[784]: Well Met by Jen Deluca

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | 4 out of 5 Stars | From Penguin Random House Canada

Contrary to the general consensus about this book’s appeal, the Renaissance Faire isn’t really all that interesting to me. I was bracing myself for some archaic colloquialism, and men walking around chomping on turkey legs while accosting wenches at the same time. But I guess it slipped my mind that this book was, after all, a contemporary romance to begin with.

Well Met is, in a word, delightful. Despite getting off on a rocky start, Simon and Emily’s chemistry was undeniable. But they also have being both an English literature enthusiast going for them, which made for some witty and funny banter. That’s on the light side of their chemistry. On the serious side of the coin, both were dealing with some abandonment issues. Simon’s grief for his brother was compounded with his parents leaving him alone to deal with the loss. Emily, on the other hand, was dealing with an ex boyfriend who decided that an English major drop out was not a good accessory for a recent law degree graduate.

While Simon’s life was pretty much planned for him, Emily was a day to day situation type of deal. She was set to stay with her sister for the time being but her life and future couldn’t be more different from Simon. She was more the go-with-the-flow type of girl who only wanted to repair her relationship with her sister by helping out while she recuperated from her injuries. And it’s exactly how she found herself being a part of a Renaissance Faire cast and right in the path of one surly Simon.

This book was a surprise in such a way that it dealt with some serious stuff. While it was fun and games on the surface, it pinched my heart a little. I felt for Simon, most especially. He kept everything inside and he seemed like such a lonely person even if the entire town was rooting for him. In the meantime, Emily suffered some blows to her self esteem and Simon’s constant surliness towards her didn’t help at all.

Well Met is exactly how I like my contemporary lit. It was fun, surprisingly heavy, but romantic nonetheless.

Continue Reading

[783]: What Makes Us by Rafi Mittlefehldt

B O O K R E V I E W

What Makes Us

by Rafi Mittlefehldt

You’re seventeen years old. You’re conscious of all the social injustices in your world. You do your best to take part, in fact, you even start a protest. You’re not afraid to speak your mind. But on the very first protest you led, a counter protest almost ended badly. But then one of the reporters present figured out who you are, who your parents are. From there, the secrets of who your real father was revealed. All your life you never knew. You didn’t know that your father was a known terrorist who set off an explosion during a parade in New York City, killing 4 people and injuring more.

But your mother hid you. Changed your identity in an attempt to escape the guilt, the blame, the consequences of your father’s actions. Until all was revealed.

This is the story of Eran and how in one single moment of impulsive anger had changed his life, made him question who he was and how much of him was his father. Will he follow his father’s footsteps? Or will set himself on his own path?

This was a tough read. I saw anger in all sides, ignorance, and reluctant forgiveness in some. A mistake that started 15 years ago blew up in something that could’ve been catastrophic. It’s sad, really. To blame a boy who was only two years old when his father committed a heinous act, then try to accuse the mother of having knowledge of her deceased husband’s plans, and therefore should be guilty.

I felt Eran’s isolation and anger at the world, especially at his mother for keeping that secret. He became lost and unsure of who he was in a span of a day. I felt his shame and guilt; his hurt for seeing his entire neighborhood shun them and attempt to drive them off the city. I also felt the moment he questioned and doubted his mother’s culpability, to his shame, when all she tried to do was to save him from people’s judgement.

What Makes Us made me think about the world outside my home. That even though I often found myself lost in the commentary section of political debates, it’s not enough and a complete waste of time, to be honest. It also made me think about truth, justice, and how far I will go if I ever find myself in Eran’s mother’s shoes.

Continue Reading

[781]: Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

The writing duo of Keeland and Ward are one of those author collabs whose work I tend to enjoy. I haven’t fully explored their back list, but I can at least admit that whenever I see they have a new release, my ears perk up. The instant reaction is the compunction to one-click that baby right into the oblivion that is my Kindle.

Their latest (which I read in one night — soon after I got in the mail, no less) didn’t disappoint. You’ve got a Brit who followed his dreams right to the US of A, and an American novelist with a pet pig. The best part of a romance novel is how an author (or authors, in this case) connects two unseemingly likely characters right into the path of love. For Griffin and Luca, it all started when they were kids and with the aid of a good ol’ snail mail. Once pen pals for years, the two lost connection when they were on the cusp of adulthood. There were reasons, of course. But Griffin never did find out what they were. One night, when Griffin was feeling the sting of rejection, Griffin wrote Luca a hate mail that she didn’t get to read until years later.

Admittedly, this book was emotionally-charged than usual. At the risk of spoiling one of the driving force of the plot, Luca, over the years, had become a recluse. She shied away from people and being in public places. She does her grocery shopping in the middle of the night when there’s very little chance that she’d run into people. Aside from her ancient therapist, she spoke to the grocery clerk that works the night shift and her pet pig, Hortencia. Her world shrunk considerably. And then there’s Griffin – whose station in life couldn’t be more different.

In other words, they have a huge stumbling block to face if they ever want to give their relationship a go. There’s also the distance: Griffin is based in Los Angeles, and Luca in Vermont. Regardless, they’ll give it a fighting chance — until they couldn’t.

While it would’ve been tempting to let Luca be the type of character who miraculously found cure for her disorder in a man, the authors didn’t cop out and do just that. Luca needed patience, kindness and generosity in her partner so I feel like Griffin was just that person. It was frustrating at first, to give Luca her space, but in the end, I understood. Because sometimes, the pressure of trying to be “normal” for the people that we love hurts us more than we realize.

Once again, the writing duo of Keeland and Ward deliver in spades. A story about how important it is to accept that sometimes, we have to give the people we love what they need even if it means forgoing ours. Griffin understood Luca’s predicament and he didn’t push her just because he wanted to be with her. If you’re asking if this ends in HEA, *spoiler alert* it does.

Huge shout out to Montlake Romance and Thomas Allen & Sons for letting me be a part of this blog tour. Please follow along!

Continue Reading

[780]: The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong

I’ve always found that novelists from Scandinavian and Asian countries to be first class story tellers in the Thriller genre. I don’t know what it is but their books, as well as the movies just give me the chills.

The Good Son definitely fit the bill as well. Written by a Korean author, this book tells the story of a man who woke up bloodied but somehow relatively unharmed. Upon further examination, he finds scratches and bite marks on his arm. And as he moves about his house, he finds his mother in her bedroom — in a bloodbath with a deep slash across her neck. He realizes too soon, and with uncanny calmness that he may have had a hand in her death.

The story pieces together in a series of flashbacks while he tries to figure out the next step: turn himself in? Bury his mother? Or dispose of her body then leave the country altogether. But the more time he spends trying to decide his next move, the more bodies fall.

The terrifying thing about the story is the undetached way he spoke of the deaths. Because, yes, soon enough, the readers will realize that our character gets a thrill out of killing people. Especially the process of how he stalks his prey then calmly watch them bleed. As if he’s roasting marshmallows or something.

We also learn that he’s always been deranged even as a child. The first time he saw his dad used an antique razor while shaving, he asked with cold-blooded intensity if he could have his blade when he dies. Which was the reason why his mother hid it from him over the years. But he found it anyway. It was especially chilling to find out that he had a part in the deaths of his father and brother.

The Good Son challenges the basic idea of nurture vs. nature. And while in most cases, someone can be nurtured into someone not homicidal, this is an exception where nature definitely wins over nurture.

Continue Reading

[775]: Inside Out by Demi Moore

Demi Moore didn’t pull any punches in her memoir. When she decided to excise her demons, there wasn’t enough holy water left in the world to douse all the bad jujus she unleashed. The book in itself is not a big volume by any standards. At less than 300 pages, she was able to convey a highly emotional, painfully honest confession about her life, loves, failures, addictions, and perseverance.

She was a teen from New Mexico, constantly embroiled in her parents’ dysfunctional relationship. Abusive at times, toxic even. It was painfully clear that she would either follow in her parents’ drugs and alcohol addled footsteps, or she could choose a different path. And while those demons won out for a time, she somehow always found a way out. She was determined to be better. Determined to not make the same mistakes. But fame, money, and freedom always comes at a cost.

Her romantic relationships always start off ideal in their own ways. But what was common was there was always an age gap. Her first real relationship was with a man 12 years her senior (he was 28, she — 16). Her mother sold her for $500 to a man old enough to be her father. But before that, she had her first sexual intercourse with a neighbor with whom she thought was her friend. He was 23, she was 15.

And for a time it may seem like she’s always chasing safety and security that her parents never afforded her. Then she met Bruce Willis with whom she would have 3 daughters. Though it was at the period of her life when she found success in her career, juggling marriage, motherhood, and having a career would prove to be difficult. It was also during those times when she would put more pressure on herself to look a certain way. Punishing her body to levels of exhaustion and hunger. But still she wasn’t satisfied. Even if she was one of the most beautiful people in the world — and still.

She was branded by the media as a diva, one who wanted to get paid more. In the meantime, she was only doing her part to bridge the gap of income inequality in Hollywood. Slowly, she became one of the highest paid actress of her time. But things at home was slowly unravelling. Her’s and Bruce’s split coincided with her mother passing — her mother, with whom she hasn’t spoken to in years. Ironically enough, she’s long decided she will never depend on a man for her happiness due in part because she’d seen what it did to her mother. Unfortunately, her determination to be independent from Bruce lent to their break up.

Then she met Ashton Kutcher — a young actor 15 years her junior. The attraction was instantaneous. He was sweet, loving, kind and very supportive of her career and her family. Subconsciously, she knew she would do anything for him. Until they crossed a line they couldn’t go back from. She tried to learn from her mistake during her marriage with Bruce but it was a one-way codependency that she didn’t know until it was too late.

The only way out is in.

Andy Warhol

The title of Demi’s memoir was taken from painting that Andy Warhol gave Demi personally. And I couldn’t agree more. I think we all need to confront our painful pasts before we could heal and love wholeheartedly. It’s too bad that for most of us, it sometimes takes a lifetime for that realization to come. But for Demi, I think confronting her past was her attempt to eradicate the stigma that has long followed her all her life; and that is that she doesn’t belong, and she doesn’t deserve her successes and her place as one of the most revered actresses in Hollywood, if not the world.

Continue Reading

[773]: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Half the population of America has been silenced. Women has been relegated to speak at a maximum of 100 words per day. Their rights to read, write, sign; to educate themselves, to work, has all but been eradicated. They are home makers, existing to serve the men in their lives, the government and the church.

For Dr. Jean McClellan, who was a neurolinguist by profession before this nightmare happened, the stakes were higher. After all, she saw it coming and did nothing. Now, as her six-year-old daughter continues to digress into muteness, she was angry with herself, her husband, Patrick who has direct access to the current president, and the sitting administration influenced by the extreme religious right. She holds the key, because before she was forced out of her job as a neurolinguist, she has discovered something. If she could only find a way back into her lab and stop the nightmare, she’d be able to give her daughter and the rest of the girls in America back their voices. But she knows very little about the scope and magnitude of the government’s plans.

Hailed as a The Handmaid’s Tale copycat, Vox did its best to re-imagine an America changed; one that is loosely based on Atwood’s nightmarish dystopian world. Where women were virtually powerless and voiceless. According to Google, women on average speak at least 16,000 words per day. But this world only allows women to speak 100. Imagine being restricted to 100 words a day. The silence that would drive anyone insane; the helplessness you feel as you try and fail to teach your child — a girl child to speak and knowing that you have very little words allowed to say. This is that stark, quiet world.

And while I enjoyed this novel, I felt there were a few aspects that were glossed over. I felt like there were too many questions unanswered about the genesis of this world. Like the American people didn’t fight too hard for the women and considering 50.8% of the population comprises of women, I don’t think it was feasible that they just let the government take away the rights of many. Yet at the same time, they’ve been down this road before. They’ve taken away rights of people for the sake of other people’s religious rights. And they are slowly chiselling away at the Roe v. Wade rule to protect women’s rights to their body. Laws are developed and enhanced over time, and perhaps that’s where my incredulity comes from. That this law was severe, cruel, and permanent.

Continue Reading

[772]: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy Moore has had some recent upheavals in her life. Her boyfriend just broke up with her, she needs to move out of his flat, and what’s worse, she finds out later that he’s engaged. In desperate need of a place, and soon, she answered an ad for a flat share — a time share of sorts, in which she would have a roommate but they’ll never see each other. He works at night, she works days. And in the weekends, she has free rein of the place. They sleep in the same bed, but not together. It’s quite ingenious, actually. And one that could be financially beneficial for them both.

Through missives left on post it notes, Leo and Tiff develop a friendship. One that will be cultivated as they get to know each other very well. On paper, they have nothing in common. But as the days go by, and through their interactions, they realize that their connection is more than they’d ever experienced in any other partners they’d each had in the past — which complicate things as Leo is with someone and Tiff is trying to get on with her life.

This was a wonderful contemporary romance that had more heart and seriousness that what was let on. I enjoyed it very much as I’m a fan of romances with a little more depth. I just don’t want a meet-cute, then an adorable story about two people and their relationship. I mean, don’t get me wrong, The Flatshare is THAT but it also gave me more. I especially looked forward to them actually meeting face to face for the first time. The excitement it brought was more pronounced somehow just because their relationship was already developing into something more even before meeting in person.

The Flatshare also contained heft in plot by way of a few story lines: i.e. Tiff’s obsessive ex, Leo’s search for a veteran whose friend had very little time to live; and Leo’s incarcerated brother who was wrongfully convicted. I felt like Ms. O’Leary made sure that there were complexities in the plot that would not at all feel contrived.

Over all, Ms. O’Leary’s debut novel hit all the right spots for romance and contemporary fiction for me. I enjoyed the humour, the innate chemistry between Leo and Tiff, and the subtle emotions the novel made me feel. It’s quirky and just an all-around feel good story about two people connecting in the most unusual of ways.

Continue Reading

[766]: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

Book Review

The writing duo of Christina Lauren hardly disappoints. Apart from Dating You/Dating Me, that is, which I had a tough time getting into because of the characters. Also, Autoboyography which was so good up until that one moment when the broken hearted boy did something so stupid that I can’t even. Sigh. Anyway, they continue to write entertaining romance novels that are funny and sexy. They are also so proficient in witty banters between characters. I guess that’s one of the advantages of being a duo.

In The Unhoneymooners, we meet Olive. A self-proclaimed unlucky soul who can’t catch a break. Unlike her sister who manages to win every single contests she enters. As luck would have it, she wins her entire wedding – including the honeymoon. But throughout her unlucky streak, Olive never once did she feel envious of her twin sister’s lucky draw in life. Their relationship is a loving, supportive one. They have each other’s backs no matter what and will do just about anything for each other.

It is unfortunate that she can’t warm up to her sister’s fiancé and especially to his brother, Ethan. Things has always been contentious since almost to the day they met. For some inexplicable reason, they just grate on each other’s nerves. So when the entire wedding party and guests came down with the worst case of food poisoning, Olive’s luck either turned for the better or worse – depending on who you asked.

Ethan and Olive spends the next week in beautiful, balmy Maui trying not to kill each other and staying out of each other’s way. Unfortunately, fate has another plan. Day by day, their relationship grows from cantankerous to something else entirely. And with every change in the dynamics of their relationship, comes the revelations of the real reason why they can’t stand each other.

I really enjoyed this one. Christina Lauren are authors whose works I repeatedly go back to when I’m in need of an escape. I’ll never tire of them, I don’t think. The Unhoneymooners became just one of their works that I’ll read and reread.

There are a lot to love about Ethan and Olive. The banters, the antics they pull on each other, the way they love each other’s siblings to a fault; and the way they sometimes forget that they hate each other. Olive, despite being plagued with unholy luck, was one of those people who accepts things for what and how they are. That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t take steps to somehow change the status quo. In fact, she’ll do just about anything to finally gain employment even as far as to coerce Ethan into faking a marriage. Ethan, on the other hand, also has something to gain by agreeing: to prove to his ex-girlfriend that he’s moved on. (Sidenote: having a free holiday in Maui only to have it spoilt it by seeing your ex with their current flame staying is not my idea of a good time.) Long story short, mishaps ensue. But amongst the comedy of errors was a realization that they were actually good together. And theirs could work if they could only get past all the hang-ups of their past encounters.

The one thing they have in common was how much they love their siblings and to what end they’ll do to protect them. But it’s that instinct that might be detrimental to their pursuing a relationship.

Continue Reading

[765]: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

B O O K R E V I E W

La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman

4 out of 5 Stars

Philip Pullman is a celebrated author whose work I’ve yet to experience. Therefore, I was not ready for the wildly imaginative world he created here. However, and based on some reviews I read on Goodreads, this does not quite compare to his previous work. But if you’re like me who bore no certain familiarity to his older novels, I think you’ll be just fine – awed, even.

The first book to this series introduces as to an alternate universe. This is a prequel to His Dark Materials series – which, I’ve not read. So you might get lost with some of the aspects of the book. For example, I have no idea what alethiometers are, their functions and why they are held with great importance. In this world, everyone carries their daemons on their person. And the daemons are characterized by animals. They’re not inherently evil, in fact, they’re more like your guardian angels.

Malcolm, our boy of the hour is one of those very astute, loyal and brave characters. From the first moment he laid eyes on baby Lyra, he knew he would do anything to protect her. Soon, the identity and protection of this baby becomes his primary goal in life. Even putting his own life in danger. There are a lot of mysteries yet to be uncovered about Lyra’s identity. I don’t know why everyone is clamoring to find her and possess her. But my guess is she’s important in His Dark Materials series? *shrugs*

As if things can’t be more perilous for our Malcolm and his quest to protect baby Lyra, a flood pretty much washed away everything and everyone that he could rely on. So for the entirety of the novel, he was afloat on a boat with Lyra and Alice, with whom he’s had a contemptuous relationship to begin with. Things were terse, dangerous what with a lunatic on their tail determined to take Lyra away.

One thing’s for sure, I’m excited that I’ve finally get to have the Phillip Pullman experience. If only for the introduction to his work. And who knows? Maybe I’ll decide to read his other books as well down the road. This was dark for a novel geared towards younger audience but over all, I’m sold.

Continue Reading

[764]: Raze by Roan Parrish

I can always count on Roan Parrish to deliver stories with a lot of heat and plenty of heart. Raze, the third installment to her Riven series, is yet another testament to this fact.

Here, we get the story of Huey, the AA sponsor extraordinaire who owns and runs a bar of all places. Not only is he a former addict himself, but he managed to become an anchor for a few who continues to fight their demons day in and day out. Though at some days, he too, has his demons to fight. But through a rigorous routine and living a life free from emotional entanglements, Huey has managed the life of sobriety for the last ten years. Albeit, a lonely one at that.

Along come Felix; a guy who is about to shatter Huey’s carefully created world. Huey was not ready for Felix’ sunny disposition, but he couldn’t help but be drawn in regardless. These two souls didn’t know it at first, but they — in their own ways, needed each other’s help to break free from the doldrums of their existence.

I love how different they are. Huey’s quiet but imposing personality matches well with Felix’ happy-go-lucky friendliness. However, they have being nurturers in common. Felix has been the caretaker of his family – his mom and his sister. While Huey has taken care of anyone who needed the support during their weakest moments. Unfortunately, the years of being everyone’s pillar and support, and his predisposition to help others becomes yet another weakness he had to overcome.

Felix had so much insecurities that held him back. He just didn’t think he has a lot to offer to anyone. Once he was freed from his family responsibilities he was able to step back and reassess what he wants to do with his life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy. The usual insecurities plagued him.

I’ve been enjoying this series a whole lot. I’m not always aware when they come out, but when I see it, it’s an instant download. I guess you can say that Roan Parrish is my go-to author for M/M romance.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 14