Review: Forbidden Hearts series by Alisha Rai

51baubxovylHate To Want You (Forbidden Hearts #1) by Alisha Rai

Plot: Every year on her birthday, Livvie Kane and Nico Chandler would hook up for just one night. Nobody else knows, because of the infamous falling out between the Kanes and the Chandlers. So when Livvie returns to their hometown to sort things out with her family, Nico is absolutely thrown for a loop. Can they let go of their history and be together, or has the family feud gone too deep for them to turn things around?

I love a good angst-filled romance, and Alisha Rai delivers that with the first book of the series. The tension between the characters and just from the plot kept me up all night reading this book. Written from perspectives of both the main characters, you can feel their turmoil for each other as well as their families. Livvy is hella feisty and sexy and a talented tattoo artist who’s all heart, Nico is a businessman who is typically calm, collected, loyal, and only Livvy can get under his skin. The flashback scenes of the budding romance between a young Livvy and Nico made me swoon and ache, and just the banter between the two made me cackle; Livvy makes Nico want to both kiss her and kill her at the same time, which I simply adored. Outside of the romance, Alisha skillfully introduces a plethora of secondary characters and we get to see their dynamics with both Livvy and Nico. These characters and relationships were also extremely well-developed and multi-layered, which gave this book so much depth along with being a smoking hot romance. Totally fits the brief of a forbidden romance with a family rivalry trope.

wrongtoneedyouWrong To Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai

Plot: Sadia Ahmed is the owner of Kane’s Café, which she inherited when her husband Paul died in a tragic accident. When her former brother-in-law Jackson Kane returns to town ten years after he ran away when accused of a crime he didn’t commit, she’s unable to shake her feelings for him. On his part, Jackson realizes he’s still helpless to stay away from the one woman he’s always loved. When she agrees to let him help her out at the café, Sadia realizes that her childhood best friend has grown up into an irresistible man. Will they, won’t they?

Oh. My. GOD. After HATE TO WANT YOU, I was sure Alisha was setting herself up for failure, because there was no way a follow-up was ever going to be as good. She proved me wrong by writing a second book that was somehow even better than the first one. This one is hands-down my favorite of the series. I was a little hesitant about the brother’s ex trope, but she handled it perfectly. Also, allow me to gush about Jackson for just one minute. Seriously, give me all the broody introverts always and forever. He’s shy, he cooks, he doesn’t talk a lot, and he’s downright sexy- sheer perfection. I loved their chemistry, I loved the angst and turmoil Sadia was going through about having feelings for her former best-friend-turned-brother-in-law, and her son Kareem was just pure joy and comfort on the page. Sadia’s character is beautifully developed- as a sex positive bisexual woman, as a daughter in a large family with conservative parents and delightful, caring siblings, as a mother, and as a lover. She and Jackson are a perfect match. In addition to all of this, we learn more about the Kanes and the Chandlers, so it’s not like the family drama is a one-and-done thing in book one. This book is all about second chances, and by god, it delivers that, with a gigantic helping of consensual, sex-positive, and super hot romance. 

91rkk2z2sul-__bg0000_fmpng_ac_ul320_sr202320_Hurts To Love You (Forbidden Hearts #3) by Alisha Rai

Thanks so much to Avon Books and Edelweiss for an advanced reader’s copy of this book.

Plot: In the final installment of this series, we meet Evangeline Chandler and Gabriel Hunter. She’s the heiress to the Chandler fortune and sibling of the overprotective Nicholas Chandler, he’s the tattoo artist boss of Livvy Kane, and son of the Kane family’s former housekeeper. He’s not supposed to be attracted to his friend’s sister, and she’s not supposed to nurse a lifelong crush for the help. However, will respectability and responsibility stand a chance when they’re forced to spend time together and sparks fly?

This book is a fitting ending to the series. She’s a good girl gone bad, he’s thrown caution to the wind in spite of his deep, dark secret. The chemistry is palpable and tender between these two. Eve clearly has a lot of issues and complexes thanks to the men in her family, and I absolutely love how she’s come into her own in this book, going from someone who strictly toes the line to a confident, outspoken person who can stand up to the men in her life, even the ones that have her best interests at heart. Gabe is clearly going through a lot of pain, but is still a wonderful human all-around. They’re also in the middle of a wedding, which means you get to see a lot of our favorite characters from our first two books. And just when you thought you’d discovered everything you needed to about the Kanes and the Chandlers, more secrets are revealed that absolutely shake up both families. 

Alisha Rai delivers again. In just one series she’s managed to deliver three completely different types of forbidden romances, with such diverse characters. Also, hurray for POC romances. The Kanes are Hawaiian-Japanese, Sadia is a bisexual Muslim, Livvy and Jackson’s aunt Maile is a queer WOC, and Gabe is multiracial with an adoptive Black mom and sister (who is a badass billionaire boss, and I hope Alisha writes a spin-off book about Rhiannon sometime in the future). The books all prioritize consent. are super sex-positive, and especially don’t fetishize WOC and/or queer women. Let’s be real: Alisha knows how to write hot books. The sex scenes left me weak at the knees, and I was especially glad that none of the male protagonists had moments of being insecure about their masculinity or whatever when they were with assertive women. All in all, a fantastic series, and definitely her best one yet. I’m so ready to keep reading her work.

 

ARC Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

32920226 Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Pub. date: September 5th, 2017
Publisher: Scribner
Format: E-galley
ISBN: 9781501126062
Source: Netgalley

Thanks so much to Netgalley and Scribner for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Trigger Warnings: Dead sibling, addiction, cancer, dying family member, drugs

Plot: Jojo and his little sister Kayla live with their grandparents in rural Mississippi, and only occasionally see their mother Leonie. The grandmother is dying of cancer. the grandfather is trying to run the household and teach Jojo life lessons, and Leonie sees visions of her dead brother when she gets high. Then, when Jojo and Kayla’s white father Michael is released from prison, Leonie packs the kids and a friend in a car, and travels across the state to the Mississippi State Penitentiary. a journey that’s full of danger and promise.

It is of no surprise that Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for this novel. She is just such a fantastic writer, and has the ability to make readers of her work empathize with the most flawed characters. Characters who in theory should be the villains of the story, but you end up feeling for them. She makes you ache for them. All of her characters have experienced, or are experiencing an immense amount of pain, and this is reflected in their worldviews, the choices they make, and the lives they live.

The story mainly comes from the perspectives of Jojo and Leonie, who are both people of few words, always on guard, but their internal voices convey everything that they would not say out loud to the reader, and basically set up the entire book. Jojo is coming of age and holds so much resentment towards his mother, who is an absentee parent, while absorbing crucial life lessons from Pop, his grandfather, as he is trying to figure out how to be a man. Leonie on the other hand is the character that put me through the wringer emotionally. She is so deeply flawed, and everything she does or that Jojo says she does or does not do makes you want to hate her, but reading her perspective and what she’s thinking makes you not only empathize, but just ache for her. A drug addict, she’s haunted by visions of her dead brother whenever she’s high, and it’s a punch in the gut to read about it. 

Jesmyn’s skill comes through in how she uses her characters- a lot of them are symbolic to further the story. Her writing makes you feel such pain with a story where terrible things just keep happening and there seems no reprieve, but still leaves you feeling hopeful at the end of it. There is no particularly happy ending, nothing is neatly tied up or resolved. Therein lies its beauty. I honestly could not find a single flaw in this book.

This was my first time reading her full-length novels (I’d previously read her memoir, Men We Reaped, and The Fire This Time), and she has become one of my favorite authors. I’m a total sucker for books that make me feel pain and that just sucker- punch me with all the emotions, and Sing, Unburied, Sing did just that. Devastatingly beautiful prose and an absolutely engrossing story, it is undoubtedly one of my favorites of 2017, and one that I urge you to read if you haven’t already. 

-J

 

 

So…Life Happened

heroism-in-life
Retrived from: http://searchwh.com/2017/lifestyle-hobby/advantages-heroism-life/

Hey friends,

Remember me? Seems like I took my sporadic blogger moniker a little far this time. I opened my blog today for the first time since July, which is definitely the biggest break I’ve ever taken from this space. My intention was to write a review and pretend like nothing had happened, but I think I’d like to talk about the last five months and offer you an explanation as to why you haven’t seen new content at all from me in that time.

(Oh, if you follow me on twitter and such you’re totally off the hook for skipping this post because well, I think I’ve whined plenty there about what’s happened)

Trigger Warnings: Surgery, medical stuff, body stuff, fatmisia, lifestyle changes, depression, anxiety, mental health

A lot of you know I’ve been struggling with sciatica for a while now. The last time I was active on the blog, I was in the middle of a really bad flare-up that lasted longer than the usual two-three weeks, and the pain was relentless. I was on bed rest for nearly six weeks, and barely functional. Things escalated, I went in for an MRI, and was told that I had a major prolapsed disc that had probably been around for a few years now (they suspect around the onset of my sciatica three years ago), and I was admitted for surgery immediately. It happened so fast, I only met my surgeon the day after the operation had been performed. Those 36 hours were pretty surreal. I’ll spare you the gory surgical details, but it was a longer procedure than expected. 

Post surgery, here’s where I was: Months (potentially years) of nerve compression had happened leading to some neurological symptoms in my foot and tightness in my legs, and I was looking at about six months of physiotherapy to regain mobility in my foot. My surgery had been successful in that my spine was intact, no other organs or systems were damaged in the process, I wasn’t going to be paralyzed. and the nerves had decompressed.

Suffice to say my life has dramatically changed and my world has become super small since the first week of August. The first couple of months were…hell. This is actually my second major spinal surgery, but my first one was at age four and I barely remember it, so this is my first time fully experiencing and processing the upward battle that is post-op recovery. It’s this thing where you’re no longer feeling the hellish pain that put you on in the operation theatre in the first place, but your body has been sliced open and the morphine has worn off and you can feel it all. My life was eat, sleep, physiotherapy, and rest. I was too exhausted to hold a book or laptop. I was in a world of pain. PT was frustrating and slow. My incredibly supportive parents’ lives were all about looking after me. Depression and anxiety were constant companions, and I didn’t really talk about it to anyone except the internet. My best friend was my only visitor, he would faithfully spend every weekend with me, even if it meant watch me sleep after my PT sessions because I was too tired, or when I started walking, walk those hundred feet three times a day.

But, sitting and writing this, I realize I’ve come such a long way since then. I went from a walker to using a stick to walking independently. I can now walk longer distances, I’m more functional in terms of being able to stand for longer and sit for more hours. I’ve started going out by myself, and even run a few errands. I don’t have to wear a lumbar support belt anymore, which means I will no longer have to be rude to strangers on the street that stare at me or ask me really personal questions. Our extended family comes down in a couple of weeks to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, and I will be able to sit and be a part of the traditional ceremonies that will be happening. These things I’m infinitely grateful for, because six months ago I didn’t think any of this was possible.

There’s still things that are scary and overwhelming and weigh on me. My foot is still not at a hundred percent, and it scares me to think that if it doesn’t get better than this then I won’t be able to get back to dancing ever again (I’m a trained Bharatanatyam dancer). Somedays, hints of the old sciatica pain come through after an intense PT session and I worry about never not being in some form of pain for the rest of my life. My job-hunt has been on pause for the last six months, and the prospect of having to explain this really long and unexpected break in my career feels daunting. I’ve been told to lose weight so as to take off the pressure from a spine that’s been operated on twice, and I’m dealing with a megaton of internal and external fatmisia while I make some dietary and lifestyle changes. My mental health has definitely seen better days, and now that I’m mobile I need to get around to finding a therapist.

There’s so many uncertain things, and I’m trying not to let them take over, which is easier said than done.

So there, that has been (is) my life. It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster, 2017, but I think the end of the year is looking less bleak than I thought it would be three months ago. I’ve finally gotten my reading mojo back, and am hoping to make my Goodreads goal by the end of the year. I’ve spectacularly failed on my blogging goals, but I’m trying not to beat myself too much about that. I’m working on some academic projects with my friends to stay sharp and have started looking for a job again.

All this to say, thank you so much for still sticking around despite my horrendously erratic blogging this year. Thanks for sticking through all of my promises to be a more regular blogger even when I’m not. Thanks for accepting this explanation for my absence. Thank you for being a source of support in any corner of the internet at any point in time. I’m back right now, I’m feeling excited to talk about books again, and I’m hoping that feeling stays with me, along with you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

So much love to all of you,

-J