Sugar & Gold: A Book Review

Books: Sugar & Gold (Dreamcatcher #2)

Author: Emma Scott

Sugar & Gold (Dreamcatcher, #2)


Nikolai Alexei Young was born with a special gift…one he’d do anything to lose. The heart and soul of every person he comes into contact with is an open book to his heightened senses. Colorful emotions, whispers of thoughts, the sour tastes of old memories…He feels them all. The sci-fi books would call him an empath. For Nikolai, his ability has made him an exile. He roams the U.S. alone, avoiding the glut of life in big cities, and using his innate talents to win money in underground poker games. Just enough to keep going, one town to the next. He has no hope that his life can be anything else, until he meets her…

At nineteen, Fiona Starling was trapped in an ugly, desperate situation until she freed herself the only way she knew how. Now three years later, living outside Savannah, Georgia, she is rebuilding her life on her own terms; seizing every moment and saving every penny so that she might fulfill her dream of moving to the raw wilderness of Costa Rica. But behind her carefree smile beats the heart of a lonely young woman haunted by her past, until a chance encounter with a tattooed stranger changes everything…

Fiona takes Nikolai under her roof for three sultry nights, waiting out the rain of a summer storm. She grows more and more fascinated by this brooding stranger with whom she shares an intense physical connection—a connection so strong, she wonders if there is something between them beyond lust and passion. Nikolai is shocked to discover that Fiona calms the raging turmoil in his heart. She alone silences the din of other people’s lives, and envelops him in the sweet beauty of her inner self. Every moment he’s with her—every touch of her skin—brings him closer to the peace that’s been eluding him his entire life.

But Fiona harbors secrets that she is too terrified to reveal. After Nikolai confesses his unique ability, she is caught between wanting to believe him and fearing he’ll eventually unearth her own dark past. When the unthinkable happens, Fiona’s plans come crashing down, and Nikolai discovers his hated ability might be the only thing that can save the woman he loves.

My thoughts:

If I’m being honest, the cover and title are what attracted me to this book. Shallow butterfly that I am, I thought they were absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t think twice before requesting this book from Net Galley.

I’ve read other books by Emma Scott. I really enjoyed the Full Tilt duology and The Butterfly Project. I think both are fantastic new adult books that show how a relationship can transition from platonic to romantic, and that dealing with other serious issues doesn’t mean that a relationship isn’t viable.

However, in Sugar & Gold, the relationship was too fast and too dramatic for me. Though the characters themselves seem to acknowledge the relationship is “backwards”, they do not make a real effort to slow it down and get to know each other. Another thing that might offend you: I was a bit uncomfortable with Fiona’s obsession with Nik’s “Russian-ness”; to me, it seemed like a fetish to me instead of a distinct appreciation for a portion of his character.

I think the concept is beautiful. It is not the first time I’ve seen an extremely empathetic person who can see auras in a novel, but I adored how Nik put his abilities to use in poker. His poker skills also allowed for great banter between the characters and gave them some chemistry. I also think that his empathy made him the perfect person to reassure Fiona, who suffered from emotional abuse, that she was beautiful and worthy.

The reason that this book failed for me was because I did not think there was enough build-up in the relationship between the characters. Additionally, I was not a fan of the pacing. The beginning dragged on with multiple sexy scenes, but not enough substance. The characters were too wrapped up in themselves and their own secrets. For most of the book, I felt like they were courting an ideal instead of an actual person. This made the first 50% seem repetitive.

The ending felt inconclusive and anti-climatic to me. There was very little retribution and it just wrapped up too neatly and quickly for the bloodthirsty part of me which likes the characters to be uncertain and precariously balanced at the end of a novel.

This book will still appeal to readers who want to read a love story about a genuinely kind people who have suffered meeting a person who will always put them first. However, if they think about it too long, they will realize that it’s sugar, empty calories and gilt. There’s no real nutrition or metal in Sugar & Gold.

Overall Rating: 2/5

Oh and BTW, this might be because I read How To Save A Life  (Dreamcatcher #1) a long time ago, but I really didn’t feel as the two books needed to be connected. Frankly, it felt unnecessary.


Hold me: A Book Review

Book: Hold me (Cyclone#2)

Author: Courtney Milan


Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.

But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…

My thoughts:

This book was hugely anticipated for its diversity. A Latina, transgender main character and a bisexual, Asian love-interest. Compared to Trade Me (the first book in the Cyclone series), the cultural diversity issues take a backseat.

I haven’t included the cover.Don’t worry, it was purposeful. I feel a bit awkward about posting such an obvious romance book clinch on my young-adult blog. I wouldn’t say the cover is misleading–there’s definitely sex in the book, (after all, this is new adult) so the somewhat racier cover fits.

I’m torn on whether I mind the lack of emphasis on cultural diversity. On one hand, I loved the culture-clash in the last book; as an Asian, I easily related to the embarrassment that some customs of your culture can cause, and the guilt that your parents (who grew up in the culture) know how to take advantage of. On the other hand, I like that this book wasn’t about diversity– it was about a character who happened to be diverse, and as a result, there story seemed to feel so much more natural.

Additionally, I wonder where all these cultural-struggles would have gone. This book focused on gender stereotypes that women in STEM have to combat. It also spent a good amount of time on how childhood traumas affects adult life. Maria was kicked out of her house at age 12, when she told her parents she identified as female; her fear of being kicked out of her house followed her to college.

I’ve heard Hold Me compared to “You’ve Got Mail”. Not having watched the movie, I can compare it only superficially. There is obviously this whole element of 2 protagonists getting on like a house on fire online, but hating each other (for reasons of varying validity) in real-life.

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for the hate-at-first-sight trope. I especially like watching 2 sworn enemies find something they admire in each other, and seeing the chemistry explode.  And there’s something satisfying about watching two people flirt online–with math of all things– that makes this interesting. The one thing that I worried about in this book was whether Milan would draw out this book endlessly using petty jealousy and terrible communication between the characters. No, despite the pranks and the passive-aggressiveness at the beginning of the book,  by the time the characters get to the middle, they are communicating like real adults.

I still don’t know if I like Jay. Like Maria, I find myself taking umbrage to the way he took one look at her and dismissed her as a ditzy girl with a limited IQ. His reasons for it seem weak. Though the reason he shares is that he blames a pretty, shallow girl for distracting him enough to prevent his younger brother from suicide, I wonder how much of it is because he’s intimidated.

“I’m more of a pickup basketball kind of guy, and she’s… Well, she’s into whatever game you play with a French manicure and Louboutins. The game she’s playing sucks, the players are mean, and I want nothing to do with it or them.

Nothing, except… My stupid lizard brain wouldn’t mind watching her play.”

Yet, he’s the character that grows the most in this book. He comes a long way from dismissing accusations of sexism because he works with women.

“You’re a goddamned professor. If you assume your female students who care about their appearance don’t know math, you’re doing them an incredible disservice.”

 Unlike other books where you can see the love interest has a deep antipathy for women, and even while falling in love with one (*cough* Whitney, My Love *cough*), falls in love with her because she is different and completely unlike other women, by the end you can see that for Jay respecting women is not theoretical, he has concrete examples.

This book was good, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly amazing. The first part was fun to read if I suspended disbelief that characters in their late 20s would act that way (people who are older than me may agree that this is normal, but as a measly teen–I think I expect more). It was a good read–Courtney Milan is an amazing writer.  But i dove in the book, expecting to be wowed; here expectations worked against me and so I’m a little disappointed.

Overall rating: 4/5

Empire of Storms: A Book Review


“The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.”

Book: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)

Author: Sarah J Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)


The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

My thoughts: 

Trust me, you don’t want to know what I had to do to get my grubby hands on a copy of this book. So, it gives me great pleasure to tell you all about it and you’re so excited about the book, you have to listen because, I think this is what they call a captive audience.
While the title gives me gleeful shivers, I’m going to refer to the Empire of Storms as EoS throughout this post for convenience’s sake.

The plot thickens and there are more names to remember. It feels almost like an authentic fantasy book. We’ve come a long way from the frivolous confection masquerading as the Throne of Glass.  Plot wise, most of this book is about rounding up armies, underscoring how high the stakes are and gathering the major players. It’s also a chance for Sarah J. Maas to solidify her characters because… well, she’s not known for keeping them consistent.
Take the main character: She went from Celaena, spoiled and violent assassin, to Aelin, responsible and self-sacrificing queen.  What really sunders ToG fans  is the fact that she’s been attached romantically to 4 characters. I don’t know how Maas managed, but Celaena/Aelin has had great banter, romantic scenes and chemistry with all of them. Is it any  surprise the fandom will never agree on who she’ll get her happy ever after with?

“Even when this world is a forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will always love you.”

Speaking of romance, I don’t know if this could be classified as a spoiler (since it becomes obvious midway), but EoS is a first for Sarah J. Maas because there are no shifting ships. I can’t believe it but Rowan is still with Aelin. Dorian and Manon continue to play with fire (by toying with each other).

There are some ships I saw coming a mile away: Lysandra and Aedion toss some flirty banter back and forth. There are epic declarations and everything.

Lorcan reached out, grasping her chin and forcing her to look at him. Hopeless, bleak eyes met his. He brushed away a stray tear with his thumb. “I made a promise to protect you. I will not break it, Elide.”
“I will always find you,” he swore to her.
Her throat bobbed.
Lorcan whispered, “I promise.”

But guess who I’m shipping?
That’s right, Lorcan and Elide.  I know it seems like an unlikely pairing. Elide is an escaped slave girl and in the last book she really got on my nerves because she seemed to depend on everyone else to save her. However, in this book she starts to stand on her own feet. She is a masterful liar, a conman in every sense of the word. She’s brave and ferocious and weirdly enough, she’s unflinchingly honest with herself.
Lorcan is a vicious fey warrior whose constant companion is death. Until EoS, I thought he was irredeemable. Who would have guessed that he had a gruff, sweet side? But EoS makes it clear Lorcan’s a man of actions, not of words. His strength and cynicism perfectly complements Elide’s cunning intelligence and boundless optimism. Together they’re beautiful. I have to hold myself back from crushing on him; I would be devastated if this ship sank.

Let me end this the way my English teachers have warned me not to: All in all, EoS was perfection. The real question is, can you wait another year for the last book to come out?

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Adorkable: A Book Review

Book: Adorkable

Author: Cookie O’Gorman



Adorkable (ah-dor-kuh-bul): Descriptive term meaning to be equal parts dorky and adorable. For reference, see Sally Spitz.

Seventeen-year-old Sally Spitz is done with dating. Or at least, she’s done with the horrible blind dates/hookups/sneak attacks her matchmaking bestie, Hooker, sets her up on. There’s only so much one geek girl and Gryffindor supporter can take.

Her solution: she needs a fake boyfriend. And fast.

Enter Becks, soccer phenom, all-around-hottie, and Sally’s best friend practically since birth. When Sally asks Becks to be her F.B.F. (fake boyfriend), Becks is only too happy to be used. He’d do anything for Sal–even if that means giving her PDA lessons in his bedroom, saying she’s “more than pretty,” and expertly kissing her at parties.

The problem: Sally’s been in love with Becks all her life–and he’s completely clueless.

This book features two best friends, one special edition Yoda snuggie, countless beneath-the-ear kisses and begs the question:

Who wants a real boyfriend when faking it is so much more fun?

My thoughts:

This is not to be confused with Sarah Manning’s book of the same name. That one features a well-known blogger in high school who lives by herself. This one features a much more “normal” protagonist; she’s geeky and in love with her best-friend.

Adorkable was a very light and quick read. It didn’t touch upon any serious issues. The characters were adorably stereotypical and the plot-line was blessedly predictable. One serious issue I had with the book was the whole premise. Sally is in high-school?  Why are her mother and best-friend so concerned about her being boy-friendless. High school is nowhere near the point at which you are supposed to be in a serious relationship. I’d estimate that age to be closer to 30, maybe 35.

A relatively minor quibble compared to that gaping plot hole is Sally’s plan to get into Duke. Now that I’m a Senior and applying to colleges, I’m aware that Duke requires a really high-caliber student. Leadership in a couple of extracurriculars, several AP’s and a super high test score are expected. And I don’t know about the other 2 criterion, but president of German club and a position on newspaper staff probably wouldn’t be enough unless she was a recruited athlete or she got ridiculously lucky.

On the other hand, this book was sweet. Cookie O’Gorman did a better job of diving into the trivialities of a teenage brain than most YA authors.  This made the book funny at points. It was a breeze to read through and I “aww”ed a couple of times because it was just that cute.

“I was free, liberated. For a second there I even considered burning my bra.”

Overall Rating: 2/5


The Unexpected Everything: A Book Review

“Theoretical crushes could remain perfect and flawless, because you never actually had to find out what that person was really like or deal with the weird way they chewed or anything.”

Book: The Unexpected Everything

Author: Morgan Matson

The Unexpected Everything



Andie had it all planned out.
When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.
Important internship? Check.
Amazing friends? Check.
Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks).
But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.
Because here’s the thing—if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.
And where’s the fun in that?

My thoughts:

Who would have thought that this book would be so relatable?
I mean, I know this was a Morgan Matson book and she writes fabulously down-to-earth characters, but scandal and senator’s daughters just don’t seem real. 

But here’s the thing: I identified with Andie so much. Morgan Matson somehow figured out exactly what an over-achieving teen’s brain looks like. I could empathize with Andie’s frantic search for summer employment after her initial internship falls through. When she spoke about “spinning” stuff to make it sound more important, I gasped a little because I recognized me in that statement. As she muses over what activities she needs to make her college application perfect, I feel her.
Just like Andie, I’m not necessarily proud of the super-organisation or massive management that goes into my life. Just like her, I sort of need to plan spontaneity. I stress about similar things, about sharing feelings and having my game plan fall through.

Andie is surrounded by a group of people you would love to be surrounded by. They’re not perfect; they have their annoying idiosyncrasies, they sometimes take themselves too seriously and they don’t always get along. However, they’re fun and supportive, creative and welcoming. Like any other group, their are under-currents of frustration between them and impatience just waiting to boil over. But their perfect imperfections are what makes them real.

One very cool thing about this book is the relationship between Andie and her dad. At the beginning of the book, they are practically strangers because they’ve never really talked to each other. They love each other in theory, in a distant, polite sort of way.  Somewhere during the course of the book, their relationship evolves. They sit down and talk about things that have been going unvoiced for too long. They negotiate over teenage rights. They go on crazy scavenger hunts. From beginning to end, Dad plays a major role.

“DAD!” I screamed as I barreled into the house, Toby at my heels. A second later, I realized how that sounded. “Everything is fine!” I yelled a moment later. There was no need to give my father a heart attack.

“No, it’s not!” Toby yelled, though a little less loudly than me. “We need help!”

Hands down, the sweetest part of the book is the romance. I have a tiny crush on Clark, because he is adorable and funny and witty.  There is cute banter and story telling about an assassin named Marjorie and a thief named Karl (it’s obvious who these characters are supposed to represent). There are inside jokes and a crazy dog. First and foremost, Clark and Andie are friends. What’s not to love?
The theme of the day seems to be perfect because of imperfections and this tiny love story is no different. Andie doesn’t even want a serious relationship. She goes out with him, without even knowing his last name. There is a crappy date, and Clark has his own set of uncertainties. But the romance is like sour punk- just sweet enough to be candy, and sour enough to be interesting.

” ‘I was just thinking,’ I said, sure that the rest of the crowd could probably hear how hard my heart was beating, since it seemed deafening to me, pounding in my ears, ‘that maybe Marjorie realized she was in love with Karl. And told him that. And said she was sorry for being scared.”

This book is hilarious, a little wacky and immensely relatable. The term ‘feels’ was coined for this book. It’s not a story about family, it’s not a story about friends, it’s not a story about love or even growing up. It’s a complex piece that really has trouble fitting into any one of these categories. It’s ridiculously realistic, ridiculously beautiful. Go read it.

Overall Rating: 5/5



Kick Push: A Book Review

“You said that life’s just like skating; I just need to kick forward and take a chance, push off the ground and follow through. And when everything works out, I’ll coast.”

Book: Kick Push

Author: Jay McLean

Kick Push (Kick Push, #1)


There’s a single defining moment within every skater.
It lasts only a second. Two if you’re good.
Three if you’re really good.
It’s the moment you’re in the air, your board somewhere beneath you, and nothing but wind surrounds you.
It’s the feeling of being airborne.

The sixteen-year-old version of me would’ve said it was the greatest feeling in the world.
Then at seventeen, I had my son.
And every single second became a defining moment. Even the ones that consisted of heartbreak when his mother left us.

Seventeen. Single. Dad.
That’s what my life became.
Yet, every day, I managed to find that feeling of being airborne.
Or at least I convinced myself I did.
But I lied—to myself and to everyone around me.
Until she showed up; Tanned skin, raven dark hair, and eyes the color of emeralds.

You know what sucks about being in the air?
Coming down from the high.
Sometimes you land on the board and nail the trick.
Then kick, push, and coast away.
Other times you fall.
You fall hard.
And those are the times when it’s not as easy to get back up, dust off your pads and try again.
Especially when the girl with the emerald eyes becomes your drug…
And you become her poison.

My thoughts:

Kick Push was one of my Random Reads. I don’t know why I picked it up. It was about a skater. I know nothing about skating. It was a new-adult romance. I typically dislike angsty, over-blown new-adult romances. It promised to cover teen pregnancy. (This is going to sound awful) I’ve never considered the difficulties of being a single parent in your teens. Not in anything more than a vague, distant way.

Kick Push has amazing writing. It is lyrical and descriptive. Each word is violent and necessary. Each sentence high-kicks you in the face and each paragraph shoves your head under water. Sometimes, the writing was so beautiful and sad and simple, I found my lungs burning because I had forgotten to keep breathing.

“He punches the steering wheel. And then he breaks. The boy I love breaks. And there’s nothing sadder, nothing harder in the world than watching the person you love fall apart right before your eyes—and you can’t say or do anything”

Yes, it’s melodramatic and overblown. You can tell just by reading the blurb (which I did not do because it was a Random Read). It’s overly-poetic and unabashedly sorrowful but I can forgive it….Almost.

This book gave me so much more respect for single parents. In an abstract way, I knew that it wasn’t easy to be a single parent (or to be a teen parent). I know that jobs rarely want to hire high-schoolers with no experience. I know that child-care is expensive and I know that parents make sacrifices, but never has it resonated so much with me.

I am so impressed by Ms. McLean’s gutsy decision to write this from the perspective of a guy. Again, this  makes me sound recklessly uncaring,  but even though I’ve heard of single-mother teens, I’ve never considered how tough it would be for the father.

“You know what’s worse than your landlady calling you out on wearing cologne purely because you want to impress her granddaughter? I’ll tell you what. Being in the confined space of a truck while your son tells said granddaughter about how you paid him five moneys for him to tell you about what she said about you. Yeah. That’s happening.”

But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?)  this is first and foremost a love story. While I loved both characters individually, I couldn’t root for their relationship. They were just so broken and dealing with so many responsibilities, that I kept thinking their relationship was unhealthy. Maybe, that’s why I wasn’t surprised the relationship turned to shit, that the break-up was so destructive.

I appreciate that the book acknowledges that real-life lesson, that love isn’t always enough. That sometimes there is some scary, horrible things happening below the surface and that you need to be careful when you give your heart to someone, even if they’re the most selfless, bravest, kindest person you know.

This book ends on a cliff-hanger and I’m not even angry about it. If there was a happy-ending, I would have considered it rushed. Both characters fought some of their nasty demons in this book, but they still have a lot of growing up to do. There’s a second book (no idea when it’ll be released though).

“There’s a big difference between being happy and being selfish. Choose to be happy. Fire truck the rest.”

Overall Rating: 3/5

On a barely related side-note, this book makes me realize that real-life is scary.

Twilight: Why I Can’t Respect it

We all know the plot: Girl moves to rainy town. Falls in love with the”inhumanly” good looking loner at school almost at first sight. He turns out to be a sparkly vampire with masochistic, brooding tendencies. Vampire leaves girl for her own good. Girl cries for months. Werewolf falls in love with her. She tells him she wants to stay friends and jump off a cliff. Vampire thinks she’s killed herself and decides he finally wants to be Romeo to his Juliet., etc.  What am I talking about?

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

I was recently requested to review Twilight.
Twilight…is Twilight. It’s the series that we love to hate.  You might remember the”…still a better love story than Twilight.” and “Edward is Tinkerbell” memes. However, there is no doubt that the series was financially very succesful, with just the films grossing a profit of 2314 million dollars and inspiring the even more profitable 50 shades of grey phenomenon.

But I still don’t like it.

I don’t [openly] judge people who adore the book, but I do think it promotes some very unhealthy relationships. One thing that really disturbs me is that Bella’s life revolves around Edward. As a teenage girl, I feel qualified to say that life doesn’t revolve around one boy. There is school-work and sports practice. There is SAT prep and volunteering. There is the drama that comes with teachers who grade on curves and friends who need emotional support. There is going out for coffee and there is hanging out at the library until your squad gets enough nasty looks you feel compelled to leave. There is gossip about which guys are cute,  which ones are dating who and which ones would be a disaster. At this point (this point being high-school), few people think their love is going to last forever. Nobody dedicates much time to high-school romance. There is so much going on and so much nervous anticipation about the future, you very literally can’t picture being with the same person for the rest of your life. You can barely imagine getting married to them- much less following them into eternal death. You can’t imagine falling into a several-month long depression if/when they break up with you and ditching your friends, extra-curriculars and school-work.
Teenage girls do dream about love and romance. And there’s something inherently compelling about young lovers who are willing to give up their life  for each other. I know it’s not a new theme (Romeo and Juliet) but it’s such a waste of life.

Another thing that freaks me out about Edward and Bella’s relationship is the age-difference. In some case, age is not just a number. Edward has all the power. Not only is he physically stronger, he has also had more life experience (he’s lived for over a century). He’s able to ‘dazzle’ Bella at several points- compelling her to do things she was initially dead-set against. They’re not equals in the relationship because Bella is incapable of saying ‘no’. There’s a term for the type of relationship where someone has so much power over the other and that is rape (statutory rape is a real thing). I can not idealize a book about rape.

Still, I am reluctant to throw every single page of Twilight into the trash. Some of the characters that Stephanie Meyers has created have amazing backstories. Alice, for example, used to be in an asylum. Jasper is an ex-confederate soldier and was pressed into service in a military army. Rosalie was raped and murdered by her fiance. Esme was abused by her ex-husband and thus lost a baby. All of these characters carry so much baggage with them. I think Stephanie Meyers would have had a much healthier (and more compelling) story if she had chosen to focus on one of these characters and their struggle to become (mostly) healthy individuals.