February 26, 2020

Friends with ARCs | Of Curses and Kisses + Once Upon a Sunset

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta's Academy #1) by Sandhya Menon
pub 2/18/20 by Simon Pulse
Young Adult - Magical Realism
Received e-ARC from pub for review
Of Curses and Kisses had quite a few things going for it: international boarding school, Beauty & the Beast inspired, a swoon-worthy hero named Grey, a feisty younger sister, a bit of magical realism, and Menon's compulsively readable writing. And yet, the book fell flat for me due to the heroine, Princess Jaya Rao. She takes the dutiful daughter who puts her family first to a whole other level. I can respect that mentality to a certain degree but not when it's at the expense of kindness to others or open-mindedness. Jaya believes her little sister is the target of their family's centuries-old feud with the Emersons. So when she and her sister enroll at the same boarding school as Grey Emerson, the plan is: make him fall in love with her and break his heart for revenge. Even though this premise is written in the synopsis, I guess I didn't really register it? Because once I realized this was her goal, it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth especially as her motivations and behavior made no sense whatsoever. And of course once she actually gets to know Grey, she's "drawn" to him but won't abandon her plan. On the other hand, Grey was someone I could root for! The Raos put an ancient curse on his family and he truly believes he's doomed on his 18th birthday, which is why he's always kept everyone at arm's length. Then he meets Jaya who he's simultaneously intrigued by and wary of because she seems to be hiding something (clearly he's not wrong). But because of how I felt about Jaya, I couldn't immerse myself in the romance which is at the forefront of this story or sympathize with her. (Grey, you deserve better!) That said, if the the next book is about Jaya's little sis, I would be tempted to read that.

Do you own a piece of jewelry gifted by family and what occasion was it for? | On my 18th birthday, my grandmother gave me her mother's necklace. It's an antique that has so much sentimental value to me.


pub 3/3/20 by Gallery Books
Women's Fiction - Contemporary
Received e-ARC from pub for review
I really hate to say this because I find author Tif Marcelo to be such a delightful human being both in person and on social media but I'm starting to think her books aren't for me. I always like the idea of her premises a lot and I love the way she incorporates Filipino culture but something is always missing in the execution and the writing itself. I felt that way about The Key the Happily Ever After and that my reaction again with Once Upon a Sunset. In her latest novel, we meet Diana Gallagher-Cary, a hardworking OB/GYN at a prestigious hospital, who makes a medical decision that forces her to go on a short sabbatical. While this is happening, she's also grieving her grandmother, her long-term boyfriend just broke up with her, and her free-spirited mother is currently living with her which has caused a bit of friction. It's a lot to deal with already but then life throws her yet another curveball: she finds a box of letters from her grandfather to her grandmother from the 1940s but she and her mom were led to believe he died in the WWII. These letters reveal that he not only survived but they have relatives in the Philippines. Her mom is understandably hesitant to do anything as she processes the news but Diana just steamrolls ahead. She's determined to travel to the Philippines to reconnect with her long-lost family. It ends up becoming a journey about family, her relationship with her mom and more importantly, herself. And I loved all those themes but so much seemed to happen at a superficial level. I wanted to know Diana better and delve more into her mom's life, who I actually found way more interesting and emotionally connected to. I just felt things were happening too fast in the last quarter and it came across rushed.

What's  a spot in the Philippines that you want to visit? | Palawan, hands-down. I've been dreaming of that place for years so hopefully one day I'll make that trip happen.


***

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


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