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.

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.

Pahua and the Soul Stealer (2021)

by Lori M. Lee
ASIN/ISBN: 9781368068246
Publication: September 7, 2021

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

I’ve been waiting for the book since I first read the announcement. Although I was unsure about what to expect, I enjoyed what I found. Miv the spirit cat is very much a show stealer with his wit and sarcasm. Pahua is the girl who could be more than she seems if she only believed in herself. Zhong, the shaman warrior, is always ready for a fight and desperately wants to prove herself. They embark on an adventure to the spirit world to rescue Pahua’s brother Matt. It’s one that is exciting, made fun especially with Miv’s sarcasm, and filled with some very close calls.

The book is rich in imagination. It’s an entertaining infusion of Hmong mythology and folk tales with Lee’s skillful world-building; she not only incorporates the mythology but she expands the world to make it her own. There are shamans, shaman warriors, spirits, and gods. The spirit realm is especially complex with its many entities–tree spirits, wind spirits, gate guardians, and more–to the various modes of transportation. One of my favorites is when the spirit horse appears. When Zhong seeks out her horse spirit, she has to go to a rental to call for it…heh. There’s a lot to learn about this world, and at times, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially with new pieces of information popping up every few pages. 

The emphasis on who or what a hero looks like was an especially compelling part of the book. A hero doesn’t always look or sound like what a hero is imagined to be. Pahua, as the central protagonist, lacks confidence and know-how but is willing to do what is necessary to return her brother’s soul to his body–her love for her family exceeds her fears. Pahua demonstrates that anyone can be a hero. You just need to look within yourself. Additionally, winning doesn’t always mean swords and fists. Sometimes there are better ways to get what you want.

I loved the inclusion of Hmong words and names. Many were spelled in Hmong while others were Anglicized, possibly to make it easier to read or pronounce. For instance, Nhia Ngao Zhua Pa is used as opposed to the Hmong spelling Niam Nkauj Zuag Paj. Phonetically, the former is easier to pronounce. Then there is the former God of Thunder’s name where xob is the correct spelling of thunder as opposed to xov meaning thread–different tones as denoted by the last letter will change the meanings. I was tripped up a bit by the usage xob and xov because some characters had names that identified who or what they were while others did not.  

Aside from the Hmong words, there are references to sayings here and there that made me smile. In particular, there’s a reference to eating only eggs and ramen. When you’re a kid and you cook eggs and ramen (referring to the instant kind here), it’s commendable. When you’re an adult and someone says all you eat or can cook are eggs and ramen, it’s an insult meaning you’re lazy. Hehehe. 

I needed this book as a kid when I was searching for demons to fight and dragons to ride. Like Pahua, I grew up not knowing much, and, to be honest, I still don’t know very much. It creates the possibility of building and enhancing cultural connections for Hmong children who might find themselves wondering about their heritage and their identity. Representation would have gone a long way for me, including not being ashamed about what I brought to lunch or having white and red strings around my wrists–all things Lee mention in the book. The book eill also introduce non-Hmong individuals to new and exciting adventures that incorporate folktales and myths they may not have previously been exposed to. It’s a fun middle-grade read that is very much plot-driven. Those looking for action and adventure will certainly enjoy Pahua and the Soul Stealer.

Just a note: As a middle grade read, this is definitely 4 stars with its emphasis on action and adventure. For me, this is only 3.5 stars mostly because I like a more time to ruminate in specific moments and the book doesn’t do this much as Pahua, Miv, and Zhong are constantly moving on to the next thing to do or place to go.

Iron Widow (2021)

by Xiran Jay Zhao
ASIN/ISBN: 9780735269934
Publication: September 21, 2021
Series: Iron Widow #1

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

Zetian is a force to be reckoned with when she has her mind set on conquering an empire. She is determined to avenge her big sister by destroying the pilot who killed her, and she is willing to sacrifice herself along with her family to do it. Zetian’s desire for justice is not only fueled by love for her older sister but also anger that women are considered disposable. Enraged with her inability to dictate the choices in her life and the senseless sacrifices of women as concubine-pilots, she aims to bring down the patriarchy in any way possible. I was immediately drawn to Zetian and her struggle for agency. 

As much as I liked Zetian, it was difficult to fully support her in her one-track endeavor, and this is where the character growth comes in, however incremental it is. With few exceptions, she doesn’t believe men deviate from wanting to maintain control over women. While she aims to grab power and free women, she begins to realize that changing the status quo is difficult to do alone and that everything is not necessarily black and white. While initially resistant to most things that challenge her views, she is not immune to change, willing to broaden her views when she can see with her own eyes or someone pushes her to see the bigger picture. She wants a better world for women, and I was all for it. I understood her anger and cheered her fight against the patriarchy.

As much as I supported Zetian’s agenda, I found the story lacking in some areas. Zetian’s struggle takes place within the larger context of a war between humans and aliens called Hundans. Humans utilize mechas, or Chrysalis as they’re called here, that are powered by two individuals–a pilot (usually male) and a concubine-pilot (usually female). The mechas can take on multiple forms, which is often dependent on the connection and strength of the pilots. Despite the amount of information and description of the mechas and how they operated with chi, I wanted to know more beyond the insulated world of mechas and pilots. The context and the environment appeared hazy to me as I tried to figure out how this war began and where the Hundans came from. I was curious about the external environment. I was unsure about the government system in place, something I try to understand especially when someone is trying to topple systems and regimes. These were some points of confusion for me, and I would have liked it fleshed out better. I was also not generally fond of the writing style. Although I appreciated some of the more descriptive passages, it was difficult for me to settle into the writing but it became less of a hindrance once I became engrossed in Zetian’s story.

As fun as the mechas are, Zetian shines here with her ruthlessness and hunger for power. I loved the themes that arose as Zetian tried to dictate her life while fighting against the subjugation of women. It was enough to overcome what I found lacking in the story, things I hope will receive greater focus in the next book. I’ll be continuing with the series because, for the most part, I like Zetian and want to see her succeed. Fans of strong female protagonists and those who enjoyed Pacific Rim, which I loved, will enjoy the novel. 

His Road Home (2014)

by Anna Richland
ASIN/ISBN: B00KV5ZGPI
Publication: October 13, 2014

Last year, I found His Road Home (2014) while searching for romance novels. I was never a fan of novellas until I discovered Bettie Sharpe. With her flowery writing, Sharpe showed me novellas can be as developed and well-written as full-length novels, and, sometimes, they can even be better. This is the case with Richland’s His Road Home. I continue to be thankful that I picked it up and have since read it multiple times. At slightly over a hundred pages, His Road Home contains what some full-length novels do not: a developed plot and rounded characters with chemistry.

It’s an uplifting story of a fake engagement that turns into a wholly unexpected romance for two individuals who, despite being from the same town, may otherwise not have given each other a second glance. Because Grace is different from the girls Rey usually dates, it makes her the ideal fiancé. It seems perfectly harmless because no one outside of the situation will know about it. Living and working in Seattle, Grace is unaware of her relationship status until her sister phones. It’s an interesting predicament when the whole country knows about your relationship before you do! It was pretty amusing as Grace tries to figure out how to break the news to people that she has no idea who Rey is.

When they meet, Rey is surprised to see his fiancé has traveled across the country to see him, while Grace is looking for answers as to why she is suddenly engaged to someone she doesn’t know. Although they meet in an unconventional way (apparently one-sided fake engagements aren’t as common as romance novels tell me they are…heh), there is a spark of attraction from both sides. Grace is unprepared and should be angrier at the situation he’s put her in, but she tries to be understanding. And Rey? Well, he has no reason to get mad at Grace, who takes his lie in strides. How can you not find the woman you threw into this situation attractive when she shows up to be by your side and stays to play the part? Grace is a sweet and patient person, and I adored her. She sees Rey through this mentally and physically taxing time ahead. Rey is resilient and has a sense of humor I liked–the cheesy kind. He realizes the best thing in his life may have happened due to one of the worst moments in his life.

The circumstances under which they initially meet might sound unrealistic (it’s a romance, please let me be), but the relatively uncomplicated way their relationship develops is one I enjoyed. Where I might read full-length novels that a lack of chemistry between leads, Grace and Rey had me invested within moments of their meeting. They go from strangers to lovers over several months through text messages and a road trip back to Washington. Richland packs so much into this novel that it feels longer than it is. It’s a very good thing here because I wanted more. There are no frills and fillers, and I loved nearly every moment of it. That’s one of the beauties of novellas, they’re short and don’t have time for nonsense.

It’s a near 5-star read for me. During each read, I’m tempted to give it that extra star, but when I get to the ending, I’m reminded why I’ve been stingy with that final star. The ending was just so-so, but it has started to grow on me. If you’re a fan of romance novels, this is a soothing and uplifting one that has the potential to become a cherished favorite; it’s certainly now one of mine.

Love Her or Lose Her (2020)

by Tessa Bailey
ASIN/ISBN: B07QN8SRR3
Publication: January 14, 2020
Series: Hot & Hammered #2

I liked the premise of the story, and it is immediately engaging as the book begins with Rosie miserable while on the job. When a customer attempts to hit on her, it’s the catalyst to a life-altering decision to leave her husband–something that has been a long time coming. What are you supposed to do when your relationship ceases to be what it used to be, nor does it seem to be growing in a positive direction? What do you do when communication halts? Rosie sees this as her only choice while Dominic feels blindsided even though it hasn’t escaped his notice that their relationship isn’t how it used to be or how it should be.

With dual points of view, Rosie describes a relationship where she’s lost herself and her dreams. Her life is monotonous, which isn’t something she necessarily seems to mind, except that the person she loves is closed off and doesn’t make her feel loved anymore. From Dominic’s perspective, Rosie is the only woman he’s ever loved, but he is withdrawn and can’t seem to fulfill the role he thinks he should be doing. Like Rosie, he is aware their relationship is different but doesn’t know how to break the cycle. In each of their chapters, it is exceedingly clear that 1) the sex remains fantastic and 2) love for the other person has never ceased. The true culprit? A lack of communication contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. Unfulfilled dreams and somewhat unwarranted self-expectations place further strains in a once passionate relationship. Being that it’s a romance novel, the question isn’t whether there will be a HEA but how they will arrive there. It’s heartbreaking on multiple levels to see a relationship break down but there’s always hope when individuals are willing to try. And that’s what Rosie and Dominic do, they try.

While I wanted to lay all the blame on Dominic, I appreciated the realistic portrayal of the relationship where the fault is not one-sided; it takes two. Because individuals become too preoccupied with their own needs, they may forget their partner’s needs. Rosie and Dominic are receptive to each other and put in the effort once they are allowed to share how they feel. The book emphasizes the theme that love can serve as a foundation, but it needs to be nurtured to remain structurally sound. I’m not sure exactly how I felt about how their relationship problems were resolved. I was disappointed with how some of their problems were resolved and how quickly they were resolved, especially their last problem and its resolution, which seemed to sweep things under the rug more than anything else.

Love Her or Lose Her is the type of story that encourages readers to reflect on their relationships and examine if they’re doing enough for their relationship and their partner. Or, it could just be me because I certainly did a lot of thinking. I like when romance novels provide me with these moments of contemplation. Bailey effectively presents a story that addresses the essential role communication plays in a relationship and how crucial it is to try to understand a relationship from the other person’s perspective. While the first half was engaging, the second half started to slip with the relationship problems solved almost too easily.

The Worst Best Man (2020)

by Mia Sosa
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062909879
Publication: February 4, 2020

Lina is a wedding planner and asked to compete to be permanently on staff for a prominent hotel group. She’s excited at the prospect, but decidedly less so when she meets the marketing team–her ex- fiancé and his brother Max–who is supposed to help make her pitch. Although Max may have encouraged his brother to leave her on their wedding day, he can’t help but be attracted to her the more they work together. Similarly, Lina starts feeling like more than just work is happening with Max.

The Worst Best Man has a trope I hate, dating an ex’s sibling. I get it. You can’t help who you fall in love with, but there’s a code somewhere that has to be followed, right? The book addresses it, and the characters have a tough time figuring out their situation, but it’s still such a messy ordeal and feels nearly incestuous. This decreased my enjoyment of the novel, but I liked Max and Lina together enough that I would forget they were almost in-laws. The problem was when I would remember out of nowhere. **shudders** My other gripe was how quickly they became attracted to each other. It’s a substantial hurdle to overcome, going from despising the guy who encouraged your fiancé/his brother to leave you to being nearly instantly attracted to him. There needed to be more time to knock over the hurdle than was given.

Despite being conflicted about their prior connection and the pace of their interaction, I enjoyed Lina and Max’s relationship, from enemies to lovers, because they were so easygoing with each other. They not only worked well together, but they had fun while doing it. The aspect I enjoyed most was how they brought out the best in each other by helping to quell negative thoughts and provide comforting words. Their relationship, which may have started with some petty moves mostly on Lina’s part, had substance to it. This was a healthier relationship than I’ve seen in most books, one not marked by possessiveness but a willingness to talk and listen. While they were great together, the passion felt subdued. I am a fan of emotional reads (Kennedy Ryan owns so many pieces of my heart that it’s not funny), and The Worst Best Man doesn’t have that. Although it didn’t make my heart flutter miles a minute, part of me enjoyed that their affection toward each other wasn’t the all-consuming kind–it was nice to breathe and not be left in a book coma.

The subdued feelings, however, play well into Lina’s character. Lina is dedicated to her job and possibly even loves it, but I’m not sure because she doesn’t seem to express joy over it as much as she is dedicated to doing a good job. She is petty, which makes for some funny situations especially when her family is in the picture, but she is mature when it counts–seeing your ex and the cause of your breakup calls for a lot of maturity and restraint. It’s this latter ability that forms the basis of her character arc. She displays a lot of emotional restraint, while Max is the opposite. He’s very willing to take chances on what he feels, but he’s also patient, allowing Lina the space she needs to make her decision. Max isn’t perfect, which makes him all the more likeable. His insecurities often hinder his potential, but Lina reinforces how wonderful he is. He might be the worst best man, but they’re well-suited for each other.

Additional highlights in the book include Max and his heart-to-heart talks with best friend Dean. I enjoyed their bromance. Friends should be supportive like Dean. At one point, Dean lets Max crawl into bed with him, and it was too cute. Lina and her family are also fantastic. Natalia is fierce and ready to back up Lina at any moment. She’s awesome!

The Worst Best Man didn’t sweep me off my feet, but it didn’t have to. With characters who complement each other so well, it was easy to support the main romance, even if I wasn’t on board with the “dating an ex’s sibling” trope.

{book birthday} How We Fall Apart (2021)

THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER!

Katie Zhao’s dark academia novel How We Fall Apart is out today!

Goodreads
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

HowWeFallApart_cover-rs

by Katie Zhao
ASIN/ISBN: 9781547603978
Publication: August 17, 2021
Series: How We Fall Apart #1

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too.

Students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead. (from Goodreads)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie Zhao is a 2017 graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English and Political Science, and a 2018 Masters of Accounting at the same university. She is the author of THE DRAGON WARRIOR series (Bloomsbury Kids), HOW WE FALL APART (Bloomsbury Kids), forthcoming LAST GAMER STANDING (Scholastic), and forthcoming WINNIE ZENG series (Random House Children’s Books). She is represented by Penny Moore of Aevitas Creative Management. She’s a passionate advocate for representation in literature and media.