Romance Roundup 2020: 8 Lightning Reviews

book review, mini book review, Uncategorized

2020 has been a tough year for me, especially for my reading. That’s why I could only consume what I call candy books: romance books–light books that I know aren’t the best but I read them anyway because they are easy to fall into and put a quick smile on my face (if done right). I have a love-hate relationship with romance; there’s so much potential to be had but I find many fall into stereotypes, regressive gender roles, predictable plotting, conventional romance norms, and archetypes of characters that never seem fully fleshed out. I have to say I do have hope for romance’s future though as recent ones seem to be more socially progressive and different. In this post, I try out different types of romance from fantasy romance to YA comtemporary and everything in between. I did include books with very heavy romance elements too. Before getting into the post, I do want to say I did actually find a maybe favorite of the year in this bunch. Can you guess which book it is?


Overall review: Highest rating is 5 “stars”How did I like the book in general? How did I like the plot, the story? My general thoughts?

Steam Factor: Highest rating is 5 “fires”; Kind of selfexplanatory, how were the steamy scenes ;); problematic;

Romance: Highest rating is 5 “hearts”; Did I even like the main pairing together as a couple? Problematic? Did I anticipate the couples’ every scene together? Did they work well together? Where’s that oomph factor? Were they developed as characters?

  1. The Kiss Thief by LJ Shen
The Kiss Thief - Kindle edition by Shen, LJ. Mystery, Thriller ...

Overall Review: You know at first, I was like sure, this is totally believable: a senator essentially selling his daughter out to another guy because he didn’t want to lose votes or something. Romance novels are oftentimes unbelievable but the plot was too weird even for me. Granted I did DNF this at the first really steamy scene because it was problematic on all levels and I was not having it so I gave up. It left such a bad taste in my mouth. There was a ton of unnecessary drama leading up to it and the type of drama that didn’t even add to the anticipation of the steam scenes. It’s gonna take a lot for me to try another LJ Shen book.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

Steam: 0

Romance: 0

2. Tweet Cute by Emma Lord Tweet Cute: A Novel (9781250237323): Lord, Emma: Books

Overall Review: This book was equal parts romance and equal parts coming of age; it’s almost hard to tell which one it is first, probably coming of age but I’m including it here anyways lol. I think what I’m starting to realize about myself and my taste in YA contemporary is that I love the fluffy but only when done exceptionally well like in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, otherwise, it just kind of falls flat. In this one, the whole time I was just waiting for Jack to tell Pepper about his true online identity and everyone knows Pepper was going to be fine with it so why bother waiting 90% of the book to tell it? I think the problem I have with withholding secrets in YA contemporary romance is that there are no stakes, you know the other person is going to be ok with it eventually. I also thought the family dynamic resolution was too clean at the end for Pepper at least. That’s what this was, clean. Nothing stood out, none of the characters. The heroine is the same archetype in all YA contemporaries, a stickler for the rules, has a plan laid out for her entire future, is a straight A student. The plot just has no stakes, no tension! That’s really it. But I did enjoy the Twitter rivalry. Any book that centers on food I am here for. And New York. I actually visited New York this year before COVID 19 hit and I love picturing all the references in the book I’ve actually seen (like the Met)!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: 0

Romance: (It was pretty cute but that’s about it)

3. Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

Birthday Girl

Overall Review: I get why Penelope Douglas is so well loved. She adds little details to the characters that elevate it over other contemporary romance writers. Also she writes taboo really well because you understand why these characters would like each other despite the age gap. But it ends up relying on romance cliches in the end.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: (wow can Penelope Douglas write steam; the smut scenes were great and nonproblematic)

Romance: (Even though Penelope Douglas did try some different things in the romance, she fell trap to so many romance tropes that it ended up feeling cliche. Jordan is clearly a very distinct “not like other girls” woman. The author clearly wanted me to like her because unlike other girls, she gets down and dirty and likes doing working outside? Aren’t you a special snowflake? Of course Pike just can’t stand it when she wears really revealing clothing; it starts a fight and somehow the girl is always the one acquiesing. Isn’t there any other way for romance authors to build tension between characters???)

4. The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

The Governess Game: Girl Meets Duke - Kindle edition by Dare ...

Overall review: When it comes to historical romance, Tessa Dare is always a safe bet. Her books are a warm hug, nothing groundbreaking but endlessly cozy. I haven’t read any of her older books, but this trilogy applies modern norms of love to a historical setting so it’s candy but it’s candy where half the money goes to something like a woman’s shelter. It’s super cute. There’s endearing characters (the two daughters!) and very little drama and angst. As far as romance goes, you could do way worse. Each main character has his/her own dreams and goals and just come together all the more stronger.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.


Romance: (love the witty banter; also loving the slow progression of their relationship)

5. The King’s Man by Elizabeth Kingston

The King's Man (Welsh Blades #1) by Elizabeth Kingston

Overall: One of the things I dislike about the romance genre is how traditional it is, taking a while for progressive themes to take hold whether it’s race, gender, or gender roles so I’m always on the lookout for romance books that break this mold. This one sounded promising because it’s about a woman is a soldier and is trained in combat which I rarely, if ever see in romance, only second to probably a sexually promiscuous main character. But that’s another story. The synopsis had such promise!! But I was so disappointed at the writing and the offputting pacing. The characters were also stilted sometimes veering into being way too mean or way too nice. The hero in the story was also such a jerk so there’s that too.

Rating: 1 out of 5.


Romance: (I will give some points for good progression? but other than that, I’ll pass)

6. Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women Book 1 ...

Overall: If I could be so bold, I think this is the best historical romance I have read this year and ever.. This had everything I wanted in a romance and more. I think a lot of times romance dialogue and scenarios can be really cliche and predictable which is fine but the details to build up these cliches can make a world of difference to the unique flavor of the story. I also appreciate that there wasn’t an overemphasis on how masculine or feminine the hero and heroine are respectively when describing them. I also appreciate that the conflict between the hero’s wealth and standing in society clashing with the possibility of having a relationship with his poorer heroine counterpart wasn’t just used as a one time climactic conflict that’s then solved instantaneously before the happy ending but rather a series of smaller conflicts to allow for character growth. There’s also some elements more typical of regency romance like the thinly veiled wit and ball scenes. The banter is also top notch. Also, I cannot forget the backdrop of the suffragette movement that actually took quite a bit of background which I appreciate. This is like top notch candy, candy you get at a bougie candy store like Sugarfina, with gummy bears made up of like gluten free ingredients but still taste great. I cannot wait for the second book in the series following one of the secondary characters (who btw are amazing).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Steam: (wish there was more but honestly what’s there is top notch)

Romance: (Love the two together; so much banter)

7. The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom, #1)

Overall Review: When I started this book, I was, by no means, expecting the worldbuilding to be good at all. One of my favorite romance tropes is “woman being sent away to be married to other guy from another kingdom” (idk why). Fantasy romances tend to have very soft worldbuilding but this one surprised me. Though by no means any close to the dynamic worldbuilding I love in epic fantasies, I appreciate the slight attention to detail and the mystery surrounding the world; it gave a great visual as I was reading. In these types of books, I expect the world to enhance the relationship of the characters instead of the other way around and this one did a solid job. I also appreciated the heroine was always looking for a way out and didn’t fall in love with the hero in her mental processes right away but really allowing the trust between both of them to grow naturally. She was always doubting which is great because it fits with how she grew up. It’s also really fast paced, perfect immersive beach read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: Could use just one more scene

Romance: (love)

8. If I never met you by Mhairi Mcfarlane

If I Never Met You

Overall: Overall, it was ok. It was lukewarm, nothing wrong persay I especially enjoy the character growth in the beginning after our heroine goes through a breakup after a 13 year relationship. But there was barely any sense of chemistry. The hints and dialogue at workplace feminism were a plus but not enough to make up for the plot and lackluster romance. (I just realized I forgot to include this poll but I guess knowing my review, it doesn’t matter)

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Steam: 0


9. Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Chain of Gold (The Last Hours, #1)

Overall: Not technically a romance, but has very heavy romance elements. You know what I really liked Chain of Gold at first but as I moved along, it was very clear that the sort of contrived tension and conflict building in Clare’s books continues to rear its ugly head. I thought Grace was going to be a true source of angst, like James would actually be in love with her for reals without any sort of manipulation (that would have been angsty) but no..And then I just lost interest. I do like the humor though. The four main heros’ personalities started to blur together for me. I do like Cordelia though; I think she’s definitely different than all of Clare’s other heroines. I did really like the Tessa, Will, and Jem cameos too. I ship Lucy and Matthew too; I hope that’s a thing in the next book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.



10. A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, #1)

Overall: A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which as we all know is all about the romance. I liked elements of this book in the moment but truthfully the characters were super bland. The heroine is a stubborn do gooder of course. I did like how she talked about how her cerebral palsy affects her daily life though. The hero an angsty king with a dark past. They both spent way too much time angsting about their problems and each time their problems were mentioned, there was no added depth to them so they felt very repetitive. There was nothing special about either and so nothing special about the romance either. I thought the plot took some interesting turns that I liked but overall an average book. I would read it if in the mood. It’s a quick read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Steam: 0


So we come to the end of the romance roundup! Did you guess right? If you guessed Bringing Down the Duke, you guessed right!! Pat yourself on the back, get some ice cream 🙂 I hope you enjoyed this post! Seeing this post and getting a taste of what I read and like in romance, is there any books you would recommend me?

Spring/Summer Reading Wrap Up

book review, mini book review, Uncategorized

I’m back?? I know I said I was back from hiatus and then I wasn’t and then I went back on hiatus without warning. I haven’t been reading enough to warrant a monthly wrap up anyways. I’ve also been opting for more shorter books/short stories/novellas these days. So in this post, I’m wrapping up all the books I read from May-August.

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui (4/5)

29936927The Best We Could Do is a graphic memoir about immigration but less so about how it affects the generation after and more so on the history and culture around the parents that are the immigrants. As with most stories about immigrants, it is written from the perspective of a person (Thi) who has only been told these stories. But seeing it in a graphic novel really makes you feel like Thi Bui’s parents are actually telling the story themselves because the pictures reflect the immediacy of the event being told. If it’s a scene where the parents are trying to escape by boat, then the panels reflect that exact scene. It follows her parents from when they were kids all the way up to when they immigrated to the US. What I find interesting is how much of her parent’s personalities really shine through and how that influences their triumphs and struggles, their shortcomings and successes. I wish there was more about their story affects Thi’s life and her child but I liked how the memoir explores this sense of displacement that her parents faced, as a consequence of war and being forced to deal with traumatic events in the best way they knew how, even though it caused a sense of displacement for Thi herself. She was constantly wondering why her parents were not fully present for her.  Lush watercolor permeates the graphic novel with fluid lines and equally fluid pacing.

Image result for the best we could do

How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore (3/5)

Image result for how to break a boy

This reminded me a lot of Gossip Girl and I think for what I was looking in a YA contemporary, it had a little too much drama. I think I was expecting more of a cute and fluffy read. Usually with these books I expect the writing to just be a means of catapulting the plot and moving overwrought drama forward, to get from Point A to Point B, but clearly Devore’s writing is beautiful unto itself. It’s got a superb sense of melancholy and beauty that I never expected with this type of story and let me just say the romance was beautifully done. I appreciated the unapologetic unlikeability of the protagonist. She is not the wholesome, pure, dependable heroine you expect from a contemporary and it made her character development all the more interesting. It was not tied up neatly but still has this strong sense of purpose that not many YA books have. Even though the plot was too dramatic for my personal preference, I’m definitely checking out her next book.

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to Covergirl, the buying and selling of a political movement by Andi Zeisler (4/5)

There seems to be a trend nowadays that everyone can claim to be a feminist. Thanks to the support of many celebrities, the word has become “hot” and “trendy”. If you buy this makeup product, you can be a feminist too! Though Image result for we were feminists onceoften the true meaning of feminism has become muddled and used instead for capitalist gain. This book uses an abundance of cultural and pop references as well as a plethora of historical arguments to convincingly support this argument. The most important thing I learned from reading this is the concept of choice feminism. Choice feminism looks appealing on the surface. Anyone can choose to be a feminist! But the concept is insidious and inherently selfish. If an ideal does not fit the person’s individual ideology, the person rejects it. Where choice feminism fails is truly changing the ingrained sexism of society. A female can choose to become president or a housewife and both could be considered feminist depending on who you ask so it’s a win-win situation right? A female can choose to wear makeup or not and both would be feminist. That is choice feminism. What choice feminism ignores, however, is the ingrained cultural ideals that forced this choice in the first place. Sure, a woman is at perfect liberty to become president instead of a housewife and that would be considered feminist but that ignores the cultural and historical context that makes it so difficult for a woman to become president. I found this book to be incredibly relevant to today’s cultural atmosphere and was incredibly eye-opening book that focused on some of the more obscure but no less insidious aspects of today’s “feminism”.

I then read a couple of other YA contemporary books that I have mini reviews on:

30724132     30653853    28458598
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis (2/5)


Set in Georgian society, The Butcher’s Hook follows a young girl, Anne Jacob, who is set into an arranged marriage. As with a lot of heroines in historical fiction, she of course does not like this arrangement and gets involved with the butcher’s boy. I expected a dark historical fiction novel about discovering subconscious desires and giving in to them in a time when so many restrictions are placed on your desires. What I got instead was a slow book where you know exactly what is going to happen but the book drags on and on and when you finally reach the part you already predicted, you’ve lost interest in the book. It just does not live up to anything. The main character had a lot of promise at the beginning but quickly derailed to standard cliche stereotypes.

I then read some nominations for this year’s Nebula award in the short story category.

Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar (3/5)

34401218Written like a fairytale, this story’s worldbuilding is one of its strongest elements with tidbits of magic and mysterious happenings. I could not fully immerse myself in it because as you progress through the story, the feminist themes become more and more overt to the point where the fairy tale elements seem more like an accessory than integral to the story. It is about forgiving yourself and moving forward but mostly it praises the power of female friendship. You can read it here.



Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0 by Caroline M. Yoachim (4/5)


This short story was such a nostalgic surprise. It follows in the format of the Choose Your Own Adventures. It is both a homage and a satire of those books. What I also liked about it was that it was set in space and it reminds me a lot of the humor from The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but more accessible. You can read it here.



I then read some graphic novels although two of which I’ve only read the first issue.

Misfit city Issue 1 by Kirsten Smith, Illustrated by: Kurt Lustgarten, Naomi Franquiz (3/5)


This was heavily influenced by the movie, The Goonies except it features an all-girls cast. It also reminded me a lot of the show Gravity Falls with its off the wall sense of adventure and Steven Universe for its sense of diversity. I admit this first issue is mostly filler as we learn more about the girls themselves and the town that they reside in. The mystery itself isn’t revealed until the end as a cliffhanger. An eccentric and fun read nonetheless. I recommend this if you liked Lumberjanes but want a little more edginess to the art and plot.


Goldie Vance Issue 1 by Hope Larson (3/5)

28953805This reminded me very much of a Cartoon Network show written for kids and will mostly be enjoyed by kids. It’s a cute and offbeat story about a girl who solves mysteries in the hotel run by her dad. Clearly the mysteries aren’t going to have you on the edge of your seat but the colors are vibrant and it’s fast-paced so it’s a good palette cleanser.

March vol. 2 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Illustrated by Nate Powell (4.5/5)

22487952I continue to completely and utterly love this series. The second volume continues the story of John Lewis and his role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. It is clear that what makes this so completely genuine is the strife even within the black community as to how to attain their freedom. It is also so awe inspiring how truly nonviolent this movement and I think because of this, you feel every inch of humiliation and oppression in contrast to the nonviolence. But along with the lowest of lows, you feel a sense of hope that only people who are tired of being oppressed for so long can feel. Even when I knew the outcome, I often felt a sense of hopelessness and disbelief that this point in our history occurred with so readiness and even worse how it continues to manifest even today.
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (Short story)


Kindred Spirits is a short story about a girl who waits in line for the midnight premiere of The Force Awakens. It was so wonderful not only because it featured a Vietnamese main character (yes!) but because its deceivingly simple premise gives way to a surprisingly cute and satisfying story. The characters are eccentric and have just enough of a story so you don’t wonder why the hell you’ve been reading a pointless story about someone just waiting in line for a movie, because of course, as only fandom people will know waiting in line for a movie is not just about waiting in line for a movie is it? I extra recommend this short story for fans of Star Wars as well because there’s a plethora of Star War references.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Mcguire (Novella)

25526296What happens to the children of Narnia, of Wonderland, of magical worlds after they come back to reality? This novella seeks to answer that question and it’s very reminiscent of Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children as it takes place at a house with eccentric children and an eccentric keeper of the house. Really my only qualm with it is how short is, I wanted so much more from it. The characters, especially the twins, have so much potential left and the worlds that they left are even more fascinating. I want to hear more about the Underworld. It is also a part murder mystery although the mystery was unsatisfying because it was solved so quickly but overall still an enjoyable read if only to see how this premise unfolds.

What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum (3.5/5)


This is a sweet YA contemporary revolving around grief. Kit Lowell’s father suddenly died after a car accident, she finds difficulty in moving forward. She resolves to find out how her father truly died with the help of a classmate, David Drucker. Julie Buxbaum is a great contemporary writer. She writes about grief as if she’s deeply intimate with it. I also loved that she explored this concept of discovering that your parents are no infallible and I think her portrayal of Kit having to deal with that newly discovered concept was very well-handled. I loved how she explored the many different forms of Kit’s grief. The anger and denial but also the difficulty of trying to do mundane things in the face of a sudden emptiness in your life.


Mini Book Reviews: YA Contemporary

mini book review, Uncategorized

Obviously I never stick to what I say cause I’m already posting before I said my hiatus was over. I’m here with a blog post yay..Who even knows my mind. I’m here to review 3 recently hyped YA contemporary books. I really need to stop giving into the hype train because none of these contemporaries lived up to my expectations but they were cute nonetheless.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (3/5)

Molly is a virgin and has never been kissed. She wonders if she is inherently unlovable. Image result for the upside of unrequitedShe wonders how someone gets 1 person to like them let alone many like her sister Cassie. But all that changes when she gets a job at at an antique store and meets Reid.. I think this book gets a lot of things right in some ways. It perfectly captures what it’s like to feel left behind relationship wise, how it feels to be totally clueless and immature when it comes to sex and relationships. Her inner thoughts throughout the book reflect this constant insecurity that is kind of narcissistic but ultimately relatable at the same time. I do think that the side characters had a lot of potential like Hipster Will, her moms, and even Cassie but they never quite reached it. Although very diverse, they lacked a sense of presence and personality other than their obligated roles. But all of this is fine except Becky Albertalli’s writing has nothing to offer itself. It is overtly simple to the point of boredom. I wish the relationship between Cassie and Molly was explored more. TUoU’s main theme is one of self-confidence and self-acceptance but Molly’s journey to self-confidence immediately resolves itself after she kisses someone. Poof fixed..  I wanted more of an exploration of her insecurities surrounding her weight, her anxiety etc. the romance was ok even if the love interest was slightly lackluster. But it was serviceable and pretty cute and I didn’t hate it so there’s that.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (2.5/5)

As you have no doubt guessed from the title, Geekerella is a Cinderella retelling following Ella who is a fangirl of the show Starfield (which is essentially Star Trek) and she has a blog talking about all things Starfield. Starfield is getting a reboot movie and the main actor just so happens to be Darien Freeman whom Ella hates for the main role.Image result for geekerella She writes a heated blog post about it and the story ensues from there. I have to be honest, I mostly wanted to read this book for the fandom aspect and you can certainly tell the author is a fangirl herself. She understands all the machinations behind conventions and blogs and online fandom. I liked that part the best even though there was less of that aspect than you would expect. I also have to be honest and say I’m not really a fan of Cinderella retellings mostly because I always feel the stepmother and stepsisters are so cartoonishly evil, it’s almost laughable. I felt the same way about the stepfamily in this one and I, in fact, think they’re not even as bad as real human beings can be (which tbh is kind of sad to think about but it’s true). They’re superficial and say mean stuff but I didn’t feel hurt when they insulted her because there was no sense of nuance or half-baked motivation for their actions. I also felt as if Ella as a main character was boring af and that’s mostly due to the fact that she was not very proactive in making her own decisions in her own life. Even the cosplay she was going to enter into Excelsicon was not really even her idea. This book also suffers from a case of instalove. They text each other and begin to fall in love because they understand Starfield references together and that’s it?? Also this is a side note but I am so sick of how convenient getting into college is for YA protagonists is. Mild spoilers but basically Ella gets accepted into UCLA because a film professor really liked her blog and basically pulled strings for her..

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (3/5)

When Dimple Met Rishi is about two Indian-American teens who end up at the same web design summer camp called Insomnia Con. Dimple does not know that her parents have Image result for when dimple met rishian arranged marriage planned for her (and if she did she would be furious, she has no time for that tradition and only wants to start designing her app) with her IIH (Ideal Indian Husband). The potential Ideal Indian Husband in question is Rishi who is perfectly aware of this arrangement and is perfectly fine with it as well. He is the traditional, reserved, and practical first son after all. Misunderstandings happen, they meet up and it goes from there. Although I wish it had gone into more detail, I did enjoy the exploration of arranged marriages, of expectations with traditional parents and that ultimate conflict of values between parents and children as they grow up. What I didn’t like as much is the instalove between Dimple Met Rishi. Their initial conversations were a little trite and ultimately did not convince me. After the initial meeting, Rishi already thought she had the best eyes in the entire world (cool story bro).  Dimple was portrayed to be this really fierce and outspokenly feminist character but Rishi ended up being the more outspoken one..weirdly enough even though he was suppose to be the more reserved one. In all honesty, Dimple was basically like most YA contemporary heroines, she’s “not like other girls” who worry about boys and doesn’t do frivolous things like her roommate Celia. Also Rishi was a little too perfect. If you read my Alex Approximately review, Rishi is the nice guy. This book is also dual perspective which was interesting reading because one thought that Dimple would have would bleed into Rishi’s thought process. I wish the relationship between Dimple and her mom was explored more. Her mom is more interested in how Dimple looks than what Dimple was actually doing in Insomnia Con. But it was solved so conveniently in the end. There was no sense of real conflict in this book, even in Dimple and Rishi’s relationship from her not “doing” relationships (I haven’t heard that before), to long distance relationships to being too “domestic”. None of these themes served as real conflicts.

Also the whole Bollywood dance thing was very trite. And also, again with the whole unrealistic getting into college part. Repeat after me: You cannot get into college just from one person’s good word!!!

Let me know if the hype train got to you and you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them =)




Mini Book Reviews: Hyped YA books

mini book review, Uncategorized

Sometimes I read/watch reviews of highly anticipated books and it just makes me want to read them so much even when I know that it probably won’t be as good as reviews make it out to be considering my tastes. I guess that’s kind of the point of glowing reviews. This is the story of how I got sucked into hype once again…do they live up to that hype? Or will they falter??

Alex Approximately by Jenn Bennett (3/5)

YA Contemporary | Goodreads 

Tis the season for contemporary. And the contemporary buzz book of the season is Alex, Approximately. And let me tell you, the buzz around this book was insane around the booktube community. The hype train always gets me even when I say it doesn’t. And I Image result for alex approximatelywas in the mood for contemporary so why not. And this is a reminder that I should take the hype train with a grain of salt. This is a You’ve Got Mail retelling (which I haven’t seen but really need to). At the beginning of the book, Bailey moves from DC to California to live with her dad. She’s a film buff, so much so that she is a member of an online forum for the film community where she’s been talking back and forth with fellow film buff and Californian, Alex, who she may or may not have feelings for. In fact, moving to California will give her the perfect opportunity to meet Alex in real life. Meanwhile, she lands a summer job at a museum where she meets Porter and it’s hate at first sight until it’s not….

First of all, this book feels like it was written by someone who does not live in SoCal because it feels so stereotypical. It’s basically like the California you see on the Hannah Montana set except with the inclusion of churro carts (I need that in my life) and poke (because we eat poke a lot too apparently) and of course, the surfers.

Image result for hannah montana beach scene

But I guess Jenn Bennett must be doing something right because after reading it, I just felt like going to the beach and having a bonfire. And there was something exciting and fun about having adventures in an underground museum. In terms of the romance, what you see is basically what you get. Porter was basically spat out from the formulaic YA boyfriend machine–he’s kind of a nerd but he’s just so cocky and omg if I hear that word one more time, I will sue–but he kind of missed the step where they give him a unique personality and any kind of flaws really. I did like that Bailey got to grow throughout. She’s someone who tends to avoid confrontation and being put on the spot but she learns to be comfortable with herself (even though the character development felt random and sudden; I get the gist). They both have tragic pasts that are discussed throughout and it felt off but maybe that’s just me.

The thing I hate about YA contemporary is that the 1st 10% of the book is spent developing the side characters like the parents and the friends and the backstory and the next 80% of the book is spent developing the relationship and then the last 10% suddenly the author remembers she has other characters so they suddenly have more page time but it feels like too little too late. This happened to Grace who works with Bailey at the museum. She feels kind of like the token diverse best friend considering that the author describes her father’s voice as having an “African sway”. What does that even mean?? There’s also Davy who is Porter’s ex-bestie and is basically there to make Porter look better. Also, he turned out to be a lot worse than I anticipated so the storyline turned out to be really melodramatic (complete with guns and drugs). The dad is there to instill wisdom and curfew times although I did like all the Settlers of Catan references. They all just felt token and bland.

My point is, this is YA contemporary and it doesn’t bring anything original to the genre but it’s fun and cute and actually kind of the perfect beach read literally.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (3.5/5)

YA Fantasy | Goodreads

I think after this series Laini Taylor and I might need to part ways. I enjoyed this book when I was reading it. It is magical and mysterious and as surreal as Laini Taylor’s previous works with mythic worldbuilding. Years ago, the city of Weep was erased from the minds of all the people in this world. Now it is only the stuff of legends, a good story but not real. However, Lazlo remembers Weep, in fact, he’s obsessed with it. He’s a librarian whose head is always in the clouds (“Strange the Dreamer”) and spends his free Image result for strange the dreamertime researching Weep dreaming about the day when he will be able to see Weep for himself. I have to applaud Taylor’s ephemeral writing; as over written and dramatic as it is, it does make you feel as if you were living a legend, a hero epic. There’s no other way to describe her worldbuilding except that it is epic like the libraries of Zosma. It’s completely sweeping and otherworldly, larger than life but is still grounded in what the reader knows which only makes the reader imagine it better.  I loved Lazlo’s dream landscapes of Weep, so imaginative like the fever dream of a child who has only read books about unicorns and rainbows.

But I realize after reading it why I can’t fully love this book. It’s because the payoff to all this buildup is just not satisfying. Lazlo has spent 7 years researching about Weep and it feels to the reader like an unattainable goal but then suddenly the answer comes right in front of him like all that buildup was for nothing. When they arrived at Weep, again the problem seemed insurmountable, but then when the solution arrived it didn’t feel satisfying? There’s also this instalove that annoyed me. It was almost like Laini Taylor was trying too hard to make me believe in their love by coating their instalove with frosting, with copious amounts of descriptions of how beautiful Sarai’s skin is and how mysterious Lazlo’s nose is. Are there really that many ways to describe someone’s crooked nose?? And omg this is the first time, someone has seen me!! The first time someone said I wasn’t disgusting!! Cue the blushing.  I think my eyes rolled straight out of my head. At points, it seemed like Sarai was a manic pixie dream girl and the ending didn’t help that theory either. The other side characters had a lot more potential to be intriguing characters such as Eril-Fane who was involved in the war that occurred before the events of Strange the Dreamer. I liked the concepts and themes that Laini Taylor introduces, about grief after war and guilt over the part you played in a war, how to figure out how to live with yourself after all the devastation. I wish there was more of that instead of the woe-is-me, melodramatic romance. If you liked Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, you will adore this, it’s actually quite eerie how similar the two are if you think about it.  The premise of Taylor’s books always hook me but the execution somehow always falls flat for me though.

Let me know if you’ve read these two books or if you’re planning to (they’re actually quite perfect for spring/summer) and what your thoughts are!


Mini Book Reviews: Memoirs (and my favorite book of 2016?)

book review, mini book review, Uncategorized

I’m really excited about this post because I gave all of these memoirs 4-stars which is a feat especially for me and this year of books. I love all of these and would highly recommend them.

Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Image result for yes chef marcus samuelsson

For some reason, I’m not all that into cooking but I love reading about food and the making of food. That appetite was probably fed by watching Ratatouille. My favorite part of that movie being, you guessed it, the food. In fact, my favorite scene of the movie is when Remy is adding all these ingredients to the soup that Linguini leaves out. So I initially wanted to read this because it’s the memoir of a professional chef but Samuelsson is quite the renowned chef having appeared on Masterchef and was a guest chef at Obama’s first state dinner.

Born in Ethiopia but raised by Swedish middle-class parents, Samuelsson was first exposed to extravagant home cooking through his grandmother. From there, he worked at some well known restaurants in Austria, Switzerland, and New York. Samuelsson is able to evoke this sense of coziness of his grandmother’s house but effortlessly conveys a dog-eat-dog world at Restaurant Aquavit where the upper chefs consistently humiliated the young chefs and one mistake could get you fired. It makes his memoir feel so rich and diverse. There’s no doubt that what makes Samuelsson so compelling to me is his undying ambition probably because it is so different than mine. He can come off as an arrogant asshole but I liked that he talked about the sacrifices that ambition takes. Few people are willing to work 16 hour shifts 6 days a week with little pay and endure humiliation to reach the top of the cooking world. Samuelsson could not even attend his father’s funeral. Besides the cooking though, his life is so interesting. He talks about how he reconnected with his birth father whom he thought was dead his entire life. He has lived in Switzerland, France, New York and has traveled the world trying out and currently owns a restaurant. He talks about all of this with such passion and occasional bouts of humility and it was quite inspirational in many ways.

Another thing that stood out to me was the fact that he wrote such a perfect balance between cooking and food jargon and his life stories. I feel like whenever you read about another professional not familiar to you it can become tedious because there is so much vocabulary you don’t know but Samuelsson combines it with enough context to make you want to look it up yourself. It’s a lovely ode to food.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Image result for scrappy little nobody

I’ve been a fan of Anna Kendrick ever since I watched 50/50 (an awesome comedy about a guy who has cancer). She’s absolutely hilarious on Twitter; I love her self-deprecating but snarky humor and we both like red pandas so I mean we are obviously soul sisters. Obviously..

This celebrity memoir is in my humble opinion a little different from other celebrity memoirs because instead of telling me their whole life story, she only told me snippets of some of the more entertaining stories of her going into theater and being an actress and how she got into the acting world because let’s face it I don’t want to hear every single thing you did as a child.

The best part about this memoir to me is that listening from her perspective you get the sense that she was almost thrust into this world because she always seems surprised that she has acquired recognizable fame but it just helps readers be put into her shoes, what it’s like for someone who has only become “famous” recently. She knew she loved acting but she didn’t know what it came with so to speak. I really liked the parts when she was talking about the first time she went on a red carpet (Twilight) or the first time she got a hair stylist.

I highly, highly recommend the audiobook for this. Anna Kendrick has such a sharp, clear voice and you can really feel her sense of humor based on what she emphasizes or when she lowers or raises her voices for certain parts when it’s suppose to be funny. Of course, if you don’t like Anna Kendrick, it’s not the book for you because her trademark is very apparent but even if you have a passing interest in her, I highly recommend.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Image result for just mercy bryan stevenson

This might actually be my favorite book of 2016 because it changed me a little bit. The author, Bryan Stevenson, is a lawyer representing people on death row and life imprisonment and he recounts his experience working on these cases with the case of Walter (a wrongly convicted death row prisoner) as an overarching case throughout. His words are taut with tenderness and the self-righteous passion of what he felt justice should be. I have always believed the saying that no matter how bad a childhood a person has, he/she still has a choice to be good so there are no excuses for criminals to use their past as an excuse. But reading the accounts of the people Stevenson has represented (most of them poor and nonwhite), you realize that what they’ve been through shapes their actions so much and even after they had been convicted, the justice system continued to fail them.

One case in particular was especially heartbreaking to me: Trina grew up with an abusive and alcoholic father who repeatedly beat her, her mother, and her siblings. When he beat her mother to death, some of her siblings ran away. She ran away to her sister’s and her husband’s place but ran away again when her husband was sexually abusive. One day, she decided to sneak into some friends’ house at night; she couldn’t see, lit a match and set fire to the house killing everyone inside. She was thirteen when she was sent to life imprisonment. In jail, she was raped by a guard and became pregnant with a son. She had been repeatedly hospitalized for mental illness and intellectual disabilities which worsened when she was incarcerated. Though Stevenson does not excuse the crimes these people have committed, he pleads for the system and us to show compassion to those who might not want it or even to those society deems unworthy of compassion and mercy. These cases add a human touch to the abundance of legal procedures and trials that Stevenson employs to get these people out. These cases only prove that our legal system is fueled by racial and gender politics instead of being as objective as it needs to be. Stevenson covers all of these procedures and rulings as well as his experiences trying to protect those convicted though legal ruling. The result is equal parts frustrating and touching.



Mini Book Reviews: Recent YA & NA Reads

book review, mini book review, Uncategorized

I read some YA and NA this month and I gave them pretty similar ratings so I thought I’d share them with you =)

It Ends With Us




Sassy, strong, stereotypical NA heroine, Lily Bloom meets arrogant and unoriginal NA hero, Ryle Kincaid who just so happens to not do relationships!! Who would have thought?? Oh woe is me.

Image result for rolls eyes

But they hit it off and start to date but things go awry and Lily finds that her past has become her present (I’m being vague on purpose).

There are also flashbacks from Lily’s past in the form of letters talking about her first love, Atlas Corrigan (a much better name than Ryle imo) and living with an abusive father.


Colleen Hoover mentions that this book is a very personal book for her, that she wanted to tell the story of her mom and answer the question, why do victims of abuse stay with their abusers? And I feel bad for not loving a book that an author has such personal ties to. But that’s the thing: I felt like the characters were just devices to make a point about abuse but not to exist as characters for themselves. And while she does a somewhat decent job of portraying this horrible cycle of abuse, it doesn’t discount the fact that a lot of its power was taken away by its excessive melodrama (some of the predictable and over the top plot points made me roll my eyes), gag worthy monologues and dialogue

“You were standing there like an angel backlit by the light of heaven”

and the stereotypical NA characters. There are some decent scenes (even though one of the scenes was actually taken from Hoover’s mother’s personal life) but not enough for me to continue reading anymore of Hoover’s work. Sorry not sorry but kind of sorry.

Vengeance Road




Kate Thompson wants to get revenge for the people that have killed her father. To catch them, she travels with a pair of brothers (don’t worry, no love triangle) and a Native ally (stereotypically portrayed as the stoic and spiritual Native American). Little does she know that her father has been hiding secrets from her her entire life and getting revenge is more important than ever.


Vengeance Road is a fun Western adventure that explores revenge and letting go of one’s past. Our main characters are determined, flawed, and easily relatable. This is one of those YA books where the main characters are traveling for most of the book so if you’re not into that, this book’s not for you but it was never tedious because I think Bowman did a wonderful job describing the rough and tumble of the Wild West. Bowman really tries to keep to the Western dialect throughout the story so props to that as well. Add in a couple of flashbacks, a couple of cool action scenes, several plot twists, and a spot of romance and I was basically hooked.

And I Darken




And I Darken is a alternative historical fiction centering around Vlad the Impaler except retold as if he were a girl named Lada Dragwlya. Lada is a violent, smart and merciless person. She has a complicated relationship with her brother Radu, her tenderhearted brother.

Radu and Lada are sent to the Ottoman capital where they meet Mehmed, future sultan of the empire but Lada is biding her time until she can return back to Wallachia to claim her birthright.



Ok, I have no idea how to express my feelings on this one. To sum it up, I felt it was..ok..which is odd because if it had continued to be like it was for the first 20 percent of the book, it would have easily been a 5 star book. I love how consistent Kiersten White portrayed Lada, she was brutal and remorseless, and the reader can actually see it. It was something I wish Throne of Glass had done but didn’t. However, after that, I thought the middle 70 percent was kind of a disaster. The fascinating relationship between Lada and her brother Radu took a backseat and I was left with their constant thoughts about Mehmed and I’m wondering, what is so special about this guy? Kiersten did not spend nearly enough time developing Mehmed for me to understand why Lada and Radu felt so deeply about him. Also, I never felt a sense of urgency or conflict for these characters. Problems were solved without any real buildup, the choices the characters made were suppose to feel important but just didn’t, and the plot was basically nonexistent until the last third of the book. I don’t know why this book was marketed as a fantasy book, it’s not. It’s not an action-packed book and is heavy on the political intrigue. In fact, it reads a lot like a coming of age story. A lot of the book is focused on Lada from her young childhood to early teens and her journey to learning what it means to be a woman and Radu who feels a lot of resentment towards Lada for being so unforgiving towards him but eventually finds his place in the world. I also wished Kiersten White trusted her characters enough to let their actions speak for themselves instead of saying they’re doing this because they’re feeling this way or vice versa. The writing was so generic but I did enjoy the worldbuilding enough to learn more about the Ottoman Empire so I guess that’s something.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them. Maybe it’ll help me with some of my more conflicting thoughts. =)