Twisted Love (2021)

by Ana Huang
ASIN/ISBN: B08Y6DCS1Y
Publication: April 29, 2021
Series: Twisted #1

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Cover designed by E. James Designs


DESCRIPTION

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world.

Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.

Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.

But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:

A crack.
A melt.
A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

***

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.

But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.

Her brother’s best friend.
Her neighbor.
Her savior and her downfall.

Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.

Twisted Love is a brother’s best friend/opposites attract romance with plenty of heat and no cliffhangers. Recommended for 18+ due to adult language and explicit content.


Coming Soon!
Twisted Games #2
Releasing July 29
(click for Goodreads Links)


EXCERPT

Something smelled delicious, like spice and heat. I wanted to wrap it around me like a blanket.

I snuggled closer to the source, enjoying the strong, solid warmth beneath my cheek. I didn’t want to wake up, but I’d promised Bridget I would volunteer at a local pet shelter with her this morning, before my afternoon shift at the gallery.  

I allowed myself one more minute of coziness—had my bed always been this big and soft—before I opened my eyes and yawned. 

Weird. My room looked different. No photograph prints papering the walls, no vase of sunflowers by the bed. And did my bed just move by itself?

My eyes latched onto the broad expanse of bare skin beneath me, and my stomach dropped. I looked up, up—straight into a pair of familiar green eyes. Eyes that stared back at me with no hint of the humor from last night. 

He flicked his gaze down. I followed it…and realized, to my abject horror, that I was touching Alex Volkov’s dick. Unintentionally, and he had on sweats, but still.

I. Was. Touching. Alex. Volkov’s. Dick.

And it was hard.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ana Huang is an author of primarily steamy New Adult and contemporary romance. Her books contain diverse characters and emotional, sometimes twisty roads toward HEAs (with plenty of banter and spice sprinkled in). Besides reading and writing, Ana loves traveling, is obsessed with hot chocolate, and has multiple relationships with fictional boyfriends.

Website
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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.**

I enjoyed reading Huang’s previous new adult works, the If Love series, so I was excited to see her coming out with a new book. Opposites attract? Forbidden love/brother’s best friend trope? Count me in! Just as the title suggests, the book is twisted in all kinds of ways–in love, in life, in everything. While I was conflicted about the book as a whole, the parts I did like were simply titillating.

Ava is a “Pollyanna” who finds herself intrigued and ultimately falling for a dark and vengeful Eric, who explicitly tells her that she’s not his type and that she shouldn’t romanticize him. His warnings, of course, fall to deaf ears. Who would hear his words when Huang has created a seemingly unfeeling, single-minded hot male as the love interest? I’m not a fan of alpha males with their overprotective tendencies and possessiveness–all characteristics of the love interest here–but I can’t be mad at Huang because I knew what kind of love interest I was getting when I picked up the book. It bothered me, but putting that aside, Eric is hot. I mean, look at his eyes on that cover…**swoon** I also liked Ava for being such an optimistic character. She’s sweet and genuinely good-natured and is Eric’s complete opposite. While there is chemistry between the leads, I would have liked a more fine-tuned build up. I ultimately rooted for them because Eric needed good things in his life and she could possibly be that for him. There was some groveling…and that was nice.

The events of the book certainly live up to its title but not every thing seemed necessary to me. It would have been just as twisted had the book focused solely on the main plotline with a supporting subplot or two as opposed to the multitude of things that happen. The main plotline is an interesting one but sometimes I would forget what it was amidst all the other things happening. As much as I enjoyed the book when Huang gets it right–I mean, I relished those parts that I liked (one of my favorite scenes is Ava’s sudden appearance at an alumni gathering and it clearly has Eric hot and bothered)–there was also jumping from one event to the next that interrupted the overall flow of the novel for me. Some felt like unnecessary obstacles that didn’t move the plot forward nor established much about what I already knew about the characters; thus seeming more like filler than anything else. Overall, the book falls smack dab in the middle because the good stuff is really good but then it would be interrupted with other things that were not so good.

Anchored Hearts (2021)

By Priscilla Oliveras
ASN/ISBN: 9781420150193
Publication: April 27, 2021
Series: Keys to Love #2

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

Oliveras gives us a slow burn second-chance romance with leads who still have lingering feelings for each other. Anamaria is a firefighter medic with a burgeoning fitness business. Alejandro is a globe-trotting photographer guilted into returning home to his hometown to assuage his mother’s and his abuela’s concerns over his broken tibia. When they meet again–not through fate but the meddling of their mothers, which could be considered a kind of fate–it’s hard not to recall what they used to be to each other, especially when seeing one another instantly reignites emotions each long thought dissipated.

With second chance romances, the time apart is a pivotal element. Anamaria found herself during their separation, growing into the person she was meant to become. Staying in the Keys and close to family hasn’t stifled her growth but bolstered it, bringing with it an added confidence in herself and her goals. Now, she only needs to find the courage to seize the opportunities her hard work has created for her. Alejandro is an award-winning photographer, but when we meet him, nothing about him has changed very much except for his career accomplishments. Despite the twelve years apart, the emotional growth for him happens within the pages whereas Anamaria’s already done most of it outside of the book’s present timeline. Anamaria was mature enough to recognize what he is now only beginning to understand, that sometimes choices are not mutually exclusive. His situation was complicated by a father who had different expectations for him, which also further manifested into undue pressure from him on his relationship with Anamaria.

The love for family and the sense of place was soothing for me. The family dynamics were heartwarming, Alejandro and his father’s complicated relationship aside. I loved how family was a positive consideration as opposed to being viewed as a hindrance. Loving where you’re from was also seen as a positive attribute that I appreciated, and helped me to identify better with Anamaria’s character, leading me to like her character a lot more as compared to Alejandro.

I was generally not a fan of Alejandro. His selfishness and impatience largely contributed to their relationship’s demise when Anamaria just needed more time, something he was unwilling to give her. I’m not fully blaming him, but I also kind of am placing a lot of it on him…hahaha. Take that with a grain of salt since I’m fully on Anamaria’s side here. He couldn’t see beyond himself and his desires. It could be argued that Anamaria was the same, but she didn’t harbor the same kind of selfishness he did. She understood his desire to leave Key West and supported his endeavors. He wanted her life to revolve around him but was unwilling to do the same for her. Time apart, I guess, helped push him into a more mature individual even if he only just recognized it after returning home. (Hmm…maybe 12 years didn’t do as much I just wrote it did.)

Priscilla Oliveras’s writing flows so effortlessly, transitioning from the past to the present to feelings both old and new. I loved it. The descriptions are mesmerizing, and the longing between Anamaria and Alejandro over what was and the instances of what could have been packs a punch. I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s standalone, and Luis’s story is mentioned here whenever Luis and his love interest show up. You don’t need to read the first book to enjoy this one. I haven’t read the first book but may do so now because I enjoyed Oliveras’s writing so much.

The Forest of Stolen Girls (2021)

by Jane Hur
ASN/ISBN: 9781250229588
Publication: April 20, 2021

I was excited to read Hur’s The Forest of Stolen Girls. Some of my favorite dramas are set during the Joseon era so I was looking forward to reading a novel set during this period as well.

After learning about 13 girls all missing from the same village, Detective Min heads back to his old home to try to solve the case, but he also goes missing. Our protagonist is his 18-year-old daughter Hwani Min who refuses to believe her father is dead with only a scrap of his clothes found as confirmation of his death and not his body. She heads to Jeju Island to search for him.

Set during a time when women had limited agency, it was somewhat surprising that Hwani was given so much leeway throughout Jeju to search for him, but I liked the focus on strong women, especially Hwani. Hwani is a determined individual, quite stubborn actually. It’s also very clear from the beginning that she’s her father’s daughter. Throughout the book, Hwani is constantly looking over the evidence and list of suspects, trying to figure out what her father would do. She often refers to him as Joseon’s greatest detective and has lived her life trying to make him proud. Her belief in her father and her conviction that he is alive is so strong that I hoped as much as she does that he would be found alive.

While Hwani is the main protagonist, her younger sister Maewol plays a central role in the story. Their relationship is complicated because their vastly different relationships with their father. Hwani idolizes her father, whereas Maewol’s feelings are much more complicated–she is the daughter left behind. Maewol has different memories of their father, making it difficult for Hwani to reconcile what she knows and feels about her father with Maewol’s account of him. Hwani’s memory loss of a significant event further exacerbates the problem so there is a lot of tension whenever the sisters interact with each other. The focus on their relationship highlights how the story is more than just about searching for their father and solving the disappearance of girls from Nowon Village; it’s about grief and family.

The plot was interesting and well thought out. There are several red herrings throughout the book, just enough to make the reader question who the culprit might be. I read it the first time, eager to get to the ending, then I read it a second time to piece together the clues and to fully enjoy Hur’s writing prowess. It’s not just the plot, but the writing that makes this such a good read. One of my favorites is the first line of the novel, providing a hint of the beauty of Hur’s writing in the pages to come: “The screen of mist was thick around the red pinewood vessel, as though secrets hid beyond of a land I was not permitted to see.” The book is filled with vivid descriptions that make the setting and the story come alive. I would recommend this to those who appreciate a good mystery novel. Individuals who liked Firekeeper’s Daughter (2021) and are looking for another well-written mystery may enjoy this novel as well.

The Comeback (2021)

by E.L. Shen
ASN/ISBN: 9780374313791
Publication: January 19, 2021

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

Maxine is a 12-year-old figure skater with dreams to one day be an Olympian, so she’s working hard on the ice to perfect her routine while trying to finish homework and attend ballet classes. When a bully at school starts to pick on her because of her Chinese heritage, it negatively affects Maxine. Rather than be able to find solace on the ice, Maxine has to face a talented new competitor who may affect her chances of making it through to the next competition.

Racism is difficult to deal with no matter how what age someone is. Shen’s depiction of racism feels true to life, showcasing how Maxine internalizes it and ultimately tries to deal with it on her own. While the latter may seem like a solution, sometimes love and support from the people who care about us are the best remedies.

I wasn’t great at sports, and I didn’t watch it very much either, but I always made an exception to pay attention to figure skating. It was one of the few sports where Asian faces were televised. Like Maxine, Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan were two Asian American figure skaters I admired. Both are just two of the many Asian figure skaters Shen name drops throughout the novel, helping to capture how these specific individuals served as Maxine’s role models. It highlights the importance of representation and the positive effects of seeing faces like your own reflected in things you enjoy. Is descriptive representation important? Yes!

It also doesn’t matter how old you are when you see representation in books you enjoy, especially when you never saw it growing up. I was excited to see a reference to Tiger Balm! Can you believe it?! It does solve everything! I see that now as an adult, although I would have been self-conscious about using it as a kid. What a throwback to a classic also! Although I’m not Chinese, Teresa Teng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart” was a song I grew up with. (Enjoy it with the English translation below. It’s so beautiful and relaxing). I was so excited to see both of these referenced here.

Overall, The Comeback is a thoughtful novel about a young Chinese American figure skater’s experience with racism at school and how internalizing those racist acts affects her mentally and spills over into her life at home and on the skating rink. I found the story well-written and appreciated the Asian American representation. Maxine has the potential to serve as a character that other Asian American girls can identify with, serving as a role model just as Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan served as her role models.

**A big thank you to the publisher for also providing a finished copy of the book. I purchased a copy for my niece, so I hope she’ll like it as much as I did, although she probably won’t be as familiar with tiger balm or Teresa Teng–I must remedy this. HA…

Rebelwing (2020)

by Andrea Tang
ASN/ISBN: 9781984835093
Publication: February 25, 2020
Series: Rebelwing #1

Prep school student Prudence Wu regularly smuggles out illicit materials to customers outside of the city. In her haste to complete a deal, she leaves without her partner Anabel Park and, of course, it just has to be the one where she meets with dire consequences–her customer double-crosses her, and enforcers come after her. After being unexpectedly rescued by a cybernetic dragon, Pru is forced to work for a secret organization to keep her “extracurricular activities” off her records.

The overall story and the world Tang creates is an interesting one. The story is set in an alternate United States, in a different Washington D.C., one of the last places that has yet to be consumed by a growing authoritarian regime the UCC. The efforts of a past resistance have kept New Columbia one of the last strongholds of democratic governance; it’s not only independent but thriving in the aftermath of wars fought long ago. Although a tenuous peace has been established between it and the UCC, it’s becoming more difficult to determine how long peace can be maintained. This is the world that Pru, an Asian American teen, is trying to survive in.

Pru is a tough, wise-cracking heroine, and I liked her a lot. I’m prone to liking sarcastic heroines who stand up for themselves when life tries to shove them around. It’s especially when in the face of authority that her sarcasm and defiance are entertaining. In many ways, Pru bucks the model minority myth placed on Asian Americans. She is by no means a straight-laced rule follower, but one who takes risks (i.e. smuggling censored materials like graphic novels to UCC incorporated areas). She isn’t as privileged as her colleagues but does the best she can with what she has. Sure, she might be taking calculus but things don’t necessarily come easily to her–you know, like bonding with a mechanical dragon. As a fan of science fiction growing up, Pru and Rebelwing would have been the book I needed to feel represented in the literature I was so fond of. 

While the story was promising, it was lacking in one of the elements I was most excited about: the sentient cybernetic dragon. Rebelwing is the mecha dragon that saves Pru, imprinting on Pru and leaving her in a difficult situation. While Rebelwing is pivotal to the plot, there are only glimpses of her whereas I expected more interaction and bonding between Pru and the sentient dragon. I would have gladly read on for another hundred or so pages if it meant that I got more Pru and Rebelwing together, hopefully getting a better understanding of why Pru was chosen when there were so many potential pilots such as Alex or Anabel that would have been better options. Of course, this is touched on slightly, but not near the extent I was hoping for.

While I enjoyed Pru’s story, the more interesting storylines were not that of Pru or her peers, rather it was of Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle. Who were they in their past lives? Who are they now? Who could have they been in the present had they made different choices? The little that is revealed about Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle, of each of their past and how those decisions shaped who they eventually became was intriguing to me. Yes, I would have settled for more reading if it meant reading more about these two as well. Or, how about a prequel novella?

Rebelwing is a fun book and packed with action. Is it good? Yes. Is the writing good? Yes. However, it left me somewhat unfulfilled due to my expectations of the Pru and dragon imprinting bond. If you’re expecting a metal dragon, you won’t see too much so it’s best to put that notion aside and soak up what you do get. If you can set that hope aside, you’ll be able to enjoy the novel a lot more. The sequel Renegade Flight was released on March 23, 2021. That will be a forthcoming review while I wait for it to arrive.

**If you’ve read Rebelwing, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve read reviews that range in ratings, from one end to the other, so I’d like to know what you think. There are different themes it touches on that I didn’t talk about in the review, but I’d love to discuss some more as well. And the ending was pretty good.**