Simone Read What? – January ’21

Ah, 2021! A new year full of unknowns! One of those unknowns? How many books I’m going to be able to read this year.

Last year, I was ambitious and set my Goodreads Challenge goal to 60 books. Considering how many books I’d read in 2019, that seemed reasonable. But then the world caught on fire and everything changed, and I only managed to read a paltry (for me) 45 books. For 2021, I knew my life was going to be just as chaotic as it was in 2020, so I decided to be kind to myself and make my goal for the year 36 books.

Part of me hopes to exceed that, and if January is any marker for the rest of the year, it seems that I will. But I know something will inevitably come up over the next eleven months that will throw a wrench in my reading plans—it always does!

Here’s what I read in January!

(all summaries and covers from Goodreads)

1. The Hunter by L.J. Shen


I didn’t mean to star in a sex tape, okay? It was just one of those unexplainable things. Like Stonehenge, Police Academy 2, and morning glory clouds. It just happened. Now my ball-busting father is sentencing me to six months of celibacy, sobriety, and morbid boredom under the roof of Boston’s nerdiest girl alive, Sailor Brennan. The virginal archer is supposed to babysit my ass while I learn to take my place in Royal Pipelines, my family’s oil company. Little does she know, that’s not the only pipe I’ll be laying…

I didn’t want this gig, okay? But the deal was too sweet to walk away from. I needed the public endorsement; Hunter needed a nanny. Besides, what’s six months in the grand scheme of things? It’s not like I’m in danger of falling in love with the appallingly gorgeous, charismatic gazillionaire who happens to be one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors. No. I will remain immune to Hunter Fitzpatrick’s charm. Even at the cost of losing everything I have. Even at the cost of burning down his kingdom.

1 out of 5 stars

This was… bad. Hunter was just so over the top and generally disgusting that I did not see the appeal of his character once throughout the book, even though he “changed” (which is… debatable). There was so much objectification and dehumanization of women from his POV. And then there was the whole concept of “this good girl will tame this bad boy, a good woman can change a man!” which irks me to no end. Then there was Sailor, the girl who changed herself for a boy. Not here for it.

Plus, the whole thing was just poorly written. I’ve never read a Shen book before, but I have to wonder if this is just Shen’s “style.”

2. Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block

After Julie’s grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan of Buffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie’s grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

Francesca Lia Block’s latest young adult novel is a haunting work about family, loss, love, and redemption.

2 out of 5 stars

This was one of the over 100 unread physical books sitting on my shelf, of which I’m determined to make a dent in this year. So yay for knocking one out!

There were aspects of this book I enjoyed. It was solid YA, had great exploration of family, and interesting supernatural elements. However, there were some racist elements included (g*psy slur, the FMC wore chopsticks in her hair while going to Chinatown, the way the character of Daiyu was presented, “I’m half Cherokee!!!!” with no other explanation, etc.) I had to remind myself that it was published in 2014, which accounted for some of that, but that’s not an excuse. Plus, the main character was bland and the writing style wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I could see how someone else might like it.

3. Vicious by L.J. Shen


They say love and hate are the same feelings experienced under different circumstances, and it’s true. The man who comes to me in my dreams also haunts me in my nightmares. He is a brilliant lawyer. A skilled criminal. A beautiful liar. A bully and a savior, a monster and a lover.

Ten years ago, he made me run away from the small town where we lived. Now, he came for me in New York, and he isn’t leaving until he takes me with him.


She is a starving artist. Pretty and evasive like cherry blossom. Ten years ago, she barged into my life unannounced and turned everything upside down. She paid the price.

Emilia LeBlanc is completely off-limits, my best friend’s ex-girlfriend. The woman who knows my darkest secret, and the daughter of the cheap Help we hired to take care of our estate. That should deter me from chasing her, but it doesn’t. So she hates me. Big fucking deal. She better get used to me.

1 out of 5 stars

I wanted to test out and see if Shen’s other books were as bad as The Hunter and… the results were not encouraging. From what I’ve seen, Shen seems to specialize in MMCs that start off pretty awful that we’re supposed to eventually end up liking. That can absolutely work, and some writers are great at pulling that off, but… I’m 0 for 2 on the whole “liking any of Shen’s male leads” thing.

Plus, the storyline was just ridiculous—but not fun ridiculous, but agonizing to read ridiculous. I think I’ll give Shen one more try (there are just so many books) but if they’re all like this… no thank you.

4. Heist Society by Ally Carter

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

3.75 out of 5 stars

This was another one of the physical books that has been sitting on my shelf for a long, long time. Not sure what made me grab this one next, but I’m glad I gave it a read.

Overall, I enjoyed this. Teenage Simone would have really loved it, because it had everything she loved back in the day: heists, rich kids, and plenty of high stakes drama. Honestly, I would love to see this book aged up and made into a movie. Tbh, I had to suspend disbelief that these were 15/16/17 year old kids running around doing all of this stuff, but again, teenage me would have been so here for it, and that is who YA is written for.

One thing I didn’t care for was the slut-shaming vibe our FMC gave us in regards to her cousin. There was plenty of language that essentially said that she thought her cousin was slutty because of how beautiful she was and the clothes she wore (aka she was never wearing enough clothes for our FMC’s tastes). Very gross all around and not a great message to send, especially to teenagers. I’ve had issues with the way Carter presents certain messages in her works (like in All Fall Down) and this was another to add to the list.

That said, I have to respect the sheer amount of research that went into this book. And since Teenage Simone would have f*ckin’ loved this book, I bumped my official Goodreads rating up to 4 stars. That said, Adult Simone didn’t love it enough to feel compelled to read the other two books in the series.

5. Fast & Hard by Kat Ransom

They call him the Paddock Playboy–a disgraced Formula 1 World Champion. A tattooed bad boy with a reputation, he has a penchant for supermodels and supercars. An alpha race car driver earning more headlines in gossip magazines than trophies.

I was hired to clean up the mess he made. I’m his PR professional. He calls me his nanny. I have my own problems I left behind in New York. But I found all new ones on the race track. 

He thinks his sexy, smart mouth and bad attitude will drive me to quit, send me home packing. He thought wrong. He messed with the wrong woman this time.

Oh, and that sultry Scottish accent? Definitely not falling for it… 

I know what I want, and I’m here to take it. Too bad in F1, nothing is what it seems. Corruption runs deep in the secretive playground for billionaires and elite athletes. The stakes are high, everything is on the line, and sparks will fly when the lights go out.

2.5 out of 5 stars

I love F1 so I was happy to stumble upon this F1 romance on Kindle Unlimited. For the most part, it was a decent read. The author definitely had some knowledge of F1, which shouldn’t be surprising, but there are sports romance writers out there who seem to know absolutely zero about the sports their athlete heroes play. However, I didn’t particularly feel much for either of the characters, especially during the second half of the book. First half was pretty solid though.

But oh my god… the editing in this book was NONEXISTENT. There were so many errors. Just typos and awful grammar galore. It was actually painful to read at times. I just wanted to take out my (digital) red pen and go to town on it. Plus, there was the addition of song lyrics at the beginning of each chapter, which to me is just very cringey and unnecessary.

Also (this is very picky, but bear with me) there’s no way the man on the cover could be an F1 driver, you are not going to find a dude that big and bulky behind the wheel, no team wants to have to compensate for that kind of additional weight. And I think in the book, Lennox was described as being pretty muscular and “over six foot” which was a little iffy (you’re going to be very cramped if you’re a tall person in one of those cars) but I know the author wanted to give us ~classic tall romance hero~. Of course, there are taller drivers out there, but hey, let the shorter guys get some love too!


Well, can’t say I flat out loved anything I read this month, but I’m crossing my fingers that something in the next few months will really hook me. I miss reading books that I end up adoring, but you never really know if you’re going to like something until you start reading!

Did you read anything good this month? Any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Simone Read What? – January ’21

  1. Your well on track for your yearly reading goal! It looks like you’ve read some great books too. Good luck for February 🙂


  2. Your reading goals are way better than mine! I love J. L. Shen for the stupid over the top tropes she uses. If you wish to try her out again, then I recommend the “Kiss Thief.” You just might end up hating that one as well, but I think that’s one of best (worst) books too.


  3. I don’t know if you have read it or not but you should definitely try The Song of Achilles. The writing is so beautiful and will definitely make you cry. It’s really really good.


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