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Book Review–The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Lee

Buy The Epic Crush of Genie Lo here

5/5*

Pub Aug 2017

 

I’m very late to the party on this book, and I wish I’d read it before now. I *need* a sequel, STAT.

TLDR–LOVED this book. Full on considering re-reading it right away loved it. Couldn’t go to sleep until I finished it so I didn’t get much sleep and now have a book hangover loved it. Put down writing my book to finish this one loved it. Like, really, really, really loved it.

Genie Lo is a Chinese American teen in the Bay Area of California (near San Francisco) whose biggest concern is getting into an Ivy League college…until Quentin shows up to tell her he’s the Monkey King and she’s his staff, reincarnated as a human. She thinks he’s out of his mind, and rightfully tells him to go away. Until a demon shows up, and all of this Monkey and Staff thing starts to sound a little more plausible.

The story uses Chinese mythology to fuel the magic, and it’s nice to see a break from Western mythos. To be fair, though, for me Chinese mythology is the next most familiar thing after Western because of living in Singapore for seven years and participating in Chinese culture.

Genie is a great, relateable character. She really just wants to live her life, be a good friend to her bff Yunie, and get into a good college. She’s frustrated by her Chosen One-ness, especially when it starts to interfere with her schooling, her friends, and her family. For adult readers, it will feel familiar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, down to the snappy dialogue.

Maybe he thought I’d stay quiet in front of my mother for the sake of decorum. That a boy’s good name was more important than a girl’s safety. If so, he was dead effin’ wrong.

and

“My true name,” he said, “…is SUN WUKONG.”

A cold wind passed through the open window, rustling my loose papers like tumbleweed.

“I have no idea who that is,” I said.

Quentin was still trying to cement his “look at me being serious” face. It took him a few seconds to realize I wasn’t flipping out over whoever he was.

“The Sun Wukong,” he said scooping the air with his fingers. “Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”

“I said, I don’t know who that is.”

His jaw dropped. Thankfully his teeth were still normal-size.

“You’re Chinese and you don’t know me?” he sputtered. “That’s like an American child not knowing who Batman is!”

“You’re Chinese Batman?”

“No! I’m stronger than Batman, and more important, like–like. Tian na, how do you not know who I am?”

I didn’t know why he expected me to recognize him. He couldn’t have been a big-time actor or singer from overseas. I never followed mainland pop culture, but a lot of other people at school did; word would have gotten around if we had a celebrity in our midst.

Plus that was a weird stage name. Monkey King? Was that what passed for sexy among the kids these days?

Quentin, for his part, is a great foil. He imparts knowledge, but not in a boring exposition-y way. But he’s also fallible, and a bit of a douche at times. I like that he’s not perfect, that he sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) complicates Genie’s life like crazy.

There are two gods hanging around as secondary characters. One is Guanyin, who achieved enlightenment, but turned her back on it to help humanity. The other is Erlang Shen, the nephew of the king of the gods, The Jade Emperor. They are often..helpful, but not in the ways that Genie hopes. For one, neither is going to directly interfere to help catch the ~100 or so demons running around the Bay Area.

The non-celestial-being secondary characters are well fleshed out–we understand, more or less, why her parents broke up and what sort of relationship they have now, what Genie’s BFF’s hopes and dreams are and how their friendship works.

The pacing is solid, the setting is well described (I do live in the Bay Area, so take that one with a grain of salt), and I think the book has broad appeal. The prose sparkles.

Seriously. Go read it. You won’t regret it.

Book recommendation

I’ll be posting a review of this soon, but I’m just popping in to say that if you like fantasy or YA, you really need to be reading The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee. The magic system is grounded in Chinese mythology, but because Genie is more or less ignorant of it, we learn what’s important as she learns. Genie’s voice is hilarious–I’ve already sent quotes I highlighted to two different friends and I’m only a third of the way through the book.

“That doesn’t matter,” I hissed. “You are not entitled to my thoughts, emotions, or any other part of my life unless I say so. What you get from me is jack and squat, regardless of whether or not you understand. Ming bai le ma, dickhead?”

and later

“From what I could gather from you friend, however, the two of you are only doing this to gain access to a magical kingdom called Harvard.”

“Pfft. Yale would also suffice.”

 

Strong female protagonist who’s a badass for the win!

ARC review-The Fearless King by Katee Robert


The Fearless King by Katee Robert4.5/5*

Publication date–Feb 5, 2019

I received The Fearless King from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to start my new year’s reading off with a bang, and after two sweet romances without any sex, I was ready for some scorching romance. The Fearless King did not disappoint.

The Fearless King is the second book in the King series by Robert. I had not read book one prior to reading this book, but The Fearless King works as a stand-alone. Having finished it, I did go back and buy book one because I want to read the story that informed this one.

Journey King is the COO of Kingdom Corp, a family business. Her mother was forced out of town (this is the story in book 1) but she and her older brother have taken over the company. Things are going along well…until her father returns to town, hell bent on taking over the company. As it turns out, their father’s family had given their mother the cash to start Kingdom Corp and are now the main shareholders.

But it’s so much worse than her father coming back into her life at work. He abused her and her siblings as children, and he’s playing the same psychological games, and Journey feels like everything is slipping away. So she turns to the only person who might be able help.

Frank Evans is not Journey’s friend. He helped run her mother out of town. He won’t sell her real estate she wants. He’s ruthless, and trusting him with her secrets and asking him to help her oust her father is possibly a step too far, but he’s her last resort.

Frank knows that he shouldn’t care about Journey. Shouldn’t want her. But, against his better judgment, he does. When he agrees to help her, his condition is that they pretend to have a relationship so he can get closer to her family and her company. Things turn real very quickly when her father makes it clear that he’ll take the company–at any price.

I read the first two chapters, turned to my spouse, and said “now that’s how you start a book!” I was sucked in until the next thing I knew, it was four a.m.!

Journey is well written, both in her moments of strength and her moments of terror. She is vulnerable, sassy, strong, and even when her demons are riding her, she is compelling. Frank is more of an enigma, but his jagged pieces fit Journey’s. You see the struggle within him to From the moment he summons her to his office in the nightclub to the first bout of oral sex to the incredibly suspenseful ending, you don’t just want them to be together, you need it.

The sex is scorching. Incredibly satisfying, captures the mood and tone perfectly, as well as capturing the personalities involved.

I liked that it is an interracial romance, and that race was actually discussed. People harass Journey over her relationship with Frank on a number of levels, but race is absolutely one of them. For his part, Frank is also pragmatic and realistic about his skin color and the impact that has on him being one of the richest developers in Houston. The racial dynamics were also well done–there’s no fetishizing skin tone, but you don’t forget it either.

My only real complaint is that the fake relationship (one of my top three favorite tropes) doesn’t really go anywhere. It never really gains enough steam, or has enough emphasis on it in the way I usually see the trope done. I would call this erotic romance, or maybe suspenseful romance, but I wouldn’t immediately think of it and go “oh, yeah, a fake relationship book.” But this is a minor complaint–for all that it was a big part of why I chose it on Netgalley, I was happy enough with the story that I don’t care that the fake relationship was such a minor component.

4.5 stars, which I’ll round to 5 when reviewing. Pre-order it here.

Best Books I Read in 2018

According to Goodreads, I’ve read one hundred fifty books this year.

Having read so many books, which were the best ones? The ones that stuck with me, that I want to grab you and tell you to read this book now. Here are ten, in no particular order.

Buy Hamilton’s Battalion here

This is an anthology of three novellas perfect for the Hamilton fan in your family. All the stories touch upon Alexander Hamilton, but they are not about him. Rather he serves to act as the connecting thread through three very different stories.

My favorite is Promised Land by Courtney Milan. It’s the story of Rachel, a woman serving in the continental army as a man and Nathan, who she tackles, thinking him a British spy. Reasonable, given his sympathies when they last spoke. Awkward, given that her husband thought she’d died of yellow fever. Rachel and Nathan are both great characters, and they have issues to work through (even putting aside the failed her own death thing) that make the story compelling.

Buy A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole here

A Princess in Theory is the first book in the Reluctant Royals series by Alyssa Cole. I couldn’t put this book down. Ledi and Thabiso’s story is part modern fairy-tale (a prince in disguise) part secret identity exposed (prince? Or fuckboy?) and a hell of a lot of fun. I love that the heroine is a scientist and completely dismissive of Prince Thabiso, who has never been treated that way before. When an unknown disease hits Thesolo, Thabiso convinces Ledi to go there with him and help find a cure. Oh, and they’ll need to pretend their childhood engagement is back on. (I love the fake relationship trope)

Book 2 in the series was great, and I’ve pre-ordered book 3 (April 2019) and the novella that will act as book 2.5 (Jan 2019).

Buy Rosemary and Rue here

So I’m actually going to use this space to encourage you to read the entire October Daye series–I devoured the first twelve books in only a few weeks. I will say that books 1 and 2 are good but a little shaky, but once they take off in book 3 they only get better and better. October Daye is a half-human half-fae in this urban fantasy series.

It opens with her on a case as a private detective–but instead of recovering the missing people, she is turned into a fish for fourteen years. That loss of time informs the rest of the series because her partner moved on, and her daughter wants nothing to do with her. She turns her back on the world of Fae until she’s dragged back into that life by a binding spell. The secondary characters are compelling, Toby is a flawed but awesome heroine who anchors the series. I love Seanan McGuire’s books almost without exception and I’m already dying for book thirteen.

Buy Puddin here

If you’ve read or seen Dumplin’ (and you SHOULD), you’ll want to read the sequel, Puddin’. If you haven’t, Puddin’ works as a solo book, but Dumplin’ is so good, I encourage you to read both. Puddin’ is the story of Millie Michalchuck, who has gone to fat camp every year, but is determined to go to a journalism camp this year instead. Callie Reyes is in line to be the next dance captain until she leads an act of vandalism, and Millie identifies her. Callie has to work with Millie at her uncle’s gym as her punishment. An unlikely friendship forms…until Callie finds out that Millie is the one who turned her in. Millie has to battle her mother and the world’s expectations of fat girls to follow her dreams. Julie Murphy is great.

Buy Me Talk Pretty One Day here

This is actually a recommendation for the audiobook rather than the physical book. While reading the essays can give you a giggle, it’s hearing David Sedaris’s voice with all of its inflections as he reads his work that will make you die of laughter. I recommend all of his books, and just finished Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls on audiobook about a month ago.

Buy Heretics Anonymous here

When an atheist is enrolled at a Catholic school, how will he ever make friends or fit in? How will he survive any day without his eyes rolling out of his head? This is a great YA novel about faith, falling in love, and growing up. Definitely worth a re-read.

Buy Big Fat Bitch here

I gave a rave review to Big Fat Bitch here, but my fast review is that this slow burn romance is a great take on Beauty and the Beast. I love that the “beast” in this book is the woman. But it’s so much more than a romance. If you like deeply complex narratives, love stories, and books making you cry, pick this one up.

Buy Media Darling here

I reviewed Media Darling here, but my fast pitch is that this f/f romance between a movie star and a media writer is possibly my favorite romance of the past year, period. Both Emerson and Haley are well written, three-dimensional characters. They make mistakes, make love, and while it’s hard fought, they get their happy ending.

Buy The Autumn Bride here

I got this book from The Ripped Bodice (indie romance bookstore–buy from them!) as a “blind date with a book.” I haven’t read much Regency era romance, but it was my blind date, so I decided to give it a chance. Abigail and her three closest friends are practically starving. So Abby does something she’d never imagined–she goes over some rooftops and breaks into a house, desperate to find something to buy–or eat. Instead she finds Lady Beatrice, an old woman being abused by her servants. Abigail and her friends save Lady Beatrice from her servants and are promptly adopted as her “nieces”–the Chance sisters.

When her real nephew, Max, returns from abroad, he’s certain that the girls are gold diggers at best. Sparks fly between him and Abigail, and the rest is history. Each of the four books (Autumn Bride, Winter Bride, Spring Bride, and Summer books) works as a stand alone, but they’re better read back to back as a series.

Buy Nate Expectations here

Nate Expectations is actually the third book in Tim Federles’ series about Nate, a small town boy who becomes a Broadway Actor. In this book, Nate’s show closes down and he has to go back to small town life. When he’s assigned a project on the book Great Expectations, he decides to put on a musical. The book centers around this. There’s great secondary characters and Nate continues on his journey to figuring out who he really is.

You don’t need to read the first two books in the series, but if this book appeals to you, read them first.

 

What was/were your favorite book/s of 2018

 

 

 

ARC–Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant

Purchase The Kingdom of Needle and Bone

5/5*

Publication date Dec 31, 2018

 

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t know how Mira Grant does it, but she’s created another horror novella that is just as gripping as her other work. I enjoy her work as Mira Grant, and I enjoy her work as Seanan McGuire. The Mira Grant titles are all horror, and I’m not generally a person who enjoys that genre.

Lisa Morris isn’t feeling so good. But she’s at a Florida theme park, and she wants to enjoy her last day there. So she doesn’t tell her parents, and when they take her, she unintentionally creates a cascading infection of what will eventually be known as Morris disease–a highly contagious virus that mimics measles, but that kills many and leaves those who have survived it as immunocompromised for the rest of their lives. Vaccines will no longer work on them.

The story plays out against the all too real fights over vaccination and herd immunity. It also throws in the question of bodily autonomy–where’s the line between the public good and being forced to do something (abortion being the obvious connection–can and should the state force a woman to carry a pregnancy she doesn’t want to term).

It’s a well written story with a complex main character–Isabella, a pediatrician and Lisa’s aunt–who we’re never quite sure of. She’s a gray character. The length of the story means that side characters aren’t super developed, but enough is there that they’re interesting.

I can’t give away too much. It’s a fast read, and if you like horror, or books that just f* with your head, then Mira Grant is always a good choice.

ARC Review: Unforgettable by Elle Spencer

Buy Unforgettable here

4/5*

Published 11.13.18

 

Unforgettable is actually two novellas bundled together. I’ll be reviewing each separately below.

 

In Forget Her Not, Samantha King queen of the one night stand with men, has woken up next to Mia Rossi—and she can’t remember a thing about their night, only that it changed something within her. But the obstacle to their relationship isn’t that Sam can’t quite remember what happened, or even that they live far away from each other–the biggest two are that Sam thinks she’s a huge fuck-up and that Mia is her ex-boyfriend’s little sister.

That the love interest is the little sister of the man she dated for quite a long time, even to the point of him proposing to her, is a new twist on the dating someone who is known very well by the protagonist. That part is done well, including a showdown between Samantha and her ex.

However, the thing that slows down the book is that Samantha has only one method of coping–self sabotage. There’s a point, though, after which I thought Mia was crazy to keep running after her. But I was rooting on each of the women individually–for Sam to see that she deserves love, and for Mia to kick ass, but it was hard to root for them as a couple. But I suppose that’s the point–love isn’t always logical

***

In Forget Her Never Abby hooks up with the incomparable Kendall and they have an amazing night together. Only for Abby to find out that Kendall is married. Worse, she’s Kendall Squires, half of the lesbian power couple that’s changing New York’s skyline, and Abby is an architect. When Kendall’s wife finds out, she threatens Abby’s job.

Abby tries so hard to do the right thing, but is miserable. Kendall, on the other hand, is tired of living in a loveless marriage, and can’t get Abby out of her mind. When Abby and Kendall try to be just friends, their chemistry makes it impossible.

Of the two novellas, I think I bought into this one better. Kendall and Abby have the kind of raw chemistry that drags you in. I was rooting much more for them as a couple, even when the way forward seemed impossible.

***

Spencer does a good job of providing two very distinct stories, both in the “a night so amazing you’ll never forget it” trope. All four women involved have distinct voices and motivations. Each love has its unique barriers.

But for me, the biggest test is whether the book holds my interest. While there were moments when the stories dragged, it was never so much that I started to consider looking at another book instead.

 

Review-Big Fat Bitch by Ginger Voight

Buy here on kindle for 2.99

5/5*

Published September 2018

 

I received a free copy of Big Fat Bitch from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

CW/TW–there is a scene with a graphic sexual assault in the book. It is part of a larger #metoo subplot, but could prove hard for victims of sexual assault.

Sofie Vincent has clawed her way to the top, and is now Queen Iron Britches, showrunner and writer of Vindication, the hottest show on television. Everyone jumps to do what she says out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

Fletcher Sullivan is a divorced single dad of Ava (12) and a hospice nurse. Together, he and Ava read to the residents of the hospice. One day, they read to a new patient with dementia, Rose, and she calls Ava “Pudgie.” When Fletcher mentions it to Rose’s nurse, she tells him that Rose is the author of a famous series of books about a girl named Pudgie. Fletcher decides to find Pudgie–her daughter.

Sofie ensures that Fletcher gets fired. Then ends up hiring him herself out of fear that he might spill her secret.

Big Fat Bitch is a romance, but it’s a slow, slow, slow burn. There are no sex scenes.

I had considered giving Big Fat Bitch a 4/5*, but the complexity and slow changes that Fletcher inspires in Sofie earned it the 5/5. Sofie is smart, successful, and scared. So scared of being found out to be Pudgie–who she views as her mother’s favorite child, the one who succeeded where she, Sofie, failed. Sofie has a huge mansion, a fat bank account, and very little else.

As a plus-sized woman, it meant a lot for me to see her be all of those complex things, and also a size fourteen. She doesn’t lose weight to be happy and that’s a big deal.

Fletcher is a less complex character–he wants to provide for Ava, and he wants to make the world kinder. He could have outed Sofie for revenge, but doesn’t. He only takes the job Sofie offers because his ex-wife is threatening to take away more of his time with Ava. But being Sofie’s assistant, and respecting her an employer doesn’t mean he isn’t going to go toe to toe with her.

This is a story of mothers and daughters, and of the kind of love that never dies.

I think the love story that really twisted my heartstrings, though, isn’t the one between Fletcher and Sofie. It’s the one between Sofie’s parents. Her father has lived on a boat since her parents divorced when she was a tween. When Fletcher can’t find Pudgie, he does manage to track down Rose’s former husband. Rose and Vincent had a hell of a love story, and the end of it made me sob.

In another author’s hands, Fletcher and Sofie would’ve sparked off each other and it would’ve been a concussive explosion. Which is what I kept expecting. But by keeping it slow, Voight gives us more time to get to know the characters and see why we should want them together beyond “the plot demands it.” It means there’s no magic kiss to wake the Beast from her slumber–instead, she has to make the changes herself. The changes are slow and there are several steps backward.

I invoke Beauty and the Beast because at its heart, this is a retelling of that story where Sofie is the beast and Fletcher the beauty. Which isn’t an obvious retelling, but there are just enough breadcrumbs for the reader.

I think this is a great romance that subverts the expectations of what a reader might think a romance “should” be. I can’t wait to read more by this author.