Archives

轻易放火 by 墨宝非宝
Published June 1st 2014 by 湖南少年儿童出版社
Source: Webnovel
Rating: ★★★½☆

Jia He is a worker-bee screenwriter in China, a profession that really does not get much for recognition but suits her personality of not liking to be in the spotlight. One day, she gets a call and finds out who will be the leading actor of her latest script—Yi Wenze, her longtime idol since her teenage days. Jia He is the screenwriter on-location for this project. So, she is there, trying best to maintain her composure and contain her starstruck giddiness in front of her idol. In the process, she happily discovers, some time later, that she has become friends with her idol. Aaaah! Already a dream come true, right? Her time with this project comes to an end, and she bids farewell and returns home, thinking that if some day she runs into Yi Wenze again, they are acquainted enough that they can nod their heads in friendly greeting to one another. But then, soon after, she gets a phone call, and the name that shows up on her caller ID is… Yi Wenze.

And so, this is a story of how a little screenwriter is pursued by her idol, the one who had been in all her teenage dreams, how she goes from being idol’s diehard fan, to idol’s friend, to idol’s girlfriend, to idol’s fiancee, to idol’s… Hehehehe.

Sugary-sweet and adorable! The leading couple is cotton-candy cute, and I really appreciate the lack of melodrama (and JY’s reaction to any hint of it), but also, I feel like they jumped the gun on a lot of things, while other elements of the story ended up feeling incomplete.

老婆,你好! by 月下蝶影
Published November 4th 2014 by Createspace
Source: Webnovel
Rating: ★★½☆☆

He was confused, so he asked, “I have a car, a house, good-looks and money. What am I lacking in?”

She replied, “All those attributes are what men use to lure mistresses. So, which of those attributes is a good characteristic?”

Ashamed, he reflected, “I am loyal to one and I can host and cook. I can make the bed and accompany you when you wish to go out.”

She replied bitterly, “I shall, reluctantly, accept you then.”

Good men would not let the women they love fight with the mistress but get rid of them on their own.

I feel like I should’ve really enjoyed this? I really liked the leads individually, as well as the main secondary characters. I really liked how this novel turned so many of my least-favorite tropes completely on their heads. But the leads, while great individually, didn’t seem to have much chemistry, and I still really, really don’t understand why WC started chasing her in the first place, let alone why he persisted for so long (I refuse to believe the epilogue reason exists because that’s the Dumbest Thing). The book was slow-paced, which isn’t always bad, but the ending, with an abrupt, out-of-character proposal, and a rushed parade of scenes that quickly pushed them to their “traditional,” happy ending, dashed a lot of my expectations.

Defending Taylor
(Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally
Published July 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Auction
Rating: ★★½☆☆

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

The romance was cute; I liked Taylor’s family, especially her siblings; it had all the elements of a Hundred Oaks book. But. Taylor was a hot mess and she had sO many opportunities to confess, and at the beginning it made sense, but toward the middle, it was flat out frustrating to read.

Things I Can’t Forget (Hundred Oaks) by Miranda Kenneally
Published March 1st 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Auction
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt – with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

I’ve read Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker, and Racing Savannah, albeit a little out of series-order and a while ago, but I remember really enjoying the series for it’s fluffy yet realistic romance and sports elements. Things I Can’t Forget is my first peek back into the series after a good few years, and it’s definitely missing some of those elements I remember.

First up, a disclaimer: I’m not too good with religious books, and books that deal with heavily religious themes. Things I Can’t Forget lays it on thick, with the constant “will Brother John approve of this?” “am I living a good Christian life?” and, the golden “I hate it when Christians don’t act Christian-like” every paragraph or so. It made the first half a bit of a struggle to wade through, but I can appreciate how the author chooses to develop a character like that, and goes all out in doing so, instead of shying around Kate’s struggles, or ending it with a quick, fantastical, 180 position-reversal.

Kate’s relationships, both with Emily and Parker, were aspects I really, really loved, and the way the author took her time to explore all the ups, downs, and bends in both relationships made it feel all the more real and meaningful. (Also, Parker and Will were really fucking cute.) (Also, Jordan cameo!!!)

“King Crab Kate” and “Miniature Poodle Matt” is a cute exchange; “King Crab Kate” and “Miniature Poodle Matt” are really, really cute.

Also, back in high school, I worked at a local summer camp over my summer breaks, and covered both Chemistry (pet bottle rockets!!) and Art Director (clay chia pets and cork-board-pom-pom coasters!!!), and it was really fun to see bits and pieces of my experiences reflected here as well. Especially Brad’s thing about “I prefer working with the younger kids. Puberty scares me” and “I’d much rather deal with snakes and bears than kids going through puberty. Seems easier” – hard same. Middle and upper elementary kids are a terrifying, terrifying lot.

The ending, though, felt rushed and abrupt – all these dangling plot threads are tied up in just a small handful of pages, and it feels oddly hollow and lacking, like you had this huge cast of characters, each starkly different and unique from the other, and then at the end they were just kinda smushed together and patted on the head and then! It’s over!!

So all in all, Things I Can’t Forget was hardly set up to be a story I’d enjoy, but it’s a Miranda Kenneally book, and though it wasn’t my favorite Hundred Oaks book by any means, the supporting characters and the characters’ relationships managed to make up quite a bit.

Archangel’s Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11) by Nalini Singh
Published October 30th 2018 by Berkley
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Midnight and dawn, Elena’s wings are unique among angelkind…and now they’re failing. The first mortal to be turned into an immortal in angelic memory, she’s regressing. Becoming more and more human. Easier to hurt. Easier to kill.

Elena and Raphael must unearth the reason for the regression before it’s too late and Elena falls out of the sky. Yet even as they fight a furious battle for Elena’s very survival, violent forces are gathering in New York and across the world.

In China, the Archangel Favashi is showing the first signs of madness. In New York, a mysterious sinkhole filled with lava swallows a man whole. In Africa, torrential monsoon rains flood rolling deserts. And in Elena’s mind whispers a haunting voice that isn’t her own.

This time, survival may not be possible…not even for the consort of an archangel.

I heard this ended on a cliffhanger so I thought I’d wait until Archangel’s War came out and I’m sO CLOSE BUT I CAVEEEEED.

> The back-and-forth, the ease and openness to communication, and the stability and depth of Elena and Raphael’s relationship will forever be my favorite thing about this series.
> The Legion has a bigger presence in this story!! That was cool.
> This was… really slow? Which, on one hand, makes sense, because it’s the book leading up to the Big Angel War (I’m assuming, because, Archangel’s War). But on the other hand, this was the eleventh of eleven books leading up to the Big Angel War, and all the previous books had no trouble with this, so I really think it’s just a This Book problem and not a problem of its placement in the overarching story.
> There was also a ton of recaps. A TON. Something like the previous ten books distilled to a couple of paragraphs and them crammed into every feasible place you could find. Which, overall, made Archangel’s Prophecy read as more filler-y than anything else.
> I ended up skimming through a fair chunk of this. I love Nalini Singh and I’ll still read anything she puts out, but this was the most filler-y, draggy, and disappointing book in the series by a long shot, and I’m pretty sad about that.
> Most everything ends on an ambiguous note, and I felt like this book was just going around and around in circles without ever really getting to the point 🙁 Like this was what the entire book was supposed to be aBOUT but then it ended juust before the Big Happening? Even all the other stuff – the family stuff (I’ve got my eyes on you, Jefferey – you better shape up, yeah?), the angelic/vampiric mystery stuff was just… glossed over… they took up a lot of physical pages but didn’t seem to take as high of an importance as Elena’s immortality business, and yet.

(But, am I still going to read Archangel’s War? HELL YEAH. One more month to goooo)

别那么骄傲 by 随侯珠
Published September 2015 by 花山文艺出版社
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Chatting in the dormitory at night, roommates wonder how much pain Aunt Flow brings. Mr. Perfect He Zhi Zhou has never bothered joining in on these petty talks for amusement. That is, until he became a woman and laid in bed with a white-cast complexion……

Chatting in the female dormitory at night, roommates sighed over the current pairings in the school of engineering, Shen Xi was a little curious that the problem with these topics is that there was no way to test them. Until she became an engineering male and a bar of soap dropped in front of her……

Introduction in one sentence: About how a top-scoring perfect male with no desire in the opposite gender and an amusing female lead were set up like lightning setting the ground on fire spreading out of control—leading to a sweet and rippling life……

Life is so long, don’t be so arrogant. Some things are bound to deviate.

The first half was fluffy and silly and fun. HZZ really did end up drawing the short end of the stick in all this chaos, both his and SY’s reactions to everything were hilarious, and the way the author just… shamelessly and boldly charged headfirst into everything that differed between the male and female experience… I’m screaming. I did feel a lot of sympathy for LYT, but, maybe in part because we’re seeing this through SY’s eyes, I do feel like he had it coming, and that SY deserved a lot better than him. It did really feel like he only started trying to put in the effort once HZZ came into the picture, and once he realized that SY had other options, ones arguably better than him – only when he felt threatened. And while the latter half of the book took on a slightly repetitive pattern, and with a few questionable elements, it made for a nice, lighthearted read, and I really appreciated how steadfast the main couple was, even through their small squabbles and silliness. TL;DR I’m weak for fluffy, happy, silly stories and 别那么骄傲 was just that.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Published November 4th 2014 by Createspace
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

I liked some of the poems, others felt rather incomplete – it was a pretty underwhelming read, despite the emotion and conviction behind every single word being pretty darn powerful. I don’t know how to feeeeeel.

Spider’s Revenge
(Elemental Assassin #5) by Jennifer Estep
Published September 27th 2011 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Old habits die hard. And I plan on mur­der­ing some­one before the night is through.

Killing used to be my reg­u­lar gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spi­der, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly mat­ters: Mab Mon­roe, the dan­ger­ous Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily when I was thir­teen.

Oh, I don’t think the mis­sion will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more prob­lem­atic than expected. The bitch knows I’m com­ing for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keep­ing Bria safe is my first pri­or­ity. Tak­ing Mab out is a close sec­ond.

Good thing I’ve got my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre­sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This bat­tle has been years in the mak­ing, and there’s a chance I won’t sur­vive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s com­ing with me…no mat­ter what I have to do to make that happen.

There’s a plot there, somewhere, under all that repetition. In hindsight, the “army of lethal bounty hunters” feels way over-exaggerated, as does Gin’s skills – she keeps messing up perfectly good shots! I know she beats herself up for it and knew she screwed up, but it ends up feeling like cheap twists to stretch this one hit into a full-length book, and it doesn’t quite work for me. The fight sequences are still cool, though, and the last quarter or so of the book really picked up the slack.

十二点的辛德瑞拉 by 板栗子
Published 2017 by jjwxc
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Newly crowned Film Emperor Feng Jing; good looks, good stature, good acting, good character. Except he has one unshakeable rule—any night show he stars in cannot go past 12 o’clock. The media, with ulterior motives, chases after this little crazy secret of his. Yet remaining unconcerned about how the outside world falls into turbulent times, Film Emperor Feng still stands tall and unmoved.

Jiang Ran recently felt that her dog has become somewhat strange. Ordinarily when she kisses, hugs, and raises her dog up high, her dog would always be especially happy and lovable. Now whenever she kisses, hugs, and raises her dog up high, however, her dog was horny…

Reading Guide:

Every midnight, the male lead’s soul switches with that of the female lead’s dog, switching back at six o’clock in the morning.

Self-healing little sweet novel! Sweetness is the only goal!

The female lead is intelligent, beautiful, tender, generous, hardworking, and brave (according to the male lead) Male lead is a loyal dog, loyal dog, loyal dog, loyal dog, loyal dog, loyal dog (according to the author)

板栗子 is one of my favorite authors for fluffy, lighthearted romcom-style chinese reads (with the added bonus of hilarious online forum/chat mediums incorporated into them as well) – I really enjoyed 只怪当初瞎了眼, 结婚协奏曲, and 我的世界坠入爱河. 糖心蜜意, though sliiiightly missing something that the other three had, in terms of cuteness and fluff and immersive enjoyability, was another all-around great read! But 早安,幽灵小姐 was. Weird? For the most part, I didn’t like MZ – that was my biggest qualm. He came off as imperious at times, creepy at worst, and though he did have some moments, 早安,幽灵小姐 was the first 板栗子 book that left me feeling disappointed. Enter, 十二点的辛德瑞拉.

To be fair, the biggest point has more to do with my personal tastes than anything else. The way FJ’s body-swap was portrayed… weirded me out? for the lack of a better term, and that definitely colored my opinion, especially of the beginning 1/3. I also think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, up until now, the 板栗子 novels I’ve enjoyed were all from the female perspective. I really enjoyed reading about these girls pursuing their careers, doing their best and chasing success (DM with singing, TZ with fashion and manhua, PY with acting, and TM with sweets). Along the way, they encounter romance, but it’s more a? a happening that’s encountered on their respective career paths? Yes, cute and fluffy romance has always been the centerpiece of 板栗子 novels, but usually, it’s colored by daily life and career notes. Here, there’s very little color, and that, coupled with FJ’s not-awful, but also cardboard-dry character, and there’s very little that can prop it up to the same fun and immersive standards that 板栗子’s other novels had set. The first half is one large, slightly manipulative and arguably creepy and stalkerish pursuit of a girl, all pretenses abandoned.

The second half, despite all this, does get a lot better! JR, as well as the appearance of YY, as well as poor MXE, does wonders for the dryness of the story. And, FJ’s family? Amazing. His sister deserves the biiiiigest hug; I love their close-knit dynamics. FJ and JR’s cute, flirty dynamics are everything you’d want and expect from 板栗子. The chaos of the media, the melon-eater comments, the zero-fucks attitude FJ has toward these happenings… The second half returns to 板栗子’s usual fluffy, cute, slightly outrageous and over-the-top style. But.

1). Their relationship happened super, super fast? Call me old-fashioned, but I feel like, especially after his sister’s ordeal, floating marriage 4-5 months after your very first meeting is pretty rash? 2). The second half was wild – in a good way – but the first half, with all it’s aforementioned weirdness and creepiness, is a pretty high hurdle to have to clear to get to all the fluffy cute chaos later on and, frankly, if I wasn’t a huge fan of 板栗子’s other works, I definitely would’ve tapped out within the first twenty chapters.

So, 2.5 stars, all for the second-ish half. Three on Goodreads, because they don’t allow half-stars, and I definitely liked 十二点的辛德瑞拉 more than 早安,幽灵小姐, and even though I didn’t quite like it as much as 糖心蜜意. Fingers crossed for the next!

Poison Study (Poison Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder
Published March 1st 2007 by Mira
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Poison Study has been on my wishlist for so, so long, and so many recommended lists have had at least one book by Maria V. Snyder on it, so really, what took me this long (at least seven years!!)?

In hindsight, part of my reaction might be on me. I’m not a avid a fan of romance as I used to be, and I’ve definitely become a lot pickier. But Poison Study was supposed to be a lot of different and interesting things – primarily, a poison tester! court intrigue! – and, while the resulting book wasn’t bad – I enjoyed it, and the characters were definitely the highlight – I think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more a few years ago.

The transitions felt a little weird. It’s not that they were nonexistent, but they were set up in ways that disrupted the flow of the preceding and succeeding story. The breaks between scenes and switches between trains of thought felt jumpy at times, and all too brief at others. It makes chunks of the writing feel – what’s the word? something like fleeting? but with bad connotations? – and takes away a lot of the building tension and emotion, too, and overall just detracts from the story. In the same vein, the foreshadowing. It… wasn’t great? I won’t say what happened, but we aren’t fed breadcrumbs so much as we’re fed entire loaves.

And, okay, confession time: I don’t like Valek. I thought he was okay at the beginning, but as the story progressed, he just got more standoffish and demanding. He’s very obviously set up across from Yelena as the love interest, but most scenes with him just make me wish he was anything but. He irrationally gives her the cold shoulder out of the blue – nothing happens! he just gives her the cold shoulder! – and then a couple pages he just. Returns to normal? And nothing more is said on the topic? Like, okay. Most everyone else treats her awfully, particularly at the beginning, and I get it! It would be weird and unrealistic if they didn’t, seeing as she is a criminal and a murderer. And, Maren’s cold to her throughout, but I found myself really liking Maren, because to Yelena, she’s a trainer. And she’s cold but not an asshole, you feel? But Valek runs hot and cold, nice and asshole-y, on a hair-trigger, and he’s clearly set up to be her love interest, so here we have some problems. His holier-than-thou attitude air, especially in that one scene in which Yelena asks what she’s learned from him, and he replies with his attention – his attention?? after eeeeverything she’s accomplished at that point in the story???? – rubbed me the wrong way, to say the least. He does have his brief oh-no-he-s-cute moments – what can I say, I’m weak for the dark and brooding ML trope – but, for the vast majority of the time? Eeeeeh. I also really didn’t see how their relationship developed? One minute they seemed like employer and employee and then the next she and Rand are yelling and she realizes her ~feelings~. Gradual development, there is not.

I really liked Ari and Janco! And, as aforementioned, Maren! I liked the dynamic the author had set up, both between the two as well as between them and the rest of the characters. I love the little tight-knit family they developed between themselves. Their training sessions were one of the highlights of Poison Study for me, and I really wished we could’ve seen more of them!

OH. The one thing I was super on-the-edge about? The Commander. No spoilers, so I’m not going to dive deep into it, but. I have. Many thoughts.

The rest of the story’s pretty standard magical YA fantasy, in my opinion. The cast of supporting characters prop it all up, and the poison-eater element gives it a spark. It’s cool to see how everything slots together; I can really appreciate how the author managed to combine so many elements – spies, acrobatics, magic, political intrigue, food, psychological demons, and more – into one cohesive novel. It keeps you reading, despite the cons. I definitely appreciate how solid and thought-out a lot of Yelena’s turning-point choices felt, as if they were truly given their proper weight, as well as the non-cliffhanger-y, hopeful ending. As for the way it all developed, on paper, overall, from the set up to the conflict to the resolution, it’s very on par with most YA fantasy.

And while Poison Study isn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, it’s a pretty solid read, especially for fans of the genre.

Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1) by Aimee Carter
Published November 26th 2013 by Harlequin Teen
Source: received from publisher
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

YOU CAN BE A VII IF YOU GIVE EVERYTHING.

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked – surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed, and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand.

Pawn had me going “????????” from the opening pages.

So Kitty fails an aptitude test right before the book starts, and ends up with a III tattooed on the back of her neck. Her boyfriend Benjy tells her he doesn’t care and that he’s willing to run away with her! But somehow she’s convinced that it’ll ruin his test results and she’s not willing to be his downfall which. If it’s an aptitude test I’m struggling to see exactly how her score and her marrying him will affect his personal aptitude? And halfway through, we were kiiind of floated this idea that maybe the aptitude test isn’t all it seems and that it doesn’t really test your aptitude, which 1) has the potential to be a really good critique of the current standardize testing system (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, etc etc etc) in the US and 2) can start to potentially make an argument for why certain choices, like marrying a III, might ruin your chances of becoming a VI. BUT then immediately after we’re treated with a slew of tidbits here and there about how bright and wonderful and talented and smart Kitty is, and how there’s proof in how she managed to pull a III on the test although she had to leave a huge chunk of it blank, and then it all swirled away.

Benjy? I liked his steadfast resolution to stand beside Kitty. I wasn’t really sure about much else, though. Pawn was really good at putting everything into really neat little boxes, and Benjy? He sat in a nice little cardboard box labeled “KITTY’S MOTIVATION” and set a toe past those boundaries.

So Kitty goes to a club instead of becoming a sewage worker, and from there everything really starts to unravel, because instead of actually selling her virginity to the highest bidder, the highest bidder actually just wants Kitty for her. blue. eyes. And for that reason alone, he’s set to make her into a VII and his niece’s doppelganger? They can lengthen legs in this futuristic world. They can change entire body shapes and sIZES in this world. But they can’t change someone’s eye color to blue? ??? ????? There are processes now, in 2019, that can do that for a person. Hell, there are less-invasive colored contacts that can give you any eye color you want. But this is their one hang-up in this dystopian world?

But, okay. Kitty becomes Lila, agrees without thinking there might be some sort of catch, or maybe fifty (who will track you down, shoot down club members and intimidate your family members to get to you, only to hand you a golden ticket with no strings??).

And from there? I’m. Not quite sure? I read Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test and Goddess Interrupted when they came out, and honestly, Pawn kind of gives off the same vibes I remember (albeit from. seven years. ago). It floats here and there, dabbles in a lot of things that could be potentially interesting, but never delves into them, and then sprinkles that atop some romance and calls it a day. There’s something about a rebellion, though we don’t actually ever get to see it. There’s set up for political intrigue, but, as Kitty – and every other character she interacts with – hammers home for us every other page or so, Kitty’s motivation is BENJY, so we’re treated to a lot of fretting and worrying and doing-things-at-other-people-s-command-so-benjy-will-live-to-see-another-day but no actual self autonomy, and so much of the intrigue-discovering happens once Kitty’s become a victim, or an unhappy bystander caught in the crossfire. There’s romance, but Benjy’s never really treated to any character development, and feels like nothing more than the possibly proverbial carrot to Kitty’s every move, so the romance comes off as dry and maybe even posturing instead.

Aside from all this, the world building is also confusing, not to mention pretty unbelievable – unrest settled by the reorganization of all the resources to the elite few? It’s simplistic and glossed-over, fluffed up with a few comments here and there about how unjust the system is. And the characters? They have just enough presence to fulfill their roles in the story, but are hardly memorable, and after a while, start blending together.

Pawn wasn’t an awful read, but it was shaky and lackluster. You might be able to chalk up chalk up some of it to Pawn being the first in a trilogy, but even then, I don’t feel any motivation to continue.

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep
Published August 27th 2013 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When a terror from the past threatens Gin’s friend and body-disposer, Sophia, Gin will stop at nothing to protect her, even if it means walking straight into a killer’s trap. Meanwhile, the rocky romance between Gin and Owen reaches a turning point—can they reunite and rekindle their love? Or will the things Gin has been forced to do in her line of work as the deadly assassin the Spider keep them apart forever? Assuming, that is, she survives long enough to find out…

I’m pretty sure you could read any book in the series at random and still know everything that came before courtesy of all the recaps. They’re not bad reads! But Estep has a formula, and she follows it to a T every single time; the same quips, the same story structure, even the same recaps. And especially after nine books, it gets old. Also, idc what he attempts to pull now – Owen’s never going to be able to bounce back from the mess he made for himself. It’s nice to get some closure on what’s been haunting Sophia and Jo-Jo for decades, and with that, I think this is as good a place as any in the series to stop.

Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen
Published September 6th 2016 by Berkley
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold…

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast….

The romance was gumdrop-sweet and fluffy, and I loved the assembly of supporting characters. But I really wasn’t on board with the way the rape element was handled. Also, oof, the treatment of Leo’s exes was just. not. not great.

Lord of the Abyss (Royal House of Shadows #4) by Nalini Singh
Published November 22nd 2011 by Harlequin
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy.

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.

It’s a bit of a departure from the Nalini Singh books I’m used to, the pacing was uneven in places, and I wasn’t super on board with some parts of the ending, but the characters were varying and interesting and I liked the directness of their relationships – it felt refreshing, in a sense.

I go through periods when I read no books, and then periods when I’m just reading aaaaaall the books I can get my hands on. It’s a very all-or-nothing fluctuation that I’m sure must be awful for all my Goodreads friends, whose timelines are, every other month or so, full-on spammed with all the books from whichever genre-related obsession I’ve fallen into this time. Shoutout to all my Goodreads friends for putting up with my bullshit.

These past few weeks, in the true spirit of my always falling into genres years after the hype has died, I’ve been really into Adult Urban Fantasy – vampires, werewolves, romance, you know it, you know it. And man, those series that started around 2010 are long. Couple that with my series-related commitment issues when it comes to picking up book two and subsequent stubbornness when it comes to finishing series I’m at least two-books-deep in, and the result is, well, this.

The Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh was my first UF love. I was kind of? disappointed? in the stories featuring Dimitri – the ending development felt like such a cop-out to a love-story that had so much potential – and Venom – Singh is one of my favorite favorite writers but the whole story felt like a sad deflated balloon of recycled elements – but even then they were a solid two stars. And while Raphael and Elena are my favorite couple, Naasir and Andromeda are a close second. I was all caught up on the series a few years ago, but with my recent UF kick, I discovered that a lot of authors had side-stories and extra scenes! So, apologies to my GR friends, but I spent an entire afternoon binge-reading all the extras in shorts. Afternoon well spent 😉

Naturally, then, Psy-Changeling was my second love. I didn’t speed through the whole series like I did Guild Hunter – I feel like Guild Hunter has more of a strong linear story, whereas Psy-Changeling, though it the storyline is very much present, features a different couple in each book, and so it’s easier to start and stop and hop around books within the series. I’d covered the OG couples years ago, but had skipped around a bit then, so a few weeks ago, I took to binge-reading the entire series in order, extras and shorts included. And. Guys! The shorts? You all know I’m cynical as hell, but even cynics can be romantics, and, well. Heart of Obsidian will always be my favorite entry in this series, but everything else? Thumbs up thumbs up thumbs up!! I think at this point, I’ll read just about anything Nalini Singh puts out.

So after my Nalini Singh binge-read-fest, I was craving some more series with kick-ass UF heroines. My cousin recommended me the Night Huntress series – I remember seeing Jeaniene Frost’s name everywhere at one point, and so many people had so many good things to say about the series on Goodreads but it ended up being pretty lackluster? A lot of the books were slow and draggy and most of the characters’ personalities were based on one specific point, which didn’t make for the most dynamic read. I also ended up reading the Night Huntress World series, unaware until halfway through book two (I know… how?) but I ended up liking those two books even less than the main series. Vlad had been my favorite character in Night Huntress, so I tried – and finished – the Night Prince series, but Vlad went from charming and funny to a pretentious asshole and I wasn’t at all on board with that.

The Kate Daniels series though!! And the Hidden Legacy series! They were exactly what I was looking for after bingeing Nalini Singh, and Ilona Andrews is quickly becoming another author I’d read anything from.

After that, I tried D. B. Reynolds’s Vampires in America series, but it was super formulaic, and the formula was pretty lacking in substance, and honestly, every book wrapped up neatly enough, so I felt no real compulsion to finish.

I remember really liking Jennifer Estep’s YA series Mythos Academy, and my cousin was really into her Adult Elemental Assassin series for a while, so I decided to give that one a try, and… It wasn’t that the series was a terribly bad read – a lot of the action cuts are fun! But Estep’s really fond of her recaps, and the deeper into the series you go, the more recaps she pads her books with, until it feels like 90% of them are recaps, and then it just feels daunting to have to wade through all that to get to the main story – especially when the recaps feel copy-and-pasted from previous books’ recaps. It’s a lot. And on top of that, the male love interests go from bad to worse, and then to The Worst. There are seventeen books currently published, and I made it up to the ninth book – Heart of Venom? – which neatly wrapped up many of the initial plot threads and, in light of everything else, seemed like a nice place as any to end.

Goodreads told me I’d read Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites, the first two books in Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, but honestly I couldn’t really remember anything, but the rest of the series kept popping up on my recommended list, and it seemed like the kind of series I was looking for, so I gave it another try. Everything up to book four Hard Bitten was really nice! The secondary characters were numerous but unique and interesting, and Merit’s character was interesting to follow. I really like the episodic, scooby-doo reads, tied together by some overarching story – this way, each read has a satisfying end, and then the series has a satisfying end, and then that’s double the satisfaction! But then everything started going downhill with book five, Drink Deep: Merit’s character gets thinner and thinner with the growing focus on romance, Catcher and Mallory’s relationship with Merit soured drastically, and Ethan became a bumbling megalomaniac.

I also read the first book in the Mercy Thompson series – Moon Called? a while back and wasn’t a super big fan, but I’ve heard such great things about Mercy Thompson, and even more about Alpha & Omega, it’s spinoff series, so I decided to give it another shot! The series was definitely more of an acquired taste for me – the way the author writes and organizes her elements is… different? Not sure how to explain it. It’s interesting, though, because Alpha & Omega was definitely the series I enjoyed better upon the first read – and therefore the series I rated most highly – but Mercy Thompson is the one I go back to reread scenes from. I’d definitely recommend both for fans of the genre, though!

(That is if you’ve been living under a rock like me.)

(Welcome to my rock.)

The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Published February 10th 2015 by Harper Teen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★½

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

I’m pretty sure this book drop-kicked my heart out the window. Ran over it and then backed up and ran over it again. Only a few dozen pages in, and I was already teetering on the edge of tears; three different places pushed me over that edge. And in all honesty, if I’d been fully aware of what I was signing up for, I probably wouldn’t have cracked The Last Time We Say Goodbye open at all. But the back cover copy was vague, so here we are. It covers a lot – family, friends, life, loss – and way too much hits way too close to home, though from a different POV, and I just. Ached. The Last Time We Say Goodbye is gorgeous in its prose and delicate in its delivery and it fits together so, so well. Too well, maybe. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick this up again.

I love how the tone managed to be mourning and emotional but wry at the same time, without overdoing any of it, and the way the tone is able to capture Lex’s character development and journey from numb to understanding, without spelling anything out. Everything is slow and purposeful, information revealed in tiny doses, and though the pieces don’t quite fall together in resounding resolution, the reveal at the ending packed a punch just the same.

The Last Time We Say Goodbye looks at everyone – Lex, Ty, their mom, their dad, Ty’s girlfriend, Ty’s old friends, Ty’s new friends, Lex’s old friends, Lex’s new friends… everyone. There’s a lot of subtle themes at play here, too – so many, but somehow, they work, interwoven with the larger trajectory of the story – and Lex’s relationship with her mom in particular really pulled all the threads together and brought the story forward. We see a lot of different relationships that Lex has with different friends, and they waver at varying times, but her relationship with her mom was this almost tenuous thing at the beginning that we can just about see being built up throughout the story. Theirs was a heartbreaking story, but the way they pulled each other up was bittersweetly heartwarming.

One thing that irked me though? Avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that I was bothered enough by the way the author handled a certain forgiveness dilemma. I literally stopped crying when I got to that part. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you don’t owe anyone your forgiveness, and that choosing not to forgive someone won’t taint your character. You aren’t a bad person for not telling someone who hurt you, as well as the people you love, deeply, over many years, seemingly unrepentant until it the situation became grave, and then convenient, that you forgive them. I can’t see that as a negative character trait. The Last Time We Say Goodbye says differently.

And while I really liked the idea of a more mathematically-geared, cooly logical aspect to Lex’s characters, and really appreciated all the references, I couldn’t help but feel like, thought the writing was consistently heart-achingly poignant and subtle across the story, Lex when she made math references felt like a different character from Lex in the rest of the story. It’s not jarring enough to feel like the references were just thrown in for the aesthetic or for the idea of her, but there’s a definite disconnect between Lex’s characters in those two situations, and enough to feel like one part isn’t completely reconciled with the other.

But, Lex and Steven? Cuuuuute. (Also, that reveal? Punch me in the gUT.)

The Last Time We Say Goodbye isn’t without its flaws, but the way the author writes, with the diary entries and the slightly wavering timeline and the way everything fit together – it was heart-aching and so, so lovely, and I’ll definitely be thinking about it for a long while.