Jam Tomorrow. Jam Yesterday. But Never Jam Today.

High on Saccharine, Needs More Swoon

Hope at Dawn - Stacy Henrie

There were other things as constant as the heavens - people’s prejudice, for one.

I suppose, any story that is set in a small rural, American town in 1918 will come across as Christian Fiction in its attempts to be historically accurate, so that bit of oversight is on me when I requested this book. Because while I find the plot interesting, I wouldn’t have read this to review had I known. Religion is a tricky thing to deal with in opinion pieces like a book review after all. That being said, it had nothing to do with how I rated this book.

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Everybody Hates Metaphors

The Shadow Master - Craig Cormick

”Think of it as a matter of wife or death,” the stranger said.
“What?” asked Lorenzo.
The stranger sighed. “It is a play on words. You were meant to laugh. To lighten the gravity of the moment.” he said.
“I don’t understand,” said Lorenzo.

I second that notion.


Ah this book. I have half the mind to slap this an outright 1-star rating out of sheer disappointment over the wasted potential. For a while there, this had me going with explosively glorious expectations of ***Zombies! Mechas! Zombies vs Mechas!*** only to be shot back down to below mediocrity with an obscure Faith vs Science message and an exhaustive, confusing resolution.


If you can call it that.

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Insert Polite Laughter Here

Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins

”Come on, Sophia!” she called. “Be traditional for once!”

Seeing as a young witch getting sent to a Magical School is brimming with creativity and originality.



To be fair, Hecate/Hex Hall was more of a lazy derivation of Hogwarts than an effort to be in the same league. I suspect any other attempt at imagining a school in the context of Fantasy will be branded as such and this smartly capitalized on its presumed strengths in other areas. Unfortunately, this felt like it placed all its eggs in the charm and humor basket instead of saving some for the character development and a creative, original storyline.

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Monkey-handling in the Wide Sarcastic Sea

Oliver and the Seawigs - Philip Reeve, Sarah McIntyre

And then all of a sudden, there were too many monkeys.

I’m half-tempted to review this with Near-sighted mermaid! Talking Islands! Sarcastic Weeds! SEA MONKEYS! and leave it at that. Because really, if those things wouldn’t perk your interest then I cannot do much else. Also, I’m feeling a little out of my element critiquing a children’s book that is a straightforward adventure story with none of the subtext and metaphors where a broken mirror symbolises unfulfilled dreams and what-not.


So for whatever divine or voodoo reason I got pre-approved for this, I'm just so happy I have now found the genre where I cannot bring myself to complain about anything seeing as I’m too busy having fun.

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The Fellowship of the Bird

Ruin and Rising - Leigh Bardugo

”It’s not overselling if you deliver.”


I’m very reluctant to call the overselling but I also won’t go as far to say that this delivered.

And if I had a Lannister gold nickel every time I start my review with having conflicting feelings about a book, I’d be able to afford a new book to have conflicting feelings about.



That being said, I am very conflicted towards this book. On the one hand, I feel I should have at least re-read Siege and Storm before giddily diving into this. On another hand, I feel like that’s asking too much from the reader unless the books were released in close succession, if not simultaneously. If the story affected me well enough I should be able to enjoy the last book in a series on its own merits even after having read the last instalment a year and 250 books read ago.


Then on the other OTHER hand, when I started this series, I haven’t read enough YA-high fantasy books to compare with. So I can’t really tell if it’s a matter of evolving expectations or if its the book evolving away from my preferences. Unless of course I re-read the series again, which brings me back to hand number two.


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Awkward Bromance is Best Romance

I Am the Mission (The Unknown Assassin) - Allen Zadoff

”Everyone in the world is a follower. They follow an agenda, whether it’s set by school, parents, a job, society. The only question is who or what they choose to follow. Most people don’t even realise there’s a choice to make, so they end up stumbling blindly through their lives, wondering why they’re so unhappy when they’re doing everything right.”

I can’t help but wonder if Allan Zadoff was a little frustrated that the title I Am Number Four - because this would work brilliantly with I Am Number Five I think -has been taken and if it’s part of the reason behind the changes. From The Lost Mission to I Am the Mission, the second instalment in The Unknown Assassin encourages paranoia, a little bit of nail-biting and hair-tearing and maybe one episode of explosive cussing on my part.

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Drugs Are Bad. And So Are People.

A Swollen Red Sun - Matthew McBride

Is it redundant to call anything from hick-lit gritty? And grainy? While carrying the stench of eighty-percent humidified and sweat-drenched bodies across its pages? In any case, this is such a departure from my usual reading choices that you’ll have to forgive me if I may come across like a tourist in a petting zoo. I imagine myself taking selfies with the Meth Addict who shot a bald eagle and the crazy Reverend butchering horses and pigs as sacrifices while he cooks the best crank ever.



While I can’t say it went down as smoothly as I hoped for, this has definitely reset some bars in my reading criteria. A Swollen Red Sun was so richly textured in depicting a town’s decay, I’d probably be less generous with the term “gritty” elsewhere from hereon.

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Love in the Time of Leptospirosis

I Watch You - Irene Cao

DNF AT 46%


I had expectations from this book, believe it or not. I don’t necessarily get swayed by average ratings and reviews, especially since most of them were written in languages I am not fluent in. And a book set in Venice, translated from its original Italian version where the heroine is an artist and the hero is a chef?! Did I not mention my unhealthy 90s Marco Pierre-White obsession?! That just sent seven of my eight erogenous zones a-tingling!


I was actually prepared for the awkward metaphors and patterns of narrative seeing as this was a translation and for a while it even added a certain degree of charm to the story. As though an Italian narrator was relaying the story to me in heavily accented English. A small price to pay for what I expected would be a credible delivery of a slice of Venetian life with Bernardo Bertolucci’s atmospheric eroticism. It did promise to prove Italians do it better, after all.


And for a while it did. The heroine, Elena takes a vaporetto going to work, a woman took the walk of shame from the playboy chef by speedboat… even that scene where Leonardo (the chef, not the turtle) carries Elena on his back through the flooded streets of Calla dela Toletta where I ignored my mind screaming, ”OH MY GOD, LEPTOSPIROSIS!” I figured this would add that realistic texture to the story. I mean that's what matters right? The story. And I am seeing Venice through the eyes of an Italian. Yay!


Then Elena gets invited to the opening of Leonardo’s restaurant and this happened.

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Swag and Swagger

The Book of Bart - Ryan Hill

”What greater hope for humanity than an angel and a demon teaming up to save the world. That’s Lifetime movie of the week stuff right there.”

“You shut your filthy mouth with that kind of talk!”


Well it was entertaining, there’s that.


Stories centred on a wisecracking, arrogant, douchebag of a character is quite hard to pull because it takes a very particular and balanced measure of wit, timing and chemistry with the supporting cast to actually sell the whole thing. This succeeded in some, but faltered in more. Because, I have to be honest, it takes very little for me to buy into the charm of an asshole narrator, but this was a bit messy on the plot’s delivery, the world building was pretty spare and the running jokes ran beyond its limits and crossed the Still Funny-Just Plain Annoying border.

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I Thought You Were Kidding... And Now This Is Awkward

Coin Heist - Elisa Ludwig

Haverford Friends is a prep school in Philadelphia whose funds has been pilfered by the headmaster. This translates to revoked scholarships, the suspension of the student budget for extra-curriculars (i.e. no more Bollywood Club, Queer Straight Alliance and Stock Market Watchers… among others) and, of most imminent importance, frozen chicken fingers for the upcoming prom’s menu.


To curb this impending disaster and save their beloved alma mater, four unlikely students band together, put their collective brilliant young minds together to rebuild the school’s 50 million dollars endowment… by robbing the U.S. Mint.


Of Coins.


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Pandering Done Right

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.
My life is in these books. Read these and know my heart.
We are not quite novels.
We are not quite short stories.
In the end, we are collected works.

This is going to be a tough one to talk about for me because it went straight to my favourites shelf and, as this book has stated in not so few words, its always easier to talk about what we hated than what we loved.

In truth, there was some John Green levels of emotional manipulation going on in this novel. The kind where you’re laughing inappropriately over some double entendre about gyms smelling like balls one minute and overcome with painful sobs in the next. It also involved exorbitant levels of pandering to its audience, appealing to our good graces, that can only be classified as cheating. 

And honestly I didn’t mind it much. 

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Flowers Without the Attic

The Art of Arranging Flowers - Lynne Branard
We become who we are meant to be because of the things along our edges that pulls us into existence.

Just to be clear, I do not hate this book. I believe this will please a very specific reader demographic which I am unfortunately not a part of. But the disappointment from where I stand is just too palpable for me to justify to myself the 3-stars that this probably does deserve. I was expecting romance: the heroine owns a dog, somewhere a sweet veterinarian turns up, THE FREAKING COVER IS PINK WITH A LADY HOLDING A BOQUET OF FLOWERS, how can I not brace for something like that incredibly emo 90’s film Bed of Roses? (on a defensive note, back in the day Christian Slater was actually hot) I mean kudos for going against the stereotype, but is it too much to hope for something less narcoleptic? Maybe some original sentiments on the contemplations about life, death, family and the universe?

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Hold My Beer...

My Best Friend, Maybe - Caela Carter
Forgiveness is a divine act.

Well don’t I feel a little foolish right now.

Much as I can get hypercritical and nitpicky in certain estrogen cycles, I am not averse to give credit where credit is due. This was a pleasant surprise. This was one of those rare reads that I almost wrote off as something that was way off the mark when, as it turned out, I was really just an impatient grasshopper. And I’m not above and beyond admitting to that. 

There are certain elements that I expect in realistic contemporary fiction, borne out of reading about them so often elsewhere that I am predisposed to denounce everything outside of those rigid standards. This started off with antiquated notions and hardly interesting conflicts that it felt like these people were making a mountain out of a mole hill.

But ‘realistic’ is such a fluid concept and when you think about it, this could also be someone’s present tense reality. And while it might feel a little like cheating, choosing a subpar take off point for Colette, there’s no denying the leaps and bounds her character gained in terms of development. It’s a remarkable, brave feat to write about LGBT coming-of-age stories but to carry that message in a reality as startling, if not more, as the standard YA contemporary fare is one that sets this apart from the rest. 

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Natural Born Interns

Kill Your Boss: The Intern's Handbook - Shane Kuhn
I am wet shoes.
I am cold, damp breath.
I am sweating hands.
I am gravity crushing the grass beneath my boots.
I am Kevlar and metal and lead.
I am laser sighting.
I am death.
And I am coming.

It feels like yesterday I was just writing a review about a sociopathic young male assassin facing THE conflict that will change his life.

The difference between that book and this one of course being, John Lago (the author of this handbook) reminds me a bit of Drew Evans… without the manwhoring, misogynistic charm and within the context of killing people professionally. The swagger, the ADD narrative, the nicknames for his junk (twig and berries vs cash and prizes… choose your poison), the movie quotes (gad the movie quotes) and references, the testosteroned one-liners… its like they’re brothers from different mothers. So in terms of entertainment value this one definitely brought it home. In terms of being a satisfying, cohesive book it left a little to be desired.

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So. Fetch.

The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu
…there is one thing I’ve learned about people: they don’t get that mean and nasty overnight. It’s not human nature. 
If you give people enough time, eventually they’ll do the most heartbreaking stuff in the world.

The things is, I’ve read this storyline a couple of times elsewhere. I’ve watched the teen flick and CW series portraying this issue with every possible embellishment and spin to repurpose the shock value of the underlying tyrannical machinery of high school politics and bullying into something fresh or fresh-like. To a certain degree, this still had the message powerfully delivered, a story that still deserves to be told and all that jazz but where this book’s strength lay, for me, was in effectively capturing the complexity of the personalities surviving and participating in that strange hyperreality of fictional high schools, or more exactly, small town high schools.

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Surprise! RAPE.

Gilted  - Jill Flannagan
Maybe someday they would find a way to put away their mutual hurt away.

Today on Booklikes: Awkward Adventures in the English Language.

Truthfully, with a minimal amount of alcohol, a dash of pixie dust and maybe a dozen cupcakes, I can imagine the book Gilted was trying to be. And it wasn’t that bad, that imaginary book. This book on the other hand is an entirely different story.

The cover gives a fantasy-thriller vibe and I was easily drawn towards the prospect of a con artist targeting a politician in a honeypot scheme. What I wasn’t ready for was the rambling narrative, poorly constructed sentences, inconsistent characters details, the barely-there construction of this plot’s fantasy aspect and the unexpected rape. 

I am quite disturbed that this made no mention of that little plot detail in the summary (even perhaps as a warning?), seeing as its a widely identified trigger among readers. But what was worse was how it was gratuitously used as a plot device in the story.

This was about Ash Gilt’s attempt into conning money from favoured gubernatorial candidate Charles Appleby. She poses as his personal assistant and fuck buddy to help finance her incarcerated brother’s upcoming murder trial. Not only does Ash come from a family of con artists, she also has an ability to influence people’s emotions along with being able to compel and manipulate memories and “taste” feelings and personalities. Unfortunately, Appleby has certain proclivities in the bedroom that renders Ash’s abilities useless (because she gets scared *eyeroll*) so she had to manipulate the situation but for a price. Right in the middle of her plans, Ash finds herself inexplicably drawn to Lee Hierne, Appleby’s friend whom he hired to dig up and cover potential PR bombs threatening his campaign. 

First question, if Ash has the ability to manipulate people’s emotions to her whims: WHAT’S THE POINT OF THIS ENTIRE BOOK? Seeing as it was a major plot point, I expected a little more development on that aspect in this heroine’s character than this served. Why did she have to pretend she’s the governor’s PA, suffer through unwanted BDSM sex and rape? Why couldn’t she have just walked up to the guy, he IS on a campaign after all, and did her mental juju making him give her money? Choosing mind powers in fiction is bound to create plot holes because the scope and infallibility of that skill makes it impossible to create any equivocal conflict that the character needs to overcome. I mean, seriously.

It was difficult to sympathise with a heroine like Ash, a self-proclaimed doormat when it comes to her family with self-esteem issues in one chapter but feeling no remorse at her manipulative and scheming ways since she knows in her heart, that she’s a good person. Because she’s willing to have herself raped in order to get money to help her asshole brother in prison for no apparent reason other than he’s family. I suppose it was a sorry attempt at giving her some complexity, this skewed morality and core values, but she really only ended up contradicting herself most of the times. 

Lee is just the most unswoonable hero I’ve come across in a while, I’m not even sure this book was trying. He has strange tendencies, caressing computers and whispering at speakers (I don’t even know why that statement was put there! To creep me out further?) He hears drum music whenever he sees Ash walk away.

…the glass afforded a view and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Miss Sex on Legs walk. The ba-da-boom music played in his head as she approached the door.

He classifies women into fucks and colleagues except Ash, probably because he really likes the beat of them bongos when she walks by. But he doesn’t like rough sex, he only wants to make sweet, sweet love to these “fucks” and I guess that’s where the “reformed” in the “reformed millionaire bad boy” figures in. But stranger still, he openly admitted to “having violent Bobbitt-like thoughts about Charles’ member all night” after finding out that he raped Ash. Some may find that being alpha-adorable, but I just wanted to consult the Bro Code and what it says about a Bro thinking of another Bro’s dick at night. It was all very strange. I kinda want to send him to Anne Stuart’s Gamma Hero Boot Camp to learn how to be the kind of hero he aspires to be.

The narrative was rambling, drifting back and again to the same issues tackled in the space of three pages. The sentence construction was just so fucking painful to read that just deters me from even considering picking up the next book in this series.

Charles was divorced, he could fuck whoever he liked. He was a Democrat, for Chrissakes. He could gallivant nude in public with only a sock on his tallywhacker and still get elected. He was handsome, popular and a Democrat.

Hey, I seem to have forgotten, is Charles a Democrat?

I was hoping for an Urban Fantasy-Ides of March type of story from Gilted… clearly I’ll be needing more alcohol, cupcakes and pixie dust to convince myself that this was ALMOST that story.

Review Copy courtesy of Wyrd Publishing thru Netgalley.