if I could just replicate this in real life too, I would be living the good life.

WHAT I’VE LeARNED

Here are some things that I’ve learned while blogging.

  • Do what you like, write what you want. There is a lot of content out there, and there were temptations along to the way to conform to different writing styles because I felt as though my reviews were horrible. I’ve since become more comfortable with knowing that how I write will often be related to how much I liked or didn’t like a book as well as what mood I’m in.
  • Attributions. I try to mindful about attributing content to their respective creators.
  • Be courteous and kind.
  • If you don’t get approved for an ARC, it’s okay. It’s not personal, even if it can feel like it is.
  • Tags and memes are super fun. They also provide a mental break from reviews when needed. There are so many to choose from so do ones you like. I particularly enjoy Six Degrees of Separation and Let’s Talk Bookish
  • Blogging should be fun. Reading should be fun. When it starts to feel like a chore, it might be a sign to take a break–long, short, whatever feels best. Also, it’s okay not to review every book I read. It helps make blogging feel less like a chore.

FREE ReSOURCES

Here is a list of resources that are free for the most part. They may just require you to sign up.

  • UNSPLASH
    A resource for free images. I’ve used the images for quotes, and there are so many images to choose from!
  • HUNGRY JPEG, CREATIVE FABRICA, DESIGNBUNDLES, FONTBUNDLES
    There are $1 deals and weekly freebies all the time. I get a lot of fonts and images from here. The freebies also usually come with commercial licenses as well but double check when you’re downloading them.
  • KRITA
    This is an open source program I utilize. It can do a lot of things but I use it for simple stuff because I don’t know how to do much. Heh… So far, it’s worked for the things I’ve needed it for.
  • CANVA
    I’ve used Canva before but not so much for blogging. It’s a great resource, although it can be somewhat limited for what it offers for free.
  • GRAMMARLY
    I use this to double check my writing because I sometimes skip words or write something twice when I edit. It’s helpful. It’s free but is limited to a few things like whether the writing is clear and correct but there are premium suggestions that you only get access to if you pay. I’ve liked the free service so far. My biggest fear about it is if I become to reliant on it! Heh…

FAVORITE BOOKiSH POSTS

Blog hopping is one of my favorite things to do during the week, and there are a few blog features that I always make sure to read as soon as I see them in my inbox or on my reader.

  • A Fox’s Wanderings: All Time Favorites is from one of the cutest blogs ever that features the most adorable fox. I love Alienor’s graphics. All Time Favorites is a feature that highlights Alienor’s absolute favorite books.
  • Emandherbooks: Map Monday was inspired by the pandemic and the inability to travel. Em shares a book and provides facts about the place in the book. I love reading about the places and make note of those I’d like to travel to one day, although I’ve never been much of a traveler.
  • One Book More: Loving the Lines spotlights Julie’s favorite lines from a book or series. As someone who loves to highlight favorite lines and can easily swoon over them, this bookish post has turned me to a few books because I’ve loved the lines Julie’s featured.

I look forward to more reading, more blogging, and more posts to read.
Thank you so much for being a part of my journey.


The Unbroken (2021)

by C.L. Clark
ASIN/ISBN: 9780316542753
Publication: March 23, 2021
Series: Magic of the Lost #1

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

I started reading The Unbroken in early March but struggled to finish it. The book is long-winded, and I had to take multiple breaks in-between to read it. After nearly four months, I finally finished it a few days ago. It is character-driven with an overall plot that is interesting and provides a critical perspective of colonialism. The biggest drawback of the book is the painstakingly slow pace, which makes the already nearly 500 pages–over 500 pages depending on which edition is read–feel a lot longer than it is.

Stolen as a child and raised to be a soldier by the Balladairan empire, Touraine returns to Qazāl more a stranger than someone coming home. As a lieutenant in command of the Sands, soldiers stolen as children just like her, Touraine’s loyalty is to those in her unit first, but she also has a longing to be accepted by Balladaire. Her behavior throughout the book is reflective of this desire. From experience, she knows the Sands will always be the first to be called to the front lines and will also likely be the first punished in any situation they take part in. Touraine’s story is the most compelling as she straddles the middle, looking for where she belongs. As a Balladairan soldier, she’s called a traitor by Qazāl, but she will never be fully accepted by Balladaire either. She is forced to tread a path where she will always be a scapegoat because she is a victim of imperialism. It’s difficult to watch her struggle and try to make the best choices when there isn’t a right choice to make if she remains in the middle. The longer she remains there, the longer she falters.

The story alternates between Touraine and Luca, the Balladairan princess without her throne. Luca arrives in Qazāl with hopes of quelling a rebellion so she may ascend her throne, taking it from her uncle who has cleverly placed himself there in her stead after her parents’ death. Luca is similar to Touraine in that she also hopes to find a balance somewhere in the middle. Of course, her somewhere in the middle also includes her being in power.  On the idealistic side, Luca wants peace between Qazāl and Balladaire, but it’s difficult to figure out who she can trust when there are those on both sides who would like to tip the status quo in their favor. Touraine and Luca are forced to work together when Luca comes up with a plan to try to establish peace with the rebels that may require treasonous actions. Luca is someone I wanted to root for because she appeared genuine in her desire for peace and had the qualities of what a good leader could be, with the understanding that good is relative. Is it possible to be a good leader if her desire for peace also requires she sits on the throne? Is it possible to be a good leader if those forced into becoming part of her empire desire to be free from her authority? When is enough going to be enough for Luca if sitting on her throne requires her to continue taking?

The book is well-written. The plot and Touraine’s journey to self-discovery were elements that I especially liked. Touraine’s story tugged at me and gave the book sad undertones that constantly had me questioning what it is like to lose one’s heritage. Although I recognize the necessity of many of the events that take place because they contribute to Touraine’s character development, the pace was a struggle for me. Another element I wanted more of was the magic Luca constantly talked about it. If you can overcome the pacing like I eventually was able to, this is a book filled with layers worth reading.

To Sir, With Love (2021)

by Lauren Layne
ASIN/ISBN: 9781982152819
Publication: June 29, 2021

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

(If you’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail then this review will be filled spoilers for both the movie and the book. Please proceed with caution. Sorry!)

To Sir, with Love updates the dial-up connection of You’ve Got Mail with the DM alerts of a dating app; however, the romance doesn’t quite hit the mark. Of course, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’s chemistry is a tough one to recreate. The book closely mirrors the plot of You’ve Got Mail, which mirrors the plots of those titles it is an adaptation of. A woman has a connection with a man whom she has regular correspondence, but they have never met, except they have and just don’t realize it. In person, they mostly despise each other, but there’s a bit of a spark that is the complete opposite of hate. There’s enough to differentiate To Sir, With Love and appreciate it on its own merit, but if you love You’ve Got Mail as I do, the comparisons are inevitable.

Gracie’s backstory is compelling. She is a budding artist who gave up her dreams to fulfill her dad’s dreams of keeping their store in the family. Faced with the impending close of the store, she has to figure out what she wants to do–continue daydreaming or live her dreams. The exploration of Gracie’s character beyond the store was an aspect of the book I especially liked, giving her character a bit more depth. The secondary characters fill out Gracie’s life and help enhance the plot. I especially liked neighbor and friend Keva’s potential love line with her boss Grady. There’s just enough information about it for me to want a book about it from Layne in the future.

Here comes the inevitable comparison. I wanted to like the romance but was disappointed with the development of Gracie’s relationships with both Sir and Sebastian. Sir is introduced through messages to Gracie on the dating app. Their interactions appear more formal than personal and sometimes even a bit detached. I could believe it to be an attraction, but I wouldn’t think it was love, not enough to stake my entire love life around it especially because there is no declaration of love, even if you read between the lines.

With Sebastian, Gracie shares a moment–more Sleepless in Seattle than You’ve Got Mail–and it didn’t work that well for me. This is the moment Gracie harkens back to when she thinks of Sebastian. They meet again and grab food a few times, but it never feels like they move beyond that first magical connection. It’s something to build on but the building never reaches love or friendship potential. There lacked a book equivalent of a montage of them getting to know each other and becoming friends. Remember how Tom Hanks knows he needs to change Meg Ryan’s perception of him so he works hard for them to become friends before the final reveal? There’s hardly any of it before Gracie was already saying she was in love with two people. Just like with Sir, this relationship felt one-sided as well. The addition of Sebastian’s point of view might have helped remedy this, helping to establish a connection on his part and build a sturdier foundation for possible later declarations.

I liked the book but had expected a bit more. Despite my disappointment, my heart still managed to flutter as the book neared its conclusion–I am still a hopeless romantic after all.

Lying with Lions (2021)

by Annabel Fielding
ASIN/ISBN: B095J8D5XC
Publication: June 21, 2021

Goodreads | Amazon


DESCRIPTiON

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Annabel Fielding, having graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations, is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. Her special areas of interest are Edwardian age and Late Middle Agnes/Renaissance, but sometimes veers into other directions, too, when distracted by a shiny thing.  She is the author of A Pearl for My Mistress (2017).

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


REViEW

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

Lying with Lions is not the typical book I read but on occasion I am willing to venture out and try new genres.  I found an intricate character-driven plot and knew immediately this was my type of movie as opposed to my type of book. As I read, the thought that I would enjoy this on the big screen accompanied was often on my mind.

The story is written in present tense, which was a bit jarring at first.  Eventually I settled into it along with the feeling that I was watching the events unfold as an omniscient narrator allowed me a glimpse into the machinations of high society through Agnes.  From a humble background, Agnes is hired by the Bryant family to serve as their archivist to compile and organize the family history.  Eventually she becomes more than just a bystander, becoming Lady Bryant’s secretary.  Rather than an observer, she becomes a willing participant in the political maneuvers of those she comes to be associated with.

Agnes was often an enigma to me, making it hard to figure out her motives. Is she being genuine? Does she have something planned? Is she a “good” person? Part of me wanted to skip to the end because I wanted to know the why behind Agnes’s actions. My urge to spoil the ending was further spurred on by the novel’s slow build.  It was not until about a fifth of the way when the pieces started to fall into place, and I recognized with some amount of certainty where the book was heading. The pace was slow, but it was the deliberate kind that encourages readers to be immersed in the plot and observe as well as question the decisions of characters, what will those in power do to remain in power? I had to exercise a fair amount of self-control but the ending was worth it as revelations are made. 

Friends With Benedicts (2021)

by Staci Hart
ASN/ISBN: B08HPD92F9
Publication: June 8, 2021

Friends With Benedicts, a brand new, heart felt rom-com from Staci Hart, is finally LIVE! Grab your copy today from your favorite online book retailer!

Amazon | AppleBooks | Kobo | B&N | Goodreads


DESCRIPTION

Timing is everything.

Presley Hale and Sebastian Vargas are no strangers to goodbye. Their high school summers were spent wrapped up in each other until she would inevitably go home to California. One season after college, Sebastian finally escaped the little Texas town to travel the world, and they said goodbye for what they thought might be the last time.

Sebastian went one way. Presley went the other.

For the first time in five years, they’re both in town, but the timing is no better than ever. So the only thing to do is what they do best. Keep it casual.

Friends with benefits.

They’ve done it before—doing it again will be easy.

But their hearts don’t get the memo.

When the lines of their arrangement blur, Presley and Sebastian are faced with decisions they’ve avoided for years. And that’s not even their biggest problem.

A small town in danger of failing.

A secret that could tear them apart.

And two hearts that can’t hide anymore.

They’ve shared so many summers, but none compare to what they’ll face.

Timing is everything.

And their time is almost up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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REViEW

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

Presley made multiple appearances with her daughter Priscilla (Cilla) in Bet the Farm, and now we get their story. Having moved from California, Presley is currently living in Texas with her aunt and cousins. As luck would have it, the boy she’s always loved is now also there, but just like when they were young, timing remains a problem. Sebastian is set to leave as soon as summer is over.

Friends with Benedicts was satisfying in a way that Hart’s Bet the Farm was not. A lot of it has to do with the chemistry between Presley and Sebastian and just Sebastian himself. It also helped a lot that Cilla is so adorable. I can’t help but fall for the cute kid trope.

I generally like Hart’s female protagonists because they are often strong-willed, determined, and independent. Presley has all these qualities. It’s usually the male love interests that have me going back and forth. Sebastian was a love interest that I liked. For the most part, he has some emotional depth to him. There’s more to him than just being angry all the time (yes, I am comparing him to Jake from Bet the Farm, whom I was not a fan of).

Sebastian and Presley’s relationship moved both too quickly and at just the right pace. They just barely meet again but can’t keep their hands off each other despite different existing complications. Of course, jumping into their old habits is directly the result of their shared history. It’s always just been this way except for the last five years. Having quickly established this meant I wasn’t as bothered by their instant relationship as I could have been. The most irksome part of the book is the lines of communications headlining as one of the major tropes. It ranged from lack of communication to miscommunication. What helped lessen my dislike of the trope here was the amount of introspection from the characters and other characters pointing out the obvious communication problems. (Thank you so much for trying to make them see reason!)

A small town Hallmark-ish subplot is also present as Sebastian and Presley try to navigate their relationship. I’m not sure how necessary this was to the main storyline because the book already had a few things going for it. I would have kept on reading the book even if this hadn’t been present. In fact, when it popped up, I was surprised by it.

Overall, I connected to the characters because their connection to each other was one I generally liked. Their story was messy in the way real life love stories are, showcasing the difficulties of adjusting to a new life and a renewed love. I also appreciated that the main “villain” in the story was more complex than she could have been, she was made more human and had feelings.