Book Review: First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (Modern Love #3)

Genre: contemporary romance

Release date: 2/16/21

Rating: 4 stars

First Comes Like is a book I’ve been anxiously awaiting for a very long time. We first meet its protagonist Jia in Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series as the younger sister of past protagonist Sadia who’s determined to forge her own path by leaving medical school to dedicate herself to her true passion. Jia is a beauty influencer with a YouTube channel and a large dedicated fanbase–she’s passionate about makeup and skincare, and dreams of one day owning her own makeup company. She’s a creative and charismatic character, and I’m so glad that she finally got her own story, after being featured as a side character in not only the Forbidden Hearts series but also the first two books of the Modern Love series. Although I’m fairly terrible at makeup, I enjoy watching beauty Youtubers, and I thought it was so much fun to have one as the main character in a romance novel–we get to see behind the scenes of what Jia’s process is like and watch her struggle with a creative rut and fears that she’s out of touch as an “older” influencer, and also see what some of her past content has looked like.

Like the previous two books in Rai’s Modern Love series, First Comes Like deals with a modern dating conundrum–catfishing. (The Right Swipe was focused around ghosting, while Girl Gone Viral featured, well, going viral.) Jia thinks she’s been talking to famous Indian actor Dev through his verified account, but when she finally tries to meet him in person, she realizes that he has no idea who she is–she’s never actually spoken with him in the first place. Nevertheless, Dev is intrigued by Jia, and after a rocky start the two begin a whirlwind and very sweet fake relationship that quickly turns into real feelings.

Everything I love about Alisha Rai was present in First Comes Like: a badass female protagonist, a strong friendship group that supports one another, complex and interesting family dynamics. I did find Jia a more compelling character than Dev, who has a quieter and less forceful personality, but I really liked their interactions and their eventual HEA. This is a great series that contemporary romance fans absolutely need to check out if they haven’t already, and I can’t wait to see what Alisha Rai comes out with next.

 

I received an eARC of First Comes Like from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Bout of Books Updates (Days 5-7) and Wrap-Up!

That’s a wrap on another round of Bout of Books! Here are my stats for the last 3 days of the readathon, as well as my overall stats and thoughts.

Bout of Books updates for Days 5-7:

Headliners (London Celebrities, #5)A Court of Mist and FuryWhite Ivy

Day 5

Pages read: 50 pages of A Court of Mist and Fury, 4 hours of Headliners (audiobook)

Books started: A Court of Mist and Fury (re-read)

Books finished: None

Day 6

Pages read: 1 hour of Headliners (audiobook), 150 pages of A Court of Mist and Fury, 27 pages of White Ivy

Books started: None

Books finished: Headliners

Day 7

Pages read: 62 pages of A Court of Mist and Fury, 50 pages of White Ivy,

Books started: None

Books finished: None

 

And here are my stats for the readathon as a whole:

Total pages read: 872 pages; 6.5 hours of audiobook time

Books started, but not finished: A Court of Mist and Fury, A Rogue of One’s Own, White Ivy

A Court of Mist and FuryA Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2)White Ivy

Books finished: A Court of Thorns and Roses, Headliners

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasHeadliners (London Celebrities, #5)

I’m definitely happy with my overall reading productivity during Bout of Books. I may have only finished 2 books, but I made significant progress on 3 others and managed a very respectable final page count. I’m actually about to start another readathon just as this one wraps up, but since it’s hosted on Bookstagram I’m not sure that I’ll be posting regular updates here as well. But I’m hoping to make progress on the 3 books I started but didn’t finish during Bout of Books!

2020: Reading Year in Review (with Stats!)

Total books read: 109

Total pages read: 38,257

Average rating: 3.9 stars

Shortest book read: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (106 pages)

Longest book read: Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (803 pages)

Average book length: 350 pages

Author breakdown by gender:

 

Adult vs. YA:

 

Genre:

 

Format:

 

Release Year:

 

 

Longest books read in 2020:

Crescent City 799 pages
Passage 780 pages
Possession 555 pages
Middlegame 528 pages
Serpent & Dove 513 pages
Aurora Burning 512 pages

Romance Reads on my 2021 TBR!

In 2020, I read more romance than I think I ever have in previous years; the promise of an HEA (happily ever after) was something that was much-needed last year for me and for many readers who found ourselves turning to the romance genre. As I’ve been thinking about my reading going into 2021, I’ve been thinking a lot about what romance books I’m interested in picking up and focusing on this year, particularly since I discovered so many great new-to-me books and authors in 2020. To help myself keep track of all the awesome-sounding romance books on my radar to pick up this year, I figured I’d go ahead and organize them for myself here. It’s a mixture of 2021 releases and backlist titles, because as I discover more new-to-me romance authors I generally also start looking into their backlists.

Romance authors I can’t wait to read more from:

Mhairi McFarlane (I loved If I Never Met You)

Don't You Forget About MeJust Last Night

Lucy Parker (after I read The Austen Playbook, I want to read all of the books in her London Celebrities series)

Act Like It (London Celebrities, #1)Headliners (London Celebrities, #5)

Tessa Dare (tied for my most-read author of 2020!)

The Bride Bet (Girl Meets Duke, #4)Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Spindle Cove, #5; Castles Ever After, #4)A Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove, #2)

Evie Dunmore (Bringing Down the Duke was the first historical romance I really liked, and got me on board with the subgenre)

A Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2)Portrait of a Scotsman (A League of Extraordinary Women, #3)

Previously read and loved romance authors who have new books coming out in 2021:

Alisha Rai (Modern Love and Forbidden Hearts series), Sally Thorne (The Hating Game), Casey McQuiston (Red, White, and Royal Blue), Emily Henry (Beach Read), Talia Hibbert (Take a Hint, Dani Brown), Juliette Cross (Wolf Gone Wild)

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)Second First ImpressionsOne Last StopPeople We Meet on VacationAct Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)Witches Get Stitches (Stay a Spell, #3)

Historical romance authors I really want to get into in 2021:

I’ve heard really good things about Courtney Milan, Sarah MacLean, and Stacy Reid.

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)Wicked and the Wallflower (The Bareknuckle Bastards, #1)My Darling Duke (Sinful Wallflowers, #1)

Backlist romance reads I’m intrigued by:

The Simple Wild (Wild, #1)Fables & Other Lies

2021 releases from new-to-me authors:

Talk Bookish to Me: A NovelSweethand (Island Bites, #1)Honey Girl

 

What romance reads are on your TBR for 2021?

Bout of Books Updates: Days 1-4

Updates for the first 4 days of the Bout of Books readathon! I’ve managed to make progress on 4 different books, although I’ve only finished one so far (a re-read of a past favorite). I always find readathons help with my reading productivity, especially at the beginning of the year, by making me track my reading and keep myself accountable. Also, like I anticipated, I’ve sort of thrown out my TBR and have just been picking up what I’m in the mood for.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)Headliners (London Celebrities, #5)A Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2)White Ivy

Here are my reading stats for the first 4 days:

Day 1

Pages read: 148 pages of A Court of Thorns and Roses; 1 hour of Headliners (audiobook)

Books started: A Court of Thorns and Roses (re-read)

Books finished: None

Day 2

Pages read: 160 pages of A Court of Thorns and Roses; 1.5 hours of Headliners (audio)

Books started: None

Books finished: None

Day 3

Pages read: 108 pages of A Court of Thorns and Roses, 26 pages of A Rogue of One’s Own

Books started: A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore

Books finished: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Day 4

Pages read: 23 pages of White Ivy, 68 pages of A Rogue of One’s Own

Books started: White Ivy by Susie Yang

Books finished: None

 

Favorite Books of 2020! (In Every Category I Could Think of!)

I’m doing my 2020 yearly wrap-up a bit differently this year! In addition to my yearly stats, (which will be in an upcoming blog post) I wanted to do a post talking about my favorites of the year in a bunch of different categories, so that I don’t leave out any great books in my yearly wrap-up. I actually tried to look for a book tag to do but couldn’t find one that really worked for me, so I just made up categories based on things I wanted to talk about. Let’s do it!

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2020:

10. The Seas by Samantha Hunt – beautifully written fabulist fiction with lots of ocean/mermaid imagery

9. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – impactful and devastating, with a twist that absolutely gutted me

8. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – a strange and wonderfully creative short fantastical novel

7. Melmoth by Sarah Perry – a surprising and gorgeously written favorite with shades of historical fiction and mythology

6. Passage by Connie Willis – I sobbed through the last 300 or so pages of this book, so there was no way it wouldn’t make this list

5. Kindred by Octavia Butler – another classic from the queen of science fiction that I’m so glad to have finally read

4. Possession by A.S. Byatt – impressive and complex, containing letters and poetry from fictional 19th-century writers

3. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente – the last book I read this year that also became a new favorite from an already favorite author

2. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado – devastating and gorgeously written memoir told in so many different ways

  1. Bunny by Mona Awad (AKA my new favorite book of all time!)

 

Favorite short story collections of 2020:

What Shines from ItThe Other World, It Whispers

Both What Shines From It by Sara Rauch and The Other World, It Whispers by Stephanie Victoire were absolutely gorgeously written, and I’d happily read more collections from both authors.

Favorite contemporary romance reads of 2020:

This was really difficult, so I chose 5. To be fair, I did read a lot of contemporary romance in 2020, so there were a lot to choose from; there are still several excellent ones I had to leave off this list so that I could narrow it down a bit.

Boyfriend MaterialIf I Never Met YouGirl Gone Viral (Modern Love, #2)Beach ReadThe Worst Best Man

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane, Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai, Beach Read by Emily Henry, and The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Favorite UF/PNR of 2020:

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)Wolf Gone Wild (Stay A Spell #1)

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (the second book in a stellar fantasy romance series) and Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross (PNR featuring a romance between a werewolf and a witch set in New Orleans).

Favorite historical romance of 2020:

The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke, #2)When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After, #3)

Tessa Dare was such a great find for me in 2020. Her funny yet emotionally impactful historical romance was really the perfect thing to start reading this spring. My favorites of hers this year were The Governess Game, which featured a really fun couple, and When a Scot Ties the Knot, which was hilarious and had a fantastic premise.

Favorite debut novels:

LusterQueenieCatherine House

I read some really great debuts in 2020, but at the top of the list were definitely Luster by Raven Leilani, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, and Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas.

Favorite YA:

Landscape with Invisible HandCome Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)The Wicker King (The Wicker King, #1)

Sort of a weird year for me in terms of YA–I think I read less YA this year than I ever have, and I didn’t necessarily find any new all-time favorites. I did, however, read two YA novellas that I thought were great (Landscape with Invisible Hand, which was impactful and hilarious and really isn’t being talked about enough, and Come Tumbling Down, the most recent entry in the Wayward Children series) and a YA novel from an author that I’m really excited to read more from (The Wicker King by K. Ancrum).

Favorite nonfiction:

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African ChildhoodIn the Dream House

Trevor Noah’s book (and its audio narration!) were FANTASTIC, and I cannot stop raving about In the Dream House, which was one of my favorites of the year.

Most disappointing reads of 2020:

Normal PeopleLittle EyesThe RegretsFollowers

These were books that, for whatever reason, I really thought I’d love and that had 5-star potential based on their authors/synopses, but that I ended up really not enjoying nearly as much as I thought I would.

Most surprising reads of 2020:

An American MarriageChosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)

These 2 books were surprising to me for very different reasons–An American Marriage because I don’t normally gravitate towards literary fiction focused on marriages but ended up loving it, and Chosen Ones because it had some really crazy plot twists.

New-to-me authors I discovered in 2020 and can’t wait to read more from:

If I Never Met YouThe Austen Playbook (London Celebrities, #4)The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)

Mhairi McFarlane, Lucy Parker, Tessa Dare: These are all romance authors that have a bunch of other books out that I’ve got my eye on to pick up in 2021. I’ll definitely be picking up at least 1 book from each of these authors this year–probably more!

Favorite covers of books I read in 2020:

The SeasCatherine HouseThe Other World, It WhispersHouse of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

Most-read authors of 2020:

  1. Tessa Dare (tie!) – 5 books

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke, #2)The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke, #3)When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After, #3)Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After, #2)

  1. Alyssa Cole – (tie!) 5 books

When No One is WatchingLet It ShineLet Us DreamOnce Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5)The A.I. Who Loved Me

And then I read 2 books each from 10 other authors! I was actually really surprised by this stat. I think I just assumed that I only read one book per author, for the most part, but there were SO MANY 2-book authors. Several of these were due to re-reads, which makes more sense when I think about it.

Mona Awad:

Bunny13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Seanan McGuire:

Middlegame (Middlegame, #1)Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)

Ilona Andrews:

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)

Juliette Cross:

Wolf Gone Wild (Stay A Spell #1)Don't Hex and Drive (Stay a Spell #2)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

The Beautiful OnesMexican Gothic

Rainbow Rowell:

Carry On (Simon Snow, #1)Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2)

Eva Chase:

Wicked Wonderland (The Looking-Glass Curse #1)Wrathful Wonderland (The Looking-Glass Curse #2)

Eva Leigh:

My Fake Rake (Union of the Rakes, #1)Would I Lie to the Duke (Union of the Rakes, #2)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff:

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle, #2)

Sarah J. Maas:

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)A Court of Frost and Starlight

 

What were some of your favorite reads of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Bout of Books TBR!

It’s a bit last minute, but I’m planning on joining in on this round of the Bout of Books readathon!

The Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 4th and runs through Sunday, January 10th in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are reading sprints, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges, but they’re all completely optional. For all Bout of Books 30 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I usually do kick off my reading year with Bout of Books, but I’ve been reluctant to post a TBR since I’m trying to avoid TBRs altogether in January and instead focus on mood-reading. I do, however, still really want to participate in the readathon, as it always help me be more productive with my reading to start the year off, so here are the two books I’m currently reading (and will probably read more from during the week?): From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout (fantasy romance) and Headliners by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance, audiobook).

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)Headliners (London Celebrities, #5)

And here are a few books that I’m sort of maybe feeling like starting soonish, but I’m definitely not committing to:

The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and StoriesA Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2)A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (short story collection), A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore (historical romance), A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (fantasy romance; re-read).

 

Anyone else planning on participating in Bout of Books or any other readathons to kick off 2021? Let me know in the comments!

2021 Reading Goals

Last year, I set reading goals for myself that were intentional as well as accessible, so I’m going to try to do that in 2021 as well. Let’s get started!

Read all of the books on my Top 10 TBR for 2021/5-Star predictions list.

I tried to be thoughtful in curating this list and included books in a lot of different genres and formats; I’m hoping that the variety will help make it easier for me to stick to this stack despite my mood-reading tendencies.

Shorter backlist novels I’m intrigued by:

The Stone GodsHow the Blessed LiveAll the Birds, Singing

Short story collections:

What is Not Yours is Not YoursThe Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

Critically acclaimed books I keep meaning to read:

Fates and FuriesThe Vanishing Half

YA:

When the Moon Was Ours

Longer books:

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Plain Bad Heroines

 

Read a classic or modern classic. I didn’t read any classics at all in 2020; I actually started Anna Karenina and was really enjoying it before lockdown started in my area, but then I abandoned it due to stress and a need for more comforting reads. I’d really like to read at least one classic in 2021 (and modern classics would count too!) although I’m not yet sure which one I’m gravitating towards.

Read some lesser-known or independently published books. This sort of goes along with my selections for my Top 10 TBR for the year. I do like to keep up with new releases, and to a certain degree I can also get caught up in the hype with popular books. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I also want to make sure that I’m picking up plenty of less popular or less talked-about titles as well.

Re-read the Court of Thorns and Roses series. I’m not going to lie, this is probably my favorite ongoing series. I have re-read the first three books in the past, but not for quite awhile, and with book 4 finally coming out in Feb, I’m thinking that I’ll either want to do a re-read of the series in the lead-up to the newest book’s release or after I read the newest book when I’ll likely be in a book hangover and wanting more from that world.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)

In the past, I’ve almost felt guilty about doing re-reads when I have so many books on my TBR shelf, but in the last two years I started forcing myself to abandon the guilt and go back to enjoying re-reads the way I did when I was younger. I want to keep doing that in 2021–if I’m in the mood for a re-read, I should just do it.

 

2020 Reading Goals Check-in: How did I do?

At the beginning of 2020, I set a pretty reasonable list of goals for my reading throughout the year. I don’t always remember and/or follow up with my yearly reading goals, but this time I did make it more of a point to focus on them, so let’s see how I did!

Read this stack of my top 10 books to read in 2020: I always do really terribly at this goal, UNTIL 2020! (In past years, I think I’ve read an average of 3 out of the 10. Eek.) This year, I actually did it–I read all 10 of my top 10 TBR for the year. (Well, technically, I did DNF one of them, but still.)

Out of my top 10 TBR for the year, 6 out of 10 were 5-star reads!

BunnyThe SeasMelmothIn the Dream HouseKindredRadiance

One was one of my least favorite/most disappointing books of the year!

Normal People

Two were good but not amazing and had some structural issues!

Middlegame (Middlegame, #1)A Tale for the Time Being

I think what I can glean from this is that I’m fairly good at predicting books that will end up becoming 5-star reads (6/10 is not bad!) and that even though I’m a mood-reader, it is worthwhile to force myself to stick to reading goals sometimes for that reason.

Read more than 9 five-star reads – Historically, I have this strange trend where I tend to only read 8 or 9 five-star reads over the course of a year. In 2020, I did accomplish this goal, by reading 10 new-to-me 5-star reads, as well as a few 5-star re-reads.

Focus on backlist books: I did this! I did end up reading more 2020 releases than originally planned, but I also kept up with backlist titles throughout the year, including reading several that have been sitting on my TBR shelf for several years (most of which were also on my top 10 TBR for 2020):

PossessionKindredA Tale for the Time BeingRadiance

Read some books on writing: I did not do this. I actually totally forgot that this was a goal for the year; it would be a good one to carry over into 2021.

Re-reads: I’d initially wanted to re-read these 4 books in 2020 in anticipation of reading their sequels:

Carry On (Simon Snow, #1)The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale, #1)Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)

And I ended up reading 2 out of the 4: Carry On (and then reading its sequel Wayward Son) and Sapphire Flames (and its sequel Emerald Blaze). I didn’t re-read The Handmaid’s Tale because I was intentionally avoiding any dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic reads in 2020 (for obvious reasons) and I think that’ll continue for the forseeable future. I didn’t re-read Gideon the Ninth because I realized that I actually remembered it really vividly, and then ran out of time to read its sequel before the end of the year. I still do plan to read Harrow the Ninth in 2021!

Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2)Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)

December Reading Wrap-Up

I had a stellar reading month in December! I ended up reading a lot more than I thought I would, especially considering the fact that I felt mired in a reading slump early in the month, and read several new favorites. My reading this month ended up having several unintentional themes: I read a bunch of books with blue covers, contemporary romance with the fake dating trope, and books that were almost exactly 400 pages long.

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Audiobooks: 2

Ready Player Two by Ernest ClineBoyfriend Material by Alexis HallIf I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlaneA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiI Want To Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel BloomA Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. MaasWritten in the Stars by Alexandria BellefleurThe Austen Playbook by Lucy ParkerRadiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (5 stars) – Yet another incredible read from Catherynne M. Valente. All of her books are so different in genre and concepts, but all are so beautifully and intricately written and rich with metaphors. Radiance is genre-bending, but it’s sort of a fantastical alternate-history science fiction that pays homage to classic filmmaking and tells its story through an alternative format made up of journal entries, radio broadcasts, scripts and film transcriptions, and gossip columns, among other things. It’s incredible, beautiful, and an experience to read. Highly, highly recommend.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (4.5 stars) – My favorite contemporary romance of the year! A really well-written, character-driven fake dating/enemies-to-lovers romance set in London. I listened to this on audiobook and absolutely loved the narration; the book is at times both hilarious and touching and makes you empathize so much with its main characters. I’ll definitely be picking up more from Alexis Hall in the future.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (4 stars) – This was a surprise addition to my list of favorite romance reads of the year. I wasn’t previously familiar with the book’s plot or with this author, but I quickly became a huge fan of the main character, Laurie, and rooted for her when her boyfriend since the age of 18 broke up with her out of the blue and upended her life. A work colleague, Jamie, at the firm where she and her ex both work proposes that they pretend to date each other both to make her ex jealous and to help Jamie advance in his career, and it develops into a very real friendship which slowly becomes something more. The main characters had great chemistry, but their friendship was very genuine and sweet as well. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (4 stars) – A sweet contemporary romance set in Seattle and featuring an opposites-attract, fake dating relationship that ends up becoming very genuine and real. Elle is an astrologer and the creator of a popular social media account called Oh My Stars who begins collaborating with a dating site to help them refine their algorithm based on astrology; Darcy is the straight-laced, reserved actuary and brother of the dating site founder who’s set up with Elle on a blind date. Although their initial meeting is disastrous, Darcy proposes that the two pretend to date so that she can stop the endless stream of setups from her well-intentioned brother. I loved the nerdy elements and references scattered throughout the book, as well as the really adorable relationship that develops as Darcy and Elle get to know each other better.

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker (4 stars) – This was a really fun contemporary romance set in the theater world of London’s West End and centered around the production of an Austen-based murder-mystery live performance, but there’s also a real-life mystery surrounding the ancestors of the main characters. Freddy is a fun, optimistic actress who finds herself unexpectedly falling for grumpy and intimidating theater critic Griff, who falls for her right back. I loved their dynamic, the side characters, and the well-written and tightly plotted story. I’ll definitely be picking up more from Lucy Parker; this is the first book I’ve read from her, but it’s actually the fourth book in her London Celebrities series (although it can totally be read as a standalone!)

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (3.5 stars) – One of the last books on my top 10 TBR for 2020, A Tale for the Time Being ended up being a bit of a miss for me. Its dual narrative resulted in me caring far more about one main character than the other, and I felt that the story dragged a lot in parts. There were some elements that I did find really interesting, but it never quite came together as a whole for me the way that I wanted it to.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas (re-read) (3.5 stars) – I absolutely can’t wait for A Court of Silver Flames, which comes out in Feb, and I’d realized that I’d forgotten what had happened in this novella that takes place between that book and A Court of Wings and Ruin. This is definitely not the most eventful book in the series, nor is it my favorite, but I did enjoy the re-read regardless.

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom (3.5 stars) – I absolutely loved Bloom’s musical show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and two of my friends highly recommended I pick up her memoir/essay collection as well. Bloom’s writing is funny and relatable, and there’s some really great discussion about mental health, but I wouldn’t say that I loved this one.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (2.5 stars) – A disappointing follow-up to Cline’s enjoyable and action-packed Ready Player One. The sequel is slower-paced and the action doesn’t really start until about 1/3 of the way into the book, and it lacks the competitiveness and panache of its predecessor. It felt unnecessary and frustrating, with its references forced rather than fun.

I write about nontraditional beach reads for nontraditional readers