Contemporary · Romance

#famous by Jilly Gagnon

I have to admit, I’m a complete sucker for so many things that are now YA tropes – which is precisely why I can’t seem to stop reading YA books. One of the tropes I like? Teens dealing with fame, especially insta-fame. And I do like happy cute romances as much as I like my angsty issue books. So, #famous got me from the moment I saw the title and cover.

Inspired by the story of “Alex from Target” – which I had to google because I’ve never heard of him until now – #famous is about a smart, funny, but terribly insecure (and rather unpopular) girl named Rachel, who has a crush of a popular kid named Kyle. Kyle isn’t as funny or as interesting as Rachel (and he knows it), but he is extremely cute. When Rachel “flits” (this book’s version of twitter) a photo of Kyle to her best friend with a particularly embarrassing hashtag, the only result she expects is for her friend to cheer up. She didn’t expect her flit to be reflitted… nearly half a million times over. Continue reading “#famous by Jilly Gagnon”

Contemporary · Romance

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Sophia had lived in Tokyo for four years with her mother and sister, but at the beginning of this novel, she had precisely seven days left in the city. She planned to spend her remaining days ignoring the fact that she was leaving her two best friends for a place where she doubted she would be able to make new friends. And, to make matters worse, Jamie Foster-Collins moved back to the city. Sophia and Jame did not part in good circumstances, and she thought that his arrival ruined her last week in Tokyo, but of course, this being a contemporary romance, they fall in love instead.

Okay. I love my contemporary romances, but I could have easily passed on this one if it wasn’t for the setting. When was the last time I read a contemporary YA set in Japan? Um, never, I think. And so, despite having my doubts (it’s still a white-people-falling-in-love-in-Japan story, after all) I put this high up on my TBR list. Continue reading “Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse”

Contemporary · Romance

Been Here All Along & No Holding Back

These were originally from my zine, where I wrote quick first impressions on all the recent(ish) YA I’ve been reading. I probably would end up posting more of those in this blog, too, since these days it’s harder to find the time to… take my time. Ha. I wish I’m back in college sometimes. Who would’ve guessed that having to read 3 novels, 1 play and 10 short stories, memorize a monologue, and write a bunch of essays in the same week, as the good old days of “having free time”?

Anyway, I’ve been interested in the YA romance imprint Swoon Reads for awhile, and am currently highlighting them at the store. These are two of the more interesting ones by them I’ve read recently! Continue reading “Been Here All Along & No Holding Back”

Contemporary · Dystopian · Fantasy · Romance

Mini-Reviews: Asking For It, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Scorpion Rules, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, The Wrath & the Dawn, A Thousand Nights

Asking For It
Louise O’Neill
Quercus

This is one of those books that are very good, but also extremely difficult to read. Emma is beautiful, popular, and a top student – until the morning she wakes up on the porch of her house, with no memory of what happened to her and how she got there. Then she saw the photographs that showed what happened in graphic detail. Rape is already a difficult subject matter, but this book also goes into slut-shaming and victim blaming, and how so many of us are willing to throw young girls under the bus so as not to ruin the lives of young men, because their lives are more important, because it wasn’t “rape rape” if she was drunk, if she took drugs, if she dressed a certain way, if she acted a certain way… right? It really brings up the idea of consent and how all the other things shouldn’t matter.

Throughout most of the first half of this book I was annoyed or enraged by how Emma acted, or how she treated the people around her, but by the end of it, IT STILL WASN’T HER FAULT, and I do appreciate how the book brings that to light. It doesn’t change how difficult it is to read, and how frustrating the ending was, but I suppose that that’s also how these stories often conclude in real life.

simonvsSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray

I wrote a rant once in my zine about how there ought to be more queer romances that are just happy and fun, you know – plain escapism, without all the angst and drama that usually accompanies LGBTIQAP+ fiction. This book probably falls under that category.

Not that it’s drama-free. Simon, not-really-out but not-really-bothered-about-it, was being blackmailed by class clown Martin. While he didn’t think his parents would care if he was gay, he also didn’t want the drama that came with coming out. (He made a good point about straight people never having to “come out”.) And if he was out, it might compromise his anonymous online friend, Blue, who definitely needed to stay in the closet more than Simon did. So Simon went along with Martin’s demands, while trying to focus on figuring Blue’s identity and trying not to alienate his friends and having everything blow up in his face. As far as cutesy romances go, this was VERY CUTE, and I enjoyed it very much.

Continue reading “Mini-Reviews: Asking For It, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Scorpion Rules, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, The Wrath & the Dawn, A Thousand Nights”

Fantasy · Romance

Review: Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

“Death came by slow degrees on the hard metal tables of the Confessional rooms. It was done with simple questions and endless patience. Unlike the depictions in protest flyers, the Houses of Inquisition did not flow with rivers of blood. The walls were not stained with gore or hung with rusted hooks. The Houses were holy places. They were quiet, clean, and bright. Even the Confessional rooms were subdued and calm. The Inquisitors and Confessors never taunted or screamed threats. They asked politely for everything. The silver knives, nails, and prayer engines were merely devisces with which they sought absolute truth. All they demanded was complete honesty.” – The Wicked Gentlemen, Ginn Hale

The first time I heard of this book was about a year or two ago. I don’t remember exactly when, but I remember that a customer had asked if I could order a copy for her. While I was searching for the book details I liked the sound of it enough that I wanted a copy for myself. Unfortunately, none of our suppliers at the time carried titles by the imprint (Blind Eye Books). I tried to put it out of my mind – no use longing for books I can’t get here – when I came across her Lord of the White Hellbooks when searching for titles for a promotion. I checked again, and found that I the circumstances have changed. I could order their books through our suppliers, and so that’s exactly what I did. Not only that – I was pleased to find that Ginn Hale had published two other books since then! I immediately ordered copies for the store. They arrived a couple of days ago, and I bought them immediately.

I’m on a self-ban on books right now; I’m not supposed to be reading for pleasure until my semester is over, so that I could catch up with my readings for work and class. But Wicked Gentlemen was hard to resist, so I started it the day I brought it back from work, and finished it by the time I punched in for work the next morning. I loved it, and am glad that I’m reading it for the first time at this particular time of my life, because I had just recently finished reading Sarah Monette’s The Bone Key, which isn’t really like Wicked Gentlemen at all other than the fact that it’s also a wonderful read, but it had put me in the perfect mood to read this book, I think.

You can tell that I really love this book from all the run-on-lines.

This book consists of two novellas set in the same steampunk-esque fantasy world, with the same protagonists. The first novella (“Mr. Sykes and the Firefly”) is written in first-person, from the point of view of Belimai Sykes, who currently is one of my favourite literary characters. Belimai is a Prodigal, one of the descendants of devils. He’s also a private investigator, a junkie, and occassionally a criminal or a sex worker. He seems pretty much set on self-destruction when Captain William J. Harper came into his life. Harper needed Belimai’s help in finding his missing sister, who’s a suffragette for the causes of women and Prodigals.

The case of Harper’s missing sister leads them to a string of murders, and on a personal level, a drunken one night stand. At this point I paused, thinking, (1) oh, is this one of those books? and (2) hey, this is kind of fan-fiction ish, yay. And it islike fan-fiction, kind of, in a very good way. Both Belimai and Harper are complex in their own way, and I loved the insights to their past woven in throughout the story. Despite the stumble at the beginning of their acquaintance, they actually take their time getting to know each other, and slowly shedding away their suspicions and doubts – the fact that Belimai is a Prodigal and Harper an Inquisitor, after all, means that they are supposed to be enemies.

The resolution to the murders came about in a simple manner, and the twist on what really happened with Harper’s sister is interesting. It also marked the end of the first novella, and had me really wanting to continue to the next. The second novella, “Captain Harper and the Sixty Second Circle”, is told in third-person, in Harper’s point-of-view. It started sometime after ther first story ends, where Harper was leaving for his family estate, a little reluctant and somewhat bothered that Belimai hadn’t asked him to stay. He missed his carriage when he runs off to save a dying girl – but arrived at the scene too late – and ends up tangled in a new case, while tying up lose ends from the first novella.

The romance in Wicked Gentlemen isn’t really its main focus, but it’s still one of my favourite romances, because I liked how different Belimai and Harper were, and how they suited each other, and I loved the slow, subtle development of their relationship. I also love the characterizations – even the minor characters like Edward (Harper’s brother-in-law), Joan (Edward’s sister), and Sariel (someone from Belimai’s past) were people I would like to read more about. But my absolute favourite thing about Wicked Gentlemen is the world-building. I liked the idea of the Prodigals, and the Inquisitor’s role as both priest and police is intriguing.

If I were to complain, I guess the only thing that bugged me is that it ended too quickly. I wanted to read more about Belimai and Harper. I wanted to read more about Hells Below, and all the people who lived there. And I really wanted to read more about Sariel. I read that there’s a sequel in the works (Lord Foster’s Devils), but without a determined release date I’m not sure if it’s really going to be out. But I have Ginn Hale’s Lord of the White Hell books, so I still have happy reading to look forward to.

~ originally posted on blogspot

Romance

Review: Vision in White by Nora Roberts

Oh, yay, finally a new Nora Roberts book that isn’t paranormal romance or a mystery. Usually with Nora Roberts I’d buy first and read much later – I only read 2 of the 3 “Sign of the Seven” books, and even though I have (well, my mom does) Angel Falls and Tribute I haven’t read them yet. But when I got my mom Vision in White it was different, because it goes back to the reason I liked Nora Roberts in the first place. It was a simple, no-frills romance.

This is the first of the Bride Quartet, which will be about four women – Mackensie, Parker, Laurel and Emmaline. The four of them are childhood friends and run a wedding planner business together. Mac (the heroine of this story) is the photographer, Parker does all the detail work, Laurel bakes cakes and other sweet things, and Emma is a florist and takes care of the flowers and wedding bouquets. One thing I love about Nora Roberts’ characters is that they’re passionate about their work. The only other romance book I’ve read this year (so far) is by Penny Jordan, and the heroine is a supermodel who doesn’t find her work fun at all because all she really wanted was to have a husband, child and a home to look after. It’s not that I think wanting those things is bad, but it really really angers me to think that that is all women are supposed to want. Like there isn’t more to life than that. Since Nora Roberts write romance novels, of course her characters find some sort of domestic bliss in the end, but they’re the kind of women who would give up the guy if it being with him meant giving up the work they love.

Mac/Mackensie is a photographer because she believes in moments, but not “happily-ever-after.” She does it for the thrill of capturing those happy moments, so that in pictures at least they live “ever after”. Carter, the English teacher she falls for, is nerdy and makes references to Shakespeare characters like they’re real people. My favourite scene in the book is when a student’s mother came to see him at school to thank him for engaging her son, and making him interested in learning. Mac and Carter fall in love, not in a magic & fireworks kind of way, but in a low key, let’s-date-and-see-what-happens kind of way. I kind of get why some of the regular customers at the store say they didn’t like Nora Roberts – the customers that say this usually go for the “How to Marry a Marquis”, “To Seduce a Scoundrel”, sensational regency romances. They’ll be looking for the whole fireworks stuff, and Nora Roberts doesn’t really do that much.

I’m really glad that Nora Roberts is going back to what she does best – writing about families and friends, and how everyone connects with each other. The only weird thing is even though I’ve been wishing for this for some time now, when I was reading this I was still expecting a murder mystery or supernatural element to suddenly pop out of nowhere, haha. I’d recommend this to fans of Nora Roberts’ older work, but if you’re new to her I would still say her Concannon sisters and Quinn brothers trilogies are her best.

~ originnaly posted on blogspot

Fantasy · Review · Romance

Review: One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey

Finally, I’ve read all of the Five Hundred Kingdom books. (Yes, I know I said no fantasy this month, but it took me less than a day to read, and it was an e-book, so that doesn’t count? lol.) I started on the series when this, the second of the four published books, was already out of print. So I jumped fromThe Fairy Godmother to Fortune’s Fool and The Snow Queen(which I borrowed from Kino, can’t wait for the paperback to be out next year!). I introduced this series to a colleague, who got e-book versions of them for herself, and e-mailed One Good Knight to me. Yay! Still want the real book, though. (-_-)

In the Five Hundred Kingdoms, fairy tales and folklore actually come true. The kingdoms have a magic that they call “the Tradition”, which tries to push its inhabitants into stories. If you were an orphaned girl with a stepmother who makes you do all the housework, for example, the Tradition would make you into a Cinderella, creating the circumstances required for it to happen. Godmothers help the Tradition whenever necessary, and try to prevent bad stories repeating (like “Rapunzel”, because many had to die before a Rapunzel could get her happily ever after). Anyway, I love the Five Hundred Kingdom books because of all the fairy tales in them, and the way the Godmothers learn to twist them to suit the people they’re helping.

In this particular addition to the series, I thought I was reading a Snow White story at first. I didn’t read a summary or synopsis, and thought that it was some take on Snow White, with the eager to please Princess Andromeda and her wary, unemotional mother. I thought it was interesting, as the mother was threatened by Andie’s intelligence, rather than her looks. Soon, however, the story took a different turn as a dragon came into their kingdom and they had to offer virgin sacrifices while waiting for a Champion to save them. It’s a “St. George & the Dragon” story after that, although in typical Five Hundred Kingdoms style, it’s not exactly a “St. George & the Dragon” story.

I think that this book is very fun to read and is quite humorous sometimes, but it’s probably the weakest of the Five Hundred Kingdoms books. The villains were too stereotyped, the romance barely had any development despite the sudden happy ending, and the story itself lacked the special spark that I enjoyed in the other books in the series. I loved The Fairy Godmother because of the growing relationship between Elena and Alexander, and because of the explanations of how the kingdoms and the Tradition worked. I loved Fool’s Fortune because of how it used Russian folklore and the idea of the Wise Fool. And I loved The Snow Queen because it used one of my favourite fairy tales, and changed it completely. I enjoyed reading One Good Knight very much, but it was a letdown after the other stories.

~ originally posted on blogspot