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.


Review: The Year of the Crocodile

Review: The Year of the CrocodileThe Year of the Crocodile (Cyclone) by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #2.5
on September 12th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 43

“You want to do something risky? Invite my dad to join your family this weekend.”

FINAL DECISION: Simply fabulous.  I loved just about everything in this story.  I liked seeing Tina and Blake and I just adore Adam Reynolds!  He’s a difficult person to love but Milan makes it possible.  More please!

THE STORY:  Tina Chen and Blake Reynolds have been together for almost a year but their parents have not met.  This story is about that first meeting between Blake’s father and Tina’s parents.

OPINION:  Absolutely amazing!  Admittedly only for fans (it really requires reading TRADE ME first), this story manages to give an update on Tina and Blake, give some serious hints as to where Adam’s story is going (surprise! surprise!) and still be incredibly entertaining.

Milan has created an incredible character with Adam Reynolds who has a personality which just leaps from the pages.  He’s a jerk (AR would certainly use more colorful language!), is incredibly messed up, and loves his son.

This vignette manages to be funny, personable, informative and fascinating at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong: it’s the story of Adam meeting Tina’s parents but the story did not go in any fashion I expected.  It’s short and relies upon the reader knowing the characters already.  But for what it is, I loved it!

More Adam soon, please!


CONNECTED BOOKS:  This short story should only be read after TRADE ME.  The story assumes knowledge of the characters in that book.

STAR RATING:  I give this short story 5 stars.


Review: Trade Me

Review: Trade MeTrade Me (Cyclone Book 1) by Courtney Milan
Series: Cyclone #1
on January 19th 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 281

A Different Kind of Book From Courtney Milan

“Try trading lives with me.”

THE STORY: Tina Chen is a 20 year old college student struggling to finish college. She is also having to care for her family because her mother gives the little money they have to others. Blake Reynolds is 23 years old and a billionaire. He has been in public display since a child when he did commercials for his father’s technology company (think Apple clone). Blake has struggles of his own as he attempts to distance himself from his father’s shadow. When Tina and Blake end up in an argument during a class, Blake proposes that Tina and Blake trade lives. They end up finding out about themselves, their families, and each other. Romance ensues.

OPINION: TRADE ME, a contemporary new adult romance, is not a book I would have picked if it had been written by anyone other than Courtney Milan. Milan, however, has wowed me with her historical romances and I am always willing to give such authors the benefit of the doubt.

TRADE ME is told in two first person voices: Tina and Blake. This is a book where both characters are on a personal journey. I really enjoyed how the secrets in this book are slowly revealed for the reader and the characters themselves. Much of the book feels more like a self discovery book than a romance book, but there is no doubt that this is a romance book. There is a deep connection between Tina and Blake even as Tina wishes to push away from Blake for almost the entire book. Blake feels like the more vulnerable character here perhaps because part of Tina’s coping mechanism is to be the strong character in her family.

This book also addresses many serious issues, but is not an overly serious book itself. It confines its examination of social issues to discussions relevant to the characters which keeps the book from being didactic. I also like how the issues the characters face are not ones that conform to any stereotype. The story also doesn’t conform to the standard response to a trading places type of story: that everyone has it hard. This story doesn’t rely on that easy answer. The problems and the solutions to this story are complex and difficult and feel real.

My minor complaint with the story is that it feels unfinished because it is. There is more to Tina and Blake’s story and so this book feels like the characters have reached a good place, but that their difficulties are not behind them.

WORTH MENTIONING: I really appreciate the interracial romance and they are still rare enough to mention that TRADE ME is one of them.

FINAL DECISION: This book takes a little time for the reader to comprehend what is at issue because the depths of the characters are slow in being revealed. While the characters have a happy ending, they clearly have unfinished business (luckily Book 3 will return to Tina and Blake).

CONNECTED BOOKS: TRADE ME is the first book in the Cyclone series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.