Abbreviations #96

December 23, 2019

In an effort to get back on track with my book reviews and start 2020 with a cleaner slate, I'm sharing as many of them as possible before the year ends! We're taking a break from fantasy and series reads to talk about contemporary, specifically romance and YA. Unfortunately, I didn't end up liking the novels in this post as much as I wanted to, and I'm sharing why.

New Orleans Rush was fun to read, but I forgot everything but the barest details right after I finished… and even those are fuzzy in my mind. There were a lot of details that could have made this one a standout, chief among those being the setting and the fact that love interest Huxley is a magician in need of a stage assistant (and cue the main character making a timely appearance in his life to fill the role). It was cute, sure, and offered the cozy comfort of a typical rom-com plot (complete with hate-to-acquaintance of necessity-to-friendship-to-love and high-stakes drama) leading up to the happily ever after. But my lack of investment in the romance (which led to a lack of swooning over said romance) and the fact that the plot was only okay meant that, even though this was fine, it was ultimately a forgettable read. [New Orleans Rush was published on April 23, 2019 from EverAfter Romance. I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley for review.]

All I’d known about it before I picked up Faker was that it was a hate-to-love romance between coworkers penned by a Filipino-American author and featuring a Filipino-American main character – and based on these facts alone, you can probably surmise that I had truly high hopes for this story. Unfortunately, this novel ended up being a disappointment. While the signs of an antagonistic relationship do exist between main characters Emmie and Tate at the beginning, their issues are quickly resolved (within the first third, if I’m recalling correctly) and most of the book is focused on them navigating their budding romance. I’m not against the story unfolding that way, but as someone expecting a long, slow burn type hate-to-love situation happening in this tale, it fell short in that aspect. It doesn’t help that a lot of their antagonism is already well-developed over the course of the time they’ve been coworkers… and we don’t see a lot of that as it happens, but rather end up experiencing it as flashbacks to their history together instead. That doesn’t particularly lend itself to being invested in the outcome of their relationship. Throw in the fact that I didn’t get too invested in the main characters as individuals either and that we get some major drama at the end (which also meets its resolution fairly quickly) that I was not a fan of, and it all just ended up falling flat for me as a reader. Even though I didn’t love the story, the writing was engaging. It was easy to fly through the pages of this one, and there are good lines here and there that made me smile or feel a tiny flutter. But overall, Faker was just not the contemporary romance novel I’d hoped it would be. [Faker was published on October 8, 2019 by Berkley. I received an ARC from the publisher for review.]

I had high hopes for Say You Still Love Me, based solely around the fact that many trusted friends love K.A. Tucker’s novel The Simple Wild (which I still have on my TBR) and my own curiosity about this author. The novel is told in two timelines: the past where Kyle and Piper first meet when they are both counselors at summer camp and the present where Piper is set to step up as CEO of her family’s company and Kyle finds employment as a security guard in their building. Using this narrative style does lend itself to the build-up towards the dramatic revelation in both timelines. However, I’m not keen on the way things played out, nor do I feel like all elements were well-handled. The pacing also felt inconsistent, at times snappy and at times sluggish. But what really decided my overall feelings about this book was the fact that I wasn’t personally invested in either Piper or Kyle, and this meant that I also didn’t care much for their romance. Unfortunately, my first experience with K.A. Tucker was not something to write home about and that makes me sad. (I’m still cautiously optimistic about enjoying The Simple Wild when I get to it though!) [Say You Still Love Me was published on August 6, 2019 by Atria Books. I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley for review.]

Frankly in Love was one of the most anticipated fall contemporary YA releases this year, and I, unsurprisingly, had high expectations for it. Writing this review makes me sad, as it turns out that this novel just wasn’t my cup of tea. I don’t believe it was marketed directly as a rom-com, but the premise and presentation came across that way to me. Ultimately, however, this is not that type of story. Frankly in Love is about Frank who is experiencing romance for the first time and who also happens to be struggling with his identity as the son of Korean immigrants who has lived in the USA for his whole life. There are things I appreciated about this book, like the questions of race and identity (particularly coming to terms with your family’s culture versus the environmental culture you grew up in and the messiness of the relationships (particularly the familial ones). But it felt like there was so much being tackled in the scope of one tale, and I felt like the story suffered in the telling. It didn’t help that I didn’t care for Frank (or his romantic entanglements for that matter, which are a whole other thing that didn’t work for me). Unfortunately, Frankly in Love was not for me, though it might speak to other readers. (Additionally, since I’m not Korean, I cannot offer perspective on that, though a few of the experiences in the book are very similar to ones I have gone through. I want to point you all in the direction of Chloe’s review, as she is Korean and also loved the book.) [Frankly in Love was published on September 10, 2019 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. I received an ARC from the publisher for review.]

Our Wayward Fate is Gloria Chao’s sophomore novel, a contemporary YA that was inspired by the Chinese legend of The Butterfly Lovers (which plays a role in the plot). In this story, Ali is the only Asian in her small town, and she’s tamped down on her cultural expressions in order to make it easier on herself and blend in. Her worldview is shaken up by the arrival of another Asian in her small town – Chase Yu. As their friendship blossoms and slowly shifts into something more, Ali starts feeling more confident. But when her mom forbids them from being together, it starts Ali off on a journey where she discovers her family’s secrets. Thematically, I appreciated the way this novel represented what it’s like to be the minority in your neighborhood in all its facets – the fearlessness of being the only one, the hesitation to bear the full responsibility of cultural representation, the simplicity and ease of stepping back and letting it go to blend it. But the execution just didn’t work for me. I found the pacing incredibly uneven, the character relationships a bit flimsy and was never 100% engaged in the story. If you’re looking to check out Gloria Chao’s work, I’d still recommend her debut over this story. [Our Wayward Fate was published on October 15, 2019 by Simon Pulse. I received an ARC from the publisher for review.]

3 comments

  1. I've been seeing Frankly in Love everywhere but I've actually been seeing some mixed reviews around. I have yet to read a K.A. Tucker novel... guess I will make sure I don't pick up Say You Still Love Me first! Thank you for sharing your honest opinions.
    Krystianna @ Volumes and Voyages

    ReplyDelete
  2. The first two are on my TBR, sorry they didn't turn out that great for you. I'll have to keep them on the backburner.
    My latest review on Lisa Loves Literature

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