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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - American Panda by Gloria Chao

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: American Panda
Author: Gloria Chao 
Age Category/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Buy Links: Amazon

4.5 “Pandas are adorable” Stars

Yes, the premise of this book is similar to the last few YA contemporaries I’ve read this year, but I still loved it! In fact, I feel like the only reason this book wasn't as popular as others with the “girl wants to break free from controlling parents” trope, like When Dimple Met Rishi or Love, Hate & Other Filters, was because it was released after them.

As far as the overprotective-and-demanding-parents trope is concerned, American Panda showed my favorite approach.

In this story, we follow Mei, a Taiwanese-American MIT student who’s pressured by her parents to become a doctor, despite the fact that she’s a germaphobe and has always dreamed about opening a dance studio. Wishes and dreams aside, Mei is convinced she has to follow her parents’ rules and the path they have prepared for her. If she doesn’t, she will be disowned just like her older brother.

Two things immediately caught my attention about this story,

First, it’s set in college. Mei is still seventeen and her voice was perfect for YA, but I was so happy to see a YA Contemporary not limited to the high school experience. Please, gimme more of that!

Second, Mei’s struggle felt bigger and the stakes for going against her parents higher simply because I could feel her love for them. She feared hurting them, and that really touched me.

In the past, I’ve struggled with this trope because it often felt like the main characters didn’t care for their parents at all. The MCs were convinced of their choices and didn’t give much thought to why their parents acted the way they did. It was a “I’m right, they’re wrong, so I’ll do what I want no matter what” situation.

American Panda brings another perspective when it shows Mei’s parents under a different light, exploring their pasts and their own struggles. Mei’s mom steals the spotlight countless times. I could connect with both Mei and her mom, which made me wish that much harder for them to find some common ground.

I thought the way Mei went from agreeing with everything her parents wanted to finally finding her voice was perfect, because she remained respectful the entire time. She not only worried about her parents, but she tried to understand their culture and where they were coming from while also learning what it meant for her to be Taiwanese-American.

This entire plotline put a huge smile on my face.

Speaking of smiling, I absolutely adored the voicemails and messages Mei’s mother left on Mei’s phone. The woman was hilarious! Despite how suffocating the woman was, I was in love with her the entire time.

The romance wasn’t my favorite—it was as bit too quiet, but Darren was respectful and, if we’re being honest, I didn’t get the vibe that the romance was supposed to be a big thing in this book. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t mind it.

For me, American Panda was a story about family. About how Mei realized she could love those that were closest to her, but still disagree with their choices, as long as they all learned how to respect each other. Not everything went the way she wanted, but I loved the not-perfect-ending.
*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
(Legacy of Orïsha #1)
Author: Tomi Adeyemi 
Age Category/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publication Date: March 6th, 2018
Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Buy Links: Amazon

4 “Bring Back Magic” Stars

ARC via NetGalley!

Thank you, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers!

Edit: Full Review Now!

First thing I’ll say, it’s been MONTHS and I’m still obsessed with that cover. Obsessed. That is all.

Now, I’m keeping most of my original review from the excerpt, but also adding more thoughts on the rest of the book, because (a) can you believe I was lucky enough to get a partial ARC (first six chapters) and then the full ARC? I still can’t; and (b) I stand by my thoughts at the time and tons of people had already liked the review, so it’s only fair.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the YA book world, then you know Children of Blood and Bone will be the next big thing in YA. Tomi Adeyemi’s debut was one of the most talked about stories when it sold (for a LOT of money!!!) last year, and the publisher has been promoting it non-stop since then. Guess what? It’s about damn time the publishing world starts investing in stories like this. After all, when was the last time you had a chance to read an #ownvoices West African-inspired YA Fantasy with black characters???

I truly hope Children of Blood and Bone’s inevitable and well-deserved success is the start of another time in publishing. A time when diverse voices are heard and paid just as much as white-focused narratives. We’re real people and we deserve attention! It’s time you realize that, publishing world!

*Rant over*

So, yeah, I’d been fangirling over this book for a long time, and I was honored to get the chance to read it before its official release.

After having read the first six chapters, I was even more intrigued and impressed with both female leading characters. Those feelings stuck around for the rest of the book.

It took me a few pages to get behind impulsive Zélie, but once I got a better sense of who she was and what she’d lost, then I was in. And, yes, please, gimme more of non-white leading female characters who aren’t just written as this “perfect” person because apparently some people think you can’t be a woman of color and have personality and flaws.

Zél had tons of flaws, but she was a warrior. A freaking warrior who fought with magic and her staff and her heart. So much heart. I have to say Zél’s overall development was a bit slow and I felt she didn’t get to the place I wanted her to by the end of this book, but this is just the first title in the trilogy, so I’m willing to oversee that, especially because she did grow, even if it wasn’t as much as I would’ve liked.

Now, there was something about Amari that just spoke to me from the moment I met her. I could say it was her worry about Binta, or even the way she seemed to be able to see past her father’s hatred and her mother’s prejudice, but I know it was before that. Amari had me with that little bit of sass that I got from her line about her Mother’s ability to hiss so many critiques in one minute. 

It was something small, but I loved it. And then, OMG, Amari!!! She was by far the one who had the most fulfilling arc as far as personal growth is concerned. I loved how she went from insecure, but brave princess to “I’m about to be your Queen so you better respect me”.

After the excerpt, I was sooo excited with the promise of a friendship between Zél and Amari. I got some of that from the rest of the story, but not as much as I wanted. There was a super special scene toward the end that gave me all the feels, so I’m hoping for more Zél+Amari time in the next books.

Okay, so now we get to third POV (yes, the story is told from Zél, Amari and Inan’s POV)… Inan is Amari’s brother and the future King of Orïsha. He’s a guy raised to put duty before himself, the kingdom before his wants and dreams, and he was also the character that took me on an emotional rollercoaster ride. For most of the book, I was rooting for him. I wanted him to understand how his upbringing damaged him and his people; and I was dying for him to free himself from his desire to please his father, because boy, OH, boy that never goes anywhere good--especially when his father was a freaking monster. But, after a while, Inan’s arc felt redundant. He kept going from “I understand” to “Oh, but maybe magic is really, really bad” to “I think I understand now” to….You got the drill. So I ended up rolling my eyes hard at him, and going from liking him to wanting him dead.

My feelings for Inan also represent my feelings for the romance subplot. I mean, the minor subplot because this book is about lots of other things, so the romance plays a small part. By the end of the excerpt, I was super, super, super excited because chapter five and six gave me major hints on what was sure to be a hate-to-love romance, AND OMG THAT IS MY FAVORITE ROMANCE TROPE. When Zél's spirit clawed onto Inan's spirit (you’ll understand when you read it), I was confused but ecstatic because I saw a ship ready to sail.

And while the ship sailed for most of the book, I felt like Tomi Adeyemi pulled an ACOTAR/ACOMAF on me. I wasn’t unhappy about it, but I also wasn’t happy, because I wish she had at least waited until the next book to bring that on. Having said that, I yelled Rhysand when a second love interest for Zélie showed up, and I'll never be mad when a character reminds me of Rhysand. Not ever!

Having said that, I can’t exactly complain because the romance was never meant to be the focus of this story. Not at all. This is an action-focused tale that draws parallels with the real world and the constant fight against racism. It's about prejudice, about POC's constant fight to be treated and seen as equals or at least have enough power to fight against those who want them gone. And it’s brutal at times. So be warned: there’s violence, there’s death and there’s blood.  There’s also no time to be bored, because everything happens and it happens fast.

Another great aspect of this story is the world Tomi Adeyemi created. It felt fresh and unique. Orïsha is a rich land and the characters explored a lot of it in this book, so readers get to travel and explore its richness alongside Zél, Amari and Inan.

As to the author’s writing, I found the style simple, but with a poetic tone to it. My main worry, though, was that the POV’s were identical. Writing first person multi-POV is hard, but the voices were the same. I expected at least Inan’s voice to be a bit different, since he was a boy, but nope. So there was that.

That aside, I think Tomi Adeyemi did a good job with her debut, and now that I’ve read it, I can understand some of the hype associated with Children of Blood and Bone. I have no doubt this book will be as huge as everyone expects it to be, and the fact that it ended with a great cliffhanger will only help keep readers eager for the sequel.


*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Release & Review - The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Title: The Wedding Date
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 30th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend...

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other... 

They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...

Buy Link: Amazon

3.5 “Fake Dating” Stars

I was expecting a little more from The Wedding Date, but I ended up enjoying it by the end.

The plot here is pretty simple--after getting stuck in an elevator with Drew, a hot doctor from Los Angeles, Berkley’s mayor's chief of staff Alexa agrees to be his fake date at his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Of course they fall in love after that, but lack of communication, physical distance and other problems keep them apart until their happy ending.

As you can see, the premise is pretty similar from lots of other books out there, but that didn’t exactly bother me since The Wedding Date made up for the lack of “oh, this is new” premise with compelling characters, interracial relationship (Alexa is black and Drew is white) and a narrative that felt authentic when it came to the female main character’s POV.

The thing I liked the most about this story was that both Drew and Alexa had fulfilling professional careers. I especially loved seeing Alexa as a powerful and important figure as the mayor’s chief of staff (baby Olivia Pope, anyone?). She was great at her job and she developed an important program for kids in need that I wished we could see more in real life. Her relationship with her sister (and her sister’s story overall) made for great moments, too.

 There’s also a compelling, sensitive and smart take on racial prejudice and privilege, with Drew opening his eyes to things he couldn’t see before he met Alexa. The way Alexa faced people’s prejudice was also pretty amazing.

There was a little bit of drama and angst because of Drew’s past when it came to women and relationships, but I felt most of their problems could’ve been solved with a little talking. For two extremely smart people, they lacked skills when it came to communication.

The book was filled with cute scenes, though. Drew and Alexa had their moments and they had chemistry. It wasn’t as strong as I normally liked, but it was there. Overall, this was a good debut.
*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Monday, February 12, 2018

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: From Lukov with Love
Author: Mariana Zapata
Age Category/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: February 1st, 2018
If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.

Buy Links: Amazon

4 "Yes, YES, More Zapata" Stars

OMG, was this the best reading week or what? I not only got an ARC of Baby Maker by P. Dangelico, but I also find out that Mariana Zapata had just released another book. How in the world of books did I not know about this release from one of the queens of slow burn? No idea!!!

But I correct that mistake, and I did it fast. Almost as fast as I read this book. 

One moment I had just started it, then I blinked and it was 1 am and I needed to sleep because WORK IS A THING (why is work a thing when we have great books to read?) and then I sort of had to make time during work to read just because I could NOT stop. So I did. Don't tell anyone!

I simply devoured this book. Even after getting my fix of love-to-hate + slow burn from Baby Maker, I couldn't control myself when it came to From Lukov with Love because it was just that amazing. 

So, what was this book about? Oh, well, it was about amazing, brilliant, strong, independent, please be my friend Jasmine Santos and smart-ass, hot, animal-lover Ivan Lukov and how they hate each other and how they are perfect for each other.

Dude, the shipping throughout this book was insane. Insane. I wanted them together from the moment Jas mentioned Ivan and how she disliked him, so imagine my complete joy when their first interaction was basically those two mocking each other and eye-sexing eaching other even though they had no idea that was what they were doing.

It took forever and ever for them to go from eye-sexing to everything sexing, but who cares when all I want in life is my fix of slow burn romance? So while I wanted for the kisses and all, I got to see a lot of this:

And this:

And tons of this:

All of it made me happy.


So, if you didn't get it from this incoherent review, I loved this book! And I love Mariana Zapata's brand of turning enemies into friends and into lovers with that slow, slow burn  even more.
*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - Baby Maker (It Take Two #1) by P. Dangelico

Image and blurb from Goodreads

Title: Baby Maker
(It Take Two #1)
Author: P. Dangelico
Category/Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: February 20th, 2018
Stella Donovan’s biological clock is a ticking time bomb.

The successful financial manager has spent her adult life building a career and neglecting her personal life. Problem is, she doesn’t believe in marriage. Not after watching her mother be treated like garbage by her father. Nope, marriage is not for her. All she wants is a baby. All she needs is a man to agree to her terms.

Dane Wylder, recently retired NFL tight end and future Hall of Famer, wants a baby.

Naturally, marriage is off the table. He’s not the marrying type. Women are great––as long as they’re trying to get into his bed and not his heart. But after years of living only for himself, he’s ready to be a father.

Sparks fly when a successful financial manager and a legendary football player enter into a legal agreement to have a kid together. They planned on everything––they just didn’t plan on each other.

4 “Have a baby with me” Stars

ARC via NetGalley

Thank you!!!

After reading three books by P. Dangelico, I can absolutely say I'm a fan and I need more.

Baby Maker brings the same SLOOOOW burn, awesome main characters and sizzling chemistry that made me fall in love with her other books, so it's no surprise I read this in one day and loved it.

One thing I can always count on when it comes to P. Dangelico's romances are strong female characters. All her MC's are independent women who face their problems head on and make the men know they're the bosses.

In this case, the boss is Stella Donovan, a successful financial manager who despises the idea of marriage, but is more than ready to have a baby. She doesn't want a husband, but she wants her kids to have a present father, so she's looking into the idea of co-parenting (a concept I wasn't familiar with) and looking for the perfect candidate. Easier said than done, but Stella isn't willing to give up.

Enter retired NFL player, Dane Wylder, a man who wants the same thing as Stella: a child, but no wife. They seem perfect for each other. Except Stella pretty much hates his guts--and it's all his fault. But just like Stella, Dane isn't willing to give up on his mission to prove that he's the perfect candidate to make a baby with her.

If you're familiar with this author's work, you know what follows: despise turns into companionship that turns into friendship that turns into mutual attraction that turns into flames that finally turns into romance. Slow, slow and slow, and exactly how I like it. And when it happens.... You guys!!! The begging got me like nothing else did.

"Kiss me back...please kiss me back".

I also have to give extra points for all the scenes with characters from her previous books. I love Ethan Freaking Vaughn, so I'm always happy to see my baby. Cam and Calvin also made an appearance, since Stella's mom is Calvin's trusted housekeeper.

So, what I'm saying is: Go read this book. Go read Baby Maker, Wrecking Ball and Sledgehammer. Go read whatever P. Dangelico wrote before those books, and keep an eye on what she'll write next. You can thank me later.

*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.