December ARC Reviews: Off Limits Attraction, Mediocre, and The Way You Hold Me

I know this is incredibly late. Each of these books released on December 1st and yes, I had the review copies in plenty of time from Netgalley to have them read and reviewed. But I read Burnout in December and I’m resolved to be kind of myself so guess what! I’ve decided to positively reframe because maybe these reviews can still be helpful for you a month after their release! I mean, if I like reading reviews whenever my friends and trusted people get around to reviewing something, that should be true for at least some of you, right? Anyway, let’s talk about these books! Because that’s why we’re here.

Off Limits Attraction by Jayci Lee

The reason I love category romance is because they are full of tropes that they tell you up front so you can pick up a book that you should love and sink in and get lost in it and escape your life and your problems for a few hours. In my mind, a category romance should be a one sitting read. Even though I haven’t fallen totally in love with the other books in this series, I have always found them quick and enjoyable, so I was really looking forward to this one. And then it took me 16 days to read.

I thought this book would be my favorite in the series because Collin has been such an interesting side character, this book just did not work for me. In my opinion, the deception story line doesn’t make a sufficient amount of sense for it to be such a key part of the plot and conflict. Collin’s reasons for why he has to keep his identity a secret are only ever really about needing to spy on Jihae for his family, but then that reason is not the one that’s given to make Jihae forgive him when she finds out. Apparently somewhere along the way, I was meant to pick up on a whole lot of other family stuff that was like… mildly present, but not in the way that it’s eventually explained. And ultimately, I wasn’t satisfied with the overall resolution of the HEA or how the external plot was handled. Additionally, I felt like the book was paced too slowly.

I really hope this book works better for you than me. December was rough on me so hopefully it was me and 2020 making this book not work, but those are my thoughts.

Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

I read So You Want to Talk About Race soon after it’s release and adored how Ijeoma Oluo explained things in a way that just really worked with my brain. I was a little nervous going into this one because it seemed like it was going to involve a lot more history and despite loving history as a student, I’m not always good at reading about it now. I am pleased to report that all of my concerns were for naught. Ijeoma Oluo is remarkable at how well she takes this pretty huge idea and cuts it down into very understandable pieces with perfectly chosen illustrative examples. I think this book likely could have spiraled into such a huge project that would have felt overwhelming, but Oluo is deliberate in what she chose to include and discuss. You can tell that her examples were chosen with care and really expanded and shed light on things and people who have a very one-sided positive history most commonly told today. I am still seething over the fact that President Teddy Roosevelt has a reputation of being a conservationist when he just kept ignoring the treaties the US made with Native people and took land that was never meant to belong to this country.

This book was well organized and has section headers that I really appreciated. In the introduction, Oluo talks about how things “work by design” so even when something is infuriating and unjust, but there’s “nothing to be done” that it’s often a sign of something working just as it was designed. This is a theme that carries through the entire collection and is really powerful. Oluo makes the case that we have to try something different if we are to save the planet and our country and it’s a compelling argument. It’s also subtle in some ways. She pulls back sometimes on sharing her opinion to give space for the reader to come to their own conclusion. It’s the cross-examination method of asking every question but the last one because you want the jury to be forming the answer to that last question themselves. All of the pieces are there and at the very end, in her closing argument, Oluo hammers her points home. She does so effectively in large part because of how beautifully the rest of the book is laid out. Her conclusion introduces us to a new white man and takes a trek down the mass and school shooter line of reasoning. I would have appreciated more time on this topic, but I think it’s a brilliant place for her to end with an appeal to readers to do something. To change the design.

Despite not reading my e-arc, I am very grateful to the publisher and Netgalley for providing it to me. I am deeply apologetic that I took my time after spending my audio credit on release day, but, for the record, I highly recommend the audio. Oluo narrates herself and I appreciate her narration.

One final point, y’all may know I mostly read romance novels, and Oluo’s last paragraph in the acknowledgements is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read and I would like someone to please point me in the direction of any romance novel that sounds similar to her real life love story. I hope Oluo and her partner have many, many years of happiness.

The Way You Hold Me by Elle Wright

“But you can’t stay in your house forever because you’re scared someone will break in. There’s nothing wrong with taking a leap, putting yourself out there. Pain is a natural part of life. It hurts, but you can move past it. You have moved past it. You might be wary, you may be frightened, but you’re still here.”

The Way You Hold Me is a second chance romance between Skye and Garrett. Skye feels like a hot mess for a few reasons, but it seems like the main one is that she can’t stop overthinking every single thing in her life. She’s also frustrated with herself because she can’t seem to get it together to be polite to her ex-boyfriend, Garrett, who is a part of her social circle. Their breakup was sad but her decision and happened years ago. When her therapist tells her to just do one thing without overthinking it, she kisses Garrett when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day. Things sort of take off from there. It’s a slow back and forth of Skye running away a lot and Garrett being patient. The two wind up involved in a really gross public relations nightmare between actress Paige and her husband Julian, who is a cheating, lying, disgusting serial harasser.

I really liked the characters, even though Skye is technically an “unlikeable” heroine. If that’s the type of woman character you’re seeking, I would certainly say this book isn’t a bad one to pick up. I really loved Garrett’s relationship with his little sister, Max, and how he’s struggling with the realization that because he’s acted as her parent since their mom and her dad died, he is having a really difficult time letting go (she’s dating). I liked Zara and X and Duke and the therapist. I felt like there were several loose ends as well in the end and I actually wanted to see more of where Skye winds up with work things. Ultimately, I think this book needed to lean further into the angst or more into the fluff because as it was, it just settled into a place where I didn’t feel the urge to keep reading until the book was nearly over. However, the fact that it didn’t work for me does not mean that it won’t work for everyone! If you love big casts of characters and friendship and characters who are good at their jobs and whose jobs get page time, this might be the book for you.

CW: Harry Potter references, parental death, brief mentions of child abuse, sexual harassment, pregnancy

So all in all, the tl;dr of the matter is this, I absolutely adored Mediocre and think it’s a must read. The other two didn’t work for me, but maybe they will for you.


2 responses to “December ARC Reviews: Off Limits Attraction, Mediocre, and The Way You Hold Me”

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