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…)

The Inheritance Games (2020)

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
ASIN/ISBN: 9781368052405
Publication: September 1, 2020
Series: The Inheritance Games #1

After her mother dies, Avery is left under the care of her half-sister. She discovers her financial struggles are solved when she unexpectedly becomes the heir to billions of dollars despite not knowing the man who left it to her. With a disinherited family that calls foul on her new position, the biggest questions become what is the link between Avery and the Hawthornes and what game has Tobias Hawthorne forced them into.

The book is fast-paced and kept me engaged the entire time. I couldn’t stop reading it. While the main plot is about trying to solve the clues left behind by Tobias Hawthorne, multiple subplots helped to make the book interesting, including the dangers that come with being the heir to billions and navigating a new school and relationships. The book invokes the importance of family as well as the influence of money on behavior. Both themes are prominent throughout the book and manifests itself in different ways, but especially through Avery’s relationships with her sister and the Hawthorne boys.

I was immediately intrigued by Avery with her willingness to help those around her, despite her current means, and her personality. Avery is smart, loves puzzles, and wants to be a statisician. I liked her as soon as I read that–I’m a nerd who also loves data and stats. Avery has to learn to adjust to her new life including a new school, having a security detail, and living with the Hawthornes. While her integration into this new world isn’t without its problems, she tries to remain grounded. She doesn’t give up and tries not to let the money corrupt her. One of the curious pieces of this entire puzzle is that her mind works scarily similarly to that of the Hawthorne boys, especially Jameson and Grayson, even though she has no idea of her connection to Tobias or the entire Hawthorne family. Barnes skillfully injects clues here and there to make the reader question what they think they know.

Aside from Avery, everything is a mystery, and I enjoyed unraveling the clues alongside her. The estate immediately reminded me of the Winchester House in San Jose, CA with the many mysteries and secrets within the Hawthorne House. Of course, the Hawthorne boys are also one of the biggest mysteries in the book. I couldn’t tell whether they were genuine about helping her or if they wanted to depose of Avery in a roundabout way. When Avery’s paranoia began to set in, I thought it was smartly written because even I started to question everyone around her, especially the boys. I did have a soft spot for Xander, the youngest of the boys, and kept hoping he had nothing to do with the danger lurking in every corner.

There is a budding romance, or should I say romances, although it’s not the main focus. As someone who abhors love triangles, I feel it is my duty to report that a love triangle is brewing. Avery’s indecisiveness contributes to it and I hated that. I get it, she’s still just in high school and trying to navigate a nearly nonexistent social life with the mystery of the inheritance so I’m sorry…but also not sorry. It had to be said. I didn’t like her confusing actions.

After finishing it, I completely understand the hype around the book when it first came out. Individuals who like a good mystery and scavenger hunt will enjoy The Inheritance Games. The book ends on a cliffhanger, which I had somewhat expected, so with The Hawthorne Legacy already on hand….Let the games continue!

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:

The Orphan Witch (2021)

by Paige Crutcher
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250797377
Publication: September 28, 2021

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

The Orphan Witch is filled with loneliness and longing as Persephone May searches for a place she can call home. Because of the strange things that happen around her, she continues drifting from place to place. After receiving an email from her only friend inviting her to Wile Isle, she finally feels like she has found what she’s been searching for all her life. Her arrival puts her in the middle of a fierce family feud and a century-old curse.

It starts as a lovely book about finding family but slowly turns into something more suspenseful with secrets looming, dark forces lurking near, and magic demanding a price possibly greater than many are willing to pay. I was immediately charmed by the writing with its rich descriptions and the sense of yearning it evokes from Persephone’s desire to find a family. I appreciated the level of detail that went into the history of those on the isle as well as the magic system. The moderately slow pace worked well in the beginning, helping to create a comforting atmosphere as Persephone starts to feel like she belongs–I was completely immersed in the first half of the book.

As the mystery of the isle deepens and the rift between cousins begins to affect Persephone’s livelihood, the pace and certain plot elements began to impede what could have been a more exciting second half. The slow pace became frustrating as the time left to break the curse started to tick away, and there was still so much to do…and read. My frustration was further exacerbated by the miscommunication or misunderstandings in the story, preventing a very much-needed reconciliation that would have continued pushing the story forward. There were times when I just wanted straight answers and couldn’t get them.

Persephone was initially someone I easily sympathized with because I understood her longing for a place and people to belong to. This theme of belonging and a desire to be among family was a heartbreaking one. Anyone who has ever felt out of place will be able to connect with Persephone’s loneliness and desire for love. I desperately wanted Persephone to get a happy ending. The book managed to keep me engaged for the majority of it; however, I was not a fan of the ending. Individuals who enjoy slower reads and magical novels that emphasize love and family while also pitting good against evil may enjoy The Orphan Witch.

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.**

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.

Hot Desk (2021)

by Zara Stonely
ASIN/ISBN: 9780008436278
Publication: August 31, 2021

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

Although working from home might be nice for some people, it’s not exactly conducive to Alice’s productivity. She shares her house with other people. She shares her clothes with her sisters. Only her cubicle and her desk at work can be called her own, so she is more than ready to be back at work. Her excitement is short-lived when she learns she now has to share her desk with Jamie, someone she has a crush on but also irritates her incessantly with his teasing. Her feelings for him are…complicated.

I didn’t think I would be able to read a post-COVID book so soon. It helped that there are only mentions of the pandemic and nothing that was particularly triggering for me. Hot Desk was difficult for me because the romance takes a long time to get started and it’s slow. The book mostly focuses on Alice learning to stand her ground and saying no. She wants a space of her own that she has control over, without roommates interrupting, a sister always taking her clothes, or an ex-boyfriend insists on tidying it against her wishes. She wants to create boundaries to discourage people from walking all over her. For the most part, this is captured fairly well, especially Alice’s worries about being perceived as mean. She keeps second-guessing herself because people aren’t used to her being assertive nor are they used to her saying no. I completely understood where she was coming from because I can be a total pushover as well, and I hate conflict. Those conflicting feelings of wanting to stand your ground but feeling bad and being seen as mean are all too real.

Miscommunication plays a pivotal role in the potential romance, and it hurt my brain a lot because Alice rambles on and on about it in the first part. Part of the pain came from the rambles being all internal, which I normally enjoy. There was no other person to help break up the conversations she had with herself to give her brain a rest so I could also give my brain a rest. The other part of it was that it was mostly rambling. She was worried about everything and particularly confused and in a twist over Jamie. Her anxiety gave me anxiety. Once this finally passed, I was able to enjoy the book. However, I’m not sure how I feel about the events of the second half. Life is messy, and the second half gets it down well. I did, however, like how Alice slowed down her internal conversations and worries, which decreased my anxiety.

The book’s content does bring to mind Mhairi McFarlane and McFarlane’s books. Hot Shot doesn’t have the same emotional impact nor provide insight on life as effortlessly, but the book is not devoid of them. It just doesn’t evoke them to the same magnitude. Fans of McFarlane may enjoy the book but will need to overcome the internal ramblings of the first half to do so.