Book Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai: 4 stars!

Alisha Rai quickly became one of my favorite contemporary romance authors when I binge-read her Forbidden Hearts trilogy last year, because her books are full of all the chemistry you could possibly want in a romance novel, with the added bonus of fantastic side characters, complex family dynamics, and strong female friendships. When I heard that she was developing a new series called Modern Love, I knew I’d need to pick it up immediately; my only hesitation about reading The Right Swipe was that it focused on a former professional athlete, which is not exactly a favorite romance trope of mine.

The Right Swipe follows intelligent, ambitious dating app creator Rhiannon Hunter, who we actually met as a side character in the Forbidden Hearts trilogy (but don’t worry, you don’t have to go back and read those in order to enjoy this book–although I highly recommend them) and who is laser-focused on helping her company Crush not only succeed but expand and thrive. In her quest to purchase an older dating site in order to expand Crush’s reach, she runs into a one-night stand who committed the cardinal dating sin of ghosting her after an amazing night a few years prior. Meanwhile, her past hookup Samson Lima, a former pro football player who spontaneously retired in the middle of a game to protest the lack of concussion safety regulations, hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her–and actually had legitimate reasons for ghosting. But Rhiannon doesn’t know that, and when she finds out that Samson has signed on to do a marketing campaign for the company she’s trying to acquire, she wants nothing to do with him…until she does.

For me, The Right Swipe was everything I wanted in a summer read. I brought it with me on vacation (the picture above is from Croatia!), and it kept me hooked throughout a 6-hour delayed flight ordeal, which in my opinion is a true test of the quality of a book. Alisha Rai’s writing is smart and addicting, and you grow to love her characters instantly. Like in her previous trilogy, the side characters stood out just as much as the main couple: in particular, I can’t wait to read more about Katrina, Rhiannon’s best friend and sometime roommate, who is a former model dealing with trauma from a past relationship manifesting in severe social anxiety, and Lakshmi, Rhiannon’s supremely competent and confident assistant. But I grew to love both Rhiannon and Samson, who complemented each other in all the right ways: where Rhiannon is more cerebral and business-savvy, Samson is quieter and more in touch with his emotions, and their dynamic worked really well. A lot of summaries I’ve read of The Right Swipe seem to imply that Rhiannon and Samson have a competitive business rivalry going on, but that’s actually not the case, which I was relieved about; they quickly begin to work as a team rather than rivals.

If you look for not only fun banter and chemistry but a healthy relationship dynamic in your romance reads, The Right Swipe has got you covered. And if you’re a fan of smart contemporary romance that features a badass female main character, you’re really going to need to pick this one up, and then start waiting impatiently for the next book in the series (fingers crossed that it focuses on Katrina or Lakshmi!).

Thank you so much to Goodreads and Avon for the opportunity to read an ARC of The Right Swipe!

ARC August TBR!

This August, I’ll be participating in a month-long readathon called ARC August, hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat. The goal is to spend the month reading as many ARCs (advance reader copies of upcoming books) as possible, and I’ve got my hands full with highly anticipated releases that I picked up at BookExpo.

I’m trying to be strategic with my TBR; I want to focus on the ARCs that are being released within the next two months, starting with my two August releases:

Rage (Stormheart, #2)The Other's Gold

Rage by Cora Carmack is the YA fantasy sequel to Roar (release date 8/27), and The Other’s Gold by Elizabeth Ames is contemporary fiction focusing on four best friends (release date is also 8/27).

Next up are the 4 ARCs coming out in early September that I haven’t picked up yet:

After the FloodGideon the Ninth (The Ninth House, #1)Lost in the Spanish QuarterThe Ten Thousand Doors of January

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag is post-apocalyptic science fiction (release date 9/3); Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is science fantasy featuring necromancers in space (release date 9/10, I’m currently reading and loving this one at the moment); Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich is a coming-of-age story set in Naples and is being compared to Elena Ferrante’s novels (release date 9/5); and The Ten Thousand Doors of January is portal fantasy (release date 9/10).

If I have time after reading those 6 books, I’ll try to pick up one of more of these end-of September releases (if not, they’re at the top of my September TBR):

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative FictionThe Future of Another Timeline

Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson is a nonfiction book about female creators of scifi and horror (release date 9/17), and The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, which I’ve already started and really like, is feminist time-travel science fiction (release date 9/24).

This seems like a lot, but they’re all books that I’ve been really looking forward to. To add even more reading to my month, I do plan as well to pick up some non-ARC books (although I haven’t decided what yet). All of the books I’ve talked about will need to be read in physical copy, and since I also like to consume books via audiobook and ebook, I’ll use those media to read some backlist titles or new releases in August as well.

 

Are you participating in ARC August? Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

June Reading Wrap-Up

And it’s another belated wrap-up in 2019! June got a lot busier than I expected (BEA/BookCon and a road trip to Philly another weekend both ate into my reading time), but we’re finally here with some reviews and some recapping.

I really, really struggled with reading in June; I felt like I was having a hard time finishing books, and although I didn’t read anything that I necessarily disliked, I also felt like the books I was picking up overall weren’t as enjoyable for me as I’d hoped they would be. I felt like I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself to read a certain number of books before the end of the month, and also that since the end of June marked the halfway point of 2019, that I wanted to have read more 5-star or standout reads than I felt that I had. I found myself feeling more pessimistic about my reading than I normally do, and the books I gravitated towards tended to be shorter reads because of this. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; I love a tightly written short book, but in this case it was more about the fact that I simply wasn’t able to finish anything longer.

I’m already doing much better with my reading in July, and hopefully my reading slump seems to have abated some. That being said, here are my June stats and reviews:

Total books read: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 1

HoneybeeKingdom of Exiles (The Beast Charmer, #1)The Royal We by Heather CocksThe Rose (The Red, #2)The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidBarbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren HolmesWhose Story Is This? by Rebecca Solnit

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes (4 stars) – an unexpectedly great short story collection that I picked up on a whim at an outlet bookstore last year. There were some stories in this collection that I absolutely loved and felt were 5-star stories on their own; there were others that I connected with less, but overall it was a very strong collection that delved into complicated relationship dynamics extremely well. Favorites of mine were “How Am I Supposed to Talk to You?,” “I Will Crawl to Raleigh if I Have To,” and “Desert Hearts.”

Whose Story is This? by Rebecca Solnit (4 stars) – This is my fourth Rebecca Solnit book, and I continue to be impressed by her concise, clarifying essays. I’ll be posting a full review of this one closer to its release date (September 3rd); thank you so much to Haymarket Books for the opportunity to receive an ARC at BookExpo.

Honeybee by Trista Mateer (4 stars) -After giving a lot of thought to which BEA/BookCon book I would pick up first, I found that the decision was made for me on the first day of BookCon, when I found myself in a long line to get a signed book for a friend and needed something to read. I was drawn to a gorgeous little book of poetry I had purchased earlier that day: Honeybee by Trista Mateer. From the very first poem, I was hooked; I found myself wishing that the line was even longer so that I could read more (and after days of lines, that’s saying something.) Honeybee is a poetry collection but it’s also a memoir of the author’s experience ending a relationship with her girlfriend that had gone from beautiful and loving to unsustainable, in part due to her girlfriend’s internalized homophobia. It’s about the impossible feeling of being in love yet having a relationship that you come to realize is bad for you, and it’s told in eloquent snapshots of the breakup, its aftermath, the healing and questioning and fixating that are all part of how we deal with love in all its messy iterations. Several of the poems in this collection made me tear up or gave me goosebumps; all of them made me feel things. Highly recommend, even if you’re not typically a poetry reader.

The Rose by Tiffany Reisz (4 stars) – An extremely intelligent romance novel full of Greek mythology, great banter, and two very likable main characters.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (3.75 stars) – After seeing this on so many reviewers’ favorites of the year lists, I expected to be wowed by this one. And although I really enjoyed the plot, especially delving into Hollywood in the 1950s-1980s, and the characters, particularly Evelyn Hugo herself, I wasn’t blown away by the writing.

Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau (3.75 stars) – Pokemon-like creatures and undead assassins, with a healthy dose of romance. If that sounds appealing to you, check out my full review here. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casa for the opportunity to read an eARC of Kingdom of Exiles in exchange for an honest review.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (3.5 stars) – Cute, fun rom-com that I listened to on audiobook. It’s really the perfect light, fluffy summer read featuring a Kate Middleton/Prince William type of love story, with plenty of drama and humor along the way. We follow Bex, an American exchange student at Oxford, and her unexpected romance with Nick, the future king of England, and the ensuing problems with tabloids and family drama that we know are coming but are fun to read about anyways. If you enjoyed movies like The Prince and Me or The Princess Diaries, or if you need a fix after Red, White, and Royal Blue, then you’ll like this one. Apparently there’s a sequel, The Heir Affair, coming out in 2020, which I’ll definitely be picking up.

 

And that’s it! How do you deal with reading when you’re in a reading slump? Do you take a reading break or try to power through? Let me know in the comments…

Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag!

We’re halfway through 2019, which doesn’t feel real at all, but here we are, and it’s time for one of my favorite bookish tags: The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out tag! If you haven’t done it yet but want to, consider yourself tagged. The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out tag was created by Chami and Ely, and it’s a fun way to look back at the halfway point in your reading year and re-evaluate your goals for the latter half of 2019. I think the point of the tag is to just pick one book for each question, but I’m never able to narrow it down, so here we go:

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019:

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca SolnitHow Long 'til Black Future Month? by N.K. JemisinThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I’ve only read three 5-star books so far this year (which I’m honestly really not happy about, even though of course star ratings don’t tell you everything about your experience with a book), so I’d say that so far the three of those are tied for my favorite of the year: The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit (essay collection), How Long Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (short story collection), and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (historical fiction with magical realism element).

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019:

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuireA Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

It’s a tie between two next-in-series books I really loved: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (portal fantasy) and A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole (contemporary romance).

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)MiddlegameMagic for LiarsA Cathedral of Myth and Bone

Surprisingly, since I’ve been reading tons of new releases, I still have a whole bunch of 2019 books that have come out already that I haven’t had a chance to pick up. At the top of the list in terms of excitement are Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (post-apocalyptic fantasy), Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (fantasy, which gives me fall vibes so I’m waiting for September/October to start reading it), Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (fantasy), and A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard (fantasy short story collection, which I actually bought way back in January).

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)Ninth HouseThe Grace YearThe Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)

I’m working on a post now about my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2019, which should hopefully be up soon, and there are a LOT of them. At the top of my list are three books by authors I already love and one very hyped YA: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (dystopian, sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale), Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (contemporary fantasy), The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (dystopian, supposed to be a YA Handmaid’s Tale type of story), and The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (contemporary romance). Honestly, there are a ton of books that I could answer for this question; I cheated by including 4 for this question and another 4 for #13.

5. Biggest disappointment.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidThe Bride Test by Helen Hoang

This question isn’t about your least favorite book so far, but rather a book that you thought you’d love that didn’t live up to your expectations. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid has been seemingly continuously raved about since its release;  more reviewers than I can count gave it 5 stars and included it among their favorites. I didn’t hate it or think that it wasn’t a good book, but I also was definitely not blown away by it. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but for me the writing was not impressive, and I was disappointed after all of the hype. And The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, although still a fun read, didn’t quite live up to Hoang’s first book, The Kiss Quotient, in my opinion.

6. Biggest surprise.

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)Bad Blood by John CarreyrouChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi AdeyemiBarbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

This is another question about expectations, which deals with books that you weren’t sure about but ended up enjoying much more than you expected to. I was very surprised by Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, which I picked up on a whim for a quick read but which turned out to be full of memorable characters and the start of a series I’ll definitely continue with; Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, which I was initially wary of since I’m not a big reader of any books about business or tech but ended up suspenseful and fascinating; Children of Blood and Bone, which I was afraid would get lost among so many other YA epic fantasy books but completely sucked me into its world; and Barbara the Slut and Other People, a very underrated short story collection I haven’t been hearing nearly enough about.

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I’m 100% going to be reading more from Casey McQuiston after reading and loving Red, White, & Royal Blue.

8. Newest fictional crush.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

I really enjoyed the first two books in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interests until the third book, A Prince on Paper.

9. Newest favorite character.

Aurora Rising by Jay KristoffNever-Contented Things by Sarah  Porter

I really enjoyed the band of misfits introduced in Aurora Rising, who are described on Goodreads as as “a cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm; a sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates; a smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder; an alien warrior with anger management issues; and a tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering.” I also loved all three complicated, dimensional main characters in Sarah Porter’s Never-Contented Things, which was more about their relationship dynamics, both healthy and unhealthy, than it was about its fantasy story.

10. Book that made you cry.

Honeybee by Trista Mateer

Honeybee by Trista Mateer is the type of book that makes me want to pick up more poetry. I read it in two sittings, and cried on a plane from the emotion of some of its poems.

11. Book that made you happy.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I can’t think of a more delightful book so far this year than Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, a wonderful political rom-com featuring an adorable enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s a fantastic read for summer.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta SchweblinGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring BlakeIn an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

I apparently am very into detailed, multicolored covers right now, like Mouthful of Birds, Girl Made of Stars, and In an Absent Dream.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

After the FloodThe Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryLost in the Spanish QuarterThe Deep

My answers for this question also apply to #12 (most beautiful books) and #4 (most anticipated releases for the next half of the year). After the Flood by Kassandra Montag (post-apocalyptic fiction), The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (historical portal fantasy), Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich (fiction), and The Deep by Rivers Solomon (fantasy).

 

Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? Anything on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. 

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday post, and since it’s finally summer and I’m starting to plan out my reading over the next few months, this is really perfect timing. Because I’m me, I’m going to divide my summer TBR into categories:

  • Backlist books, which today for my purposes is going to mean anything that didn’t come out this year:

The PiscesThe SeasMargaret the First

The Pisces by Melissa Broder – I keep adding this books to TBRs and then not picking it up, but the cover screams summer to me, so now’s the time. I believe this book is about a woman falling in love with a merman, and it’s got wildly mixed reviews, but I have a good feeling about it. It’s also on my top ten TBR for 2019 list, so even more reason to prioritize it.

The Seas by Samantha Hunt – because when I think summer I think mermaids, apparently. This is Hunt’s debut novel; I read Mr. Splitfoot a few years ago and it was one of my favorite books of 2016.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton – this book isn’t summery-sounding at all, but I’ve been very much in the mood to read it, so it’s going on the list. It’s short, which means very portable for summer travels, and it’s feminist historical fiction, which makes me happy.

  • ARCs, because I am trying to stay organized and on top of the gorgeous review copies I picked up at BookExpo this year:

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)The Grace YearThe Future of Another TimelineLost in the Spanish Quarter

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai – my first and only Goodreads giveaway win. I loved Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series when I read them last year and have been saving the first book in her new Modern Love series for some serious beach reading.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – If you compare a book to The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m going to read it; it really is that simple. The Grace Year is supposed to be a YA version featuring a year when young women are banished to the woods in order to rid themselves of their magic; it’s getting a ton of hype and it sounds amazing.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz – I’m not trying to only pick pink ARCs, I promise. OK, maybe a little bit. But this one sounds genuinely awesome – it features dual narratives of 1992, where a group of girls have committed a murder in the name of protecting another woman, and 2022, where time travel comes into play.

Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich – this book hooked me because of a comparison to Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels I devoured a few summers ago.

  • New releases, because 2019 is the year of the new releases (according to me) and I don’t want to miss any amazing ones if I can help it:

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)Normal PeopleSweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles, #4)

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: sequel to one of my favorite new releases of last year, Trail of Lightning, featuring a post-climate change apocalypse world, Navajo mythology, and a badass female protagonist.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: a short book about first love that I’ve been hearing fantastic things about. I’m prioritizing this one in July because I participated in a challenge over on Litsy called #MakeMeReadIt, where you post a stack of books on your TBR and other Littens vote on what you read in the upcoming month. I was actually not expecting this one to win it, but I’m also not mad at it.

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews – because I’m never not going to immediately read every new release from Ilona Andrews. This is the fourth installment in what’s actually my least favorite series of theirs, but it focuses on the badass sister of previous main character Dina and presumably her romance with my favorite of Dina’s love interests, who didn’t end up being the one she chose in the end. (Trying to avoid spoilers.) I’ve pre-ordered this one, which releases on July 16th.

 

What’s on your summer TBR??

Book Review: Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

Pokemon-like creatures and undead assassins, with a healthy dose of romance. If any of that sounds appealing to you, I’d recommend Kingdom of Exiles as a very fun fantasy read.

Kingdom of Exiles follows Leena, the titular exile, who’s been thrown out of her home city for a crime she didn’t commit and forced to do things she finds abominable in order to survive. Leena is a Charmer, who, not unlike a Pokemon trainer, has the ability to find and catch magical beasts, whose powers aid her and whose companionship she loves. She wants to clear her name and return to her mystical home of Hireath, where Charmers and their creatures exist in a seeming utopia, but first she has to capture a creature capable of proving her worth. Enter Nox, whose guild of assassins has been hired to take Leena out, but who finds her intriguing and useful enough to strike a bargain: his assassins won’t kill her if she’ll find useful magical creatures for them. This kicks off a journey through gorgeously imagined settings, featuring a number of wonderful-sounding magical creatures, a healthy dose of banter, strong friendships, and plenty of action.

Fantasy worldbuilding, and placing your reader directly inside scenes that may be taking place in, say, an evil and magical forest, or a city inhabited by magical beasts and their Charmers, can be really difficult, but I think that’s something Kingdom of Exiles really excels at. As a character-focused reader, sometimes I’ll find myself having to force myself to re-read descriptions of scenery in books to try to imagine where exactly these characters are spending their time, and sometimes it can be a struggle. I never felt that way during this book, even though its setting is wholly unique. The variety of magical creatures in this book is another huge strength; every time we were introduced to a new one, I was fascinated by their uniquely imagined abilities, and the powers and world of the Charmers was a great concept.

What I liked less about this book was, unfortunately, the romance. I liked both Leena and Noc quite a bit, and I very much like the idea of them together, but I did feel that the chemistry was a bit lacking for me. I also found myself struggling with certain plot points towards the end of the story, which felt rushed and/or jarred slightly with the pacing that had been established earlier in the book.

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable fantasy read, and I’m quite interested to hear more about what happens to Noc, Leena, and friends in the second book. I’m also very much hoping for even more magical creatures. 3.75 stars.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casa for the opportunity to read an eARC of Kingdom of Exiles in exchange for an honest review.

May Reading Wrap-Up

Extremely belated with my May monthly wrap-up, since June has been quite a busy month so far. I was at BEA/BookCon at the beginning of the month (recap/discussion blog is forthcoming), on a road trip with friends for a long weekend the second week, and have been busy with work ever since. Consequently, both my reading and blogging have suffered a bit, but now I’m finally getting myself back on track.

May was a weird reading month–I’d hoped to be a lot more productive than I was, but I still enjoyed quite a few of these books and managed to finish several Book of the Month selections. No five-star reads, but I was pleasantly surprised by a book with very negative reviews and also found a new great YA series to follow. Reviews below!

Total books read: 6

Audiobooks: 0

#Readmyowndamnbooks: 4

ebooks: 2

Can't Escape Love by Alyssa ColeLucky You by Erika CarterThe Bride Test by Helen HoangAurora Rising by Jay KristoffSeverance by Ling MaMouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (4 stars) -Although I fell in love with Samanta Schweblin’s deeply weird novel Fever Dream, unfortunately this short story collection, Mouthful of Birds, didn’t quite measure up, although it was a solid magical realism collection overall. Favorites included “Butterflies,” an extremely haunting yet brief story; the title story, “Mouthful of Birds;” and “Underground.” While some of the stories were disturbing and creative, some themes and topics became repetitive and I wasn’t overall blown away the way I like to be by short stories.

Lucky You by Erika Carter (4 stars) – This was one of my first Book of the Month picks, and it’s taken me over two years to actually pick up due to me being a chronic procrastinator. I’ve held onto it despite the fact that it has truly terrible ratings on both Goodreads and Litsy, since I sometimes have unpopular bookish opinions and I wanted to give it a fair try. I’m very glad I did, since I ended up really enjoying this book. Lucky You follows three very unlikable narrators, who are friends and/or frenemies and after becoming unmoored in their lives for various reasons all move into a remote house owned by one of their boyfriend’s parents and enter into an experiment to live off the grid. We follow the three women forming and breaking their self-destructive patterns, navigating early twenty-something lives selfishly and with abandon, in tight, well-written prose and a concise account that shifts between their perspectives. If, like me, you really enjoy flawed main characters who are flawed in interesting ways, you’ll also like this book. Recommend.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4 stars) – Unexpectedly fun and well-written YA science fiction book featuring a band of misfits, that reminded me slightly of Six of Crows but in space. I picked up this one randomly after reading a recommendation on Litsy and was not at all sorry. The trope of a bunch of extremely different people teaming up has always been one of my favorites (Six of Crows, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Lord of the Rings, etc, etc) and it worked really well in the context of this new first-in-series book by the co-authors of the Illuminae Files trilogy, which I also very much enjoyed. Lots of humor, lots of action, and many lovable characters. Excited for the next book to come out and glad to have found a new YA series I can get on board with.

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole (3.5 stars) – A very cute novella revolving around Reggie, the twin sister of Portia, who’s the heroine of the series’ second book A Duke by Default.  My main complaint is that I wish this had been much longer; it seemed like the characters really deserved a full-length book rather than a (very short!) novella. The end seemed abrupt, especially because my ebook copy ended at 76% (the last section was actually the first few chapters of the third book in the Reluctant Royals series, A Prince on Paper, which I’ve already red & loved). Reggie is a FANTASTIC main character and honestly a great role model; she’s extremely smart, organized, and driven, but you never get the sense that she hasn’t earned every bit of her success with hard work. She runs a wonderful-sounding website called Girls With Glasses that focuses on basically everything a somewhat nerdy woman could possibly be interested in, which I wish existed in real life, and which she’s turned into a social media phenomenon. She’s also in a wheelchair due to a childhood illness, and the book deals with her disability in a very realistic way, highlighting how one of her issues has been how past romantic partners have treated her disability. I didn’t feel like we got quite as much insight into the backstory of Gus, Reggie’s love interest, but I did like how the plot of the book revolved around them working together to create an escape room. You can absolutely pick this one up without having read the rest of the series, and I think it’s honestly a great place to start if you’ve been hearing about Alyssa Cole’s books and want to give them a try.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (3.5 stars) – I love Helen Hoang’s writing style, and will continue to immediately read her books as they are released. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as her first book The Kiss Quotient, which remains one of my favorite contemporary romance reads, but it was still a very enjoyable, fun read.

Severance by Ling Ma (3 stars) – This book was quite a disappointment for me, and in that fact as well as the apocalyptic/plague setting it reminded me of the way I felt reading Find Me by Laura Van den Berg. The difference with Severance was that I was really expecting to love this book; I put it on my top 10 TBR for the year and had a really good feeling about it since it was pitched as a milennial post-apocalyptic novel and, well, I’m a milennial who enjoys post-apocalyptic books. Severance really unfortunately follows a protagonist living through an outbreak of a disease that forces its victims to repeat their routine actions over and over again before they eventually succumb, and who throughout the entire book never develops even a semblance of a personality. Seriously, at the end of the book I still felt like I didn’t know her at all and couldn’t name a single trait associated with her, because her actions, relationships, and career all seemed completely random and only designed to bring together a bunch of disparate elements that did not blend well to create a book. There were a lot of really interesting ideas in Severance, but they didn’t make any sense together, and they weren’t anchored to a strong enough character to feel impactful. My main feeling while reading this book was frustration, because I kept hoping for a more interesting story which never emerged. I do think that the writing was overall good, and that the premise was interesting, but I really would not recommend this one.

I write about nontraditional beach reads for nontraditional readers