Size Doesn’t Matter (71): Lotus and Thorn; Dreaming of You; The Way to Game the Walk of Shame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (71): Lotus and Thorn; Dreaming of You; The Way to Game the Walk of ShameLotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne
Published by Putnam Juvenile on June 7, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Pages: 429
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars

A thrilling science fiction adventure perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce and Sarah Maas

Ravaged by a plague known as Red Death, the planet Gabriel, a former colony of Earth, is a barren wasteland. Since being abandoned by Earth 500 years ago, resources are scarce and life is cheap. To stay alive, the survivors, the Citizens, scavenge the remains of a now dead city, trading for food with the resource-rich Curadores, the only other survivors on Gabriel. Every old computer, every piece of wire, every scrap of metal counts. To steal is the ultimate sin. So when tough-as-nails seventeen-year-old Leica is caught doing just that, she's exiled and left to the mercy of Gabriel's unforgiving desert for the rest of her life.

While in exile, Leica discovers a mysterious shuttle, which may not only lead her home, but even more impossible—reestablish contact with Earth. Then Red Death rears its head again, killing her entire work crew, leaving Leica all alone until a handsome Curador offers her refuge in the Dome—the only place on Gabriel untouched by Red Death, where a decadent and sultry life awaits. But there's a catch: Leica can only enter the Dome as his concubine—his Kisaeng. When a rogue group of Citizens see their chance for revolution in Leica's good fortune, she finds herself unraveling a deadly mystery with chilling answers to the true origin of Red Death and the reason Earth really abandoned them so long ago.

A richly imagined fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce, Lotus and Thorn, is a magnificent, epic adventure.

The book copy describes Lotus and Thorn as a “richly imagined fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce.” I want you to pull that bit away and set it on fire, since it’s laughably inaccurate. Lotus and Thorn is NOT a fantasy; it is science fiction. And it’s like Tamora Pierce in that there are women who fight. It’s not like Sarah J. Maas either. Lies, lies, lies. There’s some cool stuff about Lotus and Thorn, but this book suffers from its sheer length.

Despite the fact that Lotus and Thorn runs 429 pages (and you feel every one), there’s a shocking lack of world building. What little there is comes at the very end of the book, and it doesn’t manage to explain much of anything. Honestly the biggest strength and weakness for this sci fi are one and the same: the futuristic Mexican/Korean culture. On the one hand, I love that Etienne included cultures that are oft-ignored. But, on the other hand, there’s no explanation whatsoever at any point for why those two cultures are the ones that survived. Nor are little things like why beef is now “beeph” and chicken is now “chiken” explained.

With limited world building, the characters would really need to be on point to save this massive book, but they’re not. I kinda like the characters, I guess, but I feel very mild about that. Really the only straight up strength in this book lies in the plot, which I did enjoy. The start actually doesn’t have enough set up to make Leica’s expulsion painful, but, once she gets to the Dome, the book picked up a lot. I think I kept reading just to know how the plot would resolve. Which it ended up doing with a bit of a clunk, in that I’m not sure if that was meant to be an open-ended ending or if they’re (they being the author and publisher) debating a sequel.

Though Lotus and Thorn had some good qualities, I don’t think they made it worth it as a whole. It’s just too long with not enough pay off.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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Size Doesn’t Matter (71): Lotus and Thorn; Dreaming of You; The Way to Game the Walk of ShameDreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Series: The Gamblers of Craven's #2
Published by Avon on June 30, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 373
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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one-star

In the shelter of her country cottage, Sara Feilding puts pen to paper to create dreams. But curiosity has enticed the prim, well-bred gentlewoman out of her safe haven—and into Derek Craven's dangerous world.

A handsome, tough and tenacious Cockney, he rose from poverty to become lord of London's most exclusive gambling house—a struggle that has left Derek Craven fabulously wealthy, but hardened and suspicious. And now duty demands he allow Sara Fielding into his world—with her impeccable manners and her infuriating innocence. But here, in a perilous shadow-realm of ever-shifting fortunes, even a proper "mouse" can be transformed into a breathtaking enchantress—and a world-weary gambler can be shaken to his cynical core by the power of passion...and the promise of love.

Why why why did I bother? I didn’t like the first book in The Gamblers of Craven’s, and one of the many things I hated was Derek Craven, aka the love interest of Dreaming of You. Shockingly, Dreaming of You didn’t work for me either.

All I can really say in favor of this book is that I do like Sara Fielding. Taking the base idea of it, Dreaming of You could have been good, but the way it’s done is awful. Sara’s a writer, and she meets Derek when she saves him from attackers. That’s such a great start and totally why I got suckered into finishing. She spends more time around Craven’s so that she can research for a novel about gambling.

Unfortunately, Derek Craven has all that macho male alpha bullshit found all over classic romance novels. It doesn’t have the consent issues of Then Came You, surprisingly, but it replaces those with a jealous, psychopathic ex-lover plot that I want to stab in the face. Before Sara, Derek had Lady Joyce as a fuckbuddy. He actually dumped her pre-Sara, and that’s why he was attacked: she didn’t want to let him go. Because of Joyce, the plot ends with a dramatic fire and I just really really can’t.

Unless you’re into classic romance tropes, do not read this series. I’ll still try some of her more recent books, but yikes.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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Size Doesn’t Matter (71): Lotus and Thorn; Dreaming of You; The Way to Game the Walk of ShameThe Way to Game the Walk of Shame by Jenn P. Nguyen
Published by Swoon Reads on June 7, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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two-half-stars

Taylor Simmons is screwed.

Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.

Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

The reviews warned me that this book was okay at best, but I didn’t listen. I mean, the start was cute, so maybe I’d be the black sheep who loved this book, but lol nope. The central romance is cute, but The Way to Game the Walk of Shame is bogged down by overdone YA cliches and lazy writing..

The voices of Taylor and Evan are decent. They’re pretty similar-sounding but just disparate enough to work. There’s a bit of personality in them too. They don’t pop off the page, but they’re reasonable characters. Props for letting a bit of Evan’s horndog thoughts come to the surface, but I’d have liked to see more of that, since that would have sold his character more.

Evan and Taylor’s romance has a lot of my favorite tropes: fake dating, a smidgen of hate to love, and some friends to lovers. Everything was really in its favor here. I actually liked the start, which is why I finished, but I did get frustrated with it in time, because, as with a lot of playboy romances, she’s able to reform him because she’s “not like other girls.” At one point he literally thinks about how she’s not like other girls and his mental list of how is that she’s kind and sarcastic and smart and other generic qualities. No other girls are like that! Wow!

Rather than just telling the reader that he’s in love because she’s “not like other girls,” how about establishing a real connection between the characters? How about making me feel it? Instead, in conversations with her, he jokingly calls her a slave driver and a Nazi (twice) because she’s hardworking and particular about things. Those jokes aren’t funny and they’re not cute. In the end, when they’re declaring their love, it feels like instalove, even though I’m not sure how much time actually passed. Even if it had been months, it would still feel instant because why?

This is one of those reviews where I talked myself down. I did enjoy reading this one for the most part, but, as it’s completely lacking in originality and leans so heavily on the stupid “not like other girls” trope, I can’t quite say I liked it in the end.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Size Doesn’t Matter (71): Lotus and Thorn; Dreaming of You; The Way to Game the Walk of Shame”

  1. MJ says:

    Regarding Dreaming of You, I found it tolerable but I only read the first one in this duology after I read it. I sort of think if I hadn’t read it right away, I wouldn’t have been able to find it alright. It’s sort of how I didn’t really like the Devil in Winter after reading It Happened in Autumn because of the hero’s actions in the previous book. Kleypas’s later stuff though, I do find is more tolerable. I really liked most of the Wallflower books and Hathaway series though I haven’t been that impressed with her latest series.

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