July Reading Wrap-Up (Yes, July)

Apparently it’s now a trend for my monthly reading wrap-ups to be super delayed; I’m sorry! I’ll try to get back on track next month, but July was pretty crazy: I turned 30, and to celebrate went on a 10-day trip to Croatia, which was absolutely amazing. Because my trip was right in the middle of the month, it was pretty hectic with trip preparation and then catching up with life things once I got back. And because it was my birthday month, I decided that I was in the mood to re-read some past favorites in addition to picking up new-to-me books.

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)

First, I re-read the second two books in the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas, which are possibly my favorite YA fantasy books (even if they’re technically New Adult?). I would have re-read the first book as well, but I wasn’t able to check it out from the library in time. I’ve re-read ACOMAF several times, as it’s mine and everyone else’s favorite of the series, but unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoy ACOTAR and ACOWAR as very close seconds.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3)Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4)

Next, I turned to one of my favorite book series, which I was first introduced to back in college: Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries series. Unlike ACOTAR, it’s been many years since I’ve picked one of these books up, and they’re just as fun, funny, and addicting as I’d remembered. I love all of Harris’s little character details, and the Bill/Eric/Alcide love square situation is quite a fun one.

And here are all of the new-to-me books I read this month, plus reviews:

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina LaurenWilder Girls by Rory PowerThe End We Start From by Megan HunterHag-Seed by Margaret AtwoodWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth AcevedoThe Right Swipe by Alisha RaiSweep of the Blade by Ilona AndrewsFix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (5 stars) – As with most of my 5-star reads, I can totally understand why someone might not like this book–I think it’s written to a very specific taste, and the writing style is very Margaret Atwood. It’s also extremely Shakespeare-focused and also extremely meta, so if you’re not a fan of any of those things, you may hate it. But for me, a diehard Margaret Atwood fan who enjoys weird and weirdly written books, and who went to see a production of The Tempest the same evening that I started reading this book, it was an absolutely fantastic read. I never had the chance to study The Tempest in college; if I had, I probably would have gotten even more out of the reading experience than I did, but I also felt that I was able to keep up just fine with having only seen the play. Hag-Seed is a story within a story (within a story?) about a disgraced former Shakespeare theater director who, after sequestering himself in obscurity for years, re-emerges to direct a modern production of The Tempest through his new role as a theater director in a prison. I loved this book because every scene works on multiple levels; it kept me thinking, and kept me engaged with Shakespeare’s work, while bringing new insights at a constant pace. There’s a lot of critical analysis of Shakespeare, and as a book nerd, I’m always going to be into that. It’s definitely not realistic fiction, as you might expect from the synopsis; I’d put it closer to magical realism as far as genre goes, although it’s hard to classify. Reading this book was a fun, thought-provoking experience that reminded me why I fell in love with Atwood’s writing years ago, and why I’ll continue to read from her in the future.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (4 stars) – I read an eARC of Wilder Girls courtesy of NetGalley, and will be posting a full review in the next few weeks, but essentially I’d call it the YA version of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. It was well-written and disturbing, although with an unresolved ending that I didn’t love.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this ARC of a smart, fun contemporary romance that I was lucky enough to win in a Goodreads giveaway. Check out my full review here.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (4 stars) – This very short book about a flood-centric apocalyptic event wasn’t my favorite post-apocalyptic read, but it wasn’t my least favorite, either. Even for the brief length of this book, there wasn’t very much plot or character growth, but I did find the writing really lovely in parts, and I enjoyed the short, prose poem mini-paragraphs that comprised the narrative. It’s not a book that has stayed with me long after reading it, but I did overall enjoy the experience.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (4 stars) -I love being surprised by a book. I’d say that I’m someone who reads pretty widely across genres, and who’s willing to try something new or give a book a chance, but there are always certain things that, when I see them in a book description or review, don’t appeal to me at all and tend to make me want to avoid a book rather than reach for it: epic fantasy with a lack of female characters or set in a pseudo-medieval European setting; anything self-help-related; WWII historical fiction. Add to that list romances with former pro-sports players as the love interest, because that’s a trope that I just don’t find appealing at all. Strangely, I found myself pleasantly surprised by two books with this trope this month, including this one, Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey. On the surface, Fix Her Up didn’t sound like my type of book: not only does it feature a former pro-baseball player as the male main character, but it also deals with a lifelong unrequited crush/hero worship on behalf of Georgie, the female main character. But after hearing fantastic things from several reviewers I trust (namely Chelseadollingreads and Meltotheany ) I decided to give it a chance and really enjoyed it. I still didn’t love the male main character, Travis, but Fix Her Up is a very fun romance with a fake dating trope and a heroine who helps found a feminist organization in her town to help women empower each other. Would definitely recommend this one for fans of contemporary romance looking to start a new series that focuses on supportive female friendships in addition to the romance.

With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo (3.5 stars) – I enjoyed this YA contemporary featuring an aspiring chef who’s balancing high school; a difficult relationship with her father; supporting herself, her grandmother, and her daughter; figuring out her future, and maybe falling for the new kid in school. I especially enjoyed the recipes and how Elizabeth Acevedo describes the main character’s love for food, since although I’m not even close to a chef, I am a huge fan of Chopped and the Food Network.

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews (3.25 stars) – Compared to how much I normally love Ilona Andrews books (which is a LOT), Sweep of the Blade was a bit of a miss for me. It’s ostensibly a love story between Maud, the sister of previous books’ main character Dina, who is a fierce warrior and mother to a half-human, half-vampire child, and Arland, a medieval-ish vampire warrior from another planet (yep) (I’m actually totally into the medieval space vampires, that’s not my issue with this story), but it’s really a sort of mystery/political subterfuge type of story (again, not a bad thing). For whatever reason, I didn’t find the main characters as charismatic as most Ilona Andrews leads tend to be, and the plot was pretty lackluster, while the romance was pretty nonexistent. It was still a fairly fun read, but I’ve read much better from this author.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (3 stars) – This was a fun, quick listen on audiobook; I picked it up after hearing the Heaving Bosoms podcast review and saw myself in the mood for a rom-com. I definitely wouldn’t say that I loved it, because although I did like Josh and Hazel together, the plot didn’t really work for me.

 

Well, it’s basically September now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews (including Wilder Girls!).

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!