North of Nope: North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

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His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.

Source: GoodReads

Amendment: I just noticed from the blurb that the MC is a duel citizen.  I probably skimmed over this when I read the 88 pages or it’s addressed later on.  That at least gives the book more factual credence than I previously thought it had-re the employment situation.  That’s what you get for not reading the entire thing I guess (shrugs).  

 

Another day, another DNF.  I have to tell you guys I really do hate DNF’ing books.  The thing is after reviewing books for seven years and reading bull shitty books even longer, I just don’t have the tolerance like I used to to stomach through.

And even though I know it’s better for me to stop, I keep hearing the whole quitters never win lecture my mom always spewed when I throw a book against the wall.

However, one thing I don’t think my mom ever really conceptualized is that it sometimes its better to cut your loses than to continue with something you’re going to hate and that’s sort of the situation I was in with North of Happy.

I made it through about 88 pages of this one before I threw it into the giveaway pile-and yes, I have a huge box of books in my garage that I need to get rid of.  Usually that means, giving it away to a library or maybe to a needy family or two at the holidays.  Note, I’d probably do a giveaway at some point on this blog too-only thing is I’d have to go to the post office and pay probably a ridiculous amount in shipping and I’m not that fond of doing that (sorry, not sorry).

Anyway, digression about the give away box aside, North of Happy was a book I knew I was not going to like.  The set up itself seemed interesting- it involves cooking and fish out of water tale.  BUT add seemingly pointless delusions that seem to indicate the MC has mental illness but is never addressed as such, a MPDG of a love interest, AND a suspension of lack of reality when it comes to immigrants getting a job in the US (it’s not that easy) I got annoyed fast.

I ended up giving it more of a it’s me not you DNF score.

Let’s start with what bothered me the most.  The delusions the MC has.  I think they’re meant to sort of have a magical realism quality about it, but God knows they came more or less as delusions as someone who is mentally ill and I wished that would’ve been addressed.  Maybe it was as the book progressed, but I didn’t see it happening anytime soon.  Also, I got to say the delusion of his brother annoyed me.  He was one of those characters I wanted to smack and shake.  Just so sanctimonious with his follow your dreams, screw stability in life, and I manifest myself as a random pigeon shit.

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Yeah, that probably doesn’t make sense unless you read the book.  Though, it’s probably the only time I’ll be able to use a gift of that weird Bird Lady from Home Alone 2: Trump Makes a Prequel Pee Pee Tape at the Plaza! 

But hey, my review my thoughts, and that was what I was thinking when I read this book.

Here’s the thing what really annoyed me about the Felix delusions.  If the book was going to have delusions in it, I wanted them addressed for what they are-mental illness.  Having them as a plot point or being used in this weirdo quasi magical realism thing just didn’t work.  It honestly cheapened the story more than anything else.  And honestly is kind of insulting.

The other big issue that annoyed me was Emma.  She’s your stereotypical MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) I just rolled my eyes at her entrance and could really care less about her.  Also, I really can’t see some girl suggesting some random dude to be hired for her mother’s five star restaurant.  It just seemed out of the blue, and again characterization wise it seemed just out there.   Especially since when What’s His Face-I don’t even remember his name and it’s been a little less than a day since I quit this book-shows up at Emma’s mom’s restaurant he’s acting a little less than sane.  I mean, unless Emma wants to sabotage her mom, I really don’t think asking to hire the random weirdo was a good idea.

Which brings me to concern three.  Even if I didn’t take immigration law, I have I still would’ve rolled my eyes with What’s His Face getting a job because of filling out various employment verification forms your have to fill out when you’re hired by a job.  Add the fact I did take immigration law, and know (unlike the current ignoramus who is sadly president) that low wage jobs are usually not in abundance for immigrants.  Let alone tourists like What’s His Face.

And yes, I know people could technically be paying him under the table…but Emma’s mom is a celebrity chef and I doubt she was going to be hit with a scandalous expose on Eater.com but hey what do I know…Mario Batali liked to flaunt labor laws in the past so…

Even the recipes that were introduced at the beginning of each chapter were lackluster to me.  It was more or less a list of ingredients.  Which is more less like my grocery list.  Yes tomatoes, flank steak, onion, garlic, cilantro, and corn tortillas can be appetizing but just listing the ingredients isn’t going to make me salivate.  There is an art to food writing.

Which reminds me, at some point I really do need to start reviewing my stash cookbooks.  Especially my mom’s.  She has some cookbooks published in the 80’s and 90’s that would be fun to review-though probably not very gluten free friendly.

Digression, digression.

I am doing that a lot in this review.  Which does not bode well for the book.  At the end of the day, ask me two or three weeks about North of Happy and I probably won’t be able to tell you much just that it had a lot of potential and just didn’t deliver.

Overall Rating: DNF

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Under Baked: Recipe for Kisses by Michelle Major

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Chloe Daniels doesn’t need a man—after escaping a marriage gone bad, she guards her heart as closely as the details of her past. So when hot-tempered celebrity chef Ben “the Beast” Haddox storms into her struggling toy store, Chloe is determined not to be drawn in by his broad shoulders…or baby-blue eyes.

In his hometown, Ben’s culinary career is almost as famous as his bad-boy rep. He’s out to prove to naysayers he’s a success by opening a new restaurant—and the only thing standing in his way is Chloe’s store. But before he has a chance to convert her space into his signature eatery, she cooks up a plan to show him that her shop is worth saving.

As things start to sizzle between them, Chloe must figure out how to avoid getting burned. Can she trust herself to love again, or has she jumped out of the frying pan and into desire?

Source: GoodReads

I haven’t posted lately.  It’s a mixture of just taking a mental health break from blogging, being on vacation, and just being too exhausted from work to blog.  But I have been reading.  Just a lot of romance instead of YA.

I get that way occasionally.  However, I have a stack of interesting YA books I need to get to get to, so I’m sure I’ll be chugging back YA books soon enough.

Recipe of Kisses interesting me mainly because it was suppose to be a romance featuring a celebrity chef.  I like watching cooking shows, and I read cookbooks in my free time.  So I was like..hmmm, could be good.  Especially since hero is suppose to be a loud angry Gordon Ramsay type.  Only thing is, Ben is not near as entertaining as Ramsay and I had such a hard time buying that a thing could develop between him and Chloe that I DNF’d this book.

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I’ll be honest, I could see this book as a Hallmark movie.  It had every single hallmark (ha, ha, no pun intended) that such a movie would have.  I could even see it now Ben being played by Colin Egglesfield and Chloe being played by Lacey Chalbert.   That’s not a good thing, people.

I mean, nothing against those actors but I shouldn’t be imagining a bad 90 minute TV movie in my head.  If I’m picturing a book as a movie it needs to be a fantastic movie,  not one where I snark at it at every turn.

Honestly, the Hallmark movie would’ve been more fleshed out.  At the very least there would’ve been a whole reason for the whole non-lease renewal thing.  And seriously, if Colorado law is anything like Texas or Louisiana law, I’m surprised that Ben couldn’t have thrown Chloe’s ass out for not paying rent.  It annoyed me how she kept acting like a victim because he didn’t want to renew her lease-I mean, bitch, please find another location.  You can still have your store.  And for that matter, pay your fucking rent.   And don’t act like Ben is a bad guy for kicking you out.  Also, can that annoying employee who wears the tie dye shirts and tells you how to run your business.  She was not endearing, she was an annoying old biddy who Gordon would’ve told to fuck off if she was on his show (actually, he did sort of tell off a woman who reminded me of that lady on Hotel Hell when he helped out that pentecostal looking woman in West Virginia who was a horder-I watch way too much TV).

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It’s amazing how many grievances I can find when I only read 40% of the book.

Ben is no saint either.  He has anger issues to say the least.  Furthermore, I did not understand for the life of me why he stayed with his ass hat father when he could rent an apartment or something.  It just didn’t make sense of me, the plot point brats (and yes, I’ll refer to the kids in this book as brats) wouldn’t that upheaved by moving away from their abuser grandfather’s house.  And quite honestly, the brief amounts the father character appeared he made me cringe.

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I could do without him.

As for the  plot point brats, we have the stereotypical sullen teenage girl who we all know Chloe is going to form a bond with and then the younger boy who was pretty much there for the cuteness factor.  I really could have done without them or the toy store business.

The toy store thing annoyed me, I guess because it just didn’t really fit and I didn’t see why Chloe was so driven to save her store.  She was more about saving the women who worked there.  It would’ve made more sense for her to work as a counselor or something, just saying.

Also, the characters interaction to each other didn’t make much sense.  Chloe wants the store so she is instantly mad at Ben.  She doesn’t seem to think that hey dude owes building.  And when she sprays him with pepper spray….uh, no.

This book just wasn’t for me.  I hate to say, I think I’m becoming a little cynical.  Maybe it’s because the line of work I do, but when I read a romance with shoddy characterization the first thing that comes into my mind is divorce court and that just isn’t right.  One thing I’m asking myself when I read romances lately has been would I have enjoyed this ten years ago.

And the answer with this one is no.  It’s just too flat.  It had potential to be a great story but it really failed on execution.  Let’s just put it this way, if this book was a beef wellington Gordon Ramsay would be throwing it against the wall.

Overall Rating: DNF

 

My Favorite Trope…Revenge:The Sins of Lord Lockwood by Meredith Duran

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Steamy romance sizzles between a resurrected earl and his repentant bride in USA TODAY bestselling author Meredith Duran’s latest historical romance.

BACK FROM THE DEAD, AN EARL SEEKS VENGEANCE…

Liam Devaliant, Lord Lockwood, was born into a charmed life. Charismatic, powerful, and wild, he had the world at his feet—and one woman as his aim. His wedding to Anna was meant to be his greatest triumph. Instead, in a single moment, a wicked conspiracy robbed him of his future and freedom.

…BUT WILL HIS LONG-LOST COUNTESS PAY THE PRICE?

Four years later, Liam has returned from death with plans for revenge. Standing in his way, though, is his long-absent bride. Once, he adored Anna’s courage. Now it seems like a curse, for Anna refuses to fear or forget him. If she can’t win back Liam’s love, then she means at least to save his soul…no matter the cost.

Source: GoodReads

The wronged hero seeking revenge, is a very  common trope in romance.  Just off the topic of my head I can think of at least two other books I’ve read that shared this theme.  It’s a trope I like quite a bit.  I blame the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo for that.   I have probably watched that movie way too much.  That aside though, I am always willing to read a book that has this trope.

However, to be blunt about it a lot of them are kind of (okay, really) bad.

The Sins of Lord Lockwood though wasn’t halfway bad.  I mean, there were parts that I got annoyed with the book but as far as this trope goes it actually handled itself pretty well.  The hero didn’t go in full blown jerk mode like many heroes do after they’ve been wrongfully imprisoned and then make erroneous claims about what their wife/significant other had been up to while they were away .  Still though, it didn’t quite get into perfect territory for me.

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I think one of the things that annoyed me about The Sins of Lord Lockwood were the flashbacks.  On one hand, I do appreciate them.  On the other hand they felt out of place and I was so engaged in the present storyline I really didn’t care to read them.  It probably would’ve been better-for the story-if they had just been inserted prior to the present events.

I also had some issues with how Lockwood escaped and really the entire plot against him.  I felt like a lot of things were slopped over.  Again, the bones for a good story were there and I enjoyed it, but I was left with a lot of questions.

From looking at other reviews for the book, apparently a lot of the meat of the plot is in Duke of the Shadows which I have ordered in part because I am curious to have some of these questions resolved.  So, I guess as many holes in the plot as there are, at least Duran holds my interest…

The leads both were decently formed.  You can clearly see that Liam was altered and shaken up by his ordeal.  I will say that as illy placed as the flashbacks were, they did a good job showing Before Liam to the audience.  And I will also give Liam points for not being a total jerk like some heroes who suffer a similar ordeal (cough, Jordan from Some Kind of Wonderful, cough).

As for Anna, I liked her.  Honestly, she did seem a little forgettable to me.  But I liked that Duran had created a character that was fairly independent for the time period.  I wish that her interest in the sciences was dabbled into further.

Really, the biggest complaint I have with this book is that there were a lot of things about the plot that I wanted developed more.  I guess as far as complaints go that’s a lot better than hating the characters or finding the plot outright stupid, but still it leaves me a little disappointed.

If you’re a fan of this trope, you probably will want to pick this one out.  It does a fairly decent job with the plot line and I did learn a couple of things about the penal colonies in Australia during the period.  However, it wasn’t fully a wow read for me.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

Double Feature: Letters To the Lost And More Than We Tell by Brigid Kemmer

I’ve been a bad blogger lately.  Though to be fair work has been extra cray cray.  And last weekend cooking dinner for the week took longer than I’d like-I usually do one pot dinners, but I had the bright idea to make six sides last week in addition to my two meats and dessert for the week.  Needless to say, I hated myself by the time I finished my last dish ( a leek salad) and told myself that cooking this week would be a lot simpler-probably helps that I’m going out of town but I still  kimchi soup and a cucumber salad, as well as marinated some vegetables for some Korean brisket tacos (I made the meat a few weeks ago and the brisket was fantastic).  Regardless, I did make plans to write up some reviews though.

I read Letters to the Lost and More Than We Tell in the span of one weekend, pretty much back to back. Overall, I liked the series.  Though I really don’t know if it would classify so much as a series.  It’s true it did fall into many of the cliches that angsty teen novels fall into.  But I felt they overall were decently crafted.  And while you didn’t have to read Letters to the Lost to understand More Than We Tell, it certainly added to the reading experience.

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Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Source: GoodReads

I was skeptical about reading Letters to the Lost, in part because the premises sounds so depressing.  And to some extent, I guess it is.  I mean, the book does deal with death and grief and that in general is depressing.  There’s no way around it.  But at the same time there were light hearted moments to the book as well.

I think the best way to summarize this book is like if You’ve Got Mail got hit by a big stick of morbid.

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You’ve Got Mail retellings are really popular in YA and a part of me wonders why.  Yes, I get the romantic side of having this weird attraction to this mystery person that you’re sending letters to but at the same time there is a creepiness about it.  And I really felt that creepiness with Juliet and Declan’s relationship especially when one party realized who the other party was and their handling of the situation.

Honestly, I liked neither lead.  Declan has anger management issues and quite honestly I could see him easily becoming abusive.  Grant it, when he and Juliet are together he’s not abusive towards her.  But he was verbally abusive towards her previously and was not above manipulating her.  I did not like him.  However, I will give Keemerer credit for making him realistic.

I thought the backstory was well done and it explained the motivations for this character.  Did I like him? No.  But I understood at least where he was coming from.  And to be fair I liked him more than Juliet.

Oh, Juliet

I think that name is cursed.  I can’t remember one book or show I’ve seen where a character named Juliet wasn’t a total goody goody asswhipe or a bitch.

This one goes more into self absorbed bitch than goody goody mode.  But still.  Throughout the book, Juliet is extremely depressed-which again understand the character’s actions BUT at the same time, I thought she was on the self pity train a bit too much.  I kept waiting for an adult in the book to force her into counseling.

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Of course that didn’t happen though. Should I be surprised..no this is YA.  Rather, than having the MC see an actual counsel we just have the school counselor shame her for grieving.

Ugh.

Still though, character faults and  lack of counseling aside, I enjoyed this book.  While it was pretty formulaic I thought the story did explore grief an death in a respectful enough way.  Again though, I just really didn’t care for the characters.  However, I did feel like for the most parts their behavior was understandable which is better than a lot of YA books out there.

Overall Rating: A B+

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Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay…until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.

Source: GoodReads

I liked More Than We Can Tell a bit better than Letters to the Lost.  The story at least wasn’t as morbid.  I mean, I’m sorry I still can’t get over the slight morbidness of a meet cute by a tombstone.  Anyway….like its predecessor More Than We Can Tell discuses some heavy issues while having decent characters.  Though, again I do not care for the heroine.  I don’t know if it’s just a Kemmerer thing but her female leads are blah.

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Emma has a bit of too stupid to live going on with her and she is ridiculously judgmental.  I get it, it is YA.  She is a teenager, but as savvy as she made herself out to be throughout the book, you’d think she’d have just a smidgen more of common sense.  She’s also completely absorbed and says some hurtful things to her bestie, her mother, and Rev.  Honestly, I wanted her to get smacked down a little bit more than she actually did.

I enjoyed Rev a lot more than I liked Declan.  And I was glad that he actually had competent adults to confide in.  his parents were great.  It was actually quite refreshing to read about parents like Rev’s in YA.

I thought that Kemmerer did a pretty good job with dealing with Rev’s past.  I would’ve much rather dealt with a book in his viewpoint than Emma’s.

Emma’s plotline is relatable enough.  Any woman or girl whose been on the internet has more than likely been harassed by some sort of troll.  God knows, I have dealt with enough on my review of What Happened, but Kemmerer veers the plot into Lifetime territory.  While I get that events like what happened int he climax of the book happen in real life, but what happened to Emma was a more dramatic version of events of what usually happens to someone who gets caught up in this situation.

It’s odd, I enjoyed More Than We Can Tell, but I really did not view it as a romance.  I read it as almost two separate stories about the characters.  Unlike Letters to the Lost which romance was a primary element to the story, the romance in More Than We Can Tell was secondary.  The characters really didn’t interact that much, and quite honestly I almost could’ve done without it.

Not that it was bad, BUTit really almost was out of place in this book.

That aside, I did enjoy More Than We Can Tell more than Letters to the Lost, while one of the subplots might’ve  gone in a Lifetime-ish fashion.  I think that overall, the sequel was better.

Overall Rating: A B+ close to an A- but no dice.

Cut the Cheese: Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

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Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for her herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.

Source: Goodreads

Gender bent Oliver Twist SOLD.

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That being said, Olivia Twisted had its own fair share of issues.  It was overall an enjoyable reading experience, but I have to tell you I cringed and kept thinking this book could’ve been better if written by someone like maybe Courtney Milan whose research skills about the justice system of the period were spot on.

Here, I was groaning at how watered down everything was.  But hey…I get it, it’s fiction.

What really bothered me though was how big of a goody goody Olivia is.  She is so saccharine sweet I wanted to throttle her.  And she’s not even in a Disney movie so she doesn’t have the excuse of being literally two dimensional for an excuse.  I was hoping by the premises that this character would have shades of gray.  But nope, she is pretty much a Disney princess which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if she wasn’t such a dumb ass  to top things off.  Seriously, bitch had be rescued every other chapter.  And had the villain actually had a brain he could’ve gotten rid of her half a dozen times…

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The hero of the book, Jack, is your typical YA fair-brooding, blue eyed, and borderline stooge.  He even has a typical YA name (seriously, Jack is like the John Doe of YA)  He does some dubious things and there’s a half ass explanation for the shit he does so I guess it makes him acting like ass okay (it doesn’t).  But obviously, we’re suppose to love him.  We’re suppose to love this ship.

And I get how one could love it in theory…but loving a ship in theory versus  the reality of a ship is a bit different. Honestly, I could care less about Olivia and Jack.  The fact that Jack dreamed about Olivia being pregnant with his child  shortly after they reconnected just made me cringe.  Everything about them made me cringe, and made me wonder how this story could be written differently.

Honestly, I think had it been an adult historical romance I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more.  The years of separation thing could’ve came off better than it did-at least it would’ve seemed a bit more realistic for Jack to have been a crime lord turned gentlemen and honestly it might’ve been good to adult the situation up a bit-see Olivia’s Disney princess like syndrome.

Oddly enough, despite the cringe I enjoyed the book and it was easy to get through.  Upon recollection, I’m trying to figure out what I enjoyed about it.   Maybe it was the tropes?  I am a fan of gender bending in books and I like the long lost lovers/friends trope but I’ve read other books with these tropes before and have hated them and DNF’d them.  But I didn’t DNF this one.  Maybe it was the potential with this one?  There were a lot of things about Olivia Twisted besides the tropes that made it intriguing, but I knew halfway through the book that this book wasn’t going to quite work but I continued to read it.  And I don’t know why…

I think my overall thoughts about this one is disappointment.  Like I said, lots of potential but it decided to go the cringe route which is a shame.  If you are interested in reading a Oliver Twist retelling this one might be okay.  I mean, even though it was cringe worthy I enjoyed it.  Honestly, it was sort of like watching The Swan Princess.  That movie was deeply flawed and I cringed all the time but a part of me thoroughly enjoyed it.  That’s sort of this book.

Overall Rating: A B-

Perfect in Theory BUT: Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

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From acclaimed author Alyssa Cole comes the tale of a city Cinderella and her Prince Charming in disguise . . .

Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.

Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.

The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?

Source: GoodReads

In theory this should’ve been my favorite book of the year.  It has a blurb by Meg Cabot.  It is described as a grown up Princess Diaries and the main character is a self assured WOC in STEM of all things.  All those things alone had me sold on this book.  However, upon execution…there were some things that this book needed to work on.

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Still though, I liked this book.  The characters were both a joy to read about.  Naledi especially.  Her character seemed to be fully fleshed.  Several of the issues she faces are issues that young professional women face on a daily basis.  Thabiso is also entertaining though a little less realistic.  He’s a bit more or less of a spoiled brat, but a lovable spoiled brat.  Reading their interactions made the book.

What didn’t work for me was the pacing.  God did this book drag in the middle and then wrapped up surprisingly fast.

The biggest drag was the whole “Big Misunderstanding” plot otherwise known as Assholes in Romance.  Big Misunderstanding is probably the most overused tropes in romance and I have a love hate relationship with it.

When done correctly it can be one of the most heart wrenching uses of tropes.  I still get weepy eyed when I read that book.  Other times this trope is used I will throw the book agains the wall and tell the fictional characters how stupid they are.

With A Princess in Theory I was more in the get on with it mode than anything else.  I thought the big secret was only there to make the page count longer and it really annoyed me.

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Also, for all the hype and heartache the big misunderstanding caused the payoff was sort of weak.

Really, payoff concerning any aspect of the plot in this book was kind of lackluster.  I was hoping, for example, that Naledi’s past would be filled out more but it fluffed over into more or less a stupid epilogue than anything else.

Le sigh.

Also, Naledi’s professional ambitions are also fluffed over in a lot of ways as well.  While at the beginning I thought that her being a woman of color in STEM was going to be a driving force in this book her career is pretty much an after thought after the princess bomb is dropped.  Even though it’s true that Cole at least attempts to somewhat enthuse Naledi’s studies into the big end plot it just doesn’t work.

Overall, I don’t have any regrets about reading this one.  It was an enjoyable read and I will definitely be checking out more from this author, but it is definitely flawed.

Overall Rating: A B.  Flawed but so much fun.

Same Old Same Old: Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

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A woman who defies her time

Dr. Garrett Gibson, the only female physician in England, is as daring and independent as any man—why not take her pleasures like one? Yet she has never been tempted to embark on an affair, until now. Ethan Ransom, a former detective for Scotland Yard, is as gallant as he is secretive, a rumored assassin whose true loyalties are a mystery. For one exhilarating night, they give in to their potent attraction before becoming strangers again.

A man who breaks every rule

As a Ravenel by-blow spurned by his father, Ethan has little interest in polite society, yet he is captivated by the bold and beautiful Garrett. Despite their vow to resist each other after that sublime night, she is soon drawn into his most dangerous assignment yet. When the mission goes wrong, it will take all of Garrett’s skill and courage to save him. As they face the menace of a treacherous government plot, Ethan is willing to take any risk for the love of the most extraordinary woman he’s ever known.

Source: GoodReads

I binged on Lisa Kleypas a couple of years ago.  I found her books to be fun and engaging.  Sure, they were a bit monotonous at times-banter and then a plot sort of slips in about the three quarter mark of the book-but still the characters made me enjoy her books.

Her most recent series the Ravenels have been either hit or miss for me.  Unfortunately, Hello, Stranger a book I was eagerly awaiting turned out to be a dud for me.

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Hello, Stranger tells the story of the Garrett Gibson the Ravenels unofficial family doctor in the series and Ethan Ransom who is apparently a bastard Ravenel-though we’re only given pretty much a blanket overview of Ethan’s origins towards the end of the book.  To be honest, Ethan’s origins really don’t play as important of a role to the book as I thought they would other than I guess sort of provide him with a safe house and a way to connect Garrett to the family…

Most of the cameos from the other characters in this series were very brief in this installment.  I’ve almost forgot about Cassandra or for that Sebastian’s son who was the hero in the last book-Funny, I can’t even remember his name as I’m writing this.  I just refer to him as Sebastian’s son.  That is not a good thing.

What’s worse than that is both Garrett and Ransom seem oddly cardboard like too.  In most of Kleypas’s books I feel like I truly know the characters by the time I close the book.  Honestly, with Ransom and Garrett I felt like I knew them better when they were supporting characters rather than leads.

I was really excited about reading Garrett’s story too since she was breaking glass ceilings long before anyone else was.  Honestly though, I was a little disgusted when at one point in the book a fellow doctor mansplains Garret and she shrugs it off as if the mansplainer was right.  No, the mansplainer was not right.  The church’s views on birth control are crap and in my opinion Garret did nothing wrong in voicing her opinion to that ignorant patient.  But hey…

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The whole spy angle was very tedious and more or less there to add the hero almost dies plot twist.  Kleypas loves this trope.  She has used it in both Devil books, a couple of times in the other Wallflower books, and I vaguely recall it being used in one of the Bow Street Runner books too.  While it can be sort of exciting…now it really is monotonous  after awhile and I know that even though said hero or heroine should die given their wounds their not because hello…that would defeat the purpose of having a romance.

To be fair though, I guess having Garrett be a doctor sort of made this trope a necessity but it was still for the most part eye roll worthy.

I think what bothered me about this book more than anything was the lack of the development with the relationship between these two characters.  They are clearly attracted to each other physically but I did not get their emotional connection.  And honestly, I skim throw the physical scenes.  Book sex scenes always make me roll my eyes-sorry, not sorry.

The best part of the book might’ve been West-who is getting his own book next year.  It’s funny because I said the best part about Pandora and Sebastian Son’s book was Ransom and Garrett.  So, am I going to be disappointed next year when West gets his own book?

Probably.

Kleypas’s fans might want to pick this one up.  While it is lackluster it was enjoyable enough to unwind to after a hellish week.  However, it’s not the best she has to offer.  If you want to read Kleypas at her peak I recommend either the Wallflower series if you like historical romances or the Travis series if you’re more into contemporaries.

Overall Rating: A B- I enjoyed it enough at the time but it is fairly forgettable and disappointing from an author of this caliber.

And the DNF’s Keep Coming: The Enchantment of Ravens by Margret

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A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Source: GoodReads

I was really looking excited to this long weekend because reading time (I mean, hello).  Unfortunately, I ended up picking up some really big dudes this weekend and rather than knocking out four or so books like I hoped, I ended up DNF’ing two books.

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An Enchantment of Ravens had been in my shelf for awhile.  I picked it up mostly because after reading A Court of Thorns and Roses I sort of developed a guilty pleasure for fae oriented stories.

Unfortunately, Rogerson’s book was not a guilty pleasure to read.  I will point out for the first fifty or so pages I was pleasantly surprised with the book.  While it was a bit mundane following the typical human girl gets herself entangled into the world of fame plot line that is so familiar with these books, the writing was engaging enough.  And then came the insta love.

And when I mean insta love, I mean insta love.  The characters barely interact and then out of nowhere Isabel proclaims her love for Rook just conveniently before he kidanps her.

And honestly, the kidnapping cam out of nowhere.

The pacing for this book was just as hastily paced as its characterization and needless to say it didn’t work.

Because I am a veteran of reading shitty YA books with shitty love interests, I thought I could continue the book primarily because insta love sometimes doesn’t completely ruin a book.  But the ill pacing kept me from fully engaging with the book.  I just kept feeling like I got whiplash as I tried to figure out what was going on and honestly after awhile I had enough of that.

And even though I was lost in the book, I sort of had a feeling where this book was headed and I was just bored with it and didn’t want to bother finishing it.

It’s a shame.

I really shouldn’t feel that way.

But that’s how I felt.  And I ended up DNF’ing the book because of it.

It sounds really bad, but it’s true.

Sigh.

When it comes down to it, I can’t recommend An Enchantment of Ravens while the beginning of the book might’ve seemed promising, once the romance started the book essentially ended.  If you’re going to have a book about face, actually make them fae.  Don’t make them essentially super hot humans with special powers that fall in love with the otherwise very bland heroine.

Overall Rating: Another DNF.  Oh, well, I can reclaim some  shelf space.

In Which I Sort of Go Off on Ginny Weasley: Roomies by Christina Lauren

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Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

Source: GoodReads

Oh, boy.

Remind me to always, ALWAYS look at an author’s backlist before making an impulse buy.  Had I known that this author published some PP’d fiction in the past I would’ve never picked up this book.  That being said, I can see the roots of the authors’ fan fic  past in this book.  God knows, the MC reads like a hybrid of Bella Swan and Ginny Weasley which pretty much makes her an insufferable stalker girl.  And that’s the reason I didn’t finish the book.

Yeah, first DNF of the year.  I’m actually surprised that I’ve maintained for this long.  It is the middle of February after all.  I think last year I had DNF’d extremely early like in January so at least I’ve made relatively decent reading choices this year until this point-save for that Katie McGarry book with the dog murder.

And I’m getting off track.

I need to talk about why I DNF’d the book.  The issue is pretty simple, it’s the MC.  She is twenty-five years old but pretty much acts like Ginny Weasley did in Chamber of Secrets minus the whole you know talking to a diary/horcrux and setting a giant snake against her classmate bits.

But really, from the 100 pages I read the only thing I knew about Calvin (the hero) was that for some reason Holland found him irresistible even though she freaking doesn’t even know how his face looks at the beginning of the book.  Hell, she doesn’t even know much about him and decides to commit a felony to help him.

I mean, really girl.  Get a clue.

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Okay, going in I knew that going into this that there was going to be a marriage of convenience BUT the way it was handled was just so sudden and stupid.  I don’t even practice immigration law, but from what I know about it, Lauren completely watered down the particulars about it.

Yes-I know, I know- it’s a book.  A book isn’t going to get into the nitty gritty, BUT it could at least keep some of the bare bone basics so it seemed realistic.  Though, honestly, I’m not even going to get mad about that.  What I am going to get mad about is the stalker-ish attitude that Holland had towards Calvin.

When I compare her to Ginny Weasley I don’t do it lightly.  I despise Ginny Weasley.  In some ways, I hate her more than I hate Bella Swan.  Both are annoying with Sue like characteristics.  However, I thought the Ginny Weasley comparison was more apt than a Bella one more in this case because other than the character’s lust towards the so called hero (seriously, Calvin is not a hero for not reporting Holland’s attacker-I mean, come on immigration aside there is a mugger on the lose because of him) there’s nothing showing why these characters should be together within a hundred pages of this book.

And I’m sorry, I would not marry some random guy.  Even if he’s hot.  I’m sure most twenty-five-year-old women wouldn’t marry a random guy who plays music on the subway either.  But Holland does.

Like I said, it reminds me much like Ginny’s crush on Harry in book two which was superficial at best.  Hell, in my opinion that entire relationship was superficial since until book six they barely had any interaction but that’s another rant for another time.

The point, I’m trying to make with all the Ginny Weasley references is that the relationship was pretty much one sided at best and came out of nowhere.  Sure, I guess you could make the point that Holland was trying to be nice, but her choices seem illogical and just plain dumb.  Really, it’s like the choices a twelve year old in a One Direction fan fic would make.

Hence, the Ginny comparisons.

Seriously, I just don’t know how this relationship can be viewed as okay, healthy, or even romantic.  It just doesn’t work.

It’s a shame.

I was interested in the plot.  I liked the idea of the book.  The premises intrigued me, but the execution was just hideous.

Overall Rating: DNF.

Panda, Panda, Panda: American Panda by Gloria Chao

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An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Source: GoodReads

American Panda probably has one of the best covers out there and it fits with the book (only way it would be better is if it had actual pandas on it).  I didn’t realize that the drinkable looking hot chocolate would actually be significant but it is.  However, besides having an excellent looking cover the book was actually pretty well done too.

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Panda Dog because PANDAS.

Culture clashes are a common issue discussed in YA.   I think American Panda  did a fairly good job with these issues.  I really felt for Mei, and unlike in a lot of books I totally get where the conflict is coming from.

However, I think her dad’s actions go past being merely a culture issue and go more into the abusive dick territory.  Seriously, at the end of the book I wanted some sort of lifeline thrown out to Mei’s mother becuase no one should have that much control over his wife and family…

And I’m starting to diverge more and more into spoiler territory which I really hate doing in reviews.

Here’s the thing about American Panda if you’re expecting this to be a cute contemporary that focuses primarily on romance, it’s not.  Yes, the romance does play a role in the story, but it’s more or less bout Mei finding herself and becoming an independent bad ass who doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks.

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I really liked the themes that were brought up in this book.  In addition to Mei’s Taiwanese background butting up against her growing up in America, there were also conflicts with parental expectations and general self discovery.

Finding out that she wasn’t suited for medical school, played a substantial part of the story.  And I liked that.  People change their majors frequently, though not near with the amount of drama as Mei had to endure, but finding that medical school was not the right path for her was something that I’m sure many people can identify with.

I also liked how Mei developed as a character from the course of the novel, being so dependent on her family and then not being so much.  It was a good arc.

The relationships that she had with her brother and boyfriend were also endearing and nice to watch being developed.

The parents seemed a  little OTT to me at first.  However, while I originally could not stand Mei’s mother, by the end of the book I felt like I had a good idea why she was the way she was.  That being said, I wanted to shake her and some of the comments she said were just outright awful, but at least there was an underlying reason why she was acting the way she was.  Mei’s father and his family though.

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God, I hated them all.

They didn’t seem realistic.  I mean, yeah, I get that people act that way but usually there is some speck of humanity there.  But in this book, not so much.  One other thing that felt unrealistic and was never explained was how Mei’s spring tuition was being paid.  It was sort of the plot hole that was never explained.

Anyway, I recommend you check out American Panda.  For the most part, it is everything I wanted from this book.  In some ways it was better.  I thought that this book actually took the disownment pollen and it expanded it more than I usually see.  It was also refreshing to see a book set at a college campus that didn’t focus so much on sex.

Was it perfect: no.  But it certainly made for an enjoyable read.

Overall Rating: B+