For What It's Worth

Monday, June 11, 2018

monday minis

Happy Monday!

I’ve been reading so many books lately that leave me with all kinds of conflicted feelings and TBH – I kind of hate that?? I like nice, tidy HEA’s. I know that’s not realistic or whatever but that’s what I want from my reading – an escape into unrealistic happiness. lol

Having said that – these three books made me question myself the whole time I was reading and even for days after so I still count it as a win. And - all end on a happy note.

So let’s dive in!

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy
By B.T. Gottfred

Source: ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Everyone assumes that Zee is a lesbian. Her classmates, her gym buddies, even her so-called best friend. So many people think that Zee likes girls, even Zee is starting to wonder. Could they be onto something?

Everyone assumes that Art is gay. They take one look at his nice clothes and his pretty face and think: well, obviously.

But there's more to Zee and Art than anyone realizes. When Art first meets Zee, he knows he's found someone special--someone magical. Zee may not be able to see that magic in herself, but Art is bound and determined to show it to her.
What develops is a powerful connection between two people who are beautiful in all the ways they've been told are strange. As they explore their own complexities in gender, sexuality, and identity, they fall for the complexities they find in each other. 

With his trademark frankness, B.T. Gottfred delves inside both characters' heads in this story about love and living authentically. ~ Goodreads

My thoughts: This is by far – one of the strangest books I’ve read in a really long time. Art – the “beautiful boy” comes on strong….like really strong. I wasn’t sure if he was adorable or should be arrested for possible stalking. I mean – I can’t explain it – he’s not aggressive in anyway but all of his feelings come out in one giant, honest word vomit – all the time.

THGaHBB explores fluidity in both gender/sexuality, and gender roles and while there's a romance I found it more to be about chosen family and discovering the identities and relationships that work for you, even if they aren’t conventional.

This book is a bit of an emotional roller coaster and I honestly thought I hated it for a bit – then thought I loved it so….I don’t know. That’s not helpful lol (btw – Goodreads is pretty conflicted as well) and as a cishet, white chick – I can’t speak tot he accuracy of these portrayal’s or if they might be offensive to the LGBQT community.

Also, his characters often say offensive things. While I felt they went the went unchallenged and that bothered me in his previous book - The Nerdy and the Dirty - I think there was character growth and either self examination or being called out on it in this book. But it might be something that bothers another reader.

If you do take a chance on it – make sure to read to the very end – even the acknowledgments as Zee and Art make a few more appearances.

The Astonishing Color of After
By Emily X.R. Pen

Source: Library

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

My thoughts: A stunning novel about mental illness and family that uses magical realism (Leigh believes her mother became a bird when she died) and bursts of color to evoke emotions and bridge the gap between cultures to heal broken relationships.

Magical realism rarely works for me. I can’t seem to just go with it but I was totally swept away by Pan’s descriptions and prose.

I will say that is a quiet journey of a book and at times felt like it could have been pared down a bit for more emotional impact but still lovely and one of the better books about mental illness/suicide that I’ve read.

Feels Like Summer (Summer Storm #2)
by Sex de los Reyes

Source: Kindle Unlimited

Five-minute girlfriend. That's what Jett signs up for when she meets Adrian and his band Arabella at beach music festival Summer Storm. One kiss and the attraction is too electric to ignore, but Jett has no room for love and Adrian is Mr. Relationship who's getting over his recent breakup. The solution? Keep it simple. Keep it casual. For three months (that's the rule about breakups, right?), Jett helps Adrian move on and Adrian shows up on Jett's bed whenever she wants.

Then the three months are up and neither of them are in a hurry to be the first to leave. Does Jett walk away from a potential disaster or does she finally let someone into her closely-guarded heart?

My thoughts: I loved this one! What starts out as a very brief – 5 minutes! – fake relationship to show Adrian's ex that he’s moved on, becomes a 3 month project for Jett to *fix* Adrian so he can regain confidence and move on to a healthy relationship after the end things.

It only takes a few encounters to see that Jett is the one carrying the baggage of ex who has worn her down into thinking she’s unlovable and she needs Adrian more than he needs her.

Jett is stubborn as hell avoiding her feelings for Adrian but his calm steady presence had me hooked. He sticks with her no matter what – but doesn’t put up with her passive aggressive bullshit either. I adored them both.

Great conflict – that was agonizing while it was happening but a happy ending that left me smiling and downloading more books by this new to me author.

From the Ashes (Fires of Redemption Book #1)
By Xen Sanders

Source: Purchased

Sociopath. Killer. Deviant.

Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called this and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded countless crimes to build his father's inhuman empire. Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford--antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.

But one kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. When his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias's hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile higher, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean--or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?

My thoughts: I've enjoyed other books (romances) written by Xen under the name Cole McCade (Autumn, His Cocky Valet). This one sounded a little different and exactly what I was looking for.

I don't want to say too much because of spoilers but this was an interesting look at nature vs nurture and the power to choose ones destiny rather than blindly following what you've been told.

Add in star crossed lovers & super villains trying to ignite a war and you end up with a rather surprisingly quiet little story but one that makes you question the MC's morality and if redemption is possible even after you have committed horrifying acts of evil. Like for real evil - not just killed a few people here and there in battle.

And of course a few exciting superhero/villain fight scenes!

This says Fires of Redemption Book #1 but I don't see anything about a sequel. That's too bad because I'd love to read more about this world and especially Sean's past.


  1. Oooh, From the Ashes definitely caught my attention. I read a fantasy story of his a while back that I liked. I'm curious about The Handsome Girl and Her Beautiful Boy a little, too.

    Thanks for sharing about these, Karen!

    1. Oh what was the fantasy? I like his writing but I had only read romances prior to this one.

  2. The Astonishing Color of After sounds interesting. I like magical realism and I'm always interested in books about mental illness.

    1. It's about suicide and mental illness. I thought it was handled well and not romanticized.

  3. From the Ashes is the only one that sounds half way ok to me. I'm not sure I would enjoy the others.

  4. yes please give me unrealistic!!! I neeeed that

  5. From the Ashes caught my attention just now, thanks!!

    1. It was a pretty cool story. Not what I was expecting.

  6. I always love to read your book reviews, and I find so many new ones I've never heard of before! I'm super intrigued by your first review, though I'm confused, too. Lol, I don't remember the last time I read a book where I couldn't decide if I loved it or hated it, but I think that makes it part of the fun. I might have to check it out, for sheer curiosity.

    And Feels Like Summer sounds the perfect beach read :) Thanks for sharing!

    1. That first one IS confusing. Even after I finished it I wasn't exactly sure what happened.

      I kind of hated it when I went to bed but woke up - read the end again and kind of love it now lol

  7. What interesting choices this week. I have to say that they all kind of intrigue me just based on what you have to say about them. I just don't know if I would read all of them. Lol.

    1. Feels Like Summer is the most traditional - romancey of the group and you might like that one.

  8. Gosh these book cover look gorgeous, you sure have an eye out for good-looking books. Great review! This is my first time on your and it's beautiful!

    Did you take those pictures yourself (and is that ipad?) They look so good! I'm so jealous, I can never take photos as good as a those for my blog.

    1. Thanks for stopping by!

      What photos are you asking about? The covers are just from Goodreads but the sidebar/insatgram book photos are taken with my phone - a Galaxy 8

  9. I tend to like HEA's too, realistic or not. :) Although bittersweet endings or less happy ones can be okay too if it works for the book I guess. Feels Like Summer sounds good! And The Astonishing Color of After sounds good too- I don't usually do magical realism, but being a fantasy fan I'm not totally opposed to it- glad it had such good mental health rep!

    1. I get the reality of open or bittersweet endings but they make me sad and I literally worry about the characters and wonder what happened. For WEEKS. It stresses me out lol Ridiculous, I know, but that's how I get so it's not a great experience for me.

  10. I love the sound of Feels Like Summer! It's on KU too so I'm adding that to the summer reading list. :)

    1. That was a fun, swoony one despite Jett's fighting tooth and nail.

  11. I've never heard of From the Ashes but it sounds so fascinating! I'm glad you liked it - and hopefully a sequel will come out at some point! I've heard mostly good things about The Astonishing Color of After too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on all of these!!


    1. You would love From the Ashes Lauren!!

      It's M/M romance with a comic book vibe

  12. I REALLY need to read The Astonishing Color of After! Magical realism usually works for me too, and to be able to use that to discuss mental illness is interesting. So glad you loved it, Karen! ♥

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

  13. Oh looks like you found some good ones. I need to check these out. I think magical realism is something I need right now. Ah heck you have me curious about all of them. The library is going to get a workout... :)

  14. I’m so with you on the HEA’s. I kinda demand them. :) I loathe open endings or bittersweet endings. Nope, bring on the happy ever after! I’m hearing phenomenal things about The Astonishing Color of After but me and magical realism are not friends. I’m glad it wasn’t a real stumbling block for you in this case.

  15. I looked up TACOA on GR, and reviewers mainly complain about the amount of the strange colour metaphors...someone quoted a few of them, and they were, indeed, strange...didn't they bother you? would you say the prose is...purple? 😉 Because I'm on the fence about this one...