October 22, 2020

Reviews: Simmer Down + In a Holidaze

pub 10/13/20 by Berkley
Adult - Contemporary Romance
Received e-ARC from pub for review
Who doesn't love a rom-com about food? When I saw that Simmer Down featured a hate-to-love relationship (one of my favorite tropes) between two rival food truck owners and the heroine's was called Tiva's Filipina Kusina, I knew I had to read this. I'll admit, it didn't end up becoming a favorite but it was enjoyable and if anything else, it made me want to order Filipino food for takeout. Or try cooking some dishes myself! Nikki DiMarco quit her dream job to move to Maui to help her mom run a food truck serving up Filipino dishes. They have an established spot on the beach which is threatened when Callum James and his brother arrive and decide to park right next to them. A feud immediately erupts between them and soon they decide the only way to settle it is by entering the Maui Food Festival and whoever wins gets to keep the spot. I would say the set up of the story was great, the food deliciously described, and the mother-daughter dynamic is one I very much understood. However I thought everything else was lacking. The romance was had its swoon-worthy moments but had equally cringeworthy ones. The conflict was a bit contrived and predictable. But most of all, I would've liked to see more individual character, as well as romantic relationship, development to feel more emotionally invested in the story playing out.

Do I recommend?
 If you want something quick to read and enjoy stories involving food, I think this could be fun to borrow from the library. 

pub 10/6/20 by Gallery Books
Adult - Contemporary Romance
Received e-ARC from pub for review
I have a feeling I will be in the minority when I say that I miss Christina Lauren's earlier (and sexier) books. I've thought that after reading each of their last five novels -- In a Holidaze included. Now, don't get me wrong, the books are still fun and enjoyable. In a Holidaze takes place during Christmas, where Maelyn Jones' favorite holiday tradition is basically imploding on itself and she keeps having to relive it. (Think Groundhogs's Day.) Her family, along with the other families she's grown up with, have been gathering together for Christmas at a cabin in Utah her entire life and now this may be their last year celebrating there. As they go their separate ways, Mae makes a wish to the universe to show her what will make her happy. The next thing she knows, she wakes up and she's on an airplane bound for Utah again, where she begins the same holiday all over again. As she tries to change things for a better outcome, every new disaster sends her back to the beginning and she has to figure out how to break free of this time loop (which, of course, involves finding true love). I wasn't a huge fan of the time loop concept and that could very well be because real life these days feels like an endless cycle so it didn't resonate with me. I do love reading about holiday traditions and the romance portrayed was sweet. But I found myself just wanting more from the characters, the relationships, and the dynamics between the different families. It was missing something for me. 

Do I recommend?
If you're in the mood for just a light romance and you love holiday settings, I'd check this out. 

October 19, 2020

Life Lately | Long Island City, Take 2

Alexa and I are continuing to alternate visiting one another every month and for October, it was my turn to go to her! Two weekends ago, we met up in Long Island City again but instead of just sitting on a blanket for 5 hours straight (which I loved, don't get me wrong), we actually walked around this time and had plans!

We kicked off the day with breakfast at 51st Street Bakery and Cafe. They had a bunch of tables set up for outdoor dining so we actually took advantage of that. We always get the breakfast sandwich, which is delicious, but this time we got it on a baguette and paired it with a chocolate croissant. The meal gave me such Parisian cafe vibes. From there we headed over to Gantry Park and proceeded to walk the entire length of it in one giant circle. It felt so good to stretch my legs and walk, plus we stopped to talk, admire the views and take pictures in between. My photos don't do the view justice! 

After the park, we walked to BookCulture LIC since it was only less than 25 mins away. We both had only been to that store only once before for an event so it was nice to step inside again. They had this hilarious sign out front that said: "If you hold a book in each hand, you can't touch your face." We explored the entire store and while I didn't walk out with a book, I did buy two candles and a notebook. It's such a cute store! 

And finally, we ended the day with ice cream from Ice & Vice! It was funny (and a little bittersweet) but we turned to each other excited to be taking an ice cream photo together after so long! Getting ice cream and just the whole outing in general felt like a normal day we would've taken together pre-COVID except we wore masks and kept our distance from other people. These hangouts really do make me happy because they end up being perfect Saturdays but also because they remind me to appreciate these little moments and to never take them for granted. 

Have you been able to hang out with friends lately?

October 14, 2020

Friends with ARCs | A Golden Fury + Crazy Stupid Bromance

pub 10/13/20 by Wednesday Books
YA - Historical Fantasy
Received e-ARC from pub for review
A Golden Fury
 is all about one girl's ambition to prove her mettle as an alchemist by creating the legendary Philosopher's Stone. Thea Hope has been working closely with her famous alchemist mother to create the Stone and just as their dreams are about to be reached, Thea's mother destroys it while falling to its curse of madness. But with the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford to live with her father, who doesn't know she exists, for her safety. Turns out, he's an alchemist too, and despite her warnings -- he and everyone else around him want to use her knowledge without heeding her advice. It's a race for Thea to create the Stone and break its curse so she can save the people she loves. And the book is very much plot-driven and singularly focused on Thea's journey to create the Stone. So while the pacing was there and the conflict was compelling, the characters were unfortunately lacking. Not nearly enough time was spent exploring the complicated relationships she had with each of her parents, or the "love interest" (note the deliberate quotes I used). I felt we were getting told a lot of things that happened in the past without having a chance to see those dynamics for ourselves in the present to feel invested. I think the nature of the story makes you want to root for Thea to succeed but I wish she, and her journey, had left more of an impression. 

What was your favorite branch of science to study in school? | During either my junior or senior year in high school, I took Human Anatomy & Physiology and it was my favorite science class I had ever taken (and because it was an AP class, I got out of taking any sciences in college!). I just learned so much about the human body, that I've since forgotten, but I remember thinking it was so interesting at the time. 

pub 10/27/20 by Berkley
Contemporary Romance
Received e-ARC from pub for review
While the Bromance Book Club series isn't exactly a favorite, I do find it very entertaining and look forward to every new installment. Crazy Stupid Bromance focuses on Alexis Carlisle and Noah Logan, which is a pairing I didn't see coming (but totally here for it). After Alexis came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef's sexual harassment, she opened up a cafe that would create a safe space for other survivors like herself. So when a new customer approaches her, she assumes it's to confide in her -- not to announce that their sisters. She turns to her best friend Noah, who happens to a computer security expert, for help and of course, he does. But while they're uncovering that truth, the real secret we all care about is that they're in love with each other. Except both are hiding it in fear that they'll ruin their friendship. All their friends can clearly see what's happening so naturally, the book club strikes again by recruiting Noah and giving him a romance novel to read. That is always my favorite part of each book. Just listening to these men talk about romance and their interpretations of these novels. I did enjoy the romance as well but I will say that the whole sub-plot with Alexis' long-lost sister (and by extension, family) failed to capture my attention. The "conflict" it was supposed to bring to Alexis and Noah just felt forced. The series' continues to be strongest when focusing on the book club and the women who have all become friends. 

What would you name your cat? | This isn't a spoiler but Alexis has a cat named Beefcake, who is just hilarious (star of this book, you guys). If I had a cat, I'd name her Luna after the cat in Sailor Moon.


Collaborative feature with Alexa. We read ARCs together and post our reviews on the same date.

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