[777]: America’s Reluctant Prince by Steven M. Gillon

The summer of 1999 was the first time I’ve become aware of the impact the Kennedys have in America and the world as a whole. Tragically, it was because John perished in the sea with his wife, Carolyn and her sister, Lauren.

America’s Reluctant Price brought that feeling of loss back to the surface all over again. At the time, it felt like an incredible weight sat on my chest. And it was because of a squandered opportunity to know a great person when they were still alive. The loss felt greater somehow. It was like losing a person before you even get to know them. It left me feeling hollow.

Before I read this book, I can count on one hand all the things I know about John F. Kennedy, Jr:

  • He was a Kennedy.
  • He lived a charmed life.
  • He was handsome and magnetic.
  • He would’ve made his parents proud.
  • Had he lived, we would’ve perhaps change the course of America’s political landscape and made a great impact on the world.

But with every page, this book offered an insight that was every bit shocking, tragic, and beautiful at the same time.

John’s life was far from charmed. He was a mediocre student who barely scraped by. He was surrounded by people who were hypnotized by his presence and his name. Most of the time, he didn’t know who was real. Posthumously, he still fascinated the world.

But here, we see the real truth behind the handsome face — behind the charmed life. The truth was, he was burdened by the legacy of his name. Constantly afraid that he would never be good enough. I suppose it would be akin to having Michael Jordan as your father. That no matter what you do in life, the legacy will follow you around, and you will never measure up.

He was a devoted son who also did his best to be a good husband. but Carolyn could not cope with the same burden that John carried. Hounded by the paparazzi, she became a recluse. She ended up hating being married to someone whose birthright was in the same vein as royalty.

The truth is, John’s life was full of tragedy. Starting with his father who was assassinated in front of his mother. And it was almost befitting that his life would end tragically.

Most of the reviewers have commented that there’s nothing new about this biography. That if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. As one of the thousands who will always be in awe of the Kennedys, I will never stop reading about this family. I will forever be thinking of what could’ve been, what kind of life he would’ve led, and how great the world would’ve been had we not lost him.

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[767]: Save Me From Dangerous Men by S.A. Lelchuk

I mentioned on my inaugural Listening Library post about how wonderful my Libby app has been. How it affords me the practice of perusing books, reading them, then buying a copy if I may so choose. This is one of those serendipitous occasions when I loved a book so much that I just had to get a copy.

I love a great whodunnit novel, but more so when it features a female detective. Nikki Griffin is one such character and more. She has this almost supernatural ability to stay level-headed during the most stressful situations. Even while she’s getting tortured and beaten to within an inch of her life. She has the strength and prowess of an MMA fighter and is probably the kind of person you would want in your corner if you happened to find yourself in an abusive relationship. In fact, besides being a bookstore owner, that’s exactly what she does: she hunts down violent, abusive men and give them a taste of their own medicine.

I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for a PI, but I’ve read a few of them whose traumatic dark pasts were the catalyst as to why they are in the profession. Nikki’s, however, seemed like the source of her superpower, so to speak. She has a brother who’s so far gone that she has no choice but enable his drug addiction. I also think that the guilt she carries of how he turned out plays a factor. She loves and cares too much for all the women she helped and the brother who is the source of both her strength and weakness.

It seems like I’ve only talked about Nikki and not about the case that is the crux of the novel. Basically, she was hired to follow an employee suspected of selling company secrets. But slowly but surely, she uncovers something far more sinister than what was let on. Allow me to be a bit of a nerd here for a moment. If you’ve seen Captain America: Winter Soldier, the premise of what Nikki uncovered was similar minus the super weapon that could target them The creation of a technology that will enable the government or any factions to eliminate suspected terrorists and supposed government enemies without due process.

The investigative part of this novel was done quite well. The twist was a surprise and didn’t feel like it was contrived. Overall, Save Me From Dangerous Men was a fantastic debut. A fast-paced, badass pulp fiction of a novel with an equally badass character. What’s more, she can freaking recommend a book on a dime. She’s well-read, fierce, and a kick ass vigilante/assassin who uses her smarts as much as she uses her muscle.

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[763]: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I’m not much of a fantasy reader. Most of the books I’ve picked up in this genre are truly an intensive labour of love. But when I decide to read one, it’s usually because I’ve been persuaded through word of mouth. This couldn’t be truer with The Poppy War.  It’s been a popular choice for fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike as of late.  The main attraction for me is that it features a heroine who came from the poorest and most ridiculed part of the country to become one of the greatest warrior that ever lived. But the road to get there was far from a walk in the park.

Much has been said about the novel’s brutality, and yes.  They’re of the stomach-churning variety. The author didn’t skimp on the shock and awe factor. The first half of this book focuses on Rin’s training at the Academy in the hands of the masters. Because she was nothing but an orphan from a poor province, no one considered her worthy to earn her place in the prestigious Academy or even worthy of a second look. But she sure showed them.  Armed with determination and an ability to soak up knowledge, Rin quickly rose up to the challenge and gained infamy.

In the Academy, she meets the Lore master Jiang who would teach her how to hone her power, call on the gods, and harness her untapped potential. The training was grueling to say the least. It was a series of testing and skirmishes meant to determine those who were not only merely good at what they do, but the best of the best to carry on defending the territories against the Federation.

Of course, it’d be remiss of me if I don’t mention the battles. My eyes tend to glaze over when I’m in the throes of reading such scenes. But this is one of those rare occasions when I couldn’t look away.  They were descriptive, visceral and not at all gratuitously violent. After all, who doesn’t want to see the evil faction fall in the hands of the least likely heroine? This would not be a book about war without deaths, blood and gore so expect those in spades.

I am not the most reliable reviewer of fantasy novels because I have a very small quantity of books in my arsenal. As well, I don’t seek them out. But even I can admit this was pretty kickass and I’m excited and terrified for the installment in equal measure.

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[759]: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Ms. McQuiston’s debut novel comes in heavy with the greatest of praises that it was almost intimidating to pick up. All the reviews so far touched on how ridiculously sweet and fun it was. So because I am but a feeble human, I was unable to ignore the call. 

I mean, how could I? The story in itself combines romance and humour set in the backdrop of America’s quasi-current political climes. We have here the first son of the first woman POTUS initially involved in years of antagonistic rivalry with the English prince culminating in a disastrous scuffle at a well-publicized event. So when both countries’ PR teams decided the only way to clean up the mess was to have them do charitable public events, the two will have no choice but to address the long-standing feud. 

Enemies to lovers is one of my favourite romance tropes. But it only works if the author can pepper the dialogues with witty and funny banter. As well, the chemistry between characters also has to work. Red, White and Royal Blue, thankfully hits all the right notes. Alex and Henry couldn’t be more perfect than if I drew them in my mind and told Ms. McQuiston how I pictured them. 

This book also touched on some social issues plaguing the annals of American politics but only to a lighter degree. I was glad that being a bisexual wasn’t painted in a shade that most bible thumpers only knew how. It’s how I imagined the Americans could be: accepting as to have a woman president, whose ex-husband is a Mexican who is also a sitting Senator. 

Their kids, along with the vice president’s granddaughter, make up the White House Trio; the perfect magnet for young, impressionable voters. The media and the social media, for that matter, follow their lives like the celebrities that they are. When a romance between the first son and the prince of England came to light, their lives and global politics will never be the same. 

So comes the choice between finding their own happiness or potentially ruining the lives of their parents, and in Henry’s case, the throne. 

This book was absolutely amazing, addictive, and an absolute darling. I have read and re-read it many a times since it hit my Kindle. It reminded me of how I felt reading The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. It was just oh so good and my favourite kind of read for the simple reason that made me forget about the weariness of the day. 

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[757]: Vengeful by VE Schwab

My love affair with Blackout Poetry began with Victor Vale. To date, I think I’ve created over 100 of them. The majority were e-books because I couldn’t find it in me to destroy a physical book. This obsession only rivals that of my obsession with characters of supernatural powers. And the group of villains in this series is one that is worthy of the X-Men universe caliber. Victor Vale, in particular is one of my faves. He’s right up there with Thanos. The best kind of villains are the ones that make you question whether or not their hearts are in the right place. And therein lies the rub. I straddle the fine line between wordless wonder and seething contempt for their predisposition to play gods.

This sequel’s driving force is, simply put, revenge. Victor and Eli’s saga of trying to kill each other continues. Even if Eli has been imprisoned in a lab, being experimented on by an equally deranged scientist, his every waking hour is dedicated to getting out and finding Victor again so he can exact his revenge.

Victor, on the other hand, while living free, is sidled with a crippling illness from which he couldn’t find a cure. Reanimating his body apparently has a side effect. His bouts of blacking out was becoming increasingly frequent. His failure to find a cure means the body count for dead EOs are climbing. But in the periphery of his mind remains Eli, his arch nemesis. He knows he’s still out there, plotting the exact same thing.

Besides the usual suspects, we’ve got an EO with the ability to turn anyone or anything to dust with a single touch. Her evolution from a doting housewife to a mafia godfather to becoming one of the most feared EO started when her own husband tried to burn her alive. Revenge is best served in a bowlful of dust. And that’s exactly what Marcella did to all those who wronged her.

Her path of destruction crosses with two other EOs whose abilities will help her take over the city. One is a shape shifter; the other, a shield. In a short time, Marcella and her little crew of menace became notoriously famous and public enemy number one. But there’s one organization who will exploit an alliance just for the purpose of catching Victor Vale and his cohorts.

As per usual, Ms. Schwab developed a crew of complex and highly interesting characters. They’re the ones that forces a reader to examine their stance on the whole good vs. bad thing and be conflicted on whether their weaknesses are their strengths and vice versa. Eli remain staunched in his belief that the EOs that he helped create are an abomination that the world needs eradication. In the meantime, Victor is ridding them one by one but for mostly selfish reasons. So while I loved, loved Victor in the first book, he was purely suspect in this one.

Marcella was a character that I loved and hated in equal measure. While I applaud the addition of an avenging woman in this novel, I didn’t like how quickly she let power get to her head. But boy, was she fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing her turn her enemies into dust and plot to take over the city of Merit. Though her methods were hella dubious, in my opinion.

I loved this sequel and I hope there’ll be more. I loved the familial dynamics between Victor, Sydney, and Mitch. It’s about belonging and finding a place to exist that one can accept – whether that be with others or on your own.

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[Re-read]: The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones

The Dirt on Ninth Grave
by Darynda Jones
Publication Date: January 12th, 2016
Read: Three Times
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Truth be told, I’ve read and re-read the entire series twice now. And still, to this day, book number nine remains my favourite. That’s why when I was invited to do a re-reading blog tour for the series, there was no question as to which book I’d like to revisit again.

Time and again, St. Martin’s Press has been gracious enough to send me an invite for the instalments. But the rub is, the wait for the next book becomes especially longer. Book number eight ended with the mother of all cliff hangers. There were tears, I tell you. Tears. And it wasn’t because the cliff hanger was tragic. It was because of my debilitating need to know what happens next.

So then book number nine arrived in my Kindle via Net Galley. I was only too happy to lose sleep that night just so I can read it in one go.

In here, Charley was an amnesiac who found herself miles away from home. But since she has no recollection of who she was, home is Sleepy Hollow, New York. Her name is Janey Doerr. A waitress with a disturbing addiction to coffee; a predilection to know when a person is lying, and a sick sense in seeing dead people. How she lost her memory is something you need to find out for yourself in book eight.

She is also surrounded by a small army of people who either outright lie to her or give her half truths. But regardless of what they were hiding, she can see kindness and their protective instincts towards her. Except maybe for one regular who, short of snarling at her whenever she’s near, avoids her like she has the plague. But because she also has very little self-preservation instincts, Reyes Alexander Farrow is the flame to her moth.

Charley may have lost her memory but she’s still the same Charley. Trouble finds her every which way she turns, or perhaps she seeks them out. Dead people abounds, waiting to use her like the River Styx. There’s also a family who’s being held hostage by suspected terrorists. Oh, also a cop who thinks he owns her and therefore should be the love of her life. Yeah, good luck with that, buddy.

I’ve mentioned this on my previous review that the best thing about this book is the interaction between Charley and Reyes, per usual. They’re starting all over again so the push and pull was fun to watch. There is no denying that these two are one of my favourite literary couple. Between Charley’s odd and more often sick sense of humour, and Reyes’ infinite love for Charley, it would be difficult to find other couples to love. This series just fires on all cylinders for me. It’s hella funny, scorchingly sexy, and surprisingly still fresh after almost thirteen books.

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[735]: Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

 A perfect blending of romance, history, and mysticism.


Bellewether
by Susanna Kearsly

Ms. Kearsley is widely known for writing novels that slip from one time period to another. She writes them so well that I could easily imagine her characters – both from the present and the past – walking the same path and at the same time. I don’t know if that makes sense but she does the time slips so seamlessly. And she employs the same methodology with efficacy in her latest novel.

Fair warning: I might be inclined to talk about Lydia and Jean-Phillippe more over Charley and Sam. And that’s just because, the romance between them has one of my favorite dynamics.

Bellewether features two major plot points that I couldn’t get enough of. Often times, I was desperately looking for spare seconds just to get back to the story. I’m a romance reader first and foremost. So Lydia’s and Jean-Philippe’s doomed romance was the proverbial potato chip that I couldn’t stop devouring. I couldn’t read fast enough. In truth, I found myself skipping banal descriptions of places, people, and objects because I was trying to get to the good parts. It’s horrible to admit, for sure. But I know I will read this again in time and will savor their stories when that time comes.

Charley and Sam’s romance was, for the most part, well, regular – for lack of a better word. There weren’t any fireworks to speak of when they met. But that doesn’t mean theirs didn’t produce any as the story goes on. Honestly, I was very focused on her “haunting”, more than anything because like I mentioned above, I was more interested in the other couple.

Back to Lydia and Jean-Phillippe, theirs was not an instant, blatant attraction from the start. Lydia, for the most part, was almost always antagonizing – understandable, considering what she and her family had recently gone through. But Jean-Phillippe had always held her in a quiet regard. I love their rocky start. I love how it culminated into a slow-burning fire.

Ms. Kearsly also writes the best heroines; set in their ways, determined, and fierce. This could not be more obvious with both Lydia and Charley. I love that Lydia spoke her mind as well as Charley. Conversely, they also know when to pick their battles. Jean-Phillippe and Sam are their perfect counterparts. And though, I found their characterizations to be minimal, I had the barest understanding that Ms. Kearsely wanted the focus on Lydia and Charley.

The thing about SK’s books is that you’re always getting more than what you’ve paid for. Her uncanny ability to seamlessly combine two stories is one of her best strength as a writer. Her books are always well-researched and meticulously close to being accurate. Her passion for history shines through and as a reader, I’m always inclined to read up on the topic with which her novel discussed. And I think, as a historical fiction writer, you’ve more than did a great service in educating us if you were able to induce such curiousity.

 

 

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[733]: Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A thrilling, amazing and bittersweet conclusion to a favourite series.


Obsidio
by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

It’s always tough to write a review for a book in a series that had easily became one of your favourites. Most of the time, your thoughts are jumbled, out of sequence and holding very little sense but to you alone. That’s probably why I did not even bother writing reviews for Illuminae and Gemina – both of which blew my mind.

Obsidio, much like its predecessors, used one an avant-garde method of story-telling. Utilizing hand written notes, witnesses accounts, and chat threads, the series was a delight to the senses. At times, it certainly felt like my eyes couldn’t keep up with my brain; struggling to follow the storyline written on the pages but already seeing in my mind’s eye what’s happening with our beloved characters. Still, I soaked it all in. Often even going back and forth as the story is being narrated on audio.

There were so many things I looked forward in this ending. Least of all is the demise of the evil BeiTech empire. Mostly, I looked forward to seeing how our teens have been faring while they try to find purchase in the galaxy. And I mean that literally, as their ship was barely limping to the next jump station or some such. Meanwhile, back in Kerenza, there are still pockets of survivors barely eking out a so-called life. Slaved by BeiTech invaders, starved and worked to the bone, there are rebels who are only too willing to forfeit their lives. Heartbreaking stories abound. I have cried a tear or two for the people of Kerenza.

In the end, there really isn’t much to say, is there? The authors gave us closure. These books may look daunting. I went through so much while reading these books, but oh, the labour of love was so worth it.  I bought the audio and the hardcover copies of the series. I wanted the audio for the number of narrators and ingenious way they were read. And I wanted the hardcover for the ingenious way they were presented.

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[730]: Hardcover by Jamie K. Schmidt

Hardcover
by Jamie K. Schmidt
November 21st, 2017
Loveswept | Via Netgalley
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


Such a decadent read! I’ve read this a number of times because it’s just one of those books that you wouldn’t be able to help yourself from visiting and revisiting. It was funny, at times romantic and sexy as hell. I had no expectations whatsoever when I requested this book from Loveswept. Man, what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be. Easily one of my favourite erotic romance reads this year.

So we’ve got a couple of characters who had known each other since they were in high school. You can say they pretty much grew in the same affluent circle. But both veered in the opposite directions growing up. Dawn is a rebel through and through. Just like any teens, she rebelled against her family but not for the absence of a cause. She was made to become a black sheep when nothing ever pleased her father. She was not one to conform (even though she tried her hardest at first). Rory, on the other hand, lived to please his family. As such he became successful while Dawn struggled in her career.

Several years later, their paths meet again when Rory, now a billionaire was tasked to buy off the current tenants on the coastal and touristy town of Haven. Dawn did not make his job easy, but as these stories go, their reunion was ripe with sexual tension that neither could deny, let alone stop.

I love Dawn. She’s an independent woman who was dealt with some bad cards. But that didn’t stop her from living and pursuing what she wants out of life. Her store was struggling so when Rory made her an offer that a normal person couldn’t refuse, Dawn didn’t jump in head first. She’s upfront, candid, and she fights for herself. It would’ve been easy to lean on Rory (who was a billionaire, of all things) but she didn’t. She lived the life she wanted even though it almost cost her dearly.

This book is fire, y’all. It sizzles in the romance/sex department. Dawn and Rory’s chemistry was off the charts aided by a humorous banter and plenty of attraction on both sides. It almost made me cry, too. There’s a very touching note at the end about the author’s cat that almost did me in. Lol. Y’all, if you’re on a lookout for an outstanding romance reads, please consider this book. It was absolutely amazing!

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[727]: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Rich People Problems
by Kevin Kwan
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Series: Crazy Rich Asians, #3
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


The last book in this wildly audacious series is just as ridiculous as its predecessors – and I loved it!

We find the matriarch of the family in her apparent deathbed. So of course, every single of this ostentatious family is scrambling to find out to whom she would leave her fortune. Nick Young, having had a falling out with his grandmother since marrying Rachel, did not have any hopes in hell of getting the family estate. Not that he cared either way. All he wanted was to get back into her good graces before she dies. But all bets are off with the Youngs. Knives will be wielded, and tongues will be sharpened (even more lethal than usual). The rest of the family will do their best to keep the favourite grandson (Nick) from seeing, much less talk to the matriarch.

Meanwhile, Astrid, the ever private and also a favourite, is dealing with a nasty divorce from Michael. A scandal purported in the form of a sex tape will leave her stocks falling faster than a speeding G6. Who knew Michael would be a vindictive, bitter foe? He will stop at nothing until he ruins Astrid. Drama, drama, drama.

Expect the same frivolity from this family; ridiculousness abounds, with backstabbing as a sport. In short, it was AWESOME. 🙂 The perfect ending to this trilogy delivering a laugh-out-loud dysfunction and a smorgasbord of glitzy glamour. It was a guilty pleasure of a read that’s as wholesome as they come. It features great delicacies for foodies and high-brow fashions for name brand whores. I love that it didn’t veer away from its core values: that money speaks, and social castes are alive and well. There is also much to be said about what was more important above all things: preserving the rich history of what made the Youngs the imperious family that they are.

Looking forward to seeing these books in their film version. I bet it would be like Joy Luck Club only funnier and more dysfunctional. Haha.

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