I started out my reading year strong with a whole bunch of compelling reads and a much more prolific reading month than I’d expected. I managed to kick off my Top 10 2021 TBR/5-star predictions list with my first 5-star read of 2021; caught up on several books that I’d meant to pick up as 2020 was winding down; and finished 2 NetGalley eARCs from my list. Let’s check out some stats and reviews:
Total books read: 10
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (5 stars) – My first 5-star read of 2021! I picked up this short story collection after I saw that it was highly recommended by Roxane Gay, one of my favorite writers, and found it to be fantastically, skillfully crafted throughout. The stories in this collection are all very distinct, although many of them focus on themes of racism and all contain extremely compelling characters. It’s difficult to choose favorites within the collection, but if I had to choose, I’d highlight “Happily Ever After,” which focuses on a woman working in the gift shop of a Titanic replica museum; “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” which follows a reluctant guest at a wedding that gets unexpectedly derailed; and of course the title novella, “The Office of Historical Corrections,” which discusses misinformation and racism throughout American history. I can’t recommend this one highly enough; any short story fans should immediately pick it up.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (re-read) (4.5 stars) – I kicked off my intended re-read of the ACOTAR series in January, and ended up enjoying the first book even more this time around.
White Ivy by Susie Yang (4 stars) – This was a fantastic debut novel. I loved its twists, its “unlikable” main character, and its smart subversions of expectations. We’re following Ivy, who is taught to steal by her grandmother at a young age, and who falls for the golden boy at school, Gideon, who’s from an old money New England family. We then flash forward to an adult Ivy determined to make an adult Gideon fall for her–and to become a part of the world he represents. I was hooked early on by the premise and the compelling style, and this book continually surprised me.
A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – The second book in Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women historical romance series, which revolves around a group of suffragist friends fighting for womens’ rights in late 1800s England. I continue to love Dunmore’s writing style and her passionate activist female protagonists, and I really liked the relationship dynamic between suffragist leader Lucie and rake/poet/war veteran Tristan in this book. I can’t wait for the next book in September, which is set to focus on banking heiress Hattie and shady businessman Lucian Blackstone.
Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane (4 stars) – Mhairi McFarlane is becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Both books of hers that I’ve read have been extremely well-written and contain a lot of heart; her main characters are so lovable and are dealing with a lot. In this one, protagonist Georgina gets unfairly fired from her waitressing job and walks in on her boyfriend cheating on her on the same day. She’s facing a lot of judgment from her family, who feel that at 30 she should be further along in her career and/or romantic life, and she falls into a new job at a bar that turns out to be co-owned by her high school boyfriend, whom she’s really never stopped carrying a torch for. It’s a sweet romance that’s also really a story about Georgie finding herself and standing up for herself, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (4 stars) – You can read my full review for this fun contemporary romance featuring a beauty YouTuber and great family and friendship dynamics here. (I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (4 stars) – It took me a little while to fully get into this story, but once I was past the first big twist, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading until I’d finished it. I can see this making a really great movie someday; the dialogue felt very authentic, and it had thoughtful discussions and portrayal of racism throughout.
Headliners by Lucy Parker (4 stars) – Another great installment in Parker’s London Celebrities series; I liked this one just as much as the only other book in the series I’ve read, The Austen Playbook. Parker is great at setting up chemistry, and the enemies-to-lovers dynamic was very well done. Sabrina and Nick, rival TV presenters, are forced to work together due to a company merger and for the sake of ratings, and hijinks quickly ensue. Their relationship evolution is well-paced and believable, and I liked both of them more and more as they began to fall for each other. I’m looking forward to going back and reading the first few books in this series, since I sort of skipped to the fourth and fifth, and I hope that even more books come out in future.
Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare (3.5 stars) – A historical romance with a bit of mystery, featuring a diplomat/spy marquess and a young woman with an undeservedly bad reputation. I loved the premise of this book, which involves the protagonists attempting to discover the identity of a pair of mystery lovers at a country retreat to prevent being forced into an engagement for the sake of propriety, and I overall did like both main characters as well. However, the plot stagnated for a good portion of the book, and I didn’t love it quite as much as some of Dare’s other works.
The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris (3.5 stars) – This is the third book in Harris’s Gunnie Rose series, which is a unique combination of alternate history, fantasy, and Western . Set in the 1930s, the U.S. has been fractured into pieces, with East Coast Brittania realigning with England, the South becoming independent Dixie, Texas and Oklahoma forming Texoma, where our protagonist Lizbeth Rose lives, and California and Oregon becoming the Holy Russian Empire, ruled over by the escaped royal Romanov family. In The Russian Cage, we’re finally getting a glimpse of the mysterious Holy Russian Empire (HRE) when Lizbeth rushes there to help her love interest, Eli, who’s been imprisoned under murky circumstances. Lizbeth remains a pragmatic, antisocial, capable main character who you can’t help but like and root for; I loved that we got a lot more interaction between her and her younger sister in this installment. I continue to be fascinated by Harris’s worldbuilding and the sharp contrasts between the places we visit in each book. I did, however, feel that the writing in this one wasn’t as strong as in some of Harris’s previous books, and the ending left me wondering where the plot will be going in future books. I received an eARC of The Russian Cage from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.