Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jia

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

Posts by Jia :

REVIEW:  Whisper to Me by Christina Lee

REVIEW: Whisper to Me by Christina Lee

Dear Ms. Lee,

I loved your debut novel, All of You, about Avery and her virgin hero. While I was less enthused about the follow-up, I did appreciate some things about it. The latest book in the series, Whisper to Me, tells Rachel’s story.

We first met Rachel in the previous two books and learned that she hates being tied down. One night stands and simple makeout sessions are her modus operandi. The explanation given for this is that she got engaged to her high school sweetheart and it were sour. In Whisper to Me, we learn that’s not exactly true. In fact, what is true is worse.

When Rachel was in high school, she was in a motorcycle accident. We’re talking brain injury and rehabilitation required to walk again levels of awful. Her boyfriend at the time, who had been driving the motorcycle, couldn’t handle the guilt and abandoned Rachel early on during her recovery. The only person who kept her together was Kai, her best friend’s older brother. Once Rachel recovered from the accident, she went off to college and decided to reinvent herself like many teens do, though perhaps her reasons were more justified than most.

But Rachel is now back home for the summer to help with her mother’s store. (The business major comes in handy for that.) Being back reminds her exactly why she left in the first place: she’s that girl, the one with the brain injury. She hates the stigma, and she hates seeing her ex and his clumsy attempts to absolve himself of guilt.

Enter Kai, who is also back in town, after yet another supposed screw-up. He provides the distraction Rachel desperately needs. Except this is Kai, who is one of her oldest, best friends and who was there for her during her darkest time — how can this possibly remain a fling?

I admit it. Childhood friends to lovers is a bulletproof trope of mine. I eat this kind of relationship up with a spoon. I was utterly charmed by the idea of Kai accidentally falling in love with Rachel during her rehabilitation and then hiding it from her all this time. Yes, Kai is the typical bad boy (tattooed, pierced, ladykiller, musician) who takes care of those he loves but something about him helping Rachel throughout her recovery kept it from becoming stale.

I also liked the fact that while Kai is a musician, he’s not a rocker. He’s just very musically inclined and can play many different instruments (though upright bass is his instrument of choice). He’s someone who spots good music and can bring out the best in a musician. Before he came home in disgrace, he was working as a sound engineer. There’s a technical component to his talent that appeals to me more than the stereotypical NA rocker hero.

The fact that Kai was biracial is much appreciated. It was’t exoticized or The Point, and I like that. I also liked that Native Americans were not portrayed as all the same. Kai’s dad owns a casino and he thinks that he’s doing something great because he can hire Native Americans and give them work. But others think it only contributes to their culture’s various difficulties. This is not a plot point and they don’t make a big deal of it but I liked that it was presented as a background detail and acknowledged, if only in passing.

The main downside of this book is that because of much draws upon past events, there are constant not-quite-flashbacks. This kept throwing me out of the book because for me, new adult novels are immediate and in the now. To keep constantly referring to the past like this via narrative summary made the book drag a little. Maybe actual fully fledged flashbacks would have been better but then again maybe not.

I really liked Rachel’s struggle to come to terms with her ex. What happened to her was a terrible thing and what he did to her was just as shitty but there’s a truth to it. Relationships can be messy, neither black nor white. Do I like what the ex did? No, absolutely not. But he was, what, 17? I don’t know that I can expect a 17-year-old not to freak out and run. If new adult is about growing up and becoming an actual adult, I think this realization of how relationships are not simple and people are complicated was a perfect illustration.

I’m not sure I bought Rachel’s reticence to tell her friends the truth about her past. It just seemed like she was hiding it unnecessarily. I suppose part of me thinks she could have told a modified truth about her ex rather going down the “we were engaged!” route.

Overall, I liked this book better than the last one. I really like stories in which the line between friend and lover is crossed and they try to navigate the chance without wrecking the existing friendship. I’m still on board for your series and can’t wait to read the next book about the tattoo artist heroine. B

My regards,

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REVIEW:  Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

REVIEW: Don’t Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley


Dear Ms. Heasley,

The premise of your novel intrigued me. What does happen when the subject of a mommy blog grows up? If it’s embarrassing when your mother whips out your baby pictures to show your friends, how much more so when those pictures are plastered all over the internet to a faceless audience of tens of thousands?

Imogene is that girl, the girl you watched grow up on that popular blog. Imogene’s mother runs Mommylicious, a popular mommy blog. Her mother started the blog when she got pregnant with Imogene — she even held a poll to determine Imogene’s name (I know, right?) — and has chronicled being a mother and raising Imogene ever since.

While Imogene liked the attention when she was five, it’s a different story now that she’s in ninth grade. After all, what teenage girl wants their first period to be blogged about? Or the fact that they don’t have a date to the upcoming dance? It’d be one thing if Mommylicious were an obscure blog. It’s not. Imogene’s classmates read her mom’s blog. That’s so much worse.

Then Imogene’s English teacher assigns them a major project: keep a blog. Now is her chance to tell her mother all those things she’s never been able to. Surely it’ll be easier via a blog than to her face, right? But will her mother listen or will it just be an all-out war?

I realize this is somewhat meta. Reviewing a book about blogs on a blog! But I think it’s an interesting question. I’ve seen mommy blogs along the lines of the fictional Mommylicious. Sure, the photos of those adorable little kids are cute. But what happens as those children get older? In a highly connected world, does growing up have to be chronicled to the last detail on blogs and social media? Seems tough.

Maybe it’s because I come from this corner of the blogging world but I felt strong secondhand embarrassment when reading about the things Imogene’s mother blogged about. Picking your daughter’s name because it’s what your readers want? Blogging about your daughter’s first period? Chronicling your daughter’s crushes? Lack of boundaries! Where’s the privacy? I would be incredibly concerned if strangers came up to my daughter in the mall food court and started talking to her because they recognize her on sight and think they know her. I can’t blame Imogene for flipping out.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why Imogene didn’t fight back more. So maybe she can’t say these things directly to her mother but even using the platform of a blog, she was still a little wishy washy about it. Some people get braver on the internet. Imogene stayed the same. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. It just didn’t work for me narratively. Her initial posts, while angry, were more passive aggressive than anything else. I don’t understand why she couldn’t have posted a simple message along the lines of “My mother posts every little detail about my life and i consider it an invasion of privacy. I feel like she listens more to her blog followers and sponsors than me.”

I love that the book focused on the relationships between mothers and daughters but in some ways, I thought the handling was shallow and scattered. Part of this is because Imogene’s best friend is also the daughter of a blogger (a health/vegan blogger versus a mommy blogger). The best friend also feels like her mother cares more about her blog than her daughter, so the two make a pact about using the English class blogs to make her moms understand. But when Imogene begins to wonder if maybe this is the wrong approach, the two have a falling out.

Add to this a crush whose parents are absent and who thinks Mommylicious is the epitome of a mother’s love for her child, and I just couldn’t figure out what point this book was trying to make. Mommy bloggers are terrible people who exploit their children? Get off the internet, stop blogging and take a walk on the beach? Blogs are great for some people and not so much for others? I want to think it was the last one but there were several points in the book where I just wasn’t sure.

I really liked the premise of the novel. I do think it’s something to think about. But the treatment was shallow and thin. Maybe it’s the age? I usually don’t read YA in which the protagonist is in 9th grade. In the book, this isn’t even high school yet. Maybe young, sweet YA just isn’t for me. C

My regards,

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