Spotlight: Loathe at First Sight by Suzanne Park

Today on the blog we have a spotlight for LOATHE AT FIRST SIGHT, the adult debut from 2020 debut author Suzanne Park, author of THE PERFECT ESCAPE! So without further ado, let's get into it!

51191785. sx318 sy475 Title: Loathe at First Sight
Author: Suzanne Park
Publisher: Avon
Paperback, 368 Pages
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020

Summary: Melody Joo is thrilled to land her dream job as a video game producer, but her new position comes with its share of challenges. Namely, an insufferable CEO and a team that consists of mostly male co-workers who make the term “misogyny” pale in comparison to their obnoxious comments. Then there’s the infuriating—yet distractingly handsome—MBA intern Nolan MacKenzie, a.k.a. “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss”. Just when Melody thinks she’s made the worst career move of her life, her luck changes on a dime. While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly, Melody’s “joke” is her studio's most high-profile project—and Melody’s running the show. When Nolan is appointed a key member of her team, Melody’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she sees he’s smart and sexy, which makes Melody want to forget he’s her intern. As their attraction deepens, she knows it’s time to pump the brakes even with her Korean parents breathing down her neck to hurry up and find a man. But she’s here to work—and nothing more. All she has to do is resist the wild thoughts coursing through her mind whenever Nolan is near. Easy . . . or so she thinks. With her pet project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a social media trolling scandal that could end her career. She suspects one of her co-workers is behind the sabotage and is determined to find out who betrayed her. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work and love?


About the Author:

Suzanne Park is a Korean-American writer who was born and raised in Tennessee. In her former life as a stand-up comedian, she was a finalist in the Oxygen Network's "Girls Behaving Badly" talent search, and appeared on BET's "Coming to the Stage." She found this to be the funniest thing in her comedy career because, well, she is not black. Suzanne was also the winner of the Seattle Sierra Mist Comedy Competition, and was a semi-finalist in NBC's "Stand Up For Diversity" showcase in San Francisco alongside comedians Ali Wong and Nico Santos.

Keep up with Suzanne: Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Website

Thank you so much to Suzanne and the amazing Avon team for allowing us to host this spotlight post! If LOATHE AT FIRST SIGHT sounds like something you'd be interested in, make sure to add it to your TBR!

Also, you can check out our debut interview with Suzanne here!

Waiting On Wednesday: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine where we highlight some of the upcoming books we can't wait to read! 

Title: Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered #3)
Author: Tessa Bailey 
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2020

Summary: Hair, makeup, clothing, decor... everything in Bethany Castle's world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family's real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She's on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously. When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother's construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany's skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way. As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It's a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany's perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

I read FIX HER UP earlier this summer and absolutely LOVED it (you can check out my review here!), and I decided to keep reading the rest of the Hot and Hammered I'm really excited to get my hands on the third book in just a few months! I better make sure I have a glass of water with me while I'm reading, though, since we all know how much Tessa's books can make you blush...I'm super excited to get reading! 

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your links so I can stop back! 

Review: Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Title: Felix Ever After
Author: Kacen Callender
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 368 Pages
Published May 2020

Summary: Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after. When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle....But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

A bunch of our blogging friends recommended this book to us back when it first came out, and as soon as I looked into it, I knew it was definitely something that I wanted to read. I had really enjoyed Kacen's THIS IS KIND OF AN EPIC LOVE STORY, so I was really excited to read this one. And once I got the book in my hands, I was SO glad that I did. So without further ado, let's get into my review!

As the summary explains, Felix's last name might be Love, but he has yet to fall in love himself, and the irony definitely isn't lost on him. But he's worried that he's "just one marginalization too many" -- Black, queer, and transgender. He believes that those things could be potential obstacles toward him getting his own happily ever after. So throughout the book Felix learns to love not only himself, and those around him who he may find surprising, but he also learns a lot about himself in the process. Especially when he starts up a catfish scheme that doesn't end up the way he expected, leading to a potential love triangle and a whole lot of drama.

I absolutely loved this book. For starters, the cover is absolutely GORGEOUS. The colors and the art style reminded me a lot of WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo, which is another book that I really loved. The entire time that I was reading this book, I kept stopping to look at the cover again and appreciate it, because while I'm always a sucker for nice covers, I have to admit that this was particularly gorgeous and is probably one of my new faves. It's just so PRETTY!!

Another thing that I really loved about this book was the way that it dealt with Felix's emotions and the way he was questioning himself, and that it was okay to not know what labels fit you at any given time -- if any even fit at all. This book really tackles the important topics of transphobia and gender identity, which Felix seems to be a little bit intimidated by at first, but through time and talking to others, he's able to find a space to claim where he feels the most comfortable and things feel the most right for him in the current moment. It was definitely a really empowering part of the story that I really loved reading.

As for the love triangle -- I had a feeling from the second that Felix started his catfish scheme that things were going to get a little complicated, but I can definitely say that I wasn't expecting some of the plot twists that came along with that. There were several moments throughout the book where I found myself gasping and eagerly turning the pages because I just had to know what was going to happen next and who was behind some of the things that were going on. 

My favorite character in this book (other than Felix, who I absolutely adored) was definitely Leah. At first I wasn't sure if she was going to be a main character in the story or not, but as she showed up more and more and got closer and closer to Felix, I found myself really liking her. And seeing her and Felix's friendship grow really made my heart so warm and fluttery.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading FELIX EVER AFTER and would recommend it to anyone looking for an emotional, incredible, important read. Once again, Kacen Callender blew me away with the quality of their writing, and I'm looking forward to reading even more of their work in the future! 

Did you read FELIX EVER AFTER? What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments down below! :-) 


2020 Debut Author Interview: Syed M. Masood!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Syed M. Masood and his novel MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Sheena on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Masood Author Photo.jpg

Syed grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently lives in Sacramento, California. There have been plenty of stops in between though. He's a first generation immigrant, twice over. He's been a citizen of three different countries and lived in nine cities. He is, as Goethe, said, “nothing but a wanderer […] on this earth.”

Keep up with Syed: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Syed:I feel like I should give a cheerful, upbeat answer to this one. But honestly, with the pandemic still ongoing, I think all experiences are a little touched by sadness, by grief for those who have suffered and who continue to suffer. So, let’s just say that the bright flame of optimism, hope and excitement with which my debut year started has flickered at bit. But it has not gone out! I’m so glad that MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE is a comedy, which will hopefully provide some relief from the grim news around us to those who read it. I believe it will bring readers joy, and that brings me joy.
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Syed: The best part of the writing process is the end. That sounds flippant, I guess, but I really mean it. The last fifty pages are the most fun I have with a book. I write in a pretty chaotic way. I don’t have outlines, I don’t plan out anything, I just pick a scenario and start typing and hope a story will reveal itself. So, the beginning is pretty tough—this, by the way, is the answer to the second part of your question. I end up throwing out a lot of words. In terms of volume, I probably tossed out a novella while writing MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE. By the last fifty pages though, things have all come together, and I’m dying to keep writing, so that everything can be pulled together, and I can see how what I’ve written connects. “My fingers emit sparks of fire with expectation of my future labours,” as William Blake wrote. This is the time in the process where I won’t sleep, I’ll often write though an entire day and entire night, consuming reckless amounts of coffee and pushing to reach the end. It’s exhausting and it is amazing and I love it and I am very tired.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE?
Syed: I feel like this kind of question is easier for people who actually plan out their books and actually plot them! I will say that I’ve written three books now (two are coming out in 2020, the third in 2021) and with all of them there has been a poem or song that has been vital to unlocking the secret of the text for me. It’s a song I’ll listen to again and again while drafting, while driving, whatever. For MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE, it was a piece by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who was a brilliant Pakistani poet. It’s called “Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat Mere Mehboob Na Maang.” There is a musical version from Coke Studio on YouTube with English subtitles, if anyone wants to check it out. However, it loosely translates to “Beloved, don’t ask me to love you now like I loved you once.” It’s about how when you are young and unaware of the world’s realities, you can love absolutely and with innocent joy, but as your understanding of the world becomes more complex and you become concerned with the pains and ills of society and history, there is less joy in romance, and it is less all-consuming. So, a shout out to Faiz, one of the greatest poets the world has ever seen, and one you may never hear of again, unfortunately, because of the way the literary canon is constructed in the West.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?
Syed: I think I was lucky, in that my favorite character to write was Danyal Jilani. It’s rare, I think, to get to write a protagonist with that little cynicism about him, with a heart as generous as he has, who naturally tends to be kind, in the way that Danyal does. One of his greatest flaws is his genuine failure to see how brilliant he is, even if he isn’t brilliant at all by any academic standard. Writing him was a special experience. Most difficult to write, I think, was Alan Rhodes. He actually has a small role, but I find those characters are always challenging. You want to try to do every character justice, to make them all well-rounded, but characters like Rhodes—a classmate who looks down on Danyal because Rhodes knows he’s Danyal’s intellectual superior—can be difficult to write because they don’t get a lot of time on the page, so it becomes a struggle to capture their voice and do them justice.

The Book Bratz: What were some rom-coms that inspired you and encouraged you to write this book?
Syed: I love rom-coms, but I wasn’t inspired by any particular one. There were other inspirations. I’ve talked elsewhere about Ray Romano and how his work influenced me and my vision of what art is and what it’s purpose is. But books I was reading when MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE came together were Nic Stone’s DEAR MARTIN and PAPER TOWNS by John Greene. Those definitely had an impact on me.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE?
Syed: I hope they enjoy themselves. That’s the first goal, always.  But also, obviously, the book asks some serious questions. The books dwells upon the question of who gets to write history and why and asks if that is fair. It questions who gets to be forgiven and why they get to be forgiven. These, I think, are important questions and I hope readers give them some thought.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Syed: OMy next book, THE BAD MUSLIM DISCOUNT, coming November 2020, is adult fiction, not YA. The title is based loosely on the setting of the book. A large part of the book is an apartment complex owned by this Pakistani uncle. As the landlord, he makes moral judgements and gives out discounts on rent to people he determines to be “good” Muslims. However, he misjudges how religious the main character is and ends up giving this “bad” Muslim a “good” Muslim discount. It’s another comedy, but it isn’t a rom-com. My next YA book, coming in 2021, which I’m working on now, is another rom-com. It isn’t set in the world of MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE, and I don’t have any plans to return to that world yet. I also don’t have a lot to share about that project right now—it doesn’t even have a title—but I will say that it’s about physics and dancing. Hopefully, readers will have fun with it when it comes out. 


Title: More Than Just a Pretty Face
Author: Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Summary: Danyal Jilani doesn't lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he's funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn't approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal's longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect. When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man--a school-wide academic championship--it's the perfect opportunity to show everyone he's smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her...the more he learns from her...the more he cooks for her...the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.

Thank you so much to Syed for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE and can't wait for it to be out in the world on August 4th

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

Beachside Book Recommendations!

Hi everyone! We hope you're all enjoying your holiday weekend -- and since the weather has really been warming up over here, we decided to pull together some of our current beachside book recommendations! So if your plans for today or tomorrow (or any day after that!) involve the beach or sitting poolside and you want some books to bring with you that will suck you in and keep you turning the pages until you're sunburnt and spent the whole day reading, then here are some of our recommendations! 🌊🌞

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Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to refill our glasses of wine and sit by the pool and dive into some of these great reads!

What are some beachside book recommendations that you have for us? Tell us in the comments down below!😊

2020 Debut Interview: Shveta Thakrar!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Shveta Thakrar and her novel STAR DAUGHTER, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Shveta on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Shveta Thakrar

Shveta Thakrar is a writer of South Asian–flavored fantasy, part-time nagini, and full-time believer in magic. Her debut novel Star Daughter is coming 11 August 2020 from HarperTeen, and her short fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.

Keep up with Shveta: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Instagram

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Shveta: Thank you! I guess it depends on what you mean by “debut”; I’ve been selling short stories, poems, and essays for a decade now. But if you mean “debut novelist,” it feels amazing. I’ve dreamed of this since I started writing seriously in 2006, and every time I see Star Daughter’s gorgeous cover (illustrated by Charlie Bowater and designed by Corina Lupp) or hear from someone who’s excited to read or who did finish reading an advance copy, my heart glows as brightly as my protagonist Sheetal’s starlight hair.
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
ShvetaThe best part? The fact that the worlds and characters in my imagination are going out into our world for strangers to enjoy. And though I may never know that they picked up my book, hopefully it will bring some magic to their day. It’s like scattering seeds for wildflower gardens to grow, and how cool is that? The hardest? Publishing is a business that comes with deadlines and other responsibilities, and there are only twenty-four hours in a day to deal with them all. I’m know I’m not alone when I say that finding balance as a professional author is definitely a challenge!

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for Star Daughter?
Shveta: I adore Neil Gaiman’s and Charles Vess’s illustrated novel Stardust, and after rereading it for the umpteenth time, I decided I would write a short story about a girl whose mother was from a Hindu constellation. But it didn’t take me long to realize the narrative would involve a quest, which meant it would have to expand to be a novel. From there, as I wove in Hindu mythology and drew on some of my own experiences as a teen, Sheetal and her journey came to life.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest?
Shveta: I obviously adore Sheetal, or she wouldn’t be the main character, but her best friend Minal was a lot of fun to write, too, and I also really enjoyed Sheetal’s mom Charumati and another star named Rati. The hardest? Jeet. I won’t say who he is, but I had to really rethink his role and how I portrayed him.

The Book Bratz: The idea of a girl being the daughter of a star and a mortal is such a fascinating concept—where did you find that inspiration and how did you go about planning/outlining such a complex story?
Shveta: OWell, I already talked about the original inspiration, but I’ll say I didn’t outline or plan Star Daughter at all. I didn’t know what I wanted to happen when I started—so much of this final draft is different from the first one—which meant a lot of revising and reworking through multiple drafts. That painful process made me determined to try to outline or at least plan as much as I can for future books.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from Star Daughter?
Shveta: That there is a place for you, no matter who you are, and that you don’t—and honestly can’t—get through life alone. We all need community, and we all need to care about one another and show compassion and empathy.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of Star Daughter in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Shveta: Star Daughter is definitely a standalone, but I love the idea of creating what my friend called a Shvetaverse, meaning that elements of one book would show up again in another. *wink* And if you want more of Sheetal’s world, I wrote about the night her starry mother and human father met for Enchanted Living magazineI’m actually working on the second young adult novel my publisher bought from me, but unfortunately since it hasn’t been announced yet, I can’t share specifics. I do promise it will involve more Hindu mythology and have lots of rich description and settings like Star Daughter. After all, I’m writing the worlds I wish I could visit!

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Title: Star Daughter
Author: Shveta Thakrar
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: August 11th, 2020

Summary: The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. But when a flare of starfire injures her human father, Sheetal needs a full star's help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago. Sheetal's quest will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must act as her family's champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens—or risk never returning to Earth at all. Neil Gaiman's Stardust meets a rich landscape of Hindu mythology and celestial intrigue in this sparkling YA fantasy debut.

Thank you so much to Shveta for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about STAR DAUGHTER and can't wait for it to be out in the world on August 11th

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Book Blitz & Giveaway: Crushing It by Lorelei Parker!

Crushing It
Lorelei Parker
Published by: Kingston Publishing Company
Publication date: June 30th 2020
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

In life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .
To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?
Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”
Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.
Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .
“Relatable, funny, and charming, this gamingesque book delivers laughs and romance in a warm, satisfying bundle.”
–Elly Blake, New York Times bestselling author of Frostblood

“Sexy and delicious.”
–Kristin Wright, author of Lying Beneath the Oaks
“Hmm.” She tapped her finger on her lips. “Everyone’s had a crush on someone, right? It wouldn’t be the most embarrassing revelation in the world. Could you find something like that?”
I thought about it. I really did not want to stand up in front of total strangers—or worse, former classmates—and get laughed at, but Aida was right that an admission of a decade-old crush on a boy in a college class wasn’t the worst thing I might reveal. Besides, everyone had a crush on pretty boy Tristan back in the day. That might work well for this kind of contest.
“Would that be enough to win the prize?” And a guaranteed trip to Germany.
“Why don’t we forget about the prize, okay? I’m more interested in helping you work through your anxiety.”
Right. My forced therapy. “I just don’t see how muscling through one reading will achieve that.”
She bit her lip. “Okay, so here’s the deal. It’s not a one-night contest. It’s an elimination-style competition. Like American Idol.”
“Oh.” That changed things considerably. I just wanted the money, but I couldn’t imagine doing this week after week. Staying home and playing Undertale on the genocide route was sounding better and better.
Aida stood, one hand bracing her back. “Look. It’s right up the street. Let’s just go check it out.”
When she left, I skimmed the journal, hunting for something safe and boring. I didn’t believe reading something embarrassing was going to magically cure me. Nor was I going to win a weeks-long contest. But as Mr. Shepherd, my cross-country coach, used to say, “Running begins, not with the feet, but with the mind.” Maybe just preparing to do the contest, imagining myself succeeding, would be therapeutic on its own.
I took a deep breath and pretended I was actually going to go through with it.

Author Bio:
Bouncing all over the north throughout her childhood, Lorelei Parker grew up believing she was a Yankee. However, raised by transplanted Alabamans, she was destined to eventually wind up in the south. After graduating from Auburn University, she disappointed her entire family by defecting to SEC rival University of Florida and eventually settled as far north as central Virginia for grad school in French literature. After a major career shift and a brief detour through New York City, she now works as a computer programmer in Charlottesville. In her free time, when she isn't playing video games, she writes contemporary romantic comedy.


We'd like to thank the amazing team at Xpresso for allowing us to be a part of this blitz! If CRUSHING IT sounds like the kind of book you'd be interested in, don't forget to add it to your TBR!