December Reading Wrap-Up!

It’s my last monthly reading wrap-up of 2021!

At the beginning of December, I went on vacation with my family for Hanukkah and got a bunch of reading done at the beach. When I got back, though, I was really struggling to finish books, particularly towards the end of the year. I did, however, manage to sneak in one more 5-star read in December, and read 3 holiday romances, despite never having read one previously.

Stats:

Books finished: 9

ARCs: 1

Audio: 3

ebooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

Payback's a Witch by Lana HarperWrapped Up in YouThe Atlas Six by Olivie BlakeComfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. ValenteMurder Most Actual by Alexis HallThe Matzah Ball by Jean MeltzerWhat We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey GordonThe Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava ReidThe Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake (5 stars) – OK, I get it now. I get the BookTok hype, and I get why this indie book was picked up by Tor. I loved it so much. Like a lot of my 5-star reads, I also totally get why it might not be everyone’s cup of tea–it’s very character-focused, and not at all plot-heavy. If that doesn’t bother you, and if you like dark academia, read this book. The Atlas Six has so many things I love in a book: dark academia, a group of misfits forced to band together by circumstance, alliances and strategic machinations. It’s about six people with different magical abilities and backgrounds who are tapped to enter the Alexandrian society, a secret magical organization that holds the knowledge of the supposedly lost Library of Alexandria–except only five of them will actually be able to join, after a year-long trial period. I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel, which comes out in October 2022.

What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon (4 stars) – An excellent nonfiction book that combines the author’s personal experiences with statistics and broader information that I think is a very beneficial read for people of all sizes. I heard of Aubrey Gordon through her podcast Maintenance Phase, which debunks myths about health and wellness, and her book is a great extension of that.

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (4 stars) – I was really excited for this novella from one of my favorite authors, and although it was good, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. This novella seemed less creative and less intricately written than Valente’s works that I’ve read previously, although it did have very interesting themes.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid (4 stars) – I’ve seen mixed reviews of this historical fantasy, but personally I really enjoyed it. The Wolf and the Woodsman is set in a world heavily influenced by Hungarian and Jewish history and mythology; it’s a world that contains several different and competing forms of magic, and one that is battling civil unrest primarily stoked by prejudice. Although it’s inspired by history, this world is very relevant to the issues our society still faces today, including xenophobia, misogyny, and anti-Semitism.

Our protagonist Evike is an outsider in a small pagan village, and she’s forcibly removed by the feared Woodsmen who believe her to be a seer. She’s not–to her continual shame and frustration, she’s the only wolf-girl in her village born without magical gifts, and although the Woodsman who takes her eventually discovers her secret, she discovers his as well–he’s not merely a Woodsman, but the country’s crown prince, himself an outsider as his mother is from the country they’re currently at war with. They’re natural enemies and both hold prejudices against the other’s people, but they’re forced into a reluctant alliance and eventually begin to develop romantic feelings for one another while striving to somehow save their torn-apart land.

I really enjoyed Evike, who’s an “unlikable” heroine with her prickly attitude, impulsiveness, and bad temper; she’s scrappy and feisty, and never perfect, which I like in a protagonist. I also liked the enemies-to-allies-to-lovers relationship that developed between her and the prince, which never felt rushed, and was built on working towards a common goal and eventually to mutual understanding. The writing of this book is very strong, with visceral descriptions that may be too graphic for sensitive readers; it’s a dark and difficult world that our characters inhabit, and the grittiness of the writing reflects that. At times I did feel that the pacing was slower than it could have been, and that certain concepts and images tended to feel repetitive, particularly when Evike is talking out decisions in her own mind and reviewing what she thinks different people she knows would do in her situation and why. However, I really enjoyed the read overall, and will look to pick up more from Ava Reid in the future.

I received a free copy of The Wolf and the Woodsman from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert (4 stars) – I’m on a mission to read through Talia Hibbert’s backlist, and even though I’m not typically a holiday romance reader, this one was very cute and I’m glad I picked it up. It’s a childhood friends-to-lovers romance featuring a Chris Evans-esque famous actor love interest and a very guarded protagonist who reunite at her grandmother’s isolated house for Christmas and finally realize that they’ve both been harboring feelings for each other.

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper (3.5 stars) – I really enjoyed this F/F contemporary paranormal romance set in a small magical town and featuring a magical competition between the scions of rival witch families. I thought that the plot and romance were both well-crafted, and it was a nice surprise to see a protagonist with the same name as me (Emmy!). I’ll look forward to picking up more from this author.

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer (3.5 stars) – As a Jewish woman who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, I was so glad to be able to read a Hanukkah romance this year featuring a Jewish, Christmas-loving romance novelist protagonist with a chronic illness. I really liked this one overall, although the enemies-to-lovers romance was a bit too enemies-focused at the beginning, considering that its roots were in a childhood romance that took place many years ago at summer camp and it seemed as though both protagonists should have matured beyond their grudges as adults.

The Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese (3.5 stars) – A cute holiday romance set in an indie bookstore and featuring a Hating Game-esque enemies-to-lovers romance with an autistic protagonist. I liked the premise of this one a lot and thought it was a very sweet novella overall, but it got a bit too cutesy for me towards the end. Still, I’m definitely interested to pick up more from new-to-me author Chloe Liese.

Murder Most Actual by Alexis Hall (3 stars) – Although I LOVED Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, this cozy mystery with elements of parody and references to other classic whodunits was a bit too silly for me; I also didn’t find myself at all invested in the murder plot. I did really like Liza, our true crime podcaster main character, and I thought that her relationship with her wife and their efforts to revive their marriage were the most compelling parts of the book.

Most-Read Authors of 2021 (and 2022 Predictions)

Last year was the first year I started tracking how many books I read per author in a given year, and I find the resulting stats really interesting. It’s fun to try to predict my most-read authors of the year and how that could change next year, and what factors go into determining which authors top my list. I think I predicted my most-read author of 2021 back in 2020, since she’s a romance author with a substantial backlist that I started getting into towards the end of the year, but several other authors who appear on my most-read list were new-to-me in 2021 and therefore definitely not predicted.

Let’s get into my most-read authors of 2021!

Winner: Lucy Parker – 4 books!

Headliners by Lucy ParkerAct Like It by Lucy ParkerPretty Face by Lucy ParkerBattle Royal by Lucy Parker

Lucy Parker writes contemporary romance, and in 2021 I read 3 books in her London Celebrities series, which is set around London’s West End theater community, and her newest release, which is a take on a Great British Baking Show-esque competition with a royal connection.

Tie: 3 books each

Talia Hibbert

The Princess Trap by Talia HibbertAct Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia HibbertWrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert

I actually had predicted that contemporary romance author Talia Hibbert might tie Lucy Parker for my most-read author of 2021, but she ended up in second place instead. I plan to read even more from her in 2022!

Claire Contreras

Fables & Other Lies by Claire ContrerasHalf Truths by Claire ContrerasTwisted Circles by Claire Contreras

Claire Contreras was a new-to-me author in 2021; she’s an indie author who writes in many different genres of romance. The books I picked up from her last year included Gothic romance and dark academia combined with romantic suspense.

Tie: 2 books each

Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education by Naomi NovikThe Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

You’d think that I’d have more authors like Novik on this list, where they make the most-read authors list because I discover a new series. I wouldn’t say I did a lot of series reading in 2021, but I definitely became obsessed with Novik’s Scholomance series.

Carol Anderson

White Rage by Carol AndersonOne Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson

It’s not common for me to pick up multiple nonfiction books from one author in a given year, but that’s what ended up happening with Carol Anderson, another new-to-me author.

Juliette Cross

Witches Get Stitches by Juliette CrossWalking in a Witchy Wonderland by Juliette Cross

Juliette Cross made this list last year as well, because she writes and publishes her books in the Stay a Spell series quite quickly and I immediately need to read them because I love this series so much.

Alexis Hall

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis HallMurder Most Actual by Alexis Hall

I fell in love with Hall’s writing style after reading Boyfriend Material at the end of 2020, so I knew I wanted to pick up more of his work in 2021. Rosaline Palmer was one of my favorite romances of the year, but I wasn’t really a fan of Murder Most Actual.

Ilona Andrews

Blood Heir by Ilona AndrewsSweep with Me by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors, so I was glad I had 2 new releases of theirs to read in 2021. Both are parts of series, with Blood Heir being the first book in a spinoff series of one of my favorite series of all time.

Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky ChambersThe Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers has written a few books I’d consider favorites, so I picked up her 2 newest books in 2021. Unfortunately, neither will be making any of my favorites lists.

Annabeth Albert

Conventionally Yours by Annabeth AlbertOut of Character by Annabeth Albert

I was intrigued by Conventionally Yours, a nerdy contemporary romance by a new-to-me author, and enjoyed it so much that I also picked up Albert’s 2022 release, Out of Character.

Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt HaigThe Humans by Matt Haig

I’d had Matt Haig’s books on my TBR for years before I finally picked them up in 2021; I thought that Reasons to Stay Alive was a really important and empathetic read, but I didn’t really like The Humans.

 

Predictions for my most-read authors of 2022!

It’s hard to make predictions right at the beginning of a reading year, but last year I did a pretty good job anticipating that Lucy Parker and Talia Hibbert would make my 2021 list, so I’m going to give it a try. Also, it’ll be fun to see how right or wrong I am a year from now!

There are several authors I think I’ll probably read 2 books from in 2022:

Sarah J. Maas – I’m about halfway done with ACOSF right now, and I’d be pretty surprised if I didn’t end up picking up her 2022 release, the second book in her Crescent City series, this year.

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City, #2)

Talia Hibbert – I really like her, and I want to read even more from her in 2022, including the first book in her new Skybriar series that will hopefully be released this year.

The Roommate Risk

And for my prediction for my most-read author of 2022…

Alexis Hall!

Something Fabulous (Something Fabulous, #1)Husband Material (Boyfriend Material, #2)

(2 other Alexis Hall 2022 releases, Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble and A Lady for a Duke, don’t have covers yet)

I think Alexis Hall might be my most-read author of 2022 because he has so many new releases slated to come out this year. Of course, release dates are always subject to change, but if these all do come out I think there’s a really good chance I pick them all up within the year. I could always be wrong, though!

OR…

Ali Hazelwood!

Under One RoofStuck with YouBelow Zero

Since Ali Hazelwood has 3 novellas and 1 novel planned to come out in 2022, and since she wrote my favorite romance of 2021, she also has a great chance of taking home the crown.

2022 Reading Goals

 

  1. Read all 10 of the books on my Top 10 TBR/5 Star Predictions for 2022

 

We Ride Upon SticksSeed to Harvest (Patternmaster, #1-4)Oranges Are Not the Only FruitSooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry – field hockey and witchcraft in the Salem area in 1989

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler – first book in a scifi series from a past favorite author

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson – semi-autobiographical story of growing up and coming out in a strict religious household, from a past favorite author

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea by Sarah Pinsker – fabulist short story collection from a favorite indie press

Or What You WillLight from Uncommon StarsIn the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1)All's Well

Or What You Will by Jo Walton – meta story about an author’s character who attains consciousness, from an author of a past favorite book (Among Others)

The Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki – unique debut science fiction that I have a great feeling about

In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente – stories within a story from an all-time favorite author

All’s Well by Mona Awad – newest release from the author of my all-time favorite book (Bunny) involving Shakespeare and chronic pain

The Actual StarMy Monticello

The Actual Star by Monica Byrne – epic science fiction with a Cloud Atlas-like structure

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson – debut short story collection with themes surrounding racism

2. Increase my ratio of 5 star reads from my Top 10 TBR – In 2021, 4 books from my Top 10 TBR/5 star predictions stack ended up being actual 5 star reads, which is pretty good. And even though you can’t really control whether a book is a 5 star read or not, I’m hoping that my 2022 stack performs even better, with 5 or more 5-star reads. I have so many picks that I’m really excited for and many from past favorite authors that I think it’s a definite possibility.

3. Buy more of my books from independent bookstores. It’s not that I never shop at indie bookstores, but my book buying comes from many different areas, and I’d like a greater percentage of my new books to come from my local indie.

4. Read a classic, which has been an unaccomplished goal for the past several years. In 2022, I’d like to actually get this done. I used to read lots of classics when I was younger, but it’s tapered off significantly as I’ve gotten older.

The Tenant of Wildfell HallAnna Karenina

5. Finish (or decide to DNF) books I started in 2021 but didn’t finish. Normally, when I’m entering the new year I prefer to do so with a clean slate and to start an all-new currently reading shelf. This year, I’m still in the middle of 4 books I started last year, and I also have several books that I “paused” throughout the course of 2021.

The Memory TheaterRestless Slumber (Fortuna Sworn, #2)Just Last NightA Marvellous Light (The Last Binding, #1)A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)The Spanish Love Deception

6. Read at least one poetry collection. I’ve gotten more interested in poetry over the last few years, but I don’t actually pick up poetry collections as often as I want to.

DearlyDon't Call Us DeadApocrypha

7. Read more short story collections than last year. I love short story collections, but I tend to read them slowly, which means that I don’t always pick up that many over the course of a year. In 2021 I read 4 short story collections; I’d like to read at least 5 in 2022.

My MonticelloSooner or Later Everything Falls Into the SeaOf This New WorldA Guide to Being BornI'm Waiting for You and Other StoriesFive Tuesdays in Winter

Most Anticipated Books of 2022, Part 2!

It seems like not very much time has elapsed since I posted Part 1 of my most anticipated book releases of 2022, but since then I’ve found out about a ton more enticing upcoming reads. Again, these are listed in order of anticipated release date (which is subject to change!) and I’m only including books that already have covers, descriptions, and tentative release dates available.

 

The Latinist

The Latinist by Mark Prins (anticipated release 1/4/22) – The academic setting and Greek mythology retelling elements of this one have really caught my eye; I was also lucky enough to be sent a free copy of this early 2022 release, so be on the lookout for an upcoming review.

From Goodreads: Tessa Templeton has thrived at Oxford University under the tutelage and praise of esteemed classics professor Christopher Eccles. And now, his support is the one thing she can rely on: her job search has yielded nothing, and her devotion to her work has just cost her her boyfriend, Ben. Yet shortly before her thesis defense, Tessa learns that Chris has sabotaged her career—and realizes their relationship is not at all what she believed.

Driven by what he mistakes as love for Tessa, Chris has ensured that no other institution will offer her a position, keeping her at Oxford with him. His tactics grow more invasive as he determines to prove he has her best interests at heart. Meanwhile, Tessa scrambles to undo the damage—and in the process makes a startling discovery about an obscure second-century Latin poet that could launch her into academic stardom, finally freeing her from Chris’s influence.

A contemporary reimagining of the Daphne and Apollo myth, The Latinist is a page-turning exploration of power, ambition, and the intertwining of love and obsession.

 

How High We Go in the Dark

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (anticipated release 1/18/22) – This book has comparisons to two other novels I loved, so I’m willing to overlook the fact that it does involve a pandemic aftermath. I was also sent a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, so hopefully I’ll be posting that early in the new year.

From Goodreads: For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague—a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice.

 

Love & Other Disasters

Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly (anticipated release 1/18/22) – I’m constantly looking for appealing-sounding romances from new-to-me authors, and this one involves a plot element I really enjoy (a cooking competition show!) and a nonbinary main character. Hoping to discover a great new romance author with this one.

From Goodreads: The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

 

Manywhere: Stories

Manywhere by Morgan Thomas (anticipated release 1/25/22) – When Roxane Gay blurbs a book, I listen. The fact that this is a short story collection, one of my favorite kinds of books to read, is just a bonus.

From Goodreads: The nine stories in Morgan Thomas’s shimmering debut collection, Manywhere, witness Southern queer and genderqueer characters determined to find themselves reflected in the annals of history, at whatever cost. As each character traces deceit and violence through Southern tall tales and their own pasts, their journeys reveal the porous boundaries of body, land, and history, and the sometimes ruthless awakenings of self-discovery.

A trans woman finds her independence through the purchase of a pregnancy bump. A young Virginian flees their relationship, choosing instead to immerse themselves in the life of an intersex person from Colonial-era Jamestown. A young writer tries to evade the murky and violent legacy of an ancestor who supposedly disappeared into a midwifery bag. And in the uncanny title story, a young trans person brings home a replacement daughter for their elderly father.

Winding between reinvention and remembrance, transition and transcendence, these origin stories rebound across centuries. With warm, meticulous emotional intelligence, Thomas uncovers how the stories we borrow to understand ourselves in turn shape the people we become. Ushering in a new form of queer mythmaking, Manywhere introduces a storyteller of uncommon range and talent.

 

This Woven Kingdom (This Woven Kingdom, #1)

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi (anticipated release 2/1/22) – Mafi wrote a trilogy that helped me to an absurd degree with my stress levels in grad school (the Shatter Me trilogy; I’ve never read any of the newer books because I love the original ones too much) and her newest YA fantasy sounds like it could have an interesting enemies-to-lovers romance element.

From Goodreads: To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight.

The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.

 

Not the Witch You Wed

Not the Witch You Wed by April Asher (anticipated release 2/8/22) – I love that paranormal romance is becoming more mainstream alongside contemporary romance, and it’s been awhile since I’ve read a good werewolf book. I was approved for an eARC of this one via NetGalley, so it’s going on my January TBR for sure.

From Goodreads: Magic-less witch Violet Maxwell wants nothing to do with alpha wolf shifter Lincoln Thorne—the man who broke her fragile, teenage heart. But when the two of them are forced by arcane Supernatural Laws to find mates, Violet and Lincoln agree to fake-date their way to a fake-mating in order to conjure themselves some time.

The joke’s on them. When old feelings make a reappearance—along with Violet’s magic—they both realize there’s nothing fake about their feelings. But there are old secrets and looming threats that could snatch away their happily ever after, again. One thing’s for sure: magic doesn’t make dating and love any easier.

 

Under One Roof

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood (audio anticipated release 2/8/22, ebook anticipated release 5/3/22) – The great news for 2022 is that Ali Hazelwood, author of my favorite romance of 2021, is publishing 3 contemporary romance novellas starting in Feb, which will first come out as audiobooks and then as ebooks. I don’t want to speak too soon, but might this make her one of my most-read authors of 2022? Either way, I’m extremely excited for these novellas, which follow three women scientists and best friends.

From Goodreads: Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn….

As an environmental engineer, Mara knows all about the delicate nature of ecosystems. They require balance. And leaving the thermostat alone. And not stealing someone else’s food. And other rules Liam, her detestable big-oil lawyer of a roommate, knows nothing about. Okay, sure, technically she’s the interloper. Liam was already entrenched in his aunt’s house like some glowering grumpy giant when Mara moved in, with his big muscles and kissable mouth just sitting there on the couch tempting respectable scientists to the dark side…but Helena was her mentor and Mara’s not about to move out and give up her inheritance without a fight.

The problem is, living with someone means getting to know them. And the more Mara finds out about Liam, the harder it is to loathe him…and the easier it is to love him.

 

Stuck with You

Stuck With You by Ali Hazelwood (audio anticipated release 3/8/22, ebook anticipated release 6/7/22) – the second of Ali Hazelwood’s three 2022 contemporary romance novellas!

From Goodreads: Logically, Sadie knows that civil engineers are supposed to build bridges. However, as a woman of STEM she also understands that variables can change, and when you are stuck for hours in a tiny New York elevator with the man who broke your heart, you earn the right to burn that brawny, blond bridge to the ground. Erik can apologize all he wants, but to quote her rebel leader—she’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Not even the most sophisticated of Sadie’s superstitious rituals could have predicted such a disastrous reunion. But while she refuses to acknowledge the siren call of Erik’s steely forearms or the way his voice softens when he offers her his sweater, Sadie can’t help but wonder if there might be more layers to her cold-hearted nemesis than meet the eye. Maybe, possibly, even burned bridges can still be crossed….

 

The City of Dusk (The Dark Gods, #1)

The City of Dusk by Tara Sim (anticipated release 3/22/22) – I enjoy books with unlikely friendships and alliances formed by people who should otherwise be enemies, and this first book in a new fantasy series sounds like it’s going that route.

From Goodreads: Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk is the first in a dark epic fantasy trilogy that follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.

The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the city of dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving city. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Risha, a necromancer struggling to keep the peace; Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with rebellion in her heart; and Nik, a soldier who struggles to see the light— will sacrifice everything to save the city.

But their defiance will cost them dearly.

 

The Bone Orchard

The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller (anticipated release 3/22/22) – This sounds like an extremely weird and unique fantasy from Tor, a publisher I’m always following, and I’m hoping it will be a surprise hit with me the way that Gideon the Ninth was.

From Goodreads: Charm is a witch, and she is alone. The last of a line of conquered necromantic workers, now confined within the yard of regrown bone trees at Orchard House, and the secrets of their marrow.

Charm is a prisoner, and a survivor. Charm tends the trees and their clattering fruit for the sake of her children, painstakingly grown and regrown with its fruit: Shame, Justice, Desire, Pride, and Pain.

Charm is a whore, and a madam. The wealthy and powerful of Borenguard come to her house to buy time with the girls who aren’t real.

Except on Tuesdays, which is when the Emperor himself lays claim to his mistress, Charm herself.

But now–Charm is also the only person who can keep an empire together, as the Emperor summons her to his deathbed, and charges her with choosing which of his awful, faithless sons will carry on the empire—by discovering which one is responsible for his own murder.

If she does this last thing, she will finally have what has been denied her since the fall of Inshil — her freedom. But she will also be betraying the ghosts past and present that live on within her heart.

Charm must choose. Her dead Emperor’s will or the whispers of her own ghosts. Justice for the empire or her own revenge.

 

Comeuppance Served Cold

Comeuppance Served Cold by Marion Deeds (anticipated release 3/22/22) – One of two 2022 Tor fantasy novellas whose covers and synopses immediately caught my eye!

From Goodreads: A respected magus and city leader intent on criminalizing Seattle’s most vulnerable magickers hires a young woman as a lady’s companion to curb his rebellious daughter’s outrageous behavior.

The widowed owner of a speakeasy encounters an opportunity to make her husband’s murderer pay while she tries to keep her shapeshifter brother safe.

A notorious thief slips into the city to complete a delicate and dangerous job that will leave chaos in its wake.

One thing is for certain—comeuppance, eventually, waits for everyone.

 

Below Zero

Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood (audio anticipated release 4/5/22, ebook anticipated release 7/8/22) – This is the third and final Ali Hazelwood contemporary romance novella coming out next year, and it sounds like it could be my favorite of the three, based on the enemies-to-lovers premise.

From Goodreads: Hannah’s got a bad feeling about this. Not only has the NASA aerospace engineer found herself injured and stranded at a remote Arctic research station—but the one person willing to undertake the hazardous rescue mission is her longtime rival.

Ian has been many things to Hannah: the villain who tried to veto her expedition and ruin her career, the man who stars in her most deliciously lurid dreams…but he’s never played the hero. So why is he risking everything to be here? And why does his presence seem just as dangerous to her heart as the coming snowstorm?

 

Woman, Eating

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda (anticipated release 4/5/22) – This literary vampire novel sounds fascinating and like it may be an interesting take on feminism through the concept of vampirism.

From Goodreads: A young, mixed-race vampire must find a way to balance her deep-seated desire to live amongst humans with her incessant hunger in this stunning debut novel from a writer-to-watch.

Lydia is hungry. She’s always wanted to try Japanese food. Sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside – the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and iced-coffee, ice cream and cake, and foraged herbs and plants, and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But, Lydia can’t eat any of these things. Her body doesn’t work like those of other people. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London – where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time – is much more difficult than she’d anticipated.

Then there are the humans – the other artists at the studio space, the people at the gallery she interns at, the strange men that follow her after dark, and Ben, a boyish, goofy-grinned artist she is developing feelings for. Lydia knows that they are her natural prey, but she can’t bring herself to feed on them. In her windowless studio, where she paints and studies the work of other artists, binge-watches Buffy the Vampire Slayer and videos of people eating food on YouTube and Instagram, Lydia considers her place in the world. She has many of the things humans wish for – perpetual youth, near-invulnerability, immortality – but she is miserable; she is lonely; and she is hungry – always hungry.

As Lydia develops as a woman and an artist, she will learn that she must reconcile the conflicts within her – between her demon and human sides, her mixed ethnic heritage, and her relationship with food, and, in turn, humans – if she is to find a way to exist in the world. Before any of this, however, she must eat.

 

Sea of Tranquility

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel (anticipated release 4/19/22) – I haven’t yet picked up another Emily St. John Mandel book since loving Station Eleven, but this one sounds fascinating (and possibly Cloud Atlas-esque?).

From Goodreads: Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

 

From Bad to Cursed (The Witches of Thistle Grove, #2)

From Bad to Cursed by Lana Harper (anticipated release 5/17/22) – I really enjoyed Harper’s contemporary paranormal romance Payback’s a Witch, and think I’d enjoy picking up another book set in the magical small town next year.

From Goodreads: Wild child Isidora Avramov is a thrill chaser, adept demon summoner, and—despite the whole sexy-evil-sorceress vibe—also a cuddly animal lover. When she’s not designing costumes and new storylines for the Arcane Emporium’s haunted house, Issa’s nursing a secret, conflicted dream of ditching her family’s witchy business to become an indie fashion designer in her own right.

But when someone starts sabotaging the celebrations leading up to this year’s Beltane festival with dark, dangerous magic, a member of the rival Thorn family gets badly hurt—throwing immediate suspicion on the Avramovs. To clear the Avramov name and step up for her family when they need her the most, Issa agrees to serve as a co-investigator, helping none other than Rowan Thorn get to the bottom of things.

Rowan is the very definition of lawful good, so tragically noble and by-the-book he makes Issa’s teeth hurt. In accordance with their families’ complicated history, he and Issa have been archenemies for years and have grown to heartily loathe each other. But as the unlikely duo follow a perplexing trail of clues to a stunning conclusion, Issa and Rowan discover how little they really know each other… and stumble upon a maddening attraction that becomes harder to ignore by the day.

 

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi (anticipated release 5/24/22) – I’ve heard a lot of great things about Emezi’s books, and this appears to be their take on a romance novel. Although I’d also like to get to Freshwater in the near future, I’m probably more intrigued by the description of this one, their newest release.

From Goodreads: Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

 

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian (anticipated release 6/7/22) – The Queer Principles of Kit Webb was a surprise historical romance hit for me in 2021, and this book is a companion piece to Kit Webb, with most of the action taking place (I believe) contemporaneously to the other book.

From Goodreads: Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, just shot her husband. Of course, the evil, murderous man deserved what was coming to him, but now she must flee to the countryside. Unfortunately, the only person she can ask for help is the charismatic criminal who is blackmailing her—and who she may have left tied up a few hours before…

A highwayman, con artist, and all-around cheerful villain, Rob Brooks is no stranger to the wrong side of the law or the right side of anybody’s bed. He never meant to fall for the woman whose secrets he promised to keep for the low price of five hundred pounds, but how could he resist someone who led him on a merry chase all over London, left him tied up in a seedy inn, and then arrived covered in her husband’s blood and in desperate need of his help?

As they flee across the country—stopping to pick pockets, drink to excess, and rescue invalid cats—they discover more true joy and peace than either has felt in ages. But when the truth of Rob’s past catches up to him, they must decide if they are willing to reshape their lives in order to forge a future together.

 

Juniper & Thorn

Juniper & Thorn by Ava Reid (anticipated release 6/7/22) – I’m actually in the middle of Reid’s debut historical fantasy The Wolf and the Woodsman at the moment, and am finding her writing a mixture of history, mythology, and fantasy very compelling; I’ll be interested to check out her next book as well.

From Goodreads: Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city shifting from magic to industry. As Oblya’s last true witches, she and her sisters are little more than a tourist trap as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate her tyrannical, xenophobic father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. But at night, Marlinchen and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theater, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.

As Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while Oblya flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.

 

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk & Robot #2)

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers (anticipated release 7/12/22) – I liked A Song for the Wild-Built, the first novella in Chambers’ new philosophical, solarpunk science fiction series, and will be curious where Chambers takes her tea monk and robot protagonists next.

From Goodreads: After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

 

Just Like Home

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey (anticipated release 7/19/22) – This book sounds weird, intriguing, and weirdly intriguing.

From Goodreads: “Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories — she’s come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there.

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back, and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be?

There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them, and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

 

Spells for Forgetting

Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young (anticipated release 8/2/22) – I don’t read very much mystery, but this one, which involves isolation, a years-old murder, and a possible romantic subplot, really interests me.

From Goodreads: A rural island community steeped in the mystical superstitions of its founders and haunted by an unsolved murder is upended by the return of the suspected killer in this deeply atmospheric novel.

Emery Blackwood’s life was forever changed on the eve of her high school graduation, when the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her best friend, Lily. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among the community that fractured her world in two. She’d once longed to run away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saiorse Island and chase new dreams; now, she maintains her late mother’s tea shop and cares for her ailing father. But just as the island, rooted in folklore and tradition, begins to show signs of strange happenings, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that no one wants to remember.

August Salt knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night that changed everything. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from the past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises that span generations threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily’s death once and for all.

 

High Times in the Low Parliament

High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson (anticipated release 8/9/22) – This Tor novella sounds super fun and unique–I enjoy books that involve fairies, and this sounds like it could be funny as well.

From Goodreads: Lana Baker is Aldgate’s finest scribe, with a sharp pen and an even sharper wit. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.

As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity (and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies), come hell or high water.

 

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen (anticipated release 8/23/22) – Speaking of unique books, this one sounds like a very interesting mix of fantastical and romantic elements, with a world that I don’t think I’ve heard of anything like before.

From Goodreads: Hart Ralston is a demigod and a marshal, tasked with patrolling the wasteland of Tanria. The realm the exiled old gods once called home is now a forsaken place where humans with no better options or no better sense come seeking adventure or spoils, but more often end up as drudges: reanimated corpses inhabited by the souls of those who’ve died in Tanria before. Hart tells himself that his job is simple: neutralize the drudges with a quick zap to the appendix and deliver them back to polite society at the nearest undertaker’s, leaving the whys and hows of the drudge problem for men without the complexities of a god in their family tree. But working alone, Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder exactly those questions he’d most like to avoid.

Too much time alone is the opposite of Mercy Birdsall’s problem. Since her father’s decline, she’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son undertakers afloat in small-town Eternity—despite definitely not being a son, and in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart Ralston, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest. The work’s not the problem—Mercy’s good at it, better than any other Birdsall—but keeping all her family’s plates spinning singlehandedly, forever, isn’t how Mercy envisioned her future.

After yet another run-in with the sharp-tongued Mercy, Hart considers she might have a point about his utter loneliness being a bit of a liability. In a moment of sentimentality, he pens a letter addressed simply to “A Friend,” and entrusts it to a nimkilim, an anthropomorphic animal messenger with an uncanny connection to the gods, (and in Hart’s case, a bit of a drinking problem). Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most–Mercy. As the two unlikely pen pals grow closer, the truth about Hart’s parentage and the nature of the drudges creeps in. And suddenly their old animosity seems so small in comparison to what they might be able to do: end the drudges forever. But at what cost?

 

 

Are any of these books on your 2022 TBR? Are there any 2022 releases you think should be on my list? Let me know in the comments!

November Reading Wrap-Up & Reviews

I’m really happy about the fact that in November I read from a wide variety of genres and also managed to finish 2 of the remaining books from my Top 10 2021 TBR list (meaning that now I only have 1 left to read in December!). Let’s get into some reviews and stats…

Stats

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 4

ebooks: 1

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise KovaThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi WaxmanThe Stone Gods by Jeanette WintersonWell Matched by Jen DeLucaThe Heart Principle by Helen HoangThe Anthropocene Reviewed by John GreenThe Story of More by Hope JahrenA Certain Appeal by Vanessa KingThe Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky ChambersWhen the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (4.25 stars) – The Stone Gods is my third read from Jeanette Winterson, who so far does something very different with each book of hers I pick up. On the surface, The Stone Gods is literary scifi set in a future where humans have devastated the planet so much that our only hope for survival is to move to a newly discovered planet that resembles ours in the time of the dinosaurs. Its themes of environmentalism, the cyclical nature of history, and our ability or inability to learn from the mistakes of the past are chilling and permeate the narrative at every turn, and the plot never takes the direction you think it will. It’s a short novel, but saturated with lasting images and concepts. Recommended to literary scifi fans, and I’m looking forward to picking up even more from Winterson in the future.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (4 stars) – I wasn’t expecting to find another contemporary romance favorite this late in the year, but I never should have doubted. Helen Hoang is fantastic at character development, and despite the fact that she had fans excited for a romance featuring Quan since the release of The Kiss Quotient, The Heart Principle introduces us to Anna and makes us fall in love with her almost immediately. While still managing to be a very sweet romance based on empathy and understanding, this is still very much about Anna and her character growth. It’s emotionally devastating at times, but very much worth it.

A Certain Appeal by Vanessa King (4 stars) – A super cute contemporary Pride & Prejudice retelling set in New York and revolving around a found family working at a burlesque club. It’s lower on angst and has a more quickly progressing romance than the original P&P, but still stays very true to its spirit. I really enjoyed this one!

The Story of More by Hope Jahren (4 stars) – A nonfiction book focusing on climate change and different aspects of human life that contribute to its progression, as well as changes we can make to help slow the process. I really enjoyed Jahren’s memoir Lab Girl; this audiobook was just as well-written and very informative.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (4 stars) – A thoughtful essay collection where the conceit is that Green is commenting on society’s penchant for rating things on a 5-star scale by rating various things about the world as he simultaneously discusses more personal topics like his mental health and how the pandemic affected him. It’s well-written, with a good mixture of fun facts and introspection, and I really liked Green’s voice as an audio narrator.

A Deal With the Elf King by Elise Kova (3.5 stars) – The first in a fantasy romance series called Married to Magic that’s set in a world where the human world borders the land of immortal creatures such as elves, fairies, and vampires. It was an enjoyable read, although it didn’t have a lot of depth, and I plan to continue in the series when I’m next in a fantasy romance mood.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (3 stars) – Unfortunately, this was a disappointment for me. Becky Chambers can be a hit-or-miss author for me; I’ve given a few of her books 5 stars, but some just don’t quite hit the mark. This is a very quiet science fiction story about unlikely friendships and learning about people from different backgrounds and cultures while being stranded on an unfamiliar planet due to an atmospheric disaster, and although I often enjoy quiet, character-focused stories, this one was a bit too slow and the characters themselves not all interesting enough to hold my attention.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (3 stars) – A cute, sweet read about a young woman working at a bookstore and dealing with anxiety who suddenly finds herself part of a dynamic extended family she’s never met before after the death of her estranged father. I enjoyed this audio listen but wouldn’t say that I loved it; I liked Nina discovering and getting to know her new siblings/nieces/nephews/cousins and her various friendships/book clubs/activities that she uses to help keep a rigid schedule to manage her anxiety, but I wasn’t as invested in the romance and felt it was not really necessary to the plot.

When the Moon Was Ours by A.M. McLemore (3 stars) – I really, really wanted to love this book–it was on my Top 10 2021/5 Star TBR Predictions list for the year. And I did think that the premise, characters, and even broadly the plot were very well-done, but the book’s writing and pacing just did not work for me at all. The writing style is very repetitive; it’s not just that it’s metaphor-heavy, which is something I often enjoy in fabulism, but it’s that the exact same metaphors are used every time certain elements or characters appear, and sentences and phrases quickly became overused. I think that this story would have worked really well as a novella or even a short story, but as a novel there just wasn’t enough content to fill that many pages.

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca (3 stars) – A friends-to-lovers contemporary romance with a fake dating plotline, this one was just OK for me. I felt similarly about Well Met, the first book in this series set around a small town that hosts a yearly Ren Faire; I skipped the second book in the series because reviewers all seemed to agree it was their least favorite. I was looking for an easy audio listen and this one fit the bill; I enjoyed the listen, but it didn’t have much of an impact on me.

December TBR!

I know it’s a bit early for a December TBR post, but I’ve been thinking/strategizing a lot about what books I want to finish before the end of the year and I think I’ve finally got at least some of it mapped out. Also, I’m leaving for vacation in less than a week, and I’m thinking I’ll likely not finish very many more books in November before that happens.

My December TBR seems to be falling into 2 categories:

Books from my physical TBR that I really need to finish before the end of 2021:

All the Birds, SingingOut Front the Following SeaA ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)Comfort Me With Apples

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld (literary fiction) is the final book from my Top 10 2021 TBR list; Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman (historical fiction) is an ARC that comes out very early in 2022, so I want to make sure I read and review it well before its release date; A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (fantasy romance), which was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021 but I’m having a hard time actually reading it because I hate one of the main characters; and Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (mystery?), because I aim to read one Valente book per year.

Holiday-themed books that I’d like to pick up since I’m only really drawn towards these at a certain time of year:

Wrapped Up in YouThe Mistletoe MotiveThe Matzah BallMurder Most Actual

I’m Jewish, so I don’t really ever tend to read holiday romances, but this year there are 2 Christmas romance novellas that sound really cute and fun (as well as a Hanukkah romance!), so I’m going to give them a try: Wrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert (contemporary romance), because Talia Hibbert is one of my favorite romance writers and I’m trying to delve more into her backlist; The Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese (contemporary romance), which is being recommended for fans of one of my favorite romances, The Hating Game; The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer, which is the first mainstream Hanukkah romance I’ve heard of so far; and Murder Most Actual (mystery) by Alexis Hall, which isn’t actually holiday-themed but is a cozy winter mystery that seems like a great December pick.

October Reading Wrap-Up

I’m a bit late with my October wrap-up since November has been a busier month for me so far. I had a great reading month, picking up plenty of fall-ish reads and participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour readathon, one of my favorite bookish events of the year, and managed to find 2 new 5-star reads among my picks this month. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats:

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Audiobooks: 2

The Love HypothesisCultish by Amanda MontellThe Last Graduate by Naomi NovikThe Ex Hex by Erin SterlingA Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria LeePeril by Bob WoodwardA Spindle Splintered by Alix E. HarrowOnce There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghyThis Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (5 stars) – I really didn’t think that I’d find a book to dethrone Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake as my favorite contemporary romance of 2021, but somehow The Love Hypothesis did! I honestly just enjoyed the crap out of this book–it’s grumpy/sunshine fake dating in an academia setting, based on Star Wars fanfiction, and it’s extremely sweet and also very funny. It’s a book that I can see myself re-reading when I’m in a bad mood, and if you’re a romance fan, I definitely recommend picking it up!

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (5 stars) – This is one of those times when I don’t have a coherent review or a logical justification for a 5 star rating, because for a lot of this book I was frustrated and questioning the plot choices and not knowing how I felt about how it was both similar and dissimilar to the first book. But at the end, there was just no way that I couldn’t give it 5 stars, because it made me FEEL THINGS, and on a bad mental health day on top of that, and what is even the point of books if not to do just that. So. Maybe at some point I will post a more normal review of The Last Graduate, but for now, I’ll just say that I love this series with its dark humor and homage to/criticism of classic fantasy tropes, and its fantastic “unlikable” heroine who is the epitome of doing the right thing and making the hard choices when no one expects it of you.

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (4 stars) – Once There Were Wolves is about Inti, a biologist leading a rewilding effort to reintroduce wolves to Scotland. Inevitably conflict ensues between the wolves and local farmers, and Inti’s past trauma resurfaces as a mysterious death reignites local tensions. It’s very well-written, with flashbacks to Inti’s past interspersed with the present narrative, and includes the added intrigue of Inti having a condition where she feels any pain she sees inflicted before her. Definitely recommend!

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow (4 stars) – I really, really enjoyed this fairytale retelling novella; I didn’t love Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January, but A Spindle Splintered was much more my speed. It’s a modern-day Sleeping Beauty retelling featuring a protagonist with a fatal illness caused by pollution, a dedicated scientist best friend, and a degree in folklore, who falls into the multiverse of Sleeping Beauty stories and seeks to subvert the narrative. This edition also has very cool and creepy illustrations that enhanced the reading experience; I enjoyed the book’s snarky tone and emotional heart. Definitely recommend!

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (4 stars) – a witchy dark academia book set at an all-girls boarding school and featuring creepy local history, suspicious friendships, and questionable memories. It was a perfect book to pick up around Halloween, with compelling main characters and impeccable spooky vibes.

Peril by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa (4 stars) – This is my third Woodward presidential biography, and it focuses on the end of the Trump administration as well as the 2020 election and the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency. His books are always extremely detailed and well-researched, with high-placed sources close to the action, and they’re always fascinating audiobooks for me.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (4 stars) – I had a little trouble getting into This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone at first; I’m not sure if it was the complicated science fiction premise or the fact that Dewey’s readathon was winding down and my brain was getting a bit fatigued at that point. But once I understood the story a bit more, I really enjoyed it–it’s told in alternating perspectives by agents on opposite sides of a war through time being fought to determine the direction the future will take. The agents begin as enemies taunting one another through letters but their relationship soon develops into something more. It’s an extremely creative and thoughtful book, with a compelling emotional relationship that keeps even its most obscure aspects grounded. Since it’s short, it does work well for a readathon, but I think I’d primarily recommend this for scifi fans.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (4 stars) – I’d describe The Ex Hex as a contemporary paranormal romance set in a small town divided between mundane humans and the witches who live there in secret, even running a secret witchy college attached to the town’s college campus. Witch and history professor Vivi receives an unwelcome surprise in the form of her teenage summer fling Rhys returning to her town from Wales in order to fulfill a family ritual, and the two of them then find that their breakup was even less amicable than they’d previously believed, as Vivi inadvertently laid a curse on him. They then need to team up in order to break the curse and save the town, while finding that their old attraction hasn’t gone away. It was a really fun October read, perfect for picking up around Halloween; I enjoyed the small-town setting, Vivi’s witchy family, and the chemistry between Rhys and Vivi. Second-chance romance doesn’t always work for me, but I thought that The Ex Hex did a great job keeping their interactions fresh since they’d been apart for so long after falling for each other as teenagers. Both romance and fantasy fans alike will probably enjoy this one!

I received a free copy of The Ex Hex from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell (3.5 stars) – This nonfiction book focused on how cults use language to shape their ideologies and attract followers, and delved into several historical cults through this lens. It lost me a bit when it tried to draw parallels to modern pseudo-cults such as MLMs and fitness organizations, as I didn’t think the author quite succeeded in making those connections, but it was still an interesting audio listen.

Book Recs for Pride & Prejudice Fans!

 

Pride and Prejudice

This recommendation post is for a specific kind of reader in a specific kind of mood: fans of Pride & Prejudice who are looking for a similar enough but still new-to-them story to evoke the same kinds of vibes they get from the Austen classic. Maybe you’ve already seen both versions of Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley version and the Colin Firth version); maybe you’ve also already seen Bride & Prejudice, the Bollywood retelling (which I recommend if you haven’t!) and the extremely fun YouTube series the Lizzie Bennett Diaries (again, definitely recommend if you haven’t yet!). Maybe you’ve also already read and/or seen the movie version of Austenland (personally, I didn’t love the book, but I think the movie with Keri Russell is really fun). And now you want to read something Pride and Prejudice-esque, but without re-reading the classic version. In that case, here are some books I’ve read and enjoyed that I’d recommend you check out!

 

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women, #1)

Why P&P fans will like it: Hero is an aloof, intimidating figure; smart, opinionated heroine; class/rank differences between hero and heroine; awkward first meeting; historical romance set in 1879 England

What it’s about: Annabelle, a woman of a lower social rank, is drawn into the suffragist movement after she becomes one of Oxford’s first female students. She finds herself perpetually thrown into the path of the Duke of Montgomery, a powerful political influencer, and draws him to her side politically while she finds herself falling for him.

 

The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities, #4)

Why P&P fans will like it: Tons of Austen references, since the story is set against the production of an Austen mash-up murder mystery play; heroine overhears hero disparaging her at the beginning of the book; grumpy/sunshine romance

What it’s about: London theater star Freddy takes a role in a production of The Austen Playbook, a choose-your-own ending murder mystery production involving Austen’s most popular characters. Unfortunately, the production is being staged at the ancestral home of highbrow and savage theater critic Griff who, despite his prickliness and scary reputation to the theater community, Freddy finds herself attracted to. The two work to solve a mystery while simultaneously saving the production and also Griff’s home, which is in financial danger.

 

Written in the Stars

Why P&P fans will like it: Not exactly a retelling, but very much inspired by P&P; one heroine is named Darcy and is very much a Mr. Darcy-esque character; grumpy/sunshine; very awkward first meeting and bad first impressions

What it’s about: Astrologist Elle finds herself roped into a fake dating scheme with brilliant, aloof actuary Darcy when Darcy’s younger brother and Elle’s new business partner sets them up.

 

Battle Royal (Palace Insiders #1)

Why P&P fans will like it: grumpy/sunshine; bad first impressions; set in England

What it’s about: Dueling bakery owners are also new co-judges on a Great British Baking Show-esque competition show while simultaneously dueling for a wedding cake contract for the royal family.

 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)

Why P&P fans will like it: enemies-to-lovers, grumpy/sunshine, bad first impressions

What it’s about: Youngest sister Eve has never truly found a career right for her, and she accidentally stumbles into a disastrous job interview in which she hits her interviewer, grumpy B&B owner Jacob, with her car and finds herself with a new chef job and a new crush.

 

A Certain Appeal

Why P&P fans will like it: P&P retelling set in the world of NYC burlesque

What it’s about: This one is straightforwardly a modern-day contemporary romance Price & Prejudice retelling, and I’m actually reading it at this very moment, which is what inspired this blog post. Liz Bennet is an aspiring interior designer hustling between her day job as an assistant and her weekend job as a burlesque assistant when she meets Darcy, an aloof financier and friend of Charles, a potential investor in her burlesque club.

 

The Hating Game

Why P&P fans will like it: enemies-to-lovers romance with secret pining

What it’s about: Probably the best-known book on this list, and with a movie about to come out as well, this is a workplace contemporary grumpy/sunshine romance between dueling assistants gunning for a promotion.

 

And here are a few books on my TBR that I hope will join the others on the list in the future:

Pride and Papercuts (The Austens, #5)The Spanish Love DeceptionDangerous Alliance: An Austentacious RomanceUnmarriageable

Pride & Papercuts by Staci Hart – contemporary retelling of P&P in an office setting

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas – recommended for fans of The Hating Game, with a fake dating storyline set during a wedding in Spain

Dangerous Alliance: An Austentacious Romance by Jennieke Cohen – historical romance/mystery featuring a heroine using Austen’s novels as a blueprint for navigating society

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal – modern-day contemporary romance retelling of P&P set in Pakistan

Most Anticipated Books of 2022, Part 1!

To be honest, it’s freaking me out that we’re almost to the end of 2021. To help combat the weirdness of how fast this year is going by, here is the first part of my most anticipated new releases of 2022! I’ve included books from a variety of genres, although a bunch of them are from authors I’ve previously read and enjoyed, since those are the ones I tend to hear about first. I’m also only including books that so far have covers and tentative release date (although all release dates definitely may change, particularly with the current supply chain issues), and I hope you find some that interest you enough to add to your TBR! Feel free to comment any other books you’re looking forward to next year that I might have missed.

2022 Book Releases I’m Excited About (in order of tentative release date)

Where the Drowned Girls Go (Wayward Children, #7)

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire (anticipated release 1/4/22) – I can’t believe this is the 7th book in McGuire’s Wayward Children novella series! These are portal fantasy books focused on the denizens of a school that takes in children who have been sucked into portal fantasy worlds tailored to them and then unexpectedly expelled from those worlds and are having difficulty adapting back to reality, and this newest installment focuses on a second, similar school that we haven’t heard about yet.

From Goodreads – Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…

Electric Idol (Dark Olympus, #2)

Electric Idol by Katee Robert (anticipated release 1/4/22) – This is the second book in Robert’s Dark Olympus series, which is a romance take on Greek mythology set in a modern-day city. I really loved the first book, Neon Gods, which was a Hades/Persephone romance; I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment, which takes on the Cupid/Psyche myth.

From Goodreads – In the ultra-modern city of Olympus, there’s always a price to pay. Psyche knew she’d have to face Aphrodite’s ire eventually, but she never expected her literal heart to be at stake…or for Aphrodite’s gorgeous son to be the one ordered to strike the killing blow.

Eros has no problem shedding blood. But when it comes time to take out his latest target, he can’t do it. Confused by his reaction to Psyche, he does the only thing he can think of to keep her safe: he marries her. Psyche vows to make Eros’s life a living hell until they find a way out of this mess. But as lines blur and loyalties shift, she realizes he might take her heart after all…and she’s not sure she can survive the loss.

 

Out Front the Following Sea

Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman (anticipated release 1/11/22) – one of the few 2022 releases I actually have an ARC of so far, this feminist historical fiction novel sounds especially intriguing.

From Goodreads – Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned — it is a death sentence. At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor — Owen — bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared secrets. But when Owen’s French ancestry finds him at odds with a violent English commander, the turmoil becomes life-or-death for the sailor, the headstrong Ruth, and the cast of Quakers, Pequot Indians, soldiers, highwaymen, and townsfolk dragged into the fray. Now Ruth must choose between sending Owen to the gallows or keeping her own neck from the noose.

Steeped in historical events and culminating in a little-known war on pre-American soil, Out Front the Following Sea is a story of early feminism, misogyny, arbitrary rulings, and the treatment of outcasts, with parallels still mirrored and echoed in today’s society.

 

Something Fabulous

Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall (anticipated release 1/25/22) – Alexis Hall has a whole bunch of 2022 releases planned, and I’m looking to read them all since he’s one of my favorite romance authors. I’ve only read his contemporary works so far, so I’m really curious to see what he does with historical romance.

From Goodreads – Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.

It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.

Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.

Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing.

 

Count Your Lucky Stars

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (anticipated release 2/1/22) – the third book in Bellefleur’s Written in the Stars contemporary romance series set in Seattle features Margot, the business partner of former protagonist Elle from the first book, and I’m really looking forward to her friends-to-lovers romance.

From Goodreads – Margot Cooper doesn’t do relationships. She tried and it blew up in her face, so she’ll stick with casual hookups, thank you very much. But now her entire crew has found “the one” and she’s beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. And then fate (the heartless bitch) intervenes. While touring a wedding venue with her engaged friends, Margot comes face-to-face with Olivia Grant—her childhood friend, her first love, her first… well, everything. It’s been ten years, but the moment they lock eyes, Margot’s cold, dead heart thumps in her chest.

Olivia must be hallucinating. In the decade since she last saw Margot, her life hasn’t gone exactly as planned. At almost thirty, she’s been married… and divorced. However, a wedding planner job in Seattle means a fresh start and a chance to follow her dreams. Never in a million years did she expect her important new client’s Best Woman would be the one that got away.

When a series of unfortunate events leaves Olivia without a place to stay, Margot offers up her spare room because she’s a Very Good Person. Obviously. It has nothing to do with the fact that Olivia is as beautiful as ever and the sparks between them still make Margot tingle. As they spend time in close quarters, Margot starts to question her no-strings stance. Olivia is everything she’s ever wanted, but Margot let her in once and it ended in disaster. Will history repeat itself or should she count her lucky stars that she gets a second chance with her first love?

 

The Cherry Robbers

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker (anticipated release 2/1/22) – This is one of the more random books on this list, since I’ve never previously heard of the author, but it sounds like an interesting mix of historical fiction and a feminist family saga.

From Goodreads – New Mexico, 2017: Sylvia Wren is one of the most important American artists of the past century. Known as a recluse, she avoids all public appearances. There’s a reason: she’s living under an assumed identity, having outrun a tragic past. But when a hungry journalist starts chasing her story, she’s confronted with whom she once was: Iris Chapel.

Connecticut, 1950: Iris Chapel is the second youngest of six sisters, all heiresses to a firearms fortune. They’ve grown up cloistered in a palatial Victorian house, mostly neglected by their distant father and troubled mother, who believes that their house is haunted by the victims of Chapel weapons. The girls long to escape, and for most of them, the only way out is marriage. But not long after the first Chapel sister walks down the aisle, she dies of mysterious causes, a tragedy that repeats with the second, leaving the rest to navigate the wreckage, to heart-wrenching consequences.

Ultimately, Iris flees the devastation of her family, and so begins the story of Sylvia Wren. But can she outrun the family curse forever?

 

Cherish FarrahCherish Farrah by Bethany C. Morrow (anticipated release 2/8/22) – Since reading Morrow’s short science fiction novel Mem, a creative take on memory and alternate history, I’ve been really interested to read more from her.

From Goodreads – Seventeen-year-old Farrah Turner is one of two Black girls in her country club community, and the only one with Black parents. Her best friend, Cherish Whitman, adopted by a wealthy white family, is something Farrah likes to call WGS—White Girl Spoiled. With Brianne and Jerry Whitman as parents, Cherish is given the kind of adoration and coddling that even upper-class Black parents can’t seem to afford—and it creates a dissonance in her best friend that Farrah can exploit. When her own family is unexpectedly confronted with foreclosure, the calculating Farrah is determined to reassert the control she’s convinced she’s always had over her life by staying with Cherish, the only person she loves—even when she hates her.

A troubled Farrah manipulates her way further into the Whitman family but the longer she stays, the more her own parents suggest that something is wrong in the Whitman house. She might trust them—if they didn’t think something was wrong with Farrah, too. As strange things start happening at the Whitman household—debilitating illnesses, upsetting fever dreams, an inexplicable tension with Cherish’s hothead boyfriend, and a strange journal that seems to keep track of what is happening to Farrah—it’s nothing she can’t handle. But soon everything begins to unravel when the Whitmans invite Farrah closer, and it’s anyone’s guess who is really in control.

Told in Farrah’s chilling, unforgettable voice and weaving in searing commentary on race and class, this slow-burn social horror will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

 

Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour (anticipated release 2/8/21) – I’ve previously read two of LaCour’s YA novels and really enjoyed them, particularly subtle ghost story Watch Over Me, and I’m liking this publishing trend of YA authors writing adult literature.

From Goodreads – The debut adult novel by the bestselling and award-winning YA author Nina LaCour, following two women on a star-crossed journey toward each other.

When Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen, she leaves behind not only the losses that have shattered her world but the girl she once was, capable of trust and intimacy. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her brilliant cocktails as for the mystery that clings to her. Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern. In her seventh year and fifth major as an undergraduate, she yearns for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but is unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena and embarks on an affair with the married owner.

When Sara catches sight of Emilie one morning at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But the damage both women carry, and the choices they have made, pulls them apart again and again. When Sara’s old life catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted just as Emilie has finally gained her own sense of purpose, they must decide if their love is more powerful than their pasts.

At once exquisite and expansive, astonishing in its humanity and heart, Yerba Buena is a love story for our time and a propulsive journey through the lives of two women finding their way in the world.

 

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City, #2)

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas (anticipated release 2/15/22) – although I did think it was a bit too long, I still loved reading the first book in the Crescent City series, House of Earth and Blood, and I’m very curious to see where Maas is going with this series. It definitely has a lot of similarities to ACOTAR, but it’s different enough that it’s still a great new fantasy world. Don’t read the synopsis unless you’ve already read the first book, though, or you’ll be spoiled!

From Goodreads – Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it

 

A River Enchanted (Elements of Cadence, #1)

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross (anticipated release 2/15/22) – I just heard of this book, and it sounds so interesting! Goodreads is comparing it to House of Earth and Blood, which is a comparison I don’t really get from the synopsis, but it does sound like my kind of fantasy.

From Goodreads –Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.

As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.

Delilah Green Doesn't Care

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake (anticipated release 2/22/22) – F/F romance has always been underrepresented, so I’m always looking for new authors and books coming out, and this small-town contemporary romance sounds great!

From Goodreads – Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.

When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.

Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…

 

Tripping Arcadia

Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist (anticipated release 2/22/22) – Possibly one of the books I’m most excited about, based on the amazing synopsis and gorgeous cover. It sounds like it has hints of dark academia and mystery, and reviews mention an eat-the-rich message as well.

From Goodreads – Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston’s most elite families, the illustrious and secretive Verdeaus, she knows she must accept it—no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description.

By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies . . . and trying not to fall for Jonathan’s alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the Verdeau patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge—a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice for payback.

The perfect next read for fans of Mexican Gothic, Tripping Arcadia is a page-turning and shocking tale with an unforgettable protagonist that explores family legacy and inheritance, the sacrifices we must make to get by in today’s world, and the intoxicating, dangerous power of wealth.

 

Wild and Wicked Things

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May (anticipated release 3/29/22) – I’ve been getting more interested in historical fantasy lately, and this one’s cover and premise very much appeal to me.

From Goodreads – In the aftermath of World War I, a young woman gets swept into a glittering world filled with illicit magic, romance, blood debts, and murder in this lush and decadent debut novel. On Crow Island, people whispered, real magic lurked just below the surface, but Annie Mason never expected her enigmatic new neighbor to be a witch.

When she witnesses a confrontation between her best friend Bea and the infamous Emmeline Delacroix at one of Emmeline’s extravagantly illicit parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where magic can buy what money can not; a world where the consequence of a forbidden blood bargain might be death.

The Wedding Crasher

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa (anticipated release 4/5/22) – I loved Mia Sosa’s previous contemporary romance The Worst Best Man, and this sounds like another wedding-adjacent contemporary set amid a similar backdrop in DC.

From Goodreads – Just weeks away from ditching DC for greener pastures, Solange Pereira is roped into helping her wedding planner cousin on a random couple’s big day. It’s an easy gig… until she stumbles upon a situation that convinces her the pair isn’t meant to be. What’s a true-blue romantic to do? Crash the wedding, of course. And ensure the unsuspecting groom doesn’t make the biggest mistake of his life.

Dean Chapman had his future all mapped out. He was about to check off “start a family” and on track to “make partner” when his modern day marriage of convenience went up in smoke. Then he learns he might not land an assignment that could be his ticket to a promotion unless he has a significant other and, in a moment of panic, Dean claims to be in love with the woman who crashed his wedding. Oops.

Now Dean has a whole new item on his to-do list: beg Solange to be his pretend girlfriend. Solange feels a tiny bit bad about ruining Dean’s wedding, so she agrees to play along. Yet as they fake-date their way around town, what started as a performance for Dean’s colleagues turns into a connection that neither he nor Solange can deny. Their entire romance is a sham… there’s no way these polar opposites could fall in love for real, right?

 

Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky, #2)

Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse (anticipated release 4/19/22) – I love Rebecca Roanhorse, and Black Sun is one of my favorite books of 2021 so far. It ends on a shocking and devastating note (no spoilers! Avoid the synopsis if you haven’t read it!) and the sequel is much needed to see what happens to this fantastical world and its characters.

From Goodreads – The great city of Tova is shattered. The sun is held within the smothering grip of the Crow God’s eclipse, but a comet that marks the death of a ruler and heralds the rise of a new order is imminent.

The Meridian: a land where magic has been codified and the worship of gods suppressed. How do you live when legends come to life, and the faith you had is rewarded?

As sea captain Xiala is swept up in the chaos and currents of change, she finds an unexpected ally in the former Priest of Knives. For the Clan Matriarchs of Tova, tense alliances form as far-flung enemies gather and the war in the heavens is reflected upon the earth.

And for Serapio and Naranpa, both now living avatars, the struggle for free will and personhood in the face of destiny rages. How will Serapio stay human when he is steeped in prophecy and surrounded by those who desire only his power? Is there a future for Naranpa in a transformed Tova without her total destruction?

Welcome back to the fantasy series of the decade in Fevered Star—book two of Between Earth and Sky.

 

Nettle & Bone

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (anticipated release 4/26/22) – I’m generally interested in anything approaching a dark fairytale retelling, and I think that this one fits the bill.

From Goodreads – With her signature mix of the grim and the delightful, award-winning author T. Kingfisher takes the old bones of fantasy and fairytale and makes them into something entirely new in this enchanting adventure.

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

 

Book Lovers

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (anticipated release 5/3/22) – Henry’s previous two contemporary romances Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation have gotten a ton of love and attention and were both high 4 star reads for me; her third promises to be just as great. The book-related premise is definitely a plus.

From Goodreads – A by the book literary agent must decide if happily ever after is worth changing her whole life for in this insightful, delightful new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation.

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

 

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (anticipated release 5/3/22) – I’m curious to see how McQuiston’s writing style translates to a contemporary YA setting!

From Goodreads – Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

 

Book of Night

Book of Night by Holly Black (anticipated release 5/3/22) – Technically this one doesn’t have a cover yet, but I love a dark contemporary fantasy, and despite having mixed feelings about Black’s YA books, this one sounds very much up my alley.

From Goodreads – In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.

 

Wicked Beauty (Dark Olympus #3)

Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert (anticipated release 6/7/22) – Another Dark Olympus book, because Katee Robert is being very good to us in 2022! This one is a Achilles/Patroclus/Helen romance, which is an interesting and uncommon take on the myth.

From Goodreads – In Olympus, you either have the power to rule…or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city’s inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize…or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can’t keep her hands off—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield?

 

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables, #2)

A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow (anticipated release 6/14/21) – the second novella in Harrow’s Fractured Fairy Tales series after Spindle Splintered, a Sleeping Beauty retelling I read for Dewey’s 24-Hour readathon. Maybe I’ll pick this one up during a readathon in 2022!

From Goodreads – Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone.

Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request, and save them both from the hot iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

 

Bloodmarked (The Legendborn Cycle #2)

Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn (anticipated release 7/26/22) – I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IN THIS SERIES! Legendborn was the best YA fantasy I’ve read in years, and the ending was so unexpected–I wish this one was coming out even sooner!

From Goodreads – All Bree wanted was to uncover the truth behind her mother’s death. So she infiltrated the Legendborn Order, a secret society descended from King Arthur’s knights—only to discover her own ancestral power. Now, Bree has become someone new:

A Medium. A Bloodcrafter. A Scion.

But the ancient war between demons and the Order is rising to a deadly peak. And Nick, the Legendborn boy Bree fell in love with, has been kidnapped.

Bree wants to fight, but the Regents who rule the Order won’t let her. To them, she is an unknown girl with unheard-of power, and as the living anchor for the spell that preserves the Legendborn cycle, she must be protected.

When the Regents reveal they will do whatever it takes to hide the war, Bree and her friends must go on the run to rescue Nick themselves. But enemies are everywhere, Bree’s powers are unpredictable and dangerous, and she can’t escape her growing attraction to Selwyn, the mage sworn to protect Nick until death.

If Bree has any hope of saving herself and the people she loves, she must learn to control her powers from the ancestors who wielded them first—without losing herself in the process.

 

A Half-Built Garden

A Half-Built Garden by Ruthanna Emrys (anticipated release 7/26/22) – A science fiction book that sounds like it deals with environmentalism as well as aliens, so I’m on board.

From Goodreads – A literary descendent of Ursula K. Le Guin, Ruthanna Emrys crafts a novel of extraterrestrial diplomacy and urgent climate repair bursting with quiet, tenuous hope and an underlying warmth. A Half-Built Garden depicts a world worth building towards, a humanity worth saving from itself, and an alien community worth entering with open arms. It’s not the easiest future to build, but it’s one that just might be in reach.

On a warm March night in 2083, Judy Wallach-Stevens wakes to a warning of unknown pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay. She heads out to check what she expects to be a false alarm–and stumbles upon the first alien visitors to Earth. These aliens have crossed the galaxy to save humanity, convinced that the people of Earth must leave their ecologically-ravaged planet behind and join them among the stars. And if humanity doesn’t agree, they may need to be saved by force.

The watershed networks aren’t ready to give up on Earth. Decades ago, they rose up to exile the last corporations to a few artificial islands, escape the dominance of nation-states, and reorganize humanity around the hope of keeping their world liveable. By sharing the burden of decision-making, they’ve started to heal the wounded planet.

But now corporations, nation-states, and networks all vie to represent humanity to these powerful new beings, and if any one accepts the aliens’ offer, Earth may be lost. With everyone’s eyes turned skyward, everything hinges on the success of Judy’s effort to create understanding, both within and beyond her own species.

 

Husband Material (Boyfriend Material, #2)

Husband Material by Alexis Hall (anticipated release 8/2/22) – Boyfriend Material was my favorite romance of 2020, and I’m so happy it’s getting a sequel! I love main characters Luc and Oliver, and would happily read several more books about them.

From Goodreads – In BOYFRIEND MATERIAL, Luc and Oliver met, pretended to fall in love, fell in love for real, dealt with heartbreak and disappointment and family and friends…and somehow figured out a way to make it work. Now it seems like everyone around them is getting married, and Luc’s feeling the social pressure to propose. But it’ll take more than four weddings, a funeral, and a bowl full of special curry to get these two from I don’t know what I’m doing to I do.

Good thing Oliver is such perfect HUSBAND MATERIAL.

 

Mad About You

Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane (anticipated release 8/9/22) – I really enjoy Mhairi McFarlane’s writing style, and although I haven’t yet finished her newest release Just Last Night, I’m still already looking forward to this one.

From Goodreads – Harriet Hatley is the most in-demand wedding photographer in town, but she doesn’t believe in romance, loathes the idea of marriage, and thinks chocolate fountains are an abomination. Which is why, when her long-time partner proposes, she panics. Suddenly Harriet is single… and living down the hall from her ex. She needs a new apartment, like, yesterday.

Enter Cal Clarke, a hopeless romantic who just experienced his own wedding-related disaster. Harriet and Cal are like chalk and cheese, but as they go from strangers to roommates to friends, it becomes clear they’re both running from something. When Harriet’s most heavily guarded secret comes to light, her world implodes. And Cal, with his witty humor and gentle advice, is a surprising source of calm at the center of the storm.

With her career, friendships, and reputation on the line, Harriet must finally face her past in order to take control of her future. Because if she’s willing to stop playing it safe and risk everything to share her truth, real love and happiness may be waiting on the other side…

End of the Year Book Tag

I’m not going to lie, I’m freaking out a bit about the fact that there’s only 2 months left in 2021. Time moves very weirdly since Covid, and I’m having a hard time understanding where the year has gone and accepting that we’ll be starting a new one soon. As usual, I’m turning to books to help me with stress by doing the End of the Year book tag, which was created by Ariel Bissett. I’m also feeling indecisive about setting a November TBR, and I thought that this tag might help me better focus my reading for the next 2 months.

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)Just Last Night

I keep being surprised that I haven’t finished either of these highly anticipated 2021 releases yet–I started both of them earlier this year and haven’t picked them back up despite meaning to multiple times. ACOSF in particular was possibly my most anticipated new release of the entire year, but when I started it I was having a hard time with protagonist Nesta, who was one of my least favorite characters from previous books. I just need to get over that and pick it back up, since I really do love this world and this series in general. I think the issue with Just Last Night was that it’s a sadder book than I’d anticipated, and I wasn’t in the right headspace when I first picked it up.

Do you have an autumnal book to help transition into the end of the year?

Payback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove, #1)The Wolf and the Woodsman

Although I technically meant to read these in October, I’m thinking that Payback’s a Witch (contemporary paranormal romance) and The Wolf and the Woodsman (fantasy) will make good November reads.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding, #1)Comfort Me With ApplesMurder Most Actual

There are only 3 2021 releases that I’m still awaiting: A Marvellous Light (historical fantasy romance), Comfort Me With Apples (suspense), and Murder Most Actual (mystery). Although, to be fair, with current supply chain issues it’s still possible that the release dates may change.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

The Stone GodsAll the Birds, SingingWhen the Moon Was OursOut Front the Following Sea

I still have 3 of my Top 10 2021 reads left to get through before year end, and one ARC that comes out at the beginning of January that I think I’d regret not reading in December so that I can finish before its release date.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

Light from Uncommon StarsAll's Well

These two 2021 releases are both really calling to me, and I’d love to pick them up before the end of the year because I think I could really love them.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2022?

Bloodmarked (The Legendborn Cycle #2)Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky, #2)House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City, #2)Husband Material (Boyfriend Material, #2)

I’ve been thinking about it! It all depends on what I manage to read in November (particularly if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, which I’m still undecided about) and December, but there are already a bunch of 2022 releases I’m really excited about. Working on a post featuring those as we speak!

I write about nontraditional beach reads for nontraditional readers