January 2022 Reads and Reviews.

Raise your hand if you can’t believe today is the last day of January. I can’t believe a month of the New Year is already behind us. Good thing I have some awesome things to look forward to this year!

I had to go back and look at how many books I read in January 2021 just to compare to this January. I only read 8 this month compared to last January’s eleven. I probably would’ve read more this month but I was working through an awesome language workbook, which I will definitely have to give you the details about at a later time. The books that I did read were more light-hearted, or at least ended with happy endings. I devoured them and even read them at least twice in a row, each. So if you’re looking for something with a good story to read in your downtime, this may be the list for you!

Cinder & Ella by Kelly Oram

The day of her eighteenth birthday, Ella Rodriguez lost her mother in a car accident that also left Ella scarred and crippled. A year later, Ella is sent to live with her estranged father and his family. Knowing she’s unwanted, Ella is determined to prove that she is physically and mentally stable enough to take care of herself, which may be easier said than done. In an attempt to prove herself to her doctors, Ella reaches out to her best friend, Cinder.

Brian Oliver has grabbed onto the role of his lifetime. He knows he has what it will take to do it justice, but no one in Hollywood is sure of his abilities. Known as an outrageous playboy, the odds seem stacked against him. Under pressure from his management team, Brian fakes an engagement to his co-star. He’s reluctantly committed to the ruse until the night he receives an e-mail from his best friend, the girl he thought had died a year ago.

I am so glad I discovered Kelly Oram last December. Her novel, Girl at Heart, was one of the best books I read last year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw Cinder & Ella listed under her works, but after reading the blurb I knew I had to give it a chance.

This isn’t your typical Cinderella story, at least not completely. Yeah, there is an evil step-sister, but Ella’s step-mother is more well-intentioned, though it can be hard to tell sometimes. I love the relationship between Cinder, Ella’s name for Brian, and Ella. I wish the book series they based their names off of really existed. Oram did such a great job bringing the fictional series to life that I googled it to make sure it wasn’t a real series. I was totally going to read it if it was.

Something else I love about this story is that Oram didn’t shy away from showing Ella’s struggles. She didn’t miraculously survive a horrific accident with little to show for it, and as she enters into the real world, not everyone is nice to her. While some instances might seem over the top, they are, unfortunately, similar to real life occurrences. Ella doesn’t instantly gravitate toward her long lost father, either. In fact her biggest comfort comes from Cinder, but even after she reconnects with him, her mental state isn’t instantaneously fixed. Ella still struggles with her life and her new limitations. She still has to fight her demons.

For his part, when the truth comes out, Brian doesn’t give Ella some cliché sap. He doesn’t breeze over her issues, but acknowledges his pain and hers. He is first and foremost, her best friend. I think that aspect often gets lost in the male characters when they go from best friend to love interest.

Cinder & Ella: Happily Ever After by Kelly Oram

After everything they had to go through to get together, you would think Brian Oliver and Ella Rodriguez are owed a happily ever after. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Though they’re labeled Hollywood’s It couple, Brian’s fame brings stress and issues that Ella has never had to face before. Between the paparazzi bombarding them, and others using Brian and Ella for duplicitous means, Brian wonders if Ella will even be willing to stay with him.

When Ella’s family is accidentally pulled into the mix, her father puts his foot down. The ultimatum reveals painful truths they all must face. Maybe, “And they lived happily ever after,” really is only for fairytales.

Again, Oram isn’t afraid to show struggles. I don’t want to give a lot away, but suffice it to say that not everything was resolved in book one. The two best friends face obstacles both foreign and familiar. Ella still suffers mentally and physically because of her injuries.

Snow-Soon Lee cares more about teaching at her family-owned martial arts gym and training to be the next Bruce Lee than about hooking up. But in a moment of recklessness, Snow kisses a hot stranger before evading his security guards and running off into the night.

Ash Stryker is a championship-winning soccer player, but thanks to his father’s political campaign, Ash is spending his Senior year in a private school sans soccer team. When the mystery girl from the movies comes rappelling from the rafters of his school’s gymnasium, Ash is determined to get to know her.

Ash doesn’t expect his mom to hire Snow to be his personal bodyguard. Snow is determined to fulfill her job to the best of her ability, as well as keep things professional between her and her charge. Ash is determined to convince his ninja girl to screw ethics and kiss him again. But threats are rising and the danger coming may be more than even Snow can handle.

I totally picked up Ninja Girl because of…well the ninja part. It’s been years since I was in martial arts, myself, but there’s a part of me that may always want to be a Ninja. (Okay, I really want to be like Black Widow, but that’s a technicality.)

While this was a good read, proven by the number of times I read it and that it’s still on my kindle, it was predictable. Very predictable. I was really hoping there would be a twist I did not see coming but there was not. The predictability was probably my biggest issue with the story. Also, what parent would take their kid away from doing what they loved like Ash’s parents did, especially when they’re as good as Ash is? That really bugged me, but maybe it’s a part of life I just am not familiar with.

I did like the relationship between Snow and Ash. Snow takes her job very seriously, and why shouldn’t she? Someone’s life could be on the line. While Ash’s main focus is breaking the employer-employee relationship, he appreciates Snow’s skillset and works to be able to fight beside her, though even he admits he’ll never get to her level. Of course, like most stories of this type, there’s some frustrating miscommunication. The miscommunication is on purpose, making the fallout equally frustrating and hilarious.

If you want to read more, Ash is featured in O’Gorman’s novel, Adorkable. I haven’t read it so I cannot say whether it is worth reading or not. (Sorry.)

The Month of Light Reading.

That’s what I’m calling January. I did read more in-depth novels, but I haven’t finished them yet so they don’t get to go on this list. Until then, if you need a break from more rigorous tasks or books, pick something off this list and let your mind relax.

Happy Monday!

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