Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Review: SEASONS OF LOVE Collection by Liwen Y. Ho (Stories 1-4)

The More the Merrier (Story #1) – Alyssa Wu was spending yet another holiday looking for Mr. Right. Always so intense about her work (she’s a blog writer for a health company,) she just wants someone as compatible to her. Then comes the deal: In exchange for being Santa’s Little Helper, her neighbor/friend, Barry, will be her pretend boyfriend at her parent’s 60th anniversary party.

After one hospital event in an elf costume, Alyssa has decided that she’s in love with Barry. Wow, that fast, huh? And how convenient that Barry has always liked her.

The two play a good role for each other. Writing was pretty good, too.

An okay Xmas love story.

Rating: 3 stars

A Spoonful of Spice (Story #2) – Team Lead, Josh, is being forced to train the new IT girl. Drag! She’s the only girl in a team full of guys, so, naturally, she’s the center of attention. She even captures Josh’s attention, even he’s sworn off women for his technical career.

Life of a techie is not that thrilling, so some of the details were kind of dull. But I sure did admire a girl that could get into the field and prove the boys wrong. Although Josh and Cindy had a lot in common, I really didn’t see them as a couple. They were okay friends.
Honestly, I thought this story involved cooking, judging by the title, but the “spice” ended up being Cindy, which was short for Cinnamon. Kinda cute. Okay romance and good writing.

Rating: 3 stars

Of Buds and Blossoms (Story #3) – The couples from the previous stories make a cameo appearance as—yep, you guessed it—happily engaged couples. Gee, how typical!

I couldn’t really get into this particular story because there were too many people. In fact, it kind of crowded the story.

Rating: 2 stars

On Waves of Wanderlust (Story #4) – On a break from her long-time boyfriend, Macy tags along on a Mexican cruise as a third wheel to the happily engaged couple (the couple from Story#3). That’s where she meets the handsome and adventurous Jake. Before she knows, Macy is in the middle of a matchmaking scheme by the happily engaged couple. Oh joy. And, oh, how she practically jumped from the hills when she learns that Jake comes from a family of nuts. Apparently, the men in his family all proposed to their mates on the 1st and 2nd dates, because they just knew it was love at first sight. I certainly don’t believe in love at first sight and Macy was skeptical of it as well because, after all, that’s what she thought she had with Chase.

Although Jake was nuts on love, he was still nice and just looking for someone with “wanderlust”—the yearn to travel and experience the world (something I can relate to.) In an effort to break Macy of her cynicism on love, Jake was determined to make Macy see how much fun she can have traveling—with him. There was certainly a nice twist when Chase unexpectedly shows up, complicating the matters. And I loved the gift of the travel journal. I tell ya, that Jake knows how to please a fellow wanderluster.

Best story ever in the series! It was more real and authentic.
Rating: 4 stars

Review: 12 MONTHS OF ROMANCE (Holiday Anthology)

A woman prays to the Chinese gods for a new boyfriend and rocks in the new year with fireworks. There was actually two stories from this author. Why does Dev care way too much that she didn’t get asked out on Valentine’s Day? And that Jared guy was way too possessive.  Kind of a waste to have two stories on these two characters.

I think the best one was probably the one by Erleen Alvarez, who wrote a story about a woman going stag on V-Day. Stories were really not as great as I thought they’d be. Just a bunch of really dumb ones surrounding holidays I’ve never even heard of.

My rating: 2 stars

Review: THE MADONNAS OF ECHO PARK by Brando Skyhorse

Though filled with eclectic characters of women and men as well as being written by a man, this great book still couldn’t keep us from sharing it on LLVL.

I was immediately entrapped by the stories.

The author paints lustrous illustrations of the gritty L.A. scene completely overflowing by the earnest characters that leap off the pages. Smart and poetic—Skyhorse clearly exudes the soul of an artist with words that radiate with desolate beauty.

What I particularly liked was how the author did not “sugar-code” things. He gives us accurate accounts of what it’s like in the barrios with immigration, gang wars, racial hate, domestic abuse, infidelity, and family affairs.

This book is classified as having one story (and it is,) however, it is told by the various views of each character’s perspective, allowing the reader to learn what each desires from the American life while seeing their reality as it really was.

Hector is a hard-working man scrounging for every cent he can find by hanging out with fellow Mexicans to find work. In his view, we get to learn exactly what goes on in the head of a man.

Felicia has never been able to get over Hector’s betrayal, but still she keeps on going—going back to the rich homes to clean them. She could never fathom why people would pay so much for so little—something I’ve never been able to understand myself. That’s why she gets furious when her daughter starts acting like a rich, white kid when she was neither.

The most inspirational quote would have to be: “God is the fear that motivates you to protect yourself.” (pg. 57)

But the FUNNIEST tale would have to be “Rules of the Road,” a story about a bus driver constantly transporting a mixture of people of all ages and color from one bad part of town to another. I must say that I absolutely agreed with him when he said, “[Women] made their choices, and there is no reason to feel sympathy for someone who wants nothing out of her life and gets what she aims for.” (pg. 75) From then on, our bus drives continues to rag on how he hates it when Mexicans get offended when you don’t answer them in Spanish or how welfare broads are sucking money from his pockets everyday.

I absolutely loved how the lives of these characters intertwined together—very crafty!

An enjoyable read that many of us can relate to in some way. 

My rating: 5 stars

Review: SEX AND TAIPEI CITY by Yu-Han Chao

In “Strange Objects Museum,” customers can’t help but be drawn to an oddly-shaped saddle. It couldn’t hurt to take it for a ride, could it?

A surly flower girl learns more than she bargained for and that “marriage is no child’s play.”

A 15-year old recalls her “first time” at a musical auditorium hall. But did it come at a price?

And can “immersion” cause a sociological researcher to do something wrong, enticing, and…addicting?

“The man is always the filthy one, the corrupter, the one who breaks promises, ruins relationships, messes up his own life and the lives of those around him. I believe I carry out a form of justice.” (33)

“At this point women are a tiring presence in my life: three of them, all under my roof. The scariest one of them all? My mother-in-law.” (135)

This is not your typical love tales and rom-coms. Witty and remorsefully candid, stories reflect on the dark underbelly of love, sex, and relationships within the strict boundaries of Taiwanese culture. Each story brings lucid insight to the matter. I enjoyed the variety—stories with drama, secrets, fantasies, revenge, and blissful irony—as well as the cultural flavor. Chao is a natural story teller, infusing settings and characters with knowledge and reverence in this well-written collection.

My rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


At the insistence of his twin sister, Trevor signs up for her Perfect Match campaign—to spend 7 nights in a romantic cabin with his “match.” Trevor couldn’t think of any worse torture, especially after he caught his girlfriend cheating on him. Scared by past relationships, he’s only into no-strings hook-ups.

Sasha is a baker with a burnt bakery. She lost everything she invested and now she was broke. Her friend suggested she take a break and signs her up on Perfect Match. Sasha was the girl Trevor had a huge crush on in high school. Wouldn’t it be perfect if she ended up being his perfect match? Well, that’s how they get stuck together. You’d think it be a dream come true, except, ever since a disastrous pitfall of “7 Minutes in Heaven,” Sasha wanted nothing to do with Trevor or his rich kind ever again.

Characters are flawed and endearing. Obviously there’s old tension between the two, but there’s also that familiar spark. After one of their battles, Trevor somehow ties her up and negotiates 7 minutes in heaven with her. Mmmm.

A light, romantic read! I liked how they fell into a comfortable friendship (like the old days) with pointed dares, tickle fights, snappy quips, and other fun games. So sweet!

My rating: 5 stars

Review: NAUGHTY LITTLE SECRET by Shayla Black

Lauren couldn’t stop the constant fantasies of Noah. She had to stop mooning over her boss and long-time friend. After all, he’s never really noticed her, and since her divorce, she’s been feeling frumpy and unwanted.

Sudden notes from a stranger entice her, making her anticipate a night of wild passion. But could she have uninhibited sex with a stranger? Well, turns out the stranger ends up being Noah in disguise.

The two have a sensuous and erotic night. Two people that have been in love with each other for years finally express it in one scorching night.

Noah knows that Lauren’s been hurt by her divorce, but he can’t stop loving her. To Lauren, men weren’t built for long-lasting relationships. But Noah vows to make Lauren fall under the hard spell of Mr. Mysterious.

This was a sweet and decent romance. I liked the whole secrecy angle and how Noah was determined to make Lauren fall for him; however, it’s pretty mediocre and the read lags a bit.

My rating: 3 stars

Review: A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX by Melissa Schroeder

After his engagement ended, Max felt one thing: relief. After all, it was just a business arrangement between their families and she fit the role of the corporate wife. But why should he commit himself to a meaningless marriage with boring sex?

Anna wasn’t looking for a serious relationship, so she focused on hot flings.

With each having issues with their love life, it’s no wonder that Max and Anna have been friends for years. And neither is afraid to point out the shallowness of it all. Behind their light-hearted friendship is a secret they both share: their want for each other.

One drunken night, the two share a night of wild passion.

“Hot, steamy sex, no commitments, that was Anna…There would be no Happily Ever After.” Just sex. Bu Max would show Anna that they were right for each other…even if they have to have sex every night.

Will they get over their issues and find long-lasting happiness with each other? Family, exes, and town gossip threaten the couple’s future.

Passionate, engaging, and scintillating.

My rating: 4 stars