Cherish Hard (Nalini Singh)

Cherish Hard is the first novel in the Hard Play series by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 11.4.2021
[Here’s my review of Rock Hard that is the last of this series, but also second of her Rock Kiss series.]

Plot:
Ísa dreams of having the kind of stable family she never had growing up. But for that she first needs to find a partner who is just as ready to settle down as she is. The hot gardener working at her school, Sailor, does not fit that bill. Running his own business with ambitious plans for his future and a few years younger than her, he is certainly not the kind of guy she is looking for. And yet, Ísa can’t keep her eyes off him. When fate, or rather Ísa’s CEO mother, forces them to work together, it’s the possibility for Sailor to convince Ísa that he is in it for the long haul – because he is head over heels for her.

Cherish Hard is a fun read, but not one of Singh’s best novels, I’d say. I liked both Ísa and Sailor, but I wasn’t as invested in their story as I would have liked – or even expected to be.

The book cover showing a shirtless man with a shovel in his hand.
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ReV (Madeline Ashby)

ReV is the third and final novel in the Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 9.4.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other novels in the series.]

Plot:
Amy’s decisions have changed the world and the relationships between humans and vNs forever. Now Amy’s grandmother Portia basically runs free in the world to do whatever she pleases to humans, and what she pleases is rarely something nice. Humanity is therefore gearing up its efforts to get rid of vNs. Meanwhile Amy is in relative safety in Mecha with her family and is trying to come up with a new plan for them all. The question is is whether Portia is actually part of her family, or just a threat.

I’ve been waiting for the conclusion to the trilogy for nearly a decade and now it’s finally here. And while I did enjoy it was more than just a little, I think I was expecting a bit more from the novel, especially considering how long I waited.

The book cover showing a female face that looks half human, half robot beneath a glass space helmet.
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The Story of a New Name (Elena Ferrante)

The Story of a New Name is the second of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte eines neuen Namens) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 4.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape, domestic violence, abuse

Plot:
With Lila’s marriage, she and Elena develop away from each other even more. But at the same time, they cannot let go of each other. Elena watches from a distance as Lila’s abusive marriage to Stefano turns ever more complicated by her husband’s business relations. Meanwhile Elena is dating Antonio more out of a sense of obligation, while still yearning for Nino who seems to be everything she aspires to. After Lila has a miscarriage, she asks Elena to accompany on a holiday to get her strength back. During that holiday, their paths cross with Nino and everything changes.

After reading My Brilliant Friend, I was reluctant but curious to continue, not quite sure what apparently millions of other people saw in the novel. The same thing is still true for The Story of a New Name. I read it, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either and I am still scratching my head as to why this series has gotten quite this big.

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A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas (Jackie Lau)

A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas is the second novel(la) in the Holiday with the Wongs series by Jackie Lau.
Finished on: 29.3.2021
[Here’s my review of the first book.]

Plot:
When his mother tells Greg that she has arranged everything for Greg to give his ex-girlfriend Tasha a ride back home from Toronto for the holidays, Greg is dismayed. Not just because he likes to have his peace while driving, but also because he knows it’s an attempt from his mother to get them back together. But there is no backing out now. And then, of course, Greg and Tasha have to stop overnight to wait out a snowstorm. Just maybe Greg’s mother was on to something, though.

A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas is another sweet and fun read that I found very enjoyable, although I didn’t completely love it.

The book cover showing a car with presents on the roof in front of a house with a pine tree next to it.
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The Governess Affair (Courtney Milan)

The Governess Affair is a prequel novella of the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 28.3.2021

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Three months ago, Serena Barton was kicked out from her position as a governess in the Duke of Clermont’s household. But she is unwilling to let that dismissal stand. She seeks reparations from the Duke. The Duke asked is right-hand man Hugo Marshall, nicknamed the Wolf of Clermont for his bargaining techniques, to make sure that Serena goes away without a fuss. But Hugo finds that Serena is a tougher opponent than he suspected at first.

The Governess Affair is a sweet story that had me smiling, and also fanning myself. I really enjoyed it and would have liked it to be longer.

The book cover showing a woman in a yellow ball gown.
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Re-Read: iD (Madeline Ashby)

iD is the second Machine Dynasty novel by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 26.3.2021
[Here is my first review.]
[Here is my review of the first Machine Dynasty novel.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Javier should be happy, living on Amy’s island with Amy and his sons. But somehow he is still ill at ease, especially since Amy refuses to disengage his failsafe, leaving him vulnerable to humans still. And then just that is used against him and makes his entire world falls apart, leaving Javier to try and pick up the pieces of their lives.

iD really delves into the consent issues that were already raised in the first novel and considers them from every angle. It’s thoughtful and interesting, but it’s also simply a good read, even if there were a couple of transition issues.

The book cover showing the face of a man surrounded by black shards and machinery.
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Queen of Nothing (T.A. Pratt)

Queen of Nothing is the ninth of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 20.3.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Plot:
Rondeau and Pelham are waiting for Marla to show up after her required month in the underworld is over. Except, she never shows and the longer she is late, the more worried they become that something is seriously amiss. After all she spent the last month as a god and something really bad must have happened for her to not stick to the bargain. Rondeau and Pelham go to B to see if he can find out more by conjuring up an oracle, when an unlikely maybe-ally-definitely-former-enemy shows up and appears to help.

Queen of Nothing is the penultimate of the Marla Mason novels and it already feels like things are starting to get wrapped up a little. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing interesting happening anymore, but it does feel a little bittersweet.

The book cover showing an empty, spiky throne in an icy landscape.
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Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams)

Queenie is the first novel by Candice Carty-Williams.
Finished on: 13.3.2021

Content Note: abuse, sexualized violence, self-harm, mental illness, (critical treatment of) racism and misogynoir

Plot:
Queenie works as a journalist and lives with her boyfriend Tom. Or rather, she lived with Tom – until Tom decided to stay with his parents for a while. When Tom finally asks Queenie to move out of their apartment while they are on a break, Queenie starts to unravel completely. She feels out of place at work and with her family, and generally feels out of sorts. While her friends try to support her, it is unclear whether Queenie can support herself.

Queenie is an unusual book in that it both handles really tough topics and has the tone of a RomCom most of the time. You have to brace yourself for many parts of the novel, and then you find yourself laughing again. It is a mix that is both uncomfortable and works extremely well. I was very impressed by it, especially considering that it’s a debut novel.

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A Match Made for Thanksgiving (Jackie Lau)

A Match Made for Thanksgiving is the first novel(la) in the Holidays with the Wongs series by Jackie Lau.
Finished on: 7.3.2021

Plot:
Nick Wong loves the big city life in Toronto, especially being able to meet new women all the time and taking them back to his penthouse. One of these women is Lily Tseng who just got out of a relationship and is trying to not take things so seriously for now. But after Nick and Lily part in the morning, they are both still thinking about each other – without knowing that the other is in the same position. When Nick returns home for Thanksgiving, he finds that his parents have set him and his siblings up on blind dates for the night. And Lily is one of those dates – meant for his brother Greg. But having Lily walk into his life for a second time, Nick is not willing to let her go again.

A Match Made for Thanksgiving was a quick, sweet read that knows what tropes are for and uses them well. A word of warning, though: do not read it while hungry.

The book cover showing a table full of classic thanksgiving food, but also ramen.
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Re-Read: vN (Madeline Ashby)

vN is the first novel in the Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 6.3.2021
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: child abuse, pedophilia

Plot:
Amy is a von Neumann machine who lives with her (human) father and her (vN) mother. She’s growing up slowly – which is unusual for vNs – and very sheltered. That is until her (vN) grandmother Portia shows up for her kindergarden graduation and attacks not only a kindergardener (which should be impossible due to the failsafe that immediately destroys vNs when they see a human hurt), but also Amy’s mother. In her desperation, Amy eats Portia and then she finds herself on the run, suddenly grown up and with Portia on a partition of her harddrive.

I read vN for the first time pretty soon after it came out and loved it. I read the second part iD not long after that, and then I had to wait for the third part to come out. And it finally did (7 years later), so I decided to revisit the first two books before completing the story. And I’m happy to report that the books still holds up.

The book cover showing a woman's worried face surrounded by machinery. A part of her skin is missing, beneath it we can see more metal.
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