Book Review: The Beach Trap by Ali Brady

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Beach Trap by Ali Brady.

About the Book

Two best friends torn apart by a life-altering secret. They have one summer to set the record straight.

When twelve-year-olds Kat Steiner and Blake O’Neill meet at Camp Chickawah, they have an instant connection. But everything falls apart when they learn they’re not just best friends—they’re also half-sisters. Confused and betrayed, their friendship instantly crumbles.

Fifteen years later when their father dies suddenly, Kat and Blake discover he’s left them a joint inheritance: the family beach house in Destin, Florida. The two sisters are instantly at odds. Blake, who has recently been demoted from regular nanny to dog nanny, wants to sell the house, while social media influencer Kat is desperate to keep the place where she had so many happy childhood memories.

Kat and Blake reluctantly join forces to renovate the dilapidated house with the understanding that Kat will try to buy Blake out at the end of the summer. The women clash as Blake’s renovation plans conflict with Kat’s creative vision, and each sister finds herself drawn into a summer romance. As the weeks pass, the two women realize the most difficult project they face this summer will be coming to grips with their shared past, and learning how to become sisters.

My Thoughts

I need to start by saying that I did not realize that Ali Brady was actually the pen name of a writing duo until about 2/3 of the way through when I happened to glance at the About the Author blurb. They do a fantastic job and unless I’d discovered that I would have just assumed it was one writer. They do a great job of giving Blake and Kat their own voices, however the writing style is seamless.

I really liked this take on The Parent Trap, and how instead of twins, our main characters are half-sisters. I liked how we saw how different their lives were because of the decisions their father chose to make.

I found Kat to be unfairly angry at Blake, but it also makes sense that she would be, especially when her family is big on keeping up appearances. It was also interesting to see how both women processed their grief and anger towards their father, and learn that the other wasn’t to blame for his poor life choices. I loved seeing both of these characters grow, and also find love in the midst of a difficult time.

I also really liked how the novel briefly touches on how lonely and empty influencer culture can be and how it affects our standard of beauty. Here is a quote regarding beauty that I really liked:

“Happiness matters more than what someone else – influencer or not – decides is beautiful. Besides, there’s more to life than looking good on the outside. Especially if you’re just using make up and clothes to cover up how broken you are on the inside.” (p.219).

I also liked the banter between Blake and Noah when they first met, they both had some great lines that I ended up writing down.

I really enjoyed The Beach Trap and I plan on picking up more Ali Brady’s work in the future. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry.

About the Book

Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read, a sparkling new novel that will leave you with the warm, hazy afterglow usually reserved for the best vacations.

My Thoughts

So, I feel like my rating is slightly not fair because I started to get into a reading slump while reading it and it is not the book’s fault!

I really enjoyed People We Meet on the Vacation and the different ways Emily Henry pays homage to When Harry Met Sally…. She did a great job of capturing the essence of the movie, but yet making it a unique story.

I loved getting to know both Poppy and Alex and seeing their relationship dynamic over time. There were times I wished, especially in the present day sections, that they had communicated a bit more. I also found Alex to be frustrating sometimes and his lack of taking action.

I loved that while this was a romance, we also see both characters grow, especially Poppy as she tries to figure out what she wants from her life. I also really liked how both Poppy and Alex get to make their own speeches similar to Harry’s speech near the end of the movie. I definitely shed a tear when I read Alex’s speech.

My only complaint is that, while the book starts out with some great banter between the two characters, it kind of fizzles out and I missed it. I also felt like the book dragged on a little, but that could be due to me starting to get into a slump.

I still think this was a great read from Emily Henry and I am sure I will reread it in the future. And she has definitely solidified her place as an auto-read author in the future. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair.

About the Book

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.

My Thoughts

I was little hesitant going into this because it has mixed reviews from several people I follow. However, I loved this reimagining of Greek mythology, more specifically Hades and Persephone. I loved getting to know both of them, as well as the other characters.

I think if you are a fan of Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe, you will love A Touch of Darkness, it was the perfect read while I waited for Volume 3 to come out. I also really liked the steamy scenes, I though they were well done, and I loved the tension between Hades and Persephone as they get to know each other.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens to them in the next book. 3.75/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala.

About the Book

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

My Thoughts

I liked Arsenic and Adobo and learning more about Filipino culture and food against the backdrop of a cozy mystery. I enjoyed getting to know all the characters, especially the aunties. I also appreciate that the author didn’t shy away from the prejudice that minorities face every day, especially when it comes to the justice system.

I found the plot to be slow at times, and I’ll be honest, I did not like how everyone dogpiles on Lila because she moved away and came back. I also found Adeena (Lila’s best friend) to be kind of childish towards the end when she gives Lila the silent treatment.

I did like the several possible love interest, and I am looking forward to seeing how that unfolds over the rest of the series. 3.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Call Me Athena by Colby Cedar Smith

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Call Me Athena by Colby Cedar Smith.

About the Book

This enchanting novel in verse captures one young woman’s struggle for independence, equality, and identity as the daughter of Greek and French immigrants in tumultuous 1930s Detroit.

Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit is a beautifully written novel in verse loosely based on author Colby Cedar Smith’s paternal grandmother. The story follows Mary as the American-born daughter of Greek and French immigrants living in Detroit in the 1930s, creating a historically accurate portrayal of life as an immigrant during the Great Depression, hunger strikes, and violent riots.

Mary lives in a tiny apartment with her immigrant parents, her brothers, and her twin sister, and she questions why her parents ever came to America. She yearns for true love, to own her own business, and to be an independent, modern American woman—much to the chagrin of her parents, who want her to be a “good Greek girl.”

Mary’s story is peppered with flashbacks to her parents’ childhoods in Greece and northern France; their stories connect with Mary as they address issues of arranged marriage, learning about independence, and yearning to grow beyond one’s own culture. Though Call Me Athena is written from the perspective of three profoundly different narrators, it has a wide-reaching message: It takes courage to fight for tradition and heritage, as well as freedom, love, and equality.

My Thoughts

I didn’t know about this book until I was going through the poetry finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2021. I came across Call Me Athena and was intrigued to pick it up.

This was a great novel-in-verse in which we follow 16-year-old Mary growing up in 1930s Detroit and her fight against her parents expectations of being a “good Greek girl>” The novel then flashes back to World War I following a young Greek man, Grigos, and a young French woman, Jeanne and how their lives intersect.

I loved this novel and the characters, as well as learning various historical facts. It was also interesting to learn that the novel was based on the life of the author’s grandmother.

Overall, I really enjoyed Call Me Athena. I don’t know what else to say because it is a novel that I really want others to experience. I really hope to read whatever Colby Cedar Smith puts out next. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan.

About the Book

A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm.

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.

My Thoughts

Book Haul #4

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another book haul! Here are the books I got in the first half of October (oops!).

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

I came across this at Half-Priced Books for about $4 and decided to get it because it’s considered L. M. Montgomery’s more popular adult novels.

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was another one I came across at Half-Priced Books, and I almost never see any of her backlist books so I knew I had to snatch it up. It follows a couple who have a whirlwind romance, but the husband is killed in an accident and the wife, along with the mother-in-law who didn’t know she existed, learn to work through their grief.

As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh

I chose this from the picks for October’s Book of the Month. It sounds really good, I’m personally trying to go in without knowing to much, except it is set during the Syrian fight for freedom (Arab Spring?), and it is probably going to break me.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

I decided to do an add-on for my October Book of the Month box, and I went with The Love Hypothesis because I loved it so much when I read it in September. It also matches my copy of Love on the Brain!

The next three books are ones that I picked up at my previous job when we did an event where several YA authors came and did panels and workshops. There were copies of the books for sale, and we were able to get them signed by the authors at the end of the day. Here are three I bought and got personalized.

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson

Full Flight by Ashley Shumacher

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood.

About the Book

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding… six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

My Thoughts

I picked this up right after finishing The Astonishing Color of After because I needed a boost of serotonin. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I read a huge chunk of it in one sitting. I believe I read it at the right time and I loved it.

It had a lot of great laugh-out-loud moments, and when I say that I mean I literally laughed out loud! I loved the banter between Olive and Adam, as well as Olive’s inner monologue. I found myself writing down a number of quotes that I loved and some that I just found hilarious, here is one in particular that had me rolling:

“He lifted an eyebrow. “I doubt a language exists in which the thing you just ordered could be referred to as ‘coffee.'”” (p. 71).

And there were so many others! If I hadn’t borrowed it from the library, I probably would have tabbed and underlined a lot more than what I jotted down. Maybe I need to get a copy so I can mark it up if I re-read it. But back to the review.

I loved the characters, and even though I guess this is kind of Reylo fanfiction, it isn’t not really. Yes, our love interest is named Adam and his mother is a diplomat, and both our main characters are described as looking similar to Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley. I honestly was able to separate them from this fact in my head. I loved getting to know both of them.

I found Olive in the third act a bit annoying, especially when she hides something from Adam. I also loved Adam, but there were times I felt he could have been more assertive, but considering their situation it makes sense.

Also, and this is a spoiler of sorts, can we talk about how much I hate Tom Benton. What a sorry excuse for a human being! He got what he deserved.

So I guess I really like fake-dating as a trope? Also, I love how the characters were self-aware that what they were doing was a popular romance trope!

This was a great romantic comedy and it was a new favorite. I look forward to reading what Ali Hazelwood puts out next. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

November Hopefuls (A TBR of Sorts)

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my November TBR/ Hopefuls. I really don’t know how many books I’ll be able to get to this month, because I just started working full-time and as a result do not have as much time to read. But I thought I would share a few of the books I am hoping to get to this month, however, whether that will actually happen remains to be seen.

Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade

I read Spoiler Alert and All the Feels earlier this year and loved them both, and ever since I read the synopsis for Ship Wrecked I have been eagerly waiting for it’s release. Also, I did pre-order it, so as soon as I get it I plan on reading this. Not only does it have plus-sized female character, but also a plus-sized male character and I am here for it!

The Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan

I fell in love with Daughter of the Moon Goddess in September, and shortly after starting it, I also placed a pre-order for the sequel. I don’t know too much about it, and I want to keep it that way! But I am ready to immerse myself in the Celestial Kingdom again.

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

I picked this up on my recent trip to visit my close friend Allison in Colorado. I remember it got a lot of buzz back when it came out and I am very curious to pick it up. It follows an aspiring filmmaker who makes a web show based on Anna Karenina (does anyone else remember when those were a thing on YouTube? I miss them!), that takes off.

Station Eleven by Emily John St. Mandel

This is one of the few books that I still need to read for my 22 Books to read in 2022. I’ve heard really great things about it. I know it follows a troupe of actors before and after a pandemic and how their lives and the world has changed.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

I have been meaning to read One to Watch for a few years, but for whatever reason kept putting it off. I love the concept and I think I will love it. It is about Bea who enjoys a Bachelorette-like show but is disgusted by the lack of diversity, especially when it comes to size. She then ends up becoming the first plus-sized “bachelorette” on the show and out of her comfort zone.

These are all the November hopefuls. We shall see if I get to them!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is going to be on Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa.

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This third volume starts with Ed and Al making it back to their hometown and getting fixed up by Winry and Granny, engineers who originally Ed his auto-mail prosthetics. During this short stay, Major Armstrong – who accompanied the brothers -finds out a little bit more about the Elric brothers’ past, and why they no longer have a home. However, we also learn they they have a found family with Winry and Granny. The first chapter ends with them leaving for Central and Winry finding a bolt of sorts that might be important to one of the brothers.

The next chapter shows the Elric brothers arriving in Central and discovering that the library branch that houses the document they are looking for has been burned down. However, they are put in contact with a bookworm, Ms. Sheska, who has a photographic memory and remembers every detail of the document and writes it down for them. They then have to solve the cipher that it is written in, however, Ed is distraught to discover that a human life is required in order to use the Philosopher’s Stone. We also revisit Gluttony and Lust, who are in the Eastern city and are looking for Scar so that they can deal with him. There is a confrontation between him and Gluttony, but it fades to black and readers have to wait to find out what happens.

The Elric brothers not only discover what is needed in order to use the Philosopher’s Stone, they also discover that there is a secret lab in Central and they go to investigate it. While there both of them face off against different opponents that seem to be the results of the experiments conducted in the lab. In fact, one of them is similar to Al because he to is a soul trapped in armor. We also see that Scar escaped from Gluttony’s attack and both he and Lust decide they need to report back to a character called “Father”, who has yet to be revealed.

The last chapter continues where the previous one ended, with both brothers fighting an opponent. Al’s opponent gets in his head and starts making him question if he is who he thinks he is and how does he know what he knows. Meanwhile, Ed defeats his opponent, but just before he can get more information from him, he is destroyed by Envy, who has arrived at the lab with Lust and it ends with them seeing that Ed is there. It will be interesting to see what transpires in the next volume.

Overall, I did enjoy this installment of Fullmetal Alchemist and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the story unfold.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Home Is Not A Country by Safia Elhillo

Hello Everyone,
Today’s review is on Home Is Not A Country by Safia Elhillo.

About the Book

A novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places.

Nima doesn’t feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself. Until she doesn’t.

As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn’t give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry. And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else’s. . .she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had. 

My Thoughts

I had first attempted to read this when I was sick with COVID at the beginning of the year, that was not a great idea, so I decided to put it aside until I was recovered. And I am glad I did!

Home Is Not a Country is a novel-in-verse that captures the story of Nima, a young woman who feels like she doesn’t fit in. She is torn between two cultures, that of living in America, and the country of her birth (which is never named). She feels like she is a disappointment to her mother and that she is nothing like the daughter she had hoped for.

I liked the novel, however it took a kind of unexpected turn that was a little weird. I liked the lesson that Nima learns but it caught me off guard.

Overall, I though Home Is Not A Country was an interesting novel. It isn’t a new favorite, but I am looking forward to reading more from Safia Elhillo in the future. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.

About the Book

Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

My Thoughts

I’d been a little hesitant to pick up The House in the Cerulean Sea because of how hyped it has been since it was first released. However, I’ve also been curious to see why this book is loved by many. I enjoyed learning more about this world, although it seems like it is also a drab society.

Linus was sometimes a bit annoying to read from at times, especially at the beginning when he is so caught up in rules and regulations. But I loved seeing him grow as he gets to know the children of Marysas orphanage and Arthur, and how this assignment ends up changing his life forever. I liked getting to know Arthur and how he shows Linus that the children are people, and how they are not the sum of whichever magical species they are, but their character, and that they too have the potential to do good.

I loved how Arthur and Linus influence each other for the better in very different ways, but yet encourage each other to be who they truly are. Ultimately, this novel is about acceptance, as well as how ignorance breeds fear and results in those who are different as being other. Everyone is worthy of love and acceptance, no matter how different they are from us. I look forward to reading more from TJ Klune in the future. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Love & Saffron by Kim Fay

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Love & Saffron by Kim Fay.

About the Book

The #1 Indie Next Pick, in the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road and Meet Me at the Museum, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter–as well as a gift of saffron–to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she’s never tasted fresh garlic–exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.

Food and a good life–they can’t be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen’s decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen’s friendship–a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.

A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache, and that human connection will always be worth creating.

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest by saying that I was initially interested in picking up Love & Saffron because of it’s gorgeous cover. I then also discovered that it was an epistalory novel, which immediately sold me on reading it (I’m a huge sucker for epistalory novels). And I was not disappointed.

I loved learning about both Joan and Imogen and the different places they are in their lives, but yet strike up a friendship based on food and the exploration of different flavors. I also liked that it was set in the ’60s, although I will admit that I had to keep reminding myself that it was set then, especially when certain things came up that seemed like non-issues because they are today. It was also interesting to learn more about Los Angeles in the 1960s.

My only complaint is something that happens near the end of the novel, and I am not okay, but in the best way! I can’t say what it is because it is a spoiler, but if you know, you know what I’m talking about.

I also loved how this friendship changed both women’s lives for the better, as well as their relationships.

Overall, I really liked Love & Saffron, however, I do wish it was a little bit longer. I do plan on reading more from Kim Fay in the future! 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

About the Book

Hiroshima-born Sadako is lively and athletic–the star of her school’s running team. And then the dizzy spells start. Soon gravely ill with leukemia, the “atom bomb disease,” Sadako faces her future with spirit and bravery. Recalling a Japanese legend, Sadako sets to work folding paper cranes. For the legend holds that if a sick person folds one thousand cranes, the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again. Based on a true story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes celebrates the extraordinary courage that made one young woman a heroine in Japan.

My Thoughts

I came across Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes at work and remembered hearing about it several months ago. After reading the synopsis I knew I wanted to read it as soon as I got home, even though I knew it would be very sad.

For a really short book, it packs a punch in the best possible way. Just as we as readers get to know Sadako and her hopes for the future, we see her dreams of being a runner fall by the wayside when she is diagnosed with leukemia, as an after affect of the the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War 2. I loved Sadako’s hope and tenacity to get better, even though she would never recover. It was hard to read towards the end, even though what happens is no surprise to readers, it is still heart-breaking. It was a beautiful reminder of the casualties of war, as well as long lingering affects that may not be known for years to come.

Overall, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a book I wish I had read as a kid, and I hope to share this beautiful story with my kids some day. 5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Haul #3

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another book haul! Last month was my birthday, so several of these books are gifts from others, as well as gifts to myself. Right now I am on a book buying ban until I go visit my friend Allison in Colorado in a couple of weeks, which I am looking forward to hanging out with, as well as doing some book shopping while I’m there. Here are the books I’ve acquired recently:

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

This was a birthday present from my brother (shout out to Micaiah if you happen to be reading this!). I’m really excited to read it because I like Trevor Noah, and I remember watching some of his stand-up comedy specials before he took over The Daily Show. Also, some of you may know, I grew up in South Africa, however it was post-Apartheid, I’m looking forward to reading from the perspective of someone who grew up mixed-race near the end Apartheid and how those experiences shaped him into the person he is today. I also expect that this going to be really funny, while also touching on some hard subject matters.

Deathnote, Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba

This was another birthday present from my brother, and I’m excited to get to it. I’ve heard some really great things about Deathnote, however I am saving it for closer to Halloween because it looks like it might also be a little creepy.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

This was my Book of the Month pick for September, and I am so glad it is because I read The Love Hypothesis (my review will be up soon) and I absolutely loved it!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

I’ll admit that this partially a cover buy because this cover is absolutely gorgeous! But I’d also heard some really good things about, and I was intrigued by the synopsis. I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble so I decided to order it online. I read it almost as soon as I got it, and I really enjoyed it! My review for it will be up sometime next month.

My Killer Vacation by Tessa Bailey

I got this in the same order as Daughter of the Moon Goddess because I had to reach a certain amount to get free shipping, so I decided to add this to my cart because it sounded amazing. A murder mystery with some steam, sign me up! I’m hoping to get to this one sometime this month.

Funny Feelings by Tarah DeWitt

This was the last book I got in that order with the previous two books. I just happened upon it while scrolling through Barnes and Nobles website and I was immediately drawn by the cover, it looks so pretty and autumnal! I also looked up ratings on Goodreads, and it has pretty high ratings and it is an indie published book, which is something I am wanting to get into a bit more. It follows a comedian and her manager and the sparks that fly between them. I am definitely getting to this soon!

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell

This was a surprise gift from my husband Nathan (shout out to Nathan if you’re reading this! I love you!), and I’m excited to add another installment of this series to my collection. This is another one I am hoping to get to soon, and I am looking forward to seeing how Liz Braswell turns Aladdin on its head.

And those are all the books I have recently hauled!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.

About the Book

Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.

My Thoughts

I really wanted to like In Five Years, I really did. I was hoping that maybe it was just the author’s most recent release – One Italian Summer – that didn’t gel with me. Unfortunately, I think it’s that Rebecca Serle’s writing just does not gel with me. And that’s not her fault, it’s just the nature of my reading tastes. Also, there’s the fact that this is kind of marketed as a romance of sorts, however it isn’t, not really.

In Five Years takes the commonly asked question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and tries to turn it on it’s head, in this case in the form of a dream that Danni has where she wakes up 5 years in the future in a different apartment and with a different man than the one she just got engaged to. She wakes up, and continues to be haunted by this dream/premonition. First off, I think she should have told her fiance about the dream, or at least her best friend Bella.

Shortly after, we fast forward to four and half years in the future where the guy she dreamed about turns out to be Bella’s boyfriend, which adds another spanner in the works regarding her premonition. And things continue to turn when, and while this is a spoiler, I do think it is important for readers to know about it going into it, Bella is diagnosed with cancer. I personally wasn’t bothered by this, but it did feel weird considering that I was led to believe that this was a romance. But, I do like how things turn out in the end, kind of.

I did like that Dannie needed to learn about what it meant to truly love passionately and wholeheartedly, and while she never finds that in the romantic sense, she does in the friendship sense. However, I felt her to be dishonest with her fiancé, and allow for distance and miscommunication. But I also found that her fiancé wasn’t always understanding about what was going on and was constantly putting pressure on her to plan a wedding. I think one of my favorite character was Bella, however she also seemed to have some toxic traits, but it also made sense considering how uninvolved her parents were in her life.

Along with everything else, I also found the book to be too slow-paced for one that is already on the short side. But there was something about it that made me want to keep slogging through to the end.

Overall, this was just okay. If I’m being honest, this is probably the last book I read from Rebecca Serle. I can understand why she is a best seller and why her writing appeals to many, but she just wasn’t for me. And that’s okay. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

September Wrap-Up

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my September Wrap-up! This month I tried to focus on slowing down my reading and being a little bit more intentional. That might sound weird, but what I mean is taking the time to write down quotes I like (or highlighting and tabbing them if the book belongs to me), and writing down a short review in my reading journal. I also tried my hand at annotating a book this month, and that was fun, although I feel like I went overboard with the sticky tabs, but I’m looking forward to doing it again soon. That being said, I still managed to read 23 books this month, which is still a lot!

What I Read

Books: 23 | Pages: 7,312| New Releases: 10| DNFs: 1| Graphic Novels and Manga: 7| No. of Library Books: 20| No. of Owned Books: 3

Favorite Read

Least Favorite Reads

September Wrap-Up

  1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  2. Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston
  3. What We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez
  4. Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 22 by Julietta Suzuki
  5. The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
  6. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
  7. The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imani Messina
  8. Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 23 by Julietta Suzuki
  9. Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 24 by Julietta Suzuki
  10. Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 25 by Julietta Suzuki
  11. Aresenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
  12. The Beach Trap by Ali Brady
  13. Dragonball, Vol. 1 by Akira Toriyama – DNF’d
  14. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
  15. Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1 by Natsuki Takaya
  16. A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair
  17. Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan
  18. Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  19. Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
  20. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
  21. Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
  22. Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood
  23. The Body Keeps Score by Bessel von der Kolk

Blog Posts

What I Watched

This month was kind of weird month when it came to watching movies and TV series, I found myself not really wanting to do a whole lot of it. One show I am slowly working my way through is King of the Hill, it’s pretty funny, especially having lived in Texas for almost a year I can get a lot of the references.

My husband and I also finished season 2 of Legend of Korra and started season 3. While I don’t love it as much as Avatar the Last Airbender, I’m still really enjoying it, and it has definitely gone in a direction I didn’t expect.

As far as movies go, I can’t really remember what I watched. I know I watched He’s Just Not That Into You, and honestly it was just okay, I can’t remember why I used to like it. It especially didn’t sit well with me the whole having an affair is okay if it’s with your soulmate thing, even though that did backfire on Bradley Cooper’s character who is married. But honestly both parties in that affair were to blame.

I also re-watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, this is definitely a movie I keep coming back to and really enjoy. Does it have some cheesy moments? Yes. Is it still fun to watch? Also, yes. Another guilty pleasure movie I watched was Clueless. I love this movie, and it is definitely another one that I don’t mind re-watching every few months when I just want something funny.

And that’s a wrap on my wrap-up! I hope you all have a wonderful October!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

October TBR

Hello Everyone!

Happy Fall and Happy almost October! I can’t believe it’s already October, I feel like this year has both gone by so quickly, but also not really. October is going to be a lot of fun, my library is hosting a big teen event that is going to be really cool and I’m really excited to work the event. Then shortly after that I am going to visit my friend Allison in Colorado, which will be a lot of fun. As always, I also plan on doing some reading, and here are a handful of the books I want to get to in October.

His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

Since October is also the month of Spooky season, I wanted to pick up a few spooky reads and the frist one I want to get to is His Hideous Heart which is an anthology of stories which are reimaginings of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. I also plan on reading the original works that these stories are based on as I read them, because I’ve only read a few of them (which I remember I really liked), and that was back when I was a wee freshman in college taking American Literature. So I’m really excited to read some more from Poe, as well as some reimaginings.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Nothing says spooky season quite like a good old-fashioned murder mystery, and what better murder mystery to read than And Then There Were None by the queen of mystery herself, Agatha Christie. This will be my first time reading this and I am really looking forward to it. I don’t know a whole lot about it except 10 people are on an island and one by one they go missing or are murdered, but it sounds fascinating.

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

This will probably be one of the first books I read in October since I have checked out through interlibrary loan and it is due back during the first week. I love this cover and I have been meaning to pick this up for a while but have kept putting it off. It is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, however it has a horror twist to it. I’m a chicken when it comes to horror, so I’m hoping it’s not too much for me, but I am also intrigued.

Angelika Frankenstein Meets Her Match by Sally Thorne

I didn’t know I needed a romance retelling of Frankenstein, but once I heard about Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match, I was sold. I don’t know a whole lot, and I don’t really want to until I dive in.

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling is one of the books on my 22 Books I Want to Read in 2022. It is a fantasy book, which I believe is set in our world but in the future. We’re following Kelsea who ascends the throne but faces many challenges. It sounds really interesting and I am looking forward to starting this trilogy.

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

I love Marissa Meyer and I have been meaning to pick up her new duology which is a Rumpelstiltskin retelling. It starts with Gilded which starts off with the poor miller’s daughter who tells stories, however her stories catch the attention of the Erlking and he takes her to his kingdom of spooks. It sounds interesting and spooky. And if I enjoy it, the sequel is coming out on November 8th, so I won’t have to long to wait for it.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Fullmetal Alchemist Voluem 1 by Hiromu Arakawa.

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After an alchemy experiment went wrong, leaving Edward Elric without an arm and a leg, and his brother, Alphonse just a soul in a suit of armor, they set out on a quest for the philosopher’s stone, in the hopes that it will undo the effects of the experiment. After sometime, Edward is appointed as the state alchemist which means he is bound to obey the orders of those who command him, even if it means killing someone. As they journey through their world they will discover treacherous villains and tyrants, as well as those also versed in the ways of alchemy, but use their skills for evil.

The Elric brothers are briefly introduced and the manga opens with a nippet of a scene following their experiment with transmutation. However, it is then revealed in further dialogue some of what happened to them and why they are the way they are: Edward has a metal arm and leg, Alphonse is merely a soul in a suit of armor.

One of the main themese in this first volume is exposing fruad and hypocrisy. In the first two chapters they are in a town that is devoted to following a charlatan who claims to be an emissary of the god, Leto. He gained a following by performing “miracles,” however the Elric brothers discover that he is really an alchemist and he is able to perform his miracles by breaking some of the cardinal rules of alchemy because he possesses part of the philosopher’s stone. The second chapter explores his hypocrisy being exposed, as well as some of his devoted followers, like Rose, who are crushed after realizing that everything they beleived about the emissary was a lie. Rose now has to figure out what she believes and is left feeling hopeless. The end of this chapter introduces the incaranations of two of the seven deadly sins – Lust and Gluttony – who are revealed to have been the masterminds behind Father Cornello’s plot, and they even had him duped too.

Chapter 3 is an episodic tale in which Ed uses cunning and breaks the laws of alchemy against a corrupt and incompetent lieutenant who has been terrorzing a mining town that he owns the rights to. It can be said in this case that Ed has to be a little corrupt in orer to take down the corruption that has been caused by Lieutenant Yoki.

Chapter 4 is more of just an action epsidoe where the Elric brothers have to go up against a group of goons that have hijacked the train that the general and his family were on. We’re also introduced to another alchemsit at the end – the fire alchemist.

This first volume of Fullmetal Alchemist was a good introduction to the series, however it felt like chapters 3 and 4 were merely episodic and did not seem to connect much with the first two chapters. But maybe in futre volumes they will connect more than can be seen in this first volume. It is also intriguing that the seven deadly sins have a role in this series and it will be interesting to see how they factor into the overarching storyline.

The art style was good. The actions sequences were done in such a way that was just right – they had enough details to show the action, but it was not bogged down with little details that can overwhelm readers who are trying to keep up with what is going on. I am looking forward to reading the next volume soon! 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Revisiting Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Hello everyone,

Today’s post is a review on Cinder by Marissa Meyer. However, the one thing that makes this review different from some of the others is that I have already reviewed Cinder. In fact, if you have been following my blog from the beginning, it was one my first reviews that I posted (Click here if you would like to read what 2015 me had to say about the book). I thought it would be interesting to revisit Cinder 5 years later and write a review of it, to make sure it isn’t an exact replica of my first review, I have not looked at it before writing this review. When I am done writing it, I think I will write a postscript describing the few differences that I might have since I read it back in 2015.

Cinder is sci-fi/futuristic retelling of the classic Cinderella story. However, in this instance the story is set in what is called New Beijing in the Commonwealth Empire several hundred years in the future. In this world, the moon was colonized centuries ago and is a separate planet from Earth, in fact the Lunars are considered to be pariah in this society because they are typically a cruel and manipulative society. Enter Cinder, a cyborg mechanic who has no memories of the time before she was a cyborg. She lives with her step-mother and two step-sisters, and she is forced to make a living as a mechanic not seeing a penny of what she has earned. One day she gets a surprise visitor at her booth, Prince Kai, the heir to the Commonwealth Empire. After this chance encounter a series of events occur, including the outbreak of a deadly disease in the marketplace, and Cinder eventually being taken in for testing to help discover a cure for the disease. However, over the course of the tests, both Cinder and Dr. Erlander discover that there is more to Cinder than she knows, not only is she a cyborg, she is a Lunar. And the upcoming visit of the Lunar queen, Levana, could be potentially be dangerous for her if she doesn’t disappear. Espcially since there is even more to Cinder than what even Dr. Erland eventually knows.

I really enjoyed my reread of Cinder. Marissa Meyer does a great job of creating a futuristic world that easy to imagine, as well as creating characters the readers both love and hate. And even though I have already read the entire Lunar Chronicles series, I must admit that there were some details that I had completely forgotten about. The main detail being the deadly Letumosis that plagues Earth. It was interesting reading about a fictional pandemic, especially in the midst of a real pandemic. Which as I was reading this I realized that a lot of my favorite YA books have a pandemic sub-plot in them.

One of the elements that is noticeable are the elements from the original Cinderella story that are included, for example Cinder slaves way as a mechanic and often has grime on her in order to earn money for her step-mother to spend on herself and her daughters on frivolous things. Her step-mother is cruel to her, in fact she blames Cinder for the death of her husband, and later on the death of one of her daughters. There is also a ball, where almost everyone is invited to attend, and the original purpose of the ball is for Prince Kai to try and find a bride. However, instead of a fairy godmother, there is a faulty android named Iko that helps get Cinder ready for the ball.

Of course, there are some other fairy tale elements that are evident in Cinder, for example some of the overarching plot of series is a Snow White retelling. Especially when the ultimate bomb is dropped the Cinder is Princess Selene, the lunar princes who has been thought to be dead after a deadly fire broke out in her room, and if Queen Levana discovers that she is alive, she will have to run for her life.

Another topic that is covered in Cinder is that of discrimination. In this world, the people of Earth are extremely prejudiced against Lunars, mainly do tot he fact that they are known to be cruel and master manipulators. However, Cinder is constantly discrimnated against because she is a cyborg and considered to be less than human because she has some mechanical parts. Which also asks the question, which doesn’t fully get answered in this novel, what does it mean to be human? What classifies someone has human? One of the arguments used against Cinder is that part of her heart is a machine that helps keep her alive, but she still has feelings, even if she can’t fully express them due to her cyborg features, for example, if she is embarassed her system immediately alerts her that she is overheating and does what it can to cool her down.

Cinder is an intersting novel, not just because it takes a classic fairy tale like Cinderella and turns it on its head a little bit, but while doing so also covering serious topics like belonging, discrimination, what it means to be human etc. However, it is also a fun read while doing so!

I highly recommend Cinder for those who are interested in YA, fairy tale retellings, as well as just a fun read.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: The Dark Matter of Mona Starr by Laura Lee Gulledge

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on The Dark Matter of Mona Starr by Laura Lee Gulledge.

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Mona Starr is a young teen who not only has to cope with her best friend moving far away, but she also suffers from anxiety and depression, which she refers to as her dark matter. It affects every part of her life, however, with the help of therapy, her parents and some new friends, she starts making steps to understand her “Matter”, and also practice self-care.

The Dark Matter of Mona Starr has an interesting art style, it has a palette of mostly black, white and gray with occasional bursts of yellow, especially towards the end when Mona starts to understand the innerworkings of herself a bit more.

The main theme of this graphic novel is that of mental illness – more specifically anxiety and depression – and how it can make an individual physically ill. However, it also deals with the shame, guilt and the belief that it’s all an exageration that can also prevent people from getting the help that they might need. As well as also learning how to cope with anxiety and depression, and learning ways to utilize it in such a way that is creative. It also deals with the topic of self-care and what that can look like.

Another minor theme that shows up is that of advocating for one’s self in a medical situation. For example, Mona has her parents take her to the hospital because she is in a lot of pain. The doctors do tests and they al come back negative, however she insists on having more tests done bcause of the amount of pain she is in. And this ends up being a good thing because they find that she has to have an emergency surgery.

One thing I didn’t like is that it had some overtly social justic sentiments early on in the story, which honesty did not seem to fit within the overall message of the story.

Overall, this was an okay graphic novel. I didn’t fully enjoy the story and I was not a huge fan of the art style. 3/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Reading Journal: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Hello Everyone,

Today’s reading journal is on Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth.

January 21st 2022

I am about 80 pages into Carve the Mark and I think I like it. I am definitely invested enough for now that I want to keep reading. I like the concept of the current gifts/currentstream, it is kind of reminiscent of the force in Star Wars, which I remember this was compared to when it was released. The one thing I don’t like so far is that I don’t how old Akos is, maybe I missed it? I can’t tell if he is supposed to be 12/13, or if he is 16 like Cyra.

Also, so far I really enjoy the chapters told from Cyra’s perspective. I think it has to do with the fact that her sections, especially those involving her brother and it is giving me Jupiter Ascending vibes. I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out (if I make it through the whole book). One thing I will definitely say is don’t read this expecting it to be like Divergent, it isn’t.

January 22nd 2022

My biggest complaint so far is that we’ve had some many chapters from Cyra’s point of view and I am ready to read from Akos’ again. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a sign that I need to DNF? I’m going to give it a few more chapters before I make my final decision. Like, I don’t hate it, I just feel ambivalent in a way. but still a little interested in what will happen. I just don’t know if I want to stick around for 474 pages.

Okay, that didn’t take long. I didn’t even make it through the next chapter. I just wasn’t engaged and didn’t really care much about what happens next. Maybe it is just a matter of it not being the “right time” for me to read it…or maybe it’s just not for me. I don’t want to force myself to read it if I am already feeling like I am slogging through.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Reading Journal: Wasted Words by Staci Hart

Hello Everyone,

Today’s post is a reading journal for Wasted Words by Staci Hart.

December 22nd 2021

So far I’m really enjoying it, I’m not even done with the first chapter, but I wanted to not that I’ve already added a manga that Cam mentions to one of her customers called Inuyasha…I also placed it on hold at the library. Hopefully I get to read it soon.

It has a bit more swearing than I personally like in a book, but it’s something that I can push past, especially since it is entertaining do far. I love seeing the connections to the original novel it is based on – Emma by Jane Austen. So far we have Cam who is Emma, Tyler who is Mr. Knightley, Kyle Churchill who is Frank Churchill (except in some ways even more of a jerk), and I am assuming that Bayleigh is Harried and I am betting that Greg is either Mr. Elton, or another character. I also love the backdrop of a comic bookstore/bar/coffee shop.

***

December 23rd 2021

I really can’t stand Cam. But I guess that makes sense because I can’t stand Emma in the original work. She is so rude about poor Martin to Bayleigh, meanwhile he seems like a very nice guy, She always talks about how she is the nerdy underdog, but she can also be very cutting about fellow nerdy underdogs and it’s kind of upsetting. It makes me want to throw my Kindle across the room (I won’t though because that would be a tad overdramatic).

Welp, that escalated quickly, but I’m not even mad! I’m glad the inevitable of Cam and Tyler wasn’t dragged out over the course of the whole novel. It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out, especially since the main characters are already a couple. But I’m not complaining, I think it would’ve irritated me if it took the whole novel from them to finally get together.

***

December 28th 2021

Cam was so frustrating, especially with her insecurities about whether her and Tyler do belong together. But that might also be because I relate to that part a lot, and I can resonate with her fear of losing him, although it got irritating. Also, I hated the lack of communication between the two of them, more so on her part.

But, oh my goodness, I hate Kyle Churchill!!! I can’t think of a nicer word to call him that doesn’t involve swearing, so I’ll just leave it at this. Seriously though, this guy needs to be taken down a peg or two majorly. I know Tyler punched him, but it’s not near enough retribution for the garbage human being he is. Okay, calm down, Janelle, he’s just a fictional character.

***

Overall, I liked Wasted Words, however, there were things that grated on me a lot, especially about Cam, which I’ve already mentioned. Again, it just had a bit more cussing than I personally prefer. I don’t know if I will pick up anything else by Staci Hart. Honestly I don’t know if I would recommend this because it was just okay and I hated the lack of communication and insecurity tropes. 3/5 Stars.

The next book I will be reading for this project is Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Reading Journal: Ruby by Lauraine Snelling

Welcome to the second installment of my Kindle project.

So in my last installment I attempted to read One Perfect Spring, which I ended up DNFing. For this installment I read Ruby by Lauraine Snelling. And like the previous installment, instead of doing a traditional review, I kept a reading journal while I read it, show here are my honest thoughts and reactions from when I read it.

August 19th, 2021

Last night I started Ruby, and so far it seems good. It has an interesting beginning because it starts in New York, but then Ruby and her sister, Opal, are on their way to Dakota territory to see their father, who left them years ago to make his fortune. So far, I like it, I am intrigued. I have a feeling that the love interest has been introduced in passing while they were on the train, but I also think we have met the antagonist too. I do hope that the girls get to see their father before he dies. Another interesting aspect of the story is that Ruby and Opal have Norwegian roots, and seeing how it influences their speech. They themselves weren’t born in Norway, but their mother was, and I am assuming their father was too.

***

August 19th, 2021 (Later)

I just finished reading a few more chapters from Ruby, I am about a quarter of the way through. And I am really enjoying it. Things took an interesting turn, Ruby and Opal arrived in Little Missouri and discovered that Dove House is not only owned by their father and is their inheritance, but it is also a saloon and brothel. Unfortunately, their dad dies during their first night, but he deeded Dove House to them and wants it turned into a hotel. Ruby doesn’t know what to do since Dove House isn’t exactly a place for her to be in. Also, someone tried to take her father’s will from her, and just like Ruby, I suspect that it was Belle – kind of the head dove and seemed to be in a quasi-relationship with her father. I also don’t trust Captain McHenry – he gives me Mr. Wickham vibes. Also, I was looking on Goodreads to see if I’ve read any of Lauraine Snelling’s other works, turns out this is my first book by her that I’ve read, and so far I really like her writing style.

***

August 24th, 2021

I’m about 60% of the way through Ruby. I am still enjoying it, although my enjoyment has tampered a bit when the love interest, Rand Harrison was introduced. Honestly, having romance in this book was not necessary. In some ways it seemed to have ruined the book, but I get that other readers want a swoon worthy romance set in the historic West. Also, I might have been wrong by my first assumptions of Captain McHenry, he actually seems like a decent guy…although it has been hinted at that he frequented Dove House when it was still a brothel, so maybe he isn’t decent. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. But yeah, I don’t like Rand…he seemed great when we were first introduced to him on the train… but he’s kind of a jerk and is antagonistic towards Ruby for the changes she has made to Dove House. I don’t know, he just doesn’t seem like a good romantic lead.

***

August 28th, 2021

I just finished Ruby. I really liked it, however, I’m sad it’s not really a stand alone and that it kind of ends abruptly. But that is how it goes sometimes. I think I want to read the next book in the series, mainly because I am fully invested in seeing what happens to Dove House and Ruby and Opal…and especially Cimarron. Cimarron is probably one of my favorite characters and near the end something terrible happened to her, she deserves to be happy for once in her life and to live a life apart from her former life as a soiled dove. Belle is still my least favorite character, I still think Ruby needs to throw her out, and should have after the horrible things she said to Cimarron.

I have a lot of thoughts…I think I’m going to eventually pick up the second book. I still don’t like Rand, especially after his proposal to Ruby…he didn’t even try to get to know her, plus the fact that he often thinks of her as a “nice heifer.” I just can’t, I don’t like him. There is a lot of growth he needs to go through in order for me to like him. Also, it turns out I was wrong about Captain McHenry, and he seems like a standup guy…but I can’t help feeling we’re going to learn something bad about him… I do have a theory that he was involved in the attack on Cimarron somehow. But he’d also been gone for a few days/weeks to his new posting in Arizona. Either that or Ruby is not going hear from him and he essentially ghosts her. Dang. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I need to see if I can get my hands on the second book.

When I finished Ruby, I chose my next book which is going to be Wasted Words by Staci Hart.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

August Wrap-up

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to my August Wrap-up! This post is going to be a little bit longer than usual. I’m still going to do my normal wrap-up, however in the books section, I am going to go over which prompts I completed for the Magical Read-a-thon.

This month was a pretty good reading month, I read 34 books, although a good chunk of those were manga. I also read a bunch of shorter books too.

What I Read

Books: 34 | New Releases: 10 | Re-reads: 3 | Graphic Novels and Manga: 12 | DNFs: 1 | Pages: 7,754|

Favorite Reads:

Least Favorite:

Re-reads:

August Reads

  1. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 14 by Julietta Suzuki
  2. The Push by Ashley Audrain
  3. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
  4. Gaslighted by God by Tiffany Yecke Brooks
  5. Horrid by Katrina Leno
  6. Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. Yona of the Dawn, Volume 7 by Mizuho Kusanagi
  8. Scribe by Alyson Hagy – DNF’d
  9. Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka
  10. Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares
  11. Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
  12. A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
  13. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers
  14. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
  15. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 15 by Julietta Suzuki
  16. Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares
  17. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 16 by Julietta Suzuki
  18. Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller
  19. A Flicker in the Dark by Stacey Willingham
  20. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 7 by Kamome Shirahama
  21. Witch Hat Atelier, Volume 8 by Kamome Shirahama
  22. Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
  23. Lore Olympus, Volume 2 by Rachel Smythe
  24. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
  25. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 17 by Julietta Suzuki
  26. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 18 by Julietta Suzuki
  27. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 19 by Julietta Suzuki
  28. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
  29. Love & Saffron by Kim Fay
  30. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
  31. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 20 by Julietta Suzuki
  32. Kamisama Kiss, Volume 21 by Julietta Suzuki
  33. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  34. A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

Magical Read-a-thon Wrap-Up

Grades Needed:

Story Weaver:

  • O in Inscription
  • Q in Psionics and Divination
  • D in Lore

Dreamwalker:

  • O in Alchemy
  • Q in Art of Illusion
  • O in Spells and Incantation
  • D in Psionics and Divination
  • O in Lore

My Report Card:

  • Inscription:
    • O – Glyph: Recollection – Childhood Favorite
      • Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume
    • Q – Inking Techniques – Read a graphic novel/ manga
      • Kamisama Kiss, Volume 14 by Julietta Suzuki
    • D – Still the Mind – a cozy read
      • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers
  • Psionics and Divination:
    • O – Time Theory 1 – A story featuring time travel
      • Kamisama Kiss, Volume 15 by Julietta Suzuki
    • Q – Time Theory 2 – Book with a same word in the title as last read (Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).
      • Notes on an execution by Danya Kukafka
    • D – Introductory Palmistry – Secondhand book
      • The Push by Ashley Audrain
  • Lore
    • O – Aeldia’s Regional Apothecary – a book that has colors similar to country’s flag
      • A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
    • Q – Myth of Syldoris – Story featuring a betrayal
      • Yona of the Dawn, Volume 7 by Mizuho Kusanagi
    • D – Ancient Caves of Daerune – Desert setting
      • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
  • Alchemy
    • O – Basics of Poisons – book on someone’s worst list that you might like
      • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
    • Q – Poison: Acidic Amber – An orange book
      • Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares
    • D – Poison: Willowweed – One word title
      • Horrid by Katrina Leno
  • Art of Illusion
    • O – Blur Face – A book I don’t know much about
      • A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
    • Q – Minor Illusions – Under 300 pages
      • Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • D – Cast: De Ja Vu – a prompt from last semester – Basics of Air Dynamics – A book under 100 pages
      • Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
  • Spells and Incantations
    • O – Spell: Recolor – random color generator – Deep Purple
      • Love & Saffron by Kim Fay
    • Q – Incantation: Echo – Pick from someone else’s TBR
      • Lore Olympus, Volume 2 by Rachel Smythe
  • Elemental Studies
    • O – Element of Water – Start book with a drink
      • Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller
  • Astronomy
    • O – Lillivae – Letter L in the title
      • A Flicker in the Dark by Stacey Willingham

Blog Posts

What I Watched

I honestly can’t remember all I watched this month. I know I started watching This Is Us, and I have just started season 2 but needed to take a break because it can be a little bit intense. My husband and I binged Ms. Marvel, and we both loved it! I’ll be honest I had very low expectations for it, but I loved learning more about Kamala Khan and the Pakistani-American culture, as well as Pakistani history. It definitely had me tearing up in a couple of episodes that deal with the history of Pakistan. It was amazing, and I really want another season.

My husband and I have also been slowly working through Legend of Korra and just finished season 2. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite when compared to Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, I loved learning more about the history of how avatars came to be! I also loved some of the backgrounds in the flashbacks to the first Avatar.

I felt like August was a weird month movie wise. I watched several, but a number of them weren’t great. However, the three that stood out were re-watches for me. I watched Fly Away Home starring Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin. It is really a heart-warming story, however, I found I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did as a kid. Next, I re-watched The Parent Trap, the Lindsay Lohan version, and this was another movie I loved growing up and it was great re-watching it. Although, as a 28 year old, I can definitely sympathize with Meredith Blake a lot more, even though she is the “villain.” One of the last stand-outs was Freaky Friday. Again, this was another one I watched a lot growing up, and remember it being a favorite at sleepovers. I really enjoyed it, if anything for just how talented both Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan are at acting as each other’s characters. It was easy to buy that they had switched bodies. Also, can we talk about how cringe supposed heartthrob Jake really is? I also remember this being the first thing I saw Mark Harmon in before my family watched NCIS for the first time. Needless to say, all three of these movies took me down memory lane.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Haul #2

Hello everyone,

Welcome to another book haul, where I share the last several books I have gotten over the last couple of months.

The Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

I picked this up in the beginning of July when my husband and I took a short trip to San Francisco. We went to City Lights Bookstore, which is famous for publishing a lot of the Beat authors, like Jack Kerouac. It was really cool, and I highly recommend paying a visit to it if you ever go to San Francisco. There were a number of books that caught my eye, however The Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers immediately caught my eye by the title alone, and I flipped through it and was intrigued by the style of the novel. I have already read it and I really enjoyed it!

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

This was my pick for the July Book of the Month box. I was intrigued by the colors and that it is a bodyguard and actor romance. I think it will be a good read, I just haven’t gravitated towards it yet.

What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell

Near the end of July I went to Barnes and Noble because they had a sale that if you bought one hardcover, you could get another one for 50% off. There were a number of books that caught my eye, however, I have been interested in reading more of the Twisted Tales books since I read Once Upon a Dream earlier this year. I decided to pick up this one because I was curious to see how this twist on Rapunzel/Tangled would turn out. I have already read it, and have a review up about it.

Part of Your World by Liz Braswell

This was the second book I got on that same day. I was intrigued by this concept, and I also love the cover. I haven’t read it yet, but I am planning on getting to it soon.

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

This was my pick for the August Book of the Month box. I chose it because it’s supposed to be a retelling of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. I haven’t read either of these books, but I did really love Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie and I am looking forward to reading something in a similar vein by a different author. I think in October I’m going to try and read both, if I don’t get to Daisy Darker this month.

When We Were Them by Laura Taylor Namey

In the middle of August, Barnes and Noble had another sale, their End of Summer Book Haul, which was 50% of hundreds of marked books. I went, and I’ll admit the sale was mostly a dud for me. However, I did find one book that was marked down, and two other paperbacks that I really wanted to read. When We Were Them was the one that was 50% and it sounded interesting because it deals with friendship and losing friends. I love this cover too, it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

This was one of the paperbacks I picked up. I know it got a lot of buzz last year when it first came out. It is about mermaids/sirens and based on West African folklore, which sounds really interesting! I am hoping to pick it up this month.

Queen’s Shadow E. K. Johnston

I have been wanting to pick this up ever since one of my former co-workers read it. I was intrigued to read from Padme’s perspective, especially after her tenure as Queen of Naboo and her rise as a senator. I was also intrigued to see how this would explore the politics of the world of Star Wars pre-Empire.

And those are all the books I’ve gotten recently. I feel proud of myself for having already read a few of them, and I am looking forward to picking up the rest of them over the coming months.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Reading Journal: One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to another reading journal post. One note before we jump in, this is from a project I was thinking about doing where I randomized by Unread Kindle books shelf on Goodreads, and read the first book on the list and keep a reading journal. When I finished the book, I would repeat the process to pick the next one. However, I only got about four books in before I decided to abandon this project because my reading tastes have changed a lot since I got most of the books (as freebies), and most of them are also Christian Fiction books and since the beginning of the year I have made a departure from those kinds of books. However, the next few posts are going to be the reading journals/reviews I wrote for those books.

***

Welcome to the first installment of my Kindle project. So my first pick from my list of unread kindle books was One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon. For this series, instead writing a review, I kept a reading journal of the books I read. I did this so that if I DNF’d a book I could kind of see the progression of what led up to me doing so.

August 11th, 2021

I feel bad that I am starting this after reading Silent Altitudes because I really enjoyed it and it was riveting. I feel like any book that I read after, at least the first couple are going to be hard to get through because I definitely have a book hangover. But I hope I’m wrong because I want to give it the attention it deserves. I am hoping to read at least a chapter today. This is going to be my bed time read, so I expect it will take me a bit to get through… at least a week. But who knows, maybe I’ll be completely captivated by the story and I’ll read it in a couple of days.

August 14th, 2021

I am about 80 pages into One Perfect Spring, and I am not loving it. Which is weir because the first chapter hooked me, but now that I have a basic idea of where the story is going, it’s kind of boring. I am going to finish reading the chapter I am in the middle of and if I am still not gripped by that point, then I am going to DNF it. Which makes me sad, but that was the whole point of this project, to see if it was a book I would enjoy…and I’m not.

I decided to DNF One Perfect Spring shortly after my last update. When I DNF’d it, I chose September’s book (which ended up being August’s book), which is Ruby by Lauraine Snelling. Check back to read my thoughts on that and whether I finished it or not.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

10 Books of Summer Wrap-Up

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to my 10 Books of Summer Wrap-up. So, yes, I might have read more than 10 books this summer, but I also hit a creativity slump at the end of July and didn’t really review any of the other books I read since the last book on this list. However, I have started writing short reviews for those books and they will be up at a later date. But I still count this as a success!

Here are the books I read with the links to the reviews I did for each one:

  1. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  2. Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  4. Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
  5. It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
  6. Normal People by Sally Rooney
  7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  8. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  9. Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung
  10. What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

September TBR

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to my September TBR. This month I am planning on taking part in Becca’s Bookopalathon that is taking place over the whole month. Here is her video explaining the read-a-thon.

I’ve decided that I am going to do 10 rolls, I could probably do more because I usually read anything between 15-20 books a month, but I also want to save room for extra rolls due to doubles. One note I do want to make is that instead of writing up Chance and Community Shelf cards, I have decided that if I land on the Chance space, I am going to randomize my Goodreads TBR and read the first option. And if I land on the Community Shelf space, I am going to use a random number generator and whatever number I get, I am going to read the book that corresponds with that number on by Goodreads TBR.

Here are the prompts that I got, along with the books I plan on using to complete the prompt.

Roll 1 – Buildings – A Book with Buildings on the cover. Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel

Roll 2 – Summer – A book that reminds you of summer. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry OR The Beach Trap by Ali Brady

Roll 3 – Favorite genreThe Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa OR The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Roll 4 – Features a mystery Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Roll 5 – First person perspectiveSkin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen OR When We Were Them by Laura Taylor Namey

Roll 6 – Chance – Randomize my Goodreads TBR – The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Roll 7 – Go – Randomize your TBR – The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Roll 8 (Doubles) – Community Shelf – Random number generator – #333 on Goodreads TBR – The House in the Cerulean by TJ Klune

Roll 9 – Published/ Set in or before 1999 Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Roll 10 – Community Shelf – Random number Generator – #289 on Goodreads TBR – Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Roll 11 – Features a mystery – Arsenic and Adobo Mia P. Manansala

I decided to do 4 more rolls to make it 15, however these next four (or more) rolls, are just if I want to switch anything out, or if I want to keep going once I complete the TBR I already have.

Roll 12 – Third person perspective Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Roll 13 – Lowest rated on my TBR – The Secret Guest by Benjamin Black (avg. rating 3.06).

Roll 14 – A book with pattern and text A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Roll 15 – Community shelf – Random number generator – #109 on Goodreads TBR – Float Plan by Trish Doller

These are all the books I am hoping to pick up in September, whether I actually get to them or not, is a whole other story.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell (20 Books of Summer #10)

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell.

About the Book

The 12th installment in the New York Times best-selling series asks: What if Rapunzel’s mother drank a potion from the wrong flower?

Desperate to save the life of their queen and her unborn child, the good people of Corona search for the all-healing Sundrop flower to cure her—but mistakenly acquire the shimmering Moondrop flower instead. Nonetheless it heals the queen, and she delivers a healthy baby girl with hair as silver and gray as the moon. With it comes dangerous magical powers: the power to hurt, not heal. For her safety and the safety of the kingdom, Rapunzel is locked in a tower and put under the care of powerful goodwife, Mother Gothel.

For eighteen years Rapunzel stays locked away, knowing she must protect others from her magical hair. But when she leaves the only home she’s ever known, wanting only to see the floating lights that appear on her birthday, she gets caught up in an adventure across the kingdom with two thieves—a young woman named Gina, and Flynn Rider, a rogue on the run. Before she can reach her happy ending, Rapunzel learns that there may be more to her story, and her magical tresses, than she ever knew.

My Thought

What Once Was Mine was an interesting take on Tangled, as well as the original Rapunzel tale. I really liked the concept that the reason Rapunzel is locked away is because her hair has the potential to kill people, and that Mother Gothel had nefarious plans to use it to her advantage.

Something that I really liked is that readers get to see Rapunzel question some of Gothel’s toxicity, especially her awful comments that put her down. However, it is also interesting to see how she struggles with coming to terms with the fact that Gothel lied to her and made her feel like a monster.

I’ll admit that the book was a little slow at the beginning, and it didn’t really pick up until the last 100 pages or so, but it was still worth reading. I really liked how it was framed as a brother telling his sick sister a slightly different version of one of her favorite stories. Although there were times when it would cut to them that it was slightly jarring and took me out of the story a little bit.

I loved getting to know the characters, and I loved the addition of Gina and her mother, the Goodwife. It definitely added to the story and I loved how their relationship served as a foil the Rapunzel and Gothel’s mother-daughter dynamic. I also like how the author captures Gothel’s sinister nature a lot more than can be captured in a movie.

I also found myself annotating my book about halfway through – I very rarely do this – because there were some quotes I wanted to highlight as well as some descriptions that stood out to me. Here are some of the quotes I highlighted.

“”Begin your nineteenth year by forgiving yourself, Rapunzel. That’s a far better gift than floating lanterns”” (pg. 297).

“”Thank you,” she murmured. “I…don’t know if I can forgive myself immediately just like that, but just knowing that I can – that I should, that’s a start”” (pp.297-298).

I loved this discussion about forgiveness that Rapunzel had the Goodwife and it definitely resonated with me, especially Rapunzel’s response.

Overall, I really liked What Once Was Mine, however it was a bit of a slow start. But I still enjoyed the twist on one of my favorite Disney movies. I can’t wait to get to the rest of the Twisted Tales series. 4/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung (20 Books of Summer #9)

Hello Everyone,

Today’s review is on Ghost Forest by Pik-Shuen Fung.

About the Book

How do you grieve, if your family doesn’t talk about feelings?

This is the question the unnamed protagonist of Ghost Forest considers after her father dies. One of the many Hong Kong “astronaut” fathers, he stays there to work, while the rest of the family immigrated to Canada before the 1997 Handover, when the British returned sovereignty over Hong Kong to China.

As she revisits memories of her father through the years, she struggles with unresolved questions and misunderstandings. Turning to her mother and grandmother for answers, she discovers her own life refracted brightly in theirs.

Buoyant, heartbreaking, and unexpectedly funny, Ghost Forest is a slim novel that envelops the reader in joy and sorrow. Fung writes with a poetic and haunting voice, layering detail and abstraction, weaving memory and oral history to paint a moving portrait of a Chinese-Canadian astronaut family.

My Thoughts

Until a few months ago, I had never heard of this book. But by chance, I cam across it at work. I was instantly entranced by the cover and the title and found myself flipping through it. However, at the time I already had a lot of books vying for my attention and decided to not pick it up, but I would see it every time I walked through the stacks, as if calling out to me. Fast forward to the middle of July, in the beginning stages of a reading slump, desperate to pick up something that would capture my attention, I knew I needed to pick up Ghost Forest, and I am glad I did!

Ghost Forest is a beautiful exploration of an immigrant daughter and her relationship with her father, who stays in Hong Kong after his family moves to Canada in the late ’90s. It also shows the clash of the old and new world and how the unnamed protagonist clashes with her father, especially when it comes to tradition and respect and how they view both things differently. It was also interesting to see her look back on who her father was after his passing.

I also liked how the novel was written differently from a typical novel. It was written in short paragraphs and vignettes, and red similarly to a novel-in-verse, even though it isn’t. But I loved that and I love novels that are set up that way.

Overall, I loved Ghost Forest and the unique way in which the story is told. I also enjoyed the exploration of a father-daughter relationship and a clash of two cultures. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

Book Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (20 Books of Summer 2022 #8)

Hello everyone,

Today’s review is on Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

About the Book

A lifetime holding it together.
One party will bring it crashing down.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud-because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own-including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed Malibu Rising. It was a great exploration of familial relationships, especially when one’s father is famous, but also a deadbeat. I also really enjoyed the backdrop of Malibu, it gave it a more summery vibe. I liked the several connections to Evelyn Hugo, as well as the fact that the protagonist of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s next novel, Carrie Soto, makes a couple of appearances, although she isn’t very likable.

I liked how the novel is broken down into two parts and how in the first part we get to see flashbacks to how each of the siblings became who they are, as well as their mother’s relationship with their father, Mick Riva. I also liked how the novel takes place over 24-hours.

I enjoyed getting to know each of the Riva siblings and how the novel is more of a character study of each of them, at least for the first half of the novel. Nina was probably my favorite one of the siblings, maybe because she is the least flawed in some ways. But I also liked Kit, the youngest, who is still trying to figure out who she is as a person. While I did like Jay and Hud, I feel like they were very flawed, each for different reasons.

Overall, I did enjoy Malibu Rising and how the author explores the sibling relationships. I also loved the back drop of Malibu in the ’80s. While not my absolute favorite novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, it was still really good. I highly recommend it for summer. 4.5/5 Stars.

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.

A Cozy Weekend of Reading

After my failed attempt of strictly reading for several hours on a Saturday night a week or so ago. I toyed again with the idea of doing a personal 24-hour read-a-thon this last weekend. However, I also realized what set me up for failure and that was being to strict with spending time reading, so I decided to just take the weekend, read as much as I could, or wanted to. I did have to work on Saturday, and there were also a couple of movies I wanted to work on to.

Something else that also set me up for failure was that I was going to post every time I finished a book. Instead, I’m just doing this post wrapping up my weekend of reading.

Friday

I had the day off on Friday, so I spent some time reading, I finished reading Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey, I think I read about 90 pages of it. It was a quick read. It also completed one of the prompts for the Magical Read-a-thon (actually, most of the books mentioned in this post completed prompts for the read-a-thon). I really liked it and I would love to read a full-length novel following the librarians in this dystopian, but also not that far-off United States. I have so many questions, but I also, I could buy that something like this could happen, which is kind of scary.

I then decided to pick up A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow and read it off and on throughout the day. It was interesting, I felt like I needed more exposition on some of what was going on, but I also liked how everything was tied up in the end. Although, I am curious as to whether there will be more installments in the Fractured Fairytales series, but it also seemed like a definite conclusion as well.

I finished the night by starting one of my most anticipated reads of the year, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers. I read about 30 pages of it, and it is a slow and quiet start, but I think that is the point of the novella, and I’m not even mad about it. I then finished the evening by starting Parent Trap – with Lindsay Lohan – and then turned in because I had to work the next day.

Saturday

After breakfast, I had about 40 minutes before I had to get ready for work, so I continued reading A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, and it really started to pick up, and I was sad that I had to put it down until I got home from work.

After work, I finished The Parent Trap, and then decided that I wanted to finish the last 40 or so pages I had of Crown-Shy. I did, and I loved it! I really want some more novellas set in this world, especially following Sibling Dex and Mosscap. However, right now it seems like it is only a duology, but if that changes, the next book is definitely going to be one of my most anticipated reads whenever it comes out!

The next book was partially motivated by my desire to have a bath and read while in the tub, and I did not want to take any of my library books in with me for obvious reasons. I decided to start A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo. I had been meaning to pick it up for a while, ever since I bought it back at the beginning of July at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco (which by the way, if you are ever in San Francisco, you need to go to City Lights!). I managed to read about 100 pages while I sat in the bath. After than I kind of just took it easy for the rest of the evening, I think I read another 50 pages before I went to sleep.

Sunday

I woke up and made myself some coffee. I decided to curl back up in bed and finish A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. I loved it, I really enjoyed the writing style and the format. It is definitely an interesting coming-of-age novel, and I want to read more of the author’s works! I had a hard time deciding which book to read next, it was between Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares and A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham, both sounded like great next reads, even though they are very different from each other.

I eventually decided to pick up Forever in Blue, because I knew it would be a quick read, even though it is about 380 pages, plus it was a re-read. After reading about 50 pages, I switched over to a manga, Kamisama Kiss, Volume 15 by Juliette Suzuki. It took me about 35 minutes to finish, and then I read a little bit more of Forever in Blue while I waited for the announcement video for Becca’s Bookopolathon to go up (which I am planning on taking part in in September).

I wanted to get out of the house for a little bit, so I went to Barnes and Noble and got some lunch and coffee there and sat in the cafe and read for about an hour or so. I then did some shopping and picked up three books, which I am really excited to get to soon. After I got home, I continued my re-read of Forever in Blue off and on throughout the evening and finished it just before bed.

Before I went to sleep I wanted to try and read one more volume of Kamisama Kiss, which I did. I read Volume 16 and really enjoyed it. I really like the story arc that has been taking place over the last several volumes. But I am also curious to see how it will wrap-up over the last nine volumes.

Wrap Up

Shortly after finishing Kamisama Kiss, Volume 16, I went to bed. But I started A Flicker in the Dark by Stacey Willingham by reading the first couple of chapters.

All in all, I think it was a great weekend of reading, I don’t plan on doing this every weekend, just every few months or so when I don’t really have much going on. I’ll be honest, it’s easier to do something over the whole weekend and more relaxed. I still feel like I managed to read a lot. Here is a quick wrap-up of the books I read this weekend, as well as the total pages I read.

  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – the last 40 pages.
  • A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers
  • A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xialou Guo
  • Kamisama Kiss, Volume 15 by Juliette Suzuki
  • Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares
  • Kamisama Kiss, Volume 16 by Juliette Suzuki.

The total number of pages I read was 1,414 pages! That’s a lot. Even without the manga, the total number is 1,014 pages. I feel accomplished, and I enjoyed all of the books I read!

Happy Reading,

Janelle L. C.