Review: Hold Me

I received this book for free from Netgalley in order to prepare an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Hold MeHold Me (Cyclone Book 2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #2
on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 306

Maria: “It’s just a part of me.  I learned long ago to avoid the mountaintops of life.  Sure, it’s fun to get to the top. But storms come and lightning strikes, and it’s no fun being exposed on top of the world in those moments. Daydreams are great, but an established salary and health benefits have to come first, thank you.”

Jay: “If we hadn’t managed to hate each other first, Em would have been it for me. I failed to see her on every conceivable level. How do I admit that?”

FINAL DECISION:  I wanted to like this book more.  Parts were brilliant and moving and parts just felt like distant.  Jay started out unlikable and I don’t know that he ever evolved enough for me to truly like him.  But there was enough in it for me to give it another chance.  Maybe a re-read in a year or two will change my mind.

THE STORY:  Jay na Thalang is driven.  A professor at Berkeley, he has focused on his work to the exclusion of all other relationships in his life.  When he meets Maria Lopez, a student, he first insults her, and then knows that she is a distraction but insists that he is not interested.  But he is interested.  The first terrible meeting between Jay and Maria sets the standard for their combative relationship.  Maria is cautious and Jay’s dismissal of her hurts even though she believes him a jerk.  What neither of them knows is that they have been corresponding and flirting for months.  Maria secretly runs a doomsday blog and Jay has been commenting and communicating with Maria.  The two have an online friendship that might be turning into something else and an offline hate relationship that might not be something they can overcome.

OPINION:  There was much that I liked about this book.  Both Jay and Maria are smart, sarcastic and imperfect.  I love those angst filled romances where two damaged people find love.  I loved the online relationship aspect where the two are themselves and open in ways that they can’t be in real life.  I also liked how the two strike bad sparks off one another in real life where they make assumptions and fail to see the truth of the other.  This is especially true for Jay who thinks himself progressive and yet makes assumptions about Maria which hurt her.  I really liked that the relationship between these two is messy and imperfect and so honestly real.

Maria is a woman who is always waiting for those she cares about to reject her.  She writes an apocalyptic blog which is apropos because she is always waiting for disaster to strike.  She fears asking too much of others and herself because life has given her disappointment.  She is trans but while an essential part of who she is, it isn’t the focus of the story except in how the reactions of others (especially her parents have effected her).  I loved the quirks of her nature: she eats soup for her comfort food, demands the reusing of cream cheese containers as tupperware and wears high heels so high they make my ankles hurt just thinking about them.

Jay was harder for me to like and I never am sure that I ever fell in love with him as I like to do with characters.  He treats Maria abominably the first time they meet because he makes assumptions and is more concerned with his own career than the human being in front of him.  While many romantic heroes are jerks at times, Jay just continued to be jerky for too long.  Jay has his reasons for his behavior, but even so it doesn’t excuse his behavior.  For me, things just got fixed too easily: with Jay’s parents, with Maria.  Perhaps he didn’t suffer enough for me or maybe I didn’t see enough of Jay acting good to counteract the bad.  For whatever reason, I couldn’t connect enough with Jay in order to make the romance superlative.

I liked this book and there was some beautiful writing in it.  This is a book that I would read again to see if it was my own expectations that stopped me from really loving it.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book takes place in the college town of Berkeley.  As a Cal grad, I was happy to see the school and town so well depicted.  This book reminds me of what I love about Cal.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  HOLD ME is the second book in the Cyclone series.  It is a standalone which does not require reading the first book in the series although characters from that book appear.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3.5 stars.


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