*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.*
S.J. Pajonas is an author who consistently writes books that I really like. She’s got awesome heroines, great heroes, and there’s usually some sort of Asian flair to her books. And this book was definitely no exception, since the majority of it was actually set in Tokyo, and there were characters to root for.
The heroine of this book was Isa. Since the story was told in her point of view, I definitely felt like we got to know her the best. Isa was a planner of pretty much everything. If she didn’t plan at least the basics of an evening, an outing, a part of her life, she would have a panic attack. I found her struggle with this very sad, and I just wanted her to be okay. Of course, it helped that Isa was a genuinely likable main character. She was strong in emergencies, and very loyal to her friends and family. She’s right up there with Laura and Sanaa in terms of how much I liked her.
Side characters are very important. They flesh out the story, give conflict, or just generally make things happen. This story had two very wonderful side characters, in the form of Halley and Masa. Halley was Isa’s best friend. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of her, since she got all the spotlight because she was going to be running in the Olympics. People always asked Isa about Halley instead of Isa herself, so I was afraid that Halley would let that go to her head. But she didn’t. In fact, she acknowledged that Isa came in second far too often, and what she did for Isa? I really loved that. As for Masa, I thought he was great for Isa. Sure, he annoyed me with his hot-and-cold behavior, but I definitely got over that. It helped that the two were pretty much best friends when the story opened, so they already had the ability to have honest conversations. The thing was, Isa had a huge crush on Masa. I’m not usually a fan of unrequited love, but S.J. really made it work in this story. It was nice to read about a really sweet and caring guy. Of course, it helped that when things got tough, he didn’t let Isa run away, which she often tried to do. This means that the two of them never had any overly long misunderstandings, and always eventually talked everything out. I loved their relationship. Plus, Masa was a poet, and I loved his haikus.
The plot of this book kept me riveted. I literally read this book in one sitting, because I just needed to know what would happen next. The novel started out at Michigan State University, where Isa was helping Halley train for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. Isa was also dealing with her unrequited love for Masa, which she was too scared to reveal because she’d had previous rejections from crushes in the past. Then, it followed Isa to Tokyo, where she had to take over her family’s ryokan in place of her mother, who had a broken arm and leg due to an accident. From there, things took off, and you got to see Masa and Isa grow even closer together, Isa deal with the pressures of her family’s expectation, and how Halley and Isa’s friendship was just so supportive. What can I say? I thought the whole thing was really well-done!!!
In the end, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s even slightly intrigued by this blurb. Isa was such an endearing but strong heroine, and I loved Masa and Halley for being there for her, and just being awesome characters in their own right. In short, S.J. Pajonas has done it again!
Stephanie (S. J.) is a writer, knitter, amateur astrologer, Capricorn, and Japanophile. She loves foxes, owls, sushi, yoga pants, Evernote, and black tea. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing or spending time outside, unless it’s winter. She hates winter. Someday she’ll own a house in both hemispheres so she can avoid the season entirely. She’s a mom to two great kids and lives with her husband and family outside NYC. They have no pets. Yet. When it comes to her work, expect the unexpected. She doesn’t write anything typical.
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