I’ll Be the One | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: I’ll Be the One

Author: Lyla Lee

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, K Pop, Entertainment Industry, Body Image, LGBT+, Romance, Parent Relationships, Celebrity, Singing Competition Shows

The world of K-Pop has never met a star like this. Debut author Lyla Lee delivers a deliciously fun, thoughtful rom-com celebrating confidence and body positivity—perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Julie Murphy.

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself. 

My Attention: full attention

World Building: SoCal

Writing Style: light hearted, humor

Bringing the Heat: 🔥

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, it’s a slow burn and love is love

Creativity: love how a girl who is not the right “size” for the entertainment industry inspires people around her

Mood: happy

Triggers: emotional abuse, bullying, body image shaming, parental issues

My Takeaway: Love yourself and wear your crown! And love is love.

  • Skye Shin is awesome! She’s confident (but she had to work for that confidence), she stands up for what she believes in and she keeps going even when things get hard. I couldn’t help but cheer her on from start to finish. I love how Skye tackles body shaming straight on, even when it makes her cry (because people are trolls), but she knows she’s talented and it’s what should matter in this competition.
  • Yes to all the diversity – Skye herself is bi. There is also a f/f relationship with Skye’s new friends in the competition. The characters themselves are diverse since this is a Korean tv talent show so that was great.
  • Skye’s relationship with her mom is…typical, I feel, because I related SO MUCH. I’m Filipino American but all that body shaming and ideals is the same in my culture. It was sad to see Skye and her mom’s relationship because of the emotional abuse and Skye not knowing that it was emotional abuse. I kept thing, SAME. SAME. SAME.
  • I love the humor in the book! I found myself trying not to laugh out loud because it was late at night but this book made me feel happy.
  • Skye and Henry’s relationship is super cute. It’s a slow burn, and their flirting was fun. Henry is a hottie Korean model and she’s talented and overweight but really, they were just good people. Glad they had a happy ending!
  • Snowball made me miss my fur baby who was a husky also 😭, she’s been gone two years now and her name was Sky. I loved that Snowball was in this story it was just perfect for the whole mood of the book.

I read this book so quick and it left me feeling happy so it did it’s job! From the vibrant book cover to Skye with her confidence, she’s living her best life. This story is heartwarming, funny, sweet, a little sad and plenty inspiring.

Today Tonight Tomorrow | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Today Tonight Tomorrow

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Categories: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Today, she hates him.

It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.

Tonight, she puts up with him.

When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.

As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.

Tomorrow…maybe she’s already fallen for him

Thank you to Simon Pulse and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: landmarks in Seattle – I’ve never been, so it was nice to learn the favorite local spots

Writing Style: loved the dialogue between Rowan and Neil

Bringing the Heat: whoa…🔥🔥🔥, definite sparks between them – and then some awkward teenage sex (which was actually sweet)

Crazy in Love: enemies to lovers

Creativity: love the HOWL game incorporated into the story

Mood: story made me go awww

Triggers: anti-semitism

My Takeaway: That boy you been hating so hard on might be the boy that you love. Also, it’s okay to love romance novels!!

  • It’s a feel good, last day of high school, emotional, and yet sweet story! This author made me feel like I was in high school again and yeah…that’s been a little over two decades for me so I loved how happy this story made me feel.
  • Enemies to lovers is my favorite trope and although this story takes place in one night, it works because Rowan and Neil have MAJOR history. They have competed against one another all throughout high school. They have been trying to best one another until the very end of high school! 😅 I loved their dialogue and I how the love to hate on each other. But I enjoyed seeing how finally for one night they can truly enjoy one another’s company. It was so cute and these two have sparks, I loved it!
  • Rowan is a romance novel lover (YAY). She wants to be a romance novel writer but see people put her down about her love of the genre. I felt her on all of it. Why do we have to be shamed for reading what we love? It was nice to see her share her fears about what she really wanted to be.
  • Neil…aww I like that he wasn’t the drop dead gorgeous hunky jock that’s the usual love interest. Nope, he’s a nerd, ambitious, competitive and loves his family. But there is a lot going on under his persona of co-president and valedictorian.
  • This is a sex positive book which is really refreshing. Rowan has open dialogue with her parents about sex, isn’t afraid about knowing and having sex, she is informed and it’s awesome. Neil is the virgin in this case haha, which was sweet (when he blushes). I liked that their first time together was awkward and not perfect but sweet because they are so into each other.
  • Another issue that was addressed in the book was Rowan being Jewish and how she dealt with it in school. I liked hearing her experiences because my kids are being raised Jewish (dad side), though I am Catholic, but we celebrate both holidays.
  • Incorporating a Senior game on the last day of school called HOWL where they had to go around Seattle to do a scavenger hunt was awesome – it gave me so much insight into the city of Seattle, which I don’t know much about since I’ve never been. I felt the love for the city in this story.
  • This is a sex positive book which I love so there is sex in it which totally fits the story – it’s awkward, sweet and realistic! But it appears right at the very end of the book and I think by then, even without that scene, the story would have been great. For me it wasn’t needed – I could already feel the fire between these two the moment they kissed. 😍 The sex scene is fairly quick and not very descriptive though. The kiss was what made my heart pitter-patter!

I love that this book took place in a span of 24 hours but so much happened with the HOWL game giving me a tour around Seattle, the fun bantering between Rowan and Neil, the enemies to lovers trope, Rowan sharing her experiences about being Jewish and her feelings about wanting to be a writer – at times I was wondering how these kids fit ALL of this activity into one night, ah…youth! And speaking of youth, this book gave me all the feelings of last day of school, wondering about summer and going off to college (and it got me thinking about it all in this time of a pandemic where graduations were altered drastically 😞). All those feelings combined in this one book worked so beautifully.

The Black Kids | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Black Kids

Author: Christina Hammonds Reed

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Categories: Racism, Los Angeles History, Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Family, Friendship, Rodney King Riots, Coming of Age, Identity

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them? 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I had to request this book because of the cover and it’s subject matter. It did not disappoint!

My Reactions:

My Attention: caught

World Building: Los Angeles, California 1992

Writing Style: slow beginning but the message is strong

Bringing the Heat: 🔥 the heat of the riots – yes, the sex or romantic scenes, not so much

Crazy in Love: not so crazy, there is a growing relationship but it’s in the second half of the story

Creativity: during the Rodney King riots, Ashley is coming of age and dealing with family problems/history, friendship problems, dating problems and being black in an affluent part of Los Angeles

Mood:  eyes opened to Los Angeles history

Triggers: racism, bullying, violence

My Takeaway: When Ashley’s world comes crumbling down she finds out the truth about her friends, family and herself – and that’s a good thing.

  • This was the book I needed to read because I went to college in Los Angeles, back in 1996. I was only there for four years but this book opened my eyes very wide to the history of Los Angeles that I never knew about! I was unaware of the segregation of Santa Monica and the coastal towns but it explains what I see on the news today when I see white supremacist that are prevalent there! Also, this story takes place in 1992 and I was a high school freshman back then but the time setting definitely made me nostalgic for the music, which is tied into Ashley’s story.
  • Ashley is friends with the popular white girls in her school, and some of them use racial slurs around her casually. She likes fitting in but at what cost? Throughout the story she starts to question her friendships with these girls. It was a relief to see her venture out and talk to other people outside her group.
  • Speaking of Los Angeles history, another important history that Ashley explores is her family history. It’s so powerful when she says the history she knows starts with slavery in America…and that’s what was robbed from black people when they were taken from their motherlands and sold into slavery here in America, their true histories…histories that began in Africa, lost. At times Ashley doesn’t seem to care, she’s a teen going through friend and boy problems and the world outside doesn’t seem to matter. How much does it affect her that her grandma’s vacuum shop gets looted in the riots? She’s not close to that side of the family or it’s history, so how much should she care? So many of the mention of history in this story is powerful.
  • Her family problems are realistic. Every family has drama, and they are going through it with her older sister, who becomes part of the riots. Her parents have their marriage problems, her uncle and cousin being affected by the riots also appear in the story – so I felt like those issues were relatable. Also, I love her relationship with her nanny, Lucia – she was someone super close to her it seems, the one real friend she had maybe.
  • This story builds – at first it feels superficial being in Ashley’s head, in her life with her perfect white friends as they do whatever they want to do. But that’s what I think is great about this story, Southern California has that beach, casual, blasé, and Hollywood vibe. But this story gives us a history lesson about Los Angeles. I was waiting for this story to make an impact on me and it snuck up quietly, it was a crescendo. And though this was in 1992…it happened again in 2020, except the riots took over more than one city. It’s what makes this story so important today.
  • This is set in the 1990’s but at times I thought it was set in 2020! The racism, the violence of the riots, it was a repeat this year and on a bigger scale.
  • Another issue that was big in the 80’s and 90’s was HIV/AIDs. It does appear in this story very briefly. Also the teens in this story are out doing all kinds of things like smoking pot, drinking or doing drugs like E at prom. There is even a quick sex scene memory but it’s not graphic.
  • Ashley comes off superficial, especially in the beginning because of the friends she has and where she lives but it’s important that we are in her head. We do see growth throughout the story.

Ashley’s experience with the Rodney King riots, living on the outskirts of the rioting has a powerful and unexpected impact on her. She thinks the issues don’t affect her until she realizes it really does. She’s black. The racism against her and her family, her people, it affects her deeply but she’s been trying to fit in or blend in – but she can’t. I loved watching her change and grow as she confronts all the issues converging on her at once. This is a powerful story of an important time in history that’s absolutely relevant and relatable today.

The Lost City | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Lost City

Author: Amanda Hocking

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Categories/Themes: Contemporary Fantasy, Mystery, Identity, Coming of Age, Paranormal

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Nestled along the bluffs of the forested coast lays the secret kingdom of the Omte—a realm filled with wonder…and as many secrets. 

Ulla Tulin was left abandoned in an isolated Kanin city as a baby, taken in by strangers and raised hidden away like many of the trolls of mixed blood. Even knowing this truth, she’s never stopped wondering about her family.

When Ulla is offered an internship working alongside the handsome Pan Soriano at the Mimirin, a prestigious institution, she jumps at the chance to use this opportunity to hopefully find her parents. All she wants is to focus on her job and the search for her parents, but all of her attempts to find them are blocked when she learns her mother may be connected to the Omte royal family.

With little progress made, Ulla and Pan soon find themselves wrapped up in helping Eliana, an amnestic girl with abilities unlike any they have ever seen before—a girl who seems to be running from something. To figure out who she is they must leave the city, and possibly, along the way, they may learn more about Ulla’s parents.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

I heard of Amanda Hocking years ago but I have never read her books. When I got asked to join the blog tour, I jumped at the chance to finally read one of her books.

My Reactions:

My Attention: It had my attention but it took me a few days to read this book, which isn’t a bad thing.

World Building: Wow. This world she created is so detailed, and it’s build into our modern day society. I mean it’s so detailed that at the end of the book she lists the history of Troll monarchies.

Writing Style: the pace of the story is slow but it reads like a mystery – despite that, I was so engrossed in this fascinating world that Ulla lives in.

Bringing the Heat: none – some VERY mild flirtation 

Crazy in Love: none so far

Creativity: the world Hocking has built is so rich, it makes me want to read the other series she’s written

Mood: impressed but also wish there was more 

Triggers: prejudice towards half breed species, for example Omte/Human, Troll/Human

My Takeaway: Ulla is trying to find out who her parents are and in the process finds out way more about the world she in live and the people in it.

  • The world building is very imaginative and creative. Unfortunately I never read any of the other series before The Lost City. I love how the trolls are explained as if they are a different race of people, with their own tribes. The detail about the tribes, their histories and characteristics was like I had just discovered this in a history book or something. They seem real!
  • This paranormal world is an alternate Earth where trolls exist. Their neutral space is called the Mimirin, where Ulla is headed to do work and research to find out who her parents are. Mimirin is a whole city where scientific research is being done to find out more about the Trolls. It was fascinating to me.
  • Ulla is an interesting character. Personality wise, she’s open-minded and always gathering information. She’s not rash and very level-headed. Ulla hasn’t had the best education with her upbringing but she makes up for that with determination. She’s on a quest to find out who her parents were. While on this quest though she deals with some challenges and makes friends along the way.
  • There is an array of characters, some who are mixed Trolls like Ulla is. One character named Eliana is a total mystery for most of the book but she’s a big part of the story. I liked Hanna, Ulla’s charge and Dagny who is an ACE character. Pan is an ally and maybe a romantic interest as well? We shall see as the series continues.
  • There is a lot of information to digest, especially for me, because I come into this series very new and never having read any other book set in this world. So even thought it was slow going – I still enjoyed it. But really I think reading the other series before this book is a must.
  • This story reads like a mystery. I just wished we got to discovering more about Eliana a bit quicker. She was quirky with her lost of memory but sometimes it was frustrating.

Overall, the thing that impressed me about this book is the writing and world-building. I was lost in the world and I loved learning about Trolls and the differences between them. There are many unanswered questions, since this is only book one of the series but I do wonder about what Ulla will find out about herself and Eliana. I look forward to reading more books from this author.

BLOG TOUR} The Lost City by. Amanda Hocking – EXCERPT

Coming out on July 7, 2020!

Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.

The storm and the orphan

Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.

The institution and the quest

Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.

The runaway and the mystery

But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.

Here is an EXCERPT from the book!

Prologue

Ten Years Ago

“Tell me about it again,” I entreated—begged, really, in a small voice, small especially for a girl like me. 

s he had a little too much hot tea and brandy, would tell me stories of other, less fortunate babies. One had been left out for the wolves, another drowned in the icy river. Still another was killed by an angakkuq, this time to be mashed into a paste for one of her potions.

On the other nights, he’d try to convince me there wasn’t any time for a story. But I’d beg and plead, and his eyes would glimmer—already milky with cataracts, lighting up when he spoke about monsters. I would pull the covers up to my chin, and his normally crackled baritone would go even lower, rumbling with the threat of the monsters he impersonated.

I was never sure how much he’d made up or what had been passed down to him, as he’d weave through all sorts of patchwork folklore—the monsters and heroes pieced together from the neighboring Inuit, our Norse ancestry, and especially from the troll tribe that Mr. and Mrs. Tulin belonged to—the Kanin.

But I had a favorite story, one that I asked for over and over again.

This one I loved because it was about me, and because it was true.

“Which one?” Mr. Tulin asked, feigning ignorance as he lingered at my bedroom door.

It was dark in my room, except for the cast-iron woodstove in the corner. My room had been a pantry before I was here, before Mr. Tulin had converted it into a tiny bedroom. Outside, the wind howled, and if I hadn’t been buried underneath the blankets and furs, I would’ve felt the icy drafts that went along with all that howling.

“The day you met me,” I replied with unbridled glee. 

“Well, you turned out to be a big one, didn’t ya?” That’s what Mr. Tulin liked to say, particularly when I was scooping another helping of potatoes on my plate at the supper table, and

then I would sheepishly put half a portion back, under the sharp gaze of Mrs. Tulin.

But he wasn’t wrong. I was tall, thick, and pale. By the age of nine I was nearly five feet tall, towering over the kids in the little schoolhouse.

Once, I’d overheard Mrs. Tulin complaining aloud to a neighbor, saying, “I don’t know why they chose our doorstep to leave ’er on. By the size of her, her da’ must be an ogre, and her ma’ must be a nanuq. She’ll eat us out of house and home before she’s eighteen.”

After that, I tried to make myself smaller, invisible, and I made sure that I mended all my clothing and cleaned up after myself. Mrs. Tulin didn’t complain too much about me after that, but every once in a while I would hear her muttering about how they really ought to set up a proper orphanage in Iskyla, so the townsfolk weren’t stuck taking in all the abandoned strays.

I didn’t complain either, and not only because there was nobody to listen. There were a few kids at my school who served as a reminder of how much worse it could be for me. They were sketches of children, really—thin lines, stark shadows, sad eyes, just the silhouettes of orphans.

“You sure you wanna hear that one again, ayuh?” Mr. Tulin said in response to my pleas.

“Yes, please!”

“If that’s the one the lil’ miss wants, then that be the one I tell.” He walked back over to the bed, limping slightly, the way he did every time the temperatures dipped this low.

Once he’d settled on the edge of the bed, his bones cracked and creaked almost as loudly as the bed itself.

“It was a night much like this—” he began.

“But darker and colder, right?” I interjected.

His bushy silver eyebrows pinched together. “Are you telling it this time?”

“No, no, you tell it.”

“Ayuh.” He nodded once. “So I will, then.”

It was a night much like this. The sun hadn’t been seen for days, hiding behind dark clouds that left even the daylight murky blue. When the wind came up, blowing fresh snow so

heavy and thick, you couldn’t hardly see an inch in front of your nose. All over, the town was battened down and quiet, waiting out the dark storm. Now, the folks in Iskyla had survived

many a winter storm, persisting through even the harshest of winters. This wasn’t the worst of the storms we’d faced, but there was something different about this one. Along with the cold and the dark, it brought with it a strange feeling in the air.

“And a stranger,” I interjected again, unable to help myself.

Mr. Tulin didn’t chastise me this time. He just winked and said, “Ayuh, and a stranger.”

The old missus, Hilde, and I were hunkered down in front of the fireplace, listening to the wind rattling the house, when a knock came at the door. 

Hilde—who scoffed whenever Tapeesa the angakkuq spoke of the spirits and monsters—shrieked at me when I got up to answer the door. “Whaddya think you’re doing, Oskar?”

“We’re still an inn, aren’t we?” I paused before I reached the door to look back at my wife, who sat in her old rocker, clutching her knitting to her chest.

Well, of course we were. Her father had opened the inn years ago, back when the mines first opened and we had a brief bout of tourism from humans who got lost on their way to the mines.

But that had long dried up by the time Hilde inherited it. We only had a dozen or so customers every year, mostly Inuit or visiting trolls, but whenever I suggested we close up and move south, Hilde would pitch a fit, reminding me that her family settled Iskyla, and she was settled here until she died.

“Course we’re an inn, but we’re closed,” Hilde said. “The storm’s too bad to open.”

Again the knocking came at the door, pounding harder this time.

“We got all our rooms empty, Hilde!” I argued. “Anyone out in this storm needs a place to stay, and we won’t have to do much for ’em.”

“But you don’t know who—or what—is at the door,”

Hilde stammered, lowering her voice as if it would carry over the howling wind and out the door to whoever waited on our stoop. “No human or troll has any sense being out in a storm like this.”

“Well, someone has, and I aim to find out who it is.”

I headed toward the door, Hilde still spouting her hushed protests, but my mind had been made up. I wasn’t about to let anyone freeze to death outside our house, not when we had ample firewood and room to keep them warm.

When I opened the door, there she stood. The tallest woman I ever saw. She was buried under layers of fabric and fur, looking so much like a giant grizzly bear that Hilde let out a scream.

Then the woman pushed back her hood, letting us see her face. Ice and snow had frozen to her eyebrows and eyelashes, and her short wild hair nearly matched the grizzly fur. She wasn’t much to look at, with a broad face and a jagged scar across her ruddy cheeks, but she made up for it with her size.

She had to duck to come inside, ever mindful of the large bag she carried on her back.

“Don’t bother coming in,” Hilde called at the woman from where she sat angrily rocking. “We’re closed.”

“Please,” the giant woman begged, and then she quickly slipped off her gloves and fumbled in her pockets. “Please, I have money. I’ll give you all I have. I only need a place to stay for the night.”

When she went for her money, she’d pushed back her cloaks enough that I could see the dagger holstered on her hip. The fire glinted off the amber stone in the hilt, the dark

bronze handle carved into a trio of vultures.

It was the symbol of the Omte, and that was a weapon for a warrior. Here was this giant troll woman, with supernatural strength and a soldier’s training. She could’ve killed me and Hilde right there, taken everything we had, but instead she pleaded and offered us all she had.

“Since we’re closed, I won’t be taking any of your money.” I waved it away. “You need sanctuary from the storm, and I’m happy to give it to you.”

“Thank you.” The woman smiled, with tears in her eyes, and they sparkled in the light like the amber gemstone on her dagger.

Hilde huffed, but she didn’t say anything more. The woman herself didn’t say much either, not as I showed her up to her room and where the extra blankets were.

“Is there anything more you’ll be needing?” I asked before I left her alone. 

“Quiet rest,” she replied with a weak smile. 

“Well, you can always holler at me if you need anything. I’m Oskar.”

She hesitated a second before saying, “Call me Orra.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Orra, and I hope you enjoy your stay with us.”

She smiled again, then she shut the door. That was the last I ever saw of her.

All through the night, she made not a peep, which upset Hilde even more, since it gave her nothing to complain about. I slept soundly, but Hilde tossed and turned, certain that Orra would hurt us.

By the time morning came, the wind had stopped and the sun had broken through the clouds for the first time in days. I went up to check on Orra and see if she needed anything, and

I discovered her gone. 

She rode in on the back of the dark storm, and she left before the sun.

Her room had been left empty—except for a little tiny baby, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in the middle of the bed. The babe couldn’t be more than a few weeks old, but already had a thick head of wild blond hair. When I picked her up, the baby mewled, but didn’t open her eyes.

Not until I said, “Ullaakuut,”—a good-morning greeting.

Then her big amber eyes opened. She smiled up at me, and it was like the sun after the storm.

“That’s how we met.” I beamed, and he smiled back down at me. Mrs. Tulin wasn’t sure if they would keep me, so she wouldn’t let him name me yet, but then they called me Ullaakuut

until it stuck.

“It was quite the introduction,” he agreed with a chuckle. “Oskar!” Mrs. Tulin shouted from the other room. “The fire’s gone cold!”

“I’ll be right down!” he yelled over his shoulder before turning back to me. “Well, you’ve had your story now, and Hilde needs me. You best be getting to sleep now. Good night, Ulla.”

“Good night.” I settled back into the bed, and it wasn’t until he was at the door that I mustered the courage to ask him the question that burned on the tip of my tongue. “How come my mom left me here?”

“I can’t say that I understand it,” he said with a heavy sigh. “But she’d have to have got a mighty good reason to be traveling in that kinda storm, especially with a newborn. She was an Omte warrior, and I don’t know what kind of monsters she had to face down on her way to our doorstep. But she musta known that here you’d be safe.”

“Do you think she’ll come back?” I asked.

His lips pressed into a thin line. “I can’t say, lil’ miss. But it’s not the kind of thing I would hang my hat on. And it’s nothing that you should concern yourself with. You have a home here as long as you need it, and now it’s time for bed.”

Chapter 1

Home

Emma sprinted into my room first, clutching her older brother’s slingshot in her pudgy hands, and down the hall Liam was already yelling for me.

“Ulla! Emma keeps taking my stuff!” Liam rushed into my room in a huff, little Niko toddling behind him.

My bedroom was a maze of cardboard boxes—all of my worldly possessions carefully packed and labeled for my move in six weeks—and Emma darted between them to escape Liam’s grasp.

“He said he was going to shoot fairies in the garden!” Emma insisted vehemently.

Liam rolled his eyes and brushed his thick tangles of curls off his forehead. “Don’t be such a dumb baby. You know there’s no such things as fairies.”

“Don’t call your sister dumb,” I admonished him, which only caused him to huff even louder. For only being seven years old, Liam already had quite the flair for the dramatic. “You know, you’re going to have to learn how to get along with your sister on your own. I’m not going to be around to get in the middle of your squabbles.”

“You don’t have to tell me that,” Liam replied sourly. He stared down at the wood floor, letting his hair fall into his eyes. “She’s the one that always starts it.”

“I did not!” Emma shouted back. “I only wanted to protect the fairies!”

“Emma, will you give Liam back his slingshot if he promises not to kill anything with it?” I asked her. She seemed to consider this for a moment, wrinkling up her little freckled nose, but finally she nodded yes.

“I was never really going to kill anything anyway,” he said.

“Promise!” Emma insisted.

“Fine. I promise I won’t kill anything with my slingshot.”

He held his hand out to her, and she reluctantly handed it back to him. With that, he dashed out of the room, and Emma raced after him.

Niko, meanwhile, had no interest in the argument, and instead made his way over to me. I pulled him into my arms, relishing the way his soft curls felt tickling my chin as I held him, and breathing in his little-boy scent—the summer sun on his skin and sugared milk from his breakfast. 

“How are you doing this morning, my sweet boy?” I asked him softly. He didn’t answer, but Niko rarely did. Instead, he curled up more into me and began sucking his thumb.

I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but Niko would be the one I missed the most. Sandwiched between Emma and the twins, he was quiet and easily overlooked. Whenever I was having a bad day or feeling lonely, I could always count on him for cuddles and hugs that somehow managed to erase all the bad—at least for a few moments.

But now I could only smile at him and swallow down the lump in my throat.

This—all the scraped knees and runny noses, the giggles and tantrums, all the love and chaos and constant noise of a house full of children—had been my life for the past five years. Which was quite the contrast to the frozen isolation of the first fourteen and a half years of my life.

Five years ago, a Kanin tracker named Bryn Aven had been on an investigation that brought her to Iskyla in central Canada, and when I met her, I knew it was my chance out of that town. Maybe it was because of the way she came in, on the back of a storm, or because she was a half-breed. She was also blond like me, and that wasn’t something I saw often in a town populated by trolls and a handful of the native humans of the area, the Inuit.

Most trolls, especially from the three more populous tribes—the Kanin, Trylle, and Vittra—were

of a darker complexion. Their skin ran the gamut of medium brown shades, and their hair was dark brown and black, with eyes that matched. The Kanin and the Trylle looked like attractive

humans, and the Vittra often did as well. 

The Omte had a slightly lighter complexion than that, and they were also more prone to gigantism and physical deformities, most notably in their large population of ogres. With

wild blond hair and blue eyes, the Skojare were the fairest, and they had a tendency to be born with gills, attuned to their aquatic lifestyle.

Each of the tribes even had different skill sets and extraordinary abilities. All of the kingdoms had some mild psychokinetic talents, with the Trylle being the most powerful. The Vittra and the Omte were known for their physical strength and ability to heal, while the Kanin had the skin-color- changing ability to blend in with their surroundings, much like intense chameleons.

Iskyla was officially a Kanin town, and the Inuit coloring wasn’t much different from that of the Kanin. Most everyone around me had a shock of dark hair and symmetrical features. My noticeable differences had always made me an easy target growing up, and seeing the blond-haired tracker Bryn, I recognized a kindred spirit.

Or maybe it was because I could tell she was running from something, and I had been itching to run since as soon as I could walk. The Tulins had been good to me—or as good as an elderly couple who had never wanted kids could be when a baby is dropped on them. But Mrs. Tulin had always made it clear that I would be on my own as soon as I was ready, and when I was fourteen I was sure I was ready.

Fortunately, Bryn had been smart enough—and kind enough—not to leave me to fend for myself. She brought me to Förening, the Trylle capital in Minnesota, and found me a job and a place to stay with friends of hers. 

When I had started as a live-in nanny working for Finn and Mia Holmes, they’d only had two children with another on the way, but already their cottage was rather cramped. Shortly after I moved in, Emma came along—followed by a promotion for Finn to the head of the Trylle royal guard—and Mia insisted a house upgrade was long overdue.

This grand little house, nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River—cozy but clean and bright—had enough room for us all—Finn, Mia, Hanna, Liam, Emma, Niko, Lissa, Luna, and me. As of a few months ago, we’d even managed to fit in Finn’s mother, Annali, who had decided to move in with them after her husband passed away last fall.

This home had been my home for years, and really, this family had been my family too. They welcomed me with open arms. I grew to love them, and they loved me. Here, I felt like I belonged and mattered in a way that I had never been able to in Iskyla.

I was happy with them. But now I was leaving all of this behind.

From The Lost City.  Copyright © 2020 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books.

AUTHOR BIO:

AMANDA HOCKING is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Author website | Twitter @Amanda_Hocking | Facebook | Author Blog | Pinterest | GoodReads

Early Praise for The Lost City:

“Hocking’s fast, engaging fantasy will draw in new and seasoned fans of the genre… [She] keeps the surprises coming, [leaving] readers eager to know more”

School Library Journal (starred review)

GET IT HERE:

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ARC Review | Mayhem

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Title: Mayhem

Author: Estelle Laure

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Categories: Paranormal, Young Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for giving me a chance to read this eARC.

My Reactions:

My Attention: what is this magic water? 🤔

World Building: Late 80’s California coast inspired – think…Lost Boys. The magic system? Vague.

Writing Style: lyrical

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥

Crazy in Love: insta-Love

Creativity: magic water gives drinker powers (at times confusing)

Mood: dark 🌑 and a little nostalgic

Triggers: domestic abuse, drug use, death, killing, toxic relationship

My Takeaway: there is magic in the water and it can make you see things

  • The cover and title. Love it.
  • I liked the whole Santa Maria, California beach 80’s vibe in this book. You can definitely tell it is inspired by The Lost Boys. I felt some nostalgia and I haven’t watched that movie in awhile so I can’t compare it side by side, but it definitely got the vibe right.
  • Roxy and Mayhem’s relationship is complex. They confront many issues like suicide, the family’s past, domestic abuse and drug addiction. I’m glad that Mayhem and Roxy come to terms with their “roots” and their family history. Roxy had a lot of secrets she kept from Mayhem but she was drowning in a lot of her own pain and misery.
  • This whole story intrigued me because it’s starts off as an abuse story and then…things just get twisted in a strange way that at times worked and then a lot of times that didn’t.
  • This magical, addictive “water” that was being described in the story was aggravating me a little because of how vague it was. It could make the drinker see who was good and evil and that made the Brayburn bloodline powerful. But at times I was almost hoping this was The Lost Boys remake and vampires were gonna jump out somewhere – that didn’t happen.
  • They use this magic power basically at the end to stop a serial killer. But there is a lot going on already with Roxy and Mayhem, this killer is just not a focus of the book or it didn’t seem urgent enough to me until the second half of the book.
  • The insta-love between Jason and Mayhem felt unnecessary. He became her “great love” in a span of days!

Without the magic elements of this book, I found Mayhem’s story gripping as she and her mother try to start over their lives in Santa Maria. The magic water introduction felt a bit weak to me and confusing but I did like the nostalgia of The Lost Boys. Mayhem standing up to her abuser and learning about her family and the magic they have is a powerful message that everyone can learn from.

ARC Review | A Sweet Mess

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: A Sweet Mess

Author: Jayci Lee

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Categories: Contemporary, Romance, Foodie, Adult

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Bake a chance on love. 

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

My Sweet Mess is a foodie romance – meaning if you like romance and stories with cooking in it, especially baked goods, then this will be up your alley.

Aubrey is a pastry chef and owns a small bakery in a very small town. A one-night stand with Landon, a well known food critic (except not known to Aubrey), ruins her business when he does an article on her bakery.

To make amends Landon has a plan. Now it’s strictly business between them but their attraction between them is undeniable and gets in the way.

  • Food! I love a romance story with food in it, most especially when it centers around baked goods – since that is my weakness. So I loved all the cooking references.
  • It’s a light-hearted romance and a very quick read. The story comes with its share of timely drama and resolves easily into a happy ever after. It’s a cute ending.
  • I like that it’s main characters are Asian because it’s nice to see more diversity in the romance genre.
  • The story is very predictable. One-night stand, woman’s life is ruined by a man, man comes into save her business, attraction is still there, conflict, resolution – HEA. So…it’s got all the elements but nothing really stood out to make it wow me.
  • I didn’t connect to the characters. Their attraction happens in an instant, which is fine, but when things become a problem and they are back together, things almost fall easily into place. There is no real tension between them, I think I wanted more tension.
  • And this might be the fault of it being a digital arc but some paragraphs were running into each other and I would get thrown off wondering if it was supposed to be a new chapter. So that might just be formatting because it being a digital copy.

Overall, this was a light hearted romance novel with love of food present throughout the story. For me I wish I could connect to the characters more but ff you like a love story about food and falling in love then you will enjoy this one.

Opposite of Always | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Opposite of Always

Author: Justin A. Reynolds

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 451

Categories/Themes: Young Adult, Romance, Time Travel, Death, Illness, Friendship, Family, Black Lead Characters

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

This is a time travel love story that kind of lost me at time travel. 😕

My Reactions:

My Attention: lost it when the time travel kicked in and that’s a ME thing, it doesn’t make the book bad

World Building: it’s Jack’s world and he is in love with Kate

Writing Style: lots of dialogue, so it moves quick

Bringing the Heat: no heat

Crazy in Love: oh, Jack is crazy in love

Creativity: it got creative with the time travel

Mood: mixed feelings 

Triggers: death, illness

My Takeaway: “almost” is good enough ❤️ because that meant you still had some time with that person

  • Jack is the sweetest kid ever. I love his charming personality, I wanted to protect him from heartbreak. He is a nice guy and he has been in love with his best friend, Jillian, since forever until Kate comes along. But he’s an all around good guy, he’s the average nerdy guy, comes from a nice family and has good friends around him.
  • Friendship is a big deal to Jack and it shows with his two best friends, who are dating, Franny and Jillian.
  • The dialogue between the characters is really good and I could always tell who was speaking because their voices were distinct.
  • Jack is so in love with Kate, it’s the sweetest and saddest thing. And the book cover is the cutest and makes a lot of sense after reading the book.
  • I don’t mind death and illness in a story but darn, the time travel just took me out of it. I thought okay…let’s see what happens, but by the time it starts over again, I felt a disconnect. That’s mostly because I tend to be that way with books with time travel, especially when it keeps repeating itself! I understand why it was in the story though because it shows in each scenario how things could have turned out.
  • This book revolves around Jack’s love for Kate. And because it is a time travel story, his love for her is on repeat. I think it would have been great to learn more about Kate, not so much his love for her because we all knew he was crazy about her.

Unfortunately the time travel aspect made me disconnect from the story. I loved the beginning, where we meet Jack, Kate and all the people that make up his world but after Kate dies (the first time), I lost interest in the story. I think many people will enjoy this sweet love story though, especially if you don’t mind a story with time travel.

BLOG TOUR } She’s Faking It by. Kristin Rockaway

Title: She’s Faking It

Author: Kristin Rockaway

Publication Date: June 30, 2020

SUMMARY:

You can’t put a filter on reality.

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?

Excerpt:

From Chapter Two

“Don’t these books make your purse really heavy? There’s gotta be some app where you can store all this information.” 

“Studies show you’re more likely to remember things you’ve written by hand, with physical pen and paper.” She reached across my lap and opened the glove compartment, removing a notebook with an antiqued photograph of a vintage luxury car printed on the cover. “For example, this is my auto maintenance log. Maybe if you’d kept one of these, like I told you to, we wouldn’t be in this predicament right now.” 

I loved Natasha, I really did. She was responsible and generous, and without her I’d likely be far worse off than I already was, which was a horrifying thought to consider. But at times like this, I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake the shit out of her. 

“A maintenance log wouldn’t have helped me.” 

“Yes, it would have. Organization is about more than decluttering your home. It’s about decluttering your mind. Making lists, keeping records—these are all ways to help you get your life in order. If you’d had a maintenance log, this problem wouldn’t have caught you off guard in the middle of your delivery shift. You’d have seen it coming, and—” 

“I saw it coming.” 

“What?”

 “This didn’t catch me off guard. The check engine light came on two weeks ago.” Or maybe it was three. 

“Then why didn’t you take it to the mechanic?” She blinked, genuinely confused. Everything was so cut-and dried with her. When a car needed to be serviced, of course you called the mechanic. 

That is, if you could afford to pay the repair bill. 

Fortunately, she put two and two together without making me say it out loud. “Oh,” she murmured, then bit her lip. I could almost hear the squeak and clank of wheels turning in her head as she tried to piece together the solution to this problem. No doubt it included me setting up a journal or logbook of some sort, though we both knew that would be pointless. The last time she’d tried to set me up with a weekly budget planner, I gave up on day two, when I realized I could GrubGetter around the clock for the rest of my life and still never make enough money to get current on the payments for my student loans. You know, for that degree I’d never finished. 

But Natasha was a determined problem solver. It said so in her business bio: “Natasha DeAngelis, Certified Professional Organizer®, is a determined problem solver with a passion for sorting, purging, arranging, and containerizing.” My life was a perpetual mess, and though she couldn’t seem to be able to clean it up, that didn’t stop her from trying. Over and over and over again.

 “I’ll pay for the repairs,” she said.

 “No.” I shook my head, fending off the very big part of me that wanted to say yes. “I can’t take any money from you.” 

“It’s fine,” she said. “Business is booming. I’ve got so much work right now that I’ve actually had to turn clients away. And ever since Al introduced that new accelerated orthodontic treatment, his office has been raking it in. We can afford to help you.” 

“I know.” Obviously, my sister and her family weren’t hurting for cash. Aside from her wildly successful organizing business, her husband, Al, ran his own orthodontics practice. They owned a four-bedroom house, leased luxury cars, and took triannual vacations to warm, sunny places like Maui and Tulum. They had a smart fridge in their kitchen that was undoubtedly worth more than my nonfunctioning car. 

But my sister wasn’t a safety net, and I needed to stop treating her like one. She’d already done so much for me. More than any big sister should ever have to do.

 “I just can’t,” I said. 

“Well, do you really have any other choice?” There was an edge to Natasha’s voice now. “If you don’t have a car, how are you going to work?”

 “I’ll figure something out.” The words didn’t sound very convincing, even to my own ears. For the past four years, all I’d done was deliver food. I had no other marketable skills, no references, no degree.

 I was a massive failure. 

Tears pooled in my eyes. Natasha sighed again. 

“Look,” she said, “maybe it’s time to admit you need to come up with a solid plan for your life. You’ve been in a downward spiral ever since Rob left.” 

She had a point. I’d never been particularly stable, but things got a whole lot worse seven months earlier, when my live-in ex-boyfriend, Rob, had abruptly announced he was ending our three-year relationship, quitting his job, and embarking on an immersive ayahuasca retreat in the depths of the Peruvian Amazon. 

“I’ve lost my way,” he’d said, his eyes bloodshot from too many hits on his vape pen. “The Divine Mother Shakti at the Temple of Eternal Light can help me find myself again.”

 “What?” I’d been incredulous. “Where is this coming from?” 

He’d unearthed a book from beneath a pile of dirty clothes on our bed and handed it to me—Psychedelic Healers: An Exploratory Journey of the Soul, by Shakti Rebecca Rubinstein.

 “What is this?”

 “It’s the book that changed my life,” he’d said. “I’m ready for deep growth. New energy.” 

Then he’d moved his belongings to a storage unit off the side of the I-8, and left me to pay the full cost of our monthly rent and utilities on my paltry GrubGetter income. 

I told myself this situation was only temporary, that Rob would return as soon as he realized that hallucinating in the rainforest wasn’t going to lead him to some higher consciousness. But I hadn’t heard from him since he took off on that direct flight from LAX to Lima. At this point, it was probably safe to assume he was never coming back. 

Which was probably for the best. It’s not exactly like Rob was Prince Charming or anything. But being with him was better than being alone. At least I’d had someone to split the bills with. 

“Honestly,” she continued, “I can’t stand to see you so miserable anymore. Happiness is a choice, Bree. Choose happy.”

 Of all Natasha’s pithy sayings, “Choose happy” was the one I hated most. It was printed on the back of her business cards in faux brush lettering, silently accusing each potential client of being complicit in their own misery. If they paid her to clean out their closets, though, they could apparently experience unparalleled joy. 

“That’s bullshit, and you know it.” 

She scowled. “It is not.”

 “It is, actually. Shitty things happen all the time and we have no choice in the matter. I didn’t choose to be too broke to fix my car. I work really hard, but this job doesn’t pay well. And I didn’t choose for Rob to abandon me to go find himself in the Amazon, either. He made that choice for us.” 

I almost mentioned the shittiest thing that had ever happened to Natasha or to me, a thing neither of us had chosen. But I stopped myself before the words rolled off my lips. This evening was bad enough without rehashing the details of our mother’s death.

 “Sometimes things happen to us that are beyond our control,” Natasha said, her voice infuriatingly calm. “But we can control how we react to it. Focus on what you can control. And it does no good to dwell on the past, either. Don’t look back, Bree—” 

“Because that’s not where you’re going. Yes, I know. You’ve said that before.” About a thousand times. 

She took a deep breath, most likely to prepare for a lengthy lecture on why it’s important to stay positive and productive in the face of adversity, but then a large tow truck lumbered onto the cul-de-sac and she got out of the car to flag him down. 

Grateful for the interruption, I ditched the casserole on her dashboard and walked over to where the driver had double-parked alongside my car. 

“What’s the problem?” he asked, hopping down from the cab. 

“It won’t start,” I said, to which Natasha quickly followed up with, “The check engine light came on several weeks ago, but the car has not been serviced yet.” 

He grunted and popped the hood, one thick filthy hand stroking his braided beard as he surveyed the engine. Another grunt, then he asked for the keys and tried to start it, only to hear the same sad click and whine as before. 

“It’s not the battery.” He leaned his head out of the open door. “When was the last time you changed your timing belt?” 

“Uh… I don’t know.”

 Natasha shook her head and mouthed, Maintenance log! in my direction but I pretended not to see. 

The driver got out and slammed the hood shut. “Well, this thing is hosed.” 

“Hosed?” My heart thrummed in my chest. “What does that mean? It can’t be fixed?”

 He shrugged, clearly indifferent to my crisis-in-progress. “Can’t say for sure. Your mechanic can take a closer look and let you know. Where do you want me to tow it?”

 I pulled out my phone to look up the address of the mechanic near my apartment down in Pacific Beach. But Natasha answered before I could google it up. 

“Just take it to Encinitas Auto Repair,” she said. “It’s on Second and F.” 

“You got it,” he said, then retreated to his truck to fiddle with some chains.

 Natasha avoided my gaze. Instead, she focused on calling a guy named Jerry, who presumably worked at this repair shop, and told him to expect “a really old Civic that’s in rough shape,” making sure to specify, “It’s not mine, it’s my sister’s.”

 I knew she was going to pay for the repairs. It made me feel icky, taking yet another handout from my big sister. But ultimately, she was right. What other choice did I have? 

The two of us stayed quiet while the driver finished hooking up my car. After he’d towed it away down the cul-desac and out of sight, Natasha turned to me. “Do you want to come over? Izzy’s got piano lessons in fifteen minutes, you can hear how good she is now.”

 Even though I did miss my niece, there was nothing I wanted to do more than go home, tear off these smelly clothes, and cry in solitude. “I’ll take a rain check. Thanks again for coming to get me.” 

“Of course.” She started poking at her phone screen. A moment later, she said, “Your Lyft will be here in four minutes. His name is Neil. He drives a black Sentra.” A quick kiss on my cheek and she was hustling back to her SUV. 

As I watched Natasha drive away, I wished—not for the first time—that I could be more like her: competent, organized, confident enough in my choices to believe I could choose to be happy. Sometimes I felt like she had twenty years on me, instead of only six. So maybe instead of complaining, I should’ve started taking her advice.

Excerpted from She’s Faking It by Kristin Rockaway, Copyright © 2020 by Allison Amini. Published by Graydon House Books.

About the Author |

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker with an insatiable case of wanderlust. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of software. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, and planning her next big vacation.

SOCIAL LINKS:

http://kristinrockaway.com | Facebook: /KristinRockaway | Twitter: @KristinRockaway | Instagram: @KristinRockway 

Buy it HERE:

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The Kiss Quotient | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Kiss Quotient

Author: Helen Hoang

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 323

Categories: Contemporary, Romance, Adult, Autism, Fake Dating, Asian Rep

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

So I read The Bride Test before this book and I ended up liking The Kiss Quotient much more!

My Reactions:

My Attention: read in one night

World Building: Silicon Valley

Writing Style: flowed really well

Bringing the Heat: 🔥🔥🔥🔥 – lots of sexy moments in this one

Crazy in Love: in a good way

Creativity: I love the Asperger’s representation and how Stella propositions Michael instead of the other way around (Pretty Woman reversal!)

Mood: love 

Triggers: prostitution

My Takeaway: Get yourself a Michael Larsen. 🤗

  • The autistic representation is fantastic, just as it was in The Bride Test. We get to see how a character with Aspergers, Stella, functions in a social, sexual, physical and romantic relationship with Michael. I appreciate the insight because it makes me understand people with autism better. I can feel Stella’s desire and despair to try and be “normal” in a romantic relationship, and yay for Michael being super patient with her. It’s exactly what she needed in a partner.
  • The whole reverse Pretty Woman thing where Michael is the escort is fun. And HOT. I mean some of the scenes where he is trying to help her be comfortable with sex was like…🔥🔥🔥. I mean obviously he has a 5 star rating so he knows what he is doing, but again…his patience is what got me swooning! ❤️
  • I did like how it went into hot territory with the escort services thing in the beginning and sex lessons to HOLD up..let’s do fake dating. It took their relationship in a new direction where she works on the usually things about a relationship: dating, meeting each other’s family, talking to one another and learning about each other. I enjoyed that!
  • As for the characters, I loved them both. Stella is smart but has her challenges with being autistic. Michael’s story is heartbreaking is drowning in debt because of his father’s mistake but you know how much he loves his family. And speaking of family…my favorite guy from The Bride’s Test, Quan, made an appearance and seriously, I am SO ready to read his book. Give me Quan!
  • If the whole escort service thing is not something you like (because it does mean Michael has slept with a LOT of women) then this book may not be for you. But it’s a job to him until Stella comes along.

I enjoyed this book a lot! The chemistry between Stella and Michael is off the charts but also, it’s a sweet love story as well. It left me feeling happy, which is what I expect a romantic novel to do. Now I’m ready for Quan’s book!