July was a productive reading month for me, but unfortunately I didn’t end up finding any new favorites or 5-star reads. I did, though, read several ARCs, plenty of romance, a few nonfiction, and several great 2021 releases. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!
Total books read: 12
ARCs/review copies: 3
Witches Get Stitches by Juliette Cross (4 stars) – I love this series so much. In the third installment of Juliette Cross’s Stay a Spell series, which focuses on a family of witch sisters living among the supernatural community of New Orleans, we’re following tattoo artist, new business owner, and prickly psychic witch Violet, who’s fighting feelings for werewolf musician Nico despite a past hookup since her psychic readings show that a relationship between them isn’t in the cards. Along the way, we get plenty of appearances from Violet’s sisters (and hints of relationships to be focused on in future books) as well as their sweet, supportive family dynamics; drama and adventures among New Orleans’ various species of supernaturals; and watch Violet develop a new type of spell related to her tattoo artist skills. The romance in this story is fantastic; it rivals the first book in the series, Wolf Gone Wild, for my current favorite. I loved Violet and Nico together but at the same time could very much understand Violet’s hesitance to get involved with him due to her ominous tarot card reading about their relationship. I can’t wait for the next books in this series! I received an eARC of Witches Get Stitches from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (4 stars) – I was a bit hesitant to pick up this nonfiction book about depression, which turned out to be part memoir, part information and discussion about different aspects of depression, because as someone who’s struggled with depression, I can be a bit picky about how it’s talked about in books. Haig’s take, however, is wholly genuine; his descriptions of his experiences will ring true to anyone who has struggled or is struggling with depression. His goals with this book–to remind people that they’re not alone, and that the world is better with them in it–never feel like they’re being depicted artificially or condescendingly, which I very much appreciated. I’d recommend this to anyone with a history of depression; the audiobook narrated by the author is particularly good.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (4 stars) – I really, really enjoyed this enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance, which is also the third and final book in Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series. I’m actually not sure anymore which book is my favorite of the series (between this one and Dani’s book) but I definitely know that this is one of my favorite romances of 2021 so far. Eve, the youngest Brown sister, has a history of many jobs and career paths without ever finding the right one for her, and after her parents step in to try and take control of her path forward, she stumbles upon a job opening for a chef at a B&B while fleeing the upsetting situation. Unfortunately, however, she accidentally hits grumpy B&B owner Jacob with her car in the process, which means that Jacob is reluctantly forced to hire her to help him out while he recovers from his injuries. Their romance is very sweet, as they discover that they have more in common than was initially apparent, and Eve gradually comes to realize that she might just have found the place for her after all. I can’t wait to read even more from Talia Hibbert; I believe that her next series is going to be a spinoff from the Brown sisters set in the small town where the B&B is located, and I’ve picked up a few from her backlist too.
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (4 stars) – I really enjoyed reading For the Wolf, a fantasy constructed around the concept of a mysterious and ancient forest that demands a sacrifice in exchange for keeping its monsters locked inside–a sacrifice in the form of the Second Daughter of the queen, who is marked as being “for the Wolf, and the Wolves are for the Wilderwood.” Our Second Daughter protagonist Red is determined to fulfill her role, although not for the reasons we might think; likewise, the Wolf she meets in the Wilderwood is not the monster everyone expects. I really enjoyed the magical, enigmatic Wilderwood, the dynamic between Red and the Wolf, the growing complexity of the plot, and the earthy magic system. I’d recommend this to readers who enjoy fantasy with intrigue and a bit of romance!
I received a free copy of For the Wolf from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Out of Character by Annabeth Albert (3.5 stars) – The second gamer-centric m/m contemporary romance I’ve read from this author wasn’t quite as strong as the first, Conventionally Yours; I wasn’t quite as attached to either of the main characters as I was in the first book. That being said, overall I still enjoyed this audiobook and will keep an eye out for what Albert publishes in the future.
Sweep with Me by Ilona Andrews (3.5 stars) – Since Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors, my standards for their writing may be a bit high; unfortunately, although this was a fun return to the world of the Innkeepers and their intergalactic guests, it wasn’t my favorite of theirs.
Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur (3 stars) – The sequel to Bellefleur’s stellar f/f contemporary romance Written In the Stars, Hang the Moon features Stars protagonist Darcy’s younger brother and best friend falling for each other while their friend group attempts to convince the best friend to move to Seattle. I really loved getting to see more of Darcy and Elle as a couple, and I think that the friendship dynamics here were really sweet, but I wasn’t overly a fan of Brendan and Annie’s romance.
You Play the Girl by Carina Chocano (3 stars) – A nonfiction book about gender roles and how they are influenced by pop culture that unfortunately wasn’t overly successful for me. I’ve read a lot about this and related topics in the past, and I didn’t feel that this book brought up any new insights or arguments; I also felt like the author spent too much time in pop culture discussion and description and not enough time drawing conclusions or doing analysis.
The Humans by Matt Haig (3 stars) – After reading Haig’s nonfiction book centered around depression, I was drawn to immediately pick up another book by him. This one didn’t work quite as well for me. It’s a great concept–an alien comes to Earth for the first time disguised as a human and has to learn about humans while simultaneously erasing any knowledge of a mathematical theorem that could lead humankind to advance technologically before they are ready–that I didn’t feel was explored enough to be successful. I also really could have done without the romance that the alien forms with the wife of the man whose body he’s wearing.
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – A fish-out-of-water contemporary romance following Piper, an L.A. party girl, whose antics get her banished to a small town in Washington where crab fishing, not designer labels or social reputation, is the center of life. Not only that, but it’s where she and her younger sister Hannah, who accompanies her for her banishment, grew up with their father, who passed away when they were young and who they no longer remember. Through connecting with her roots, Piper meets crab ship captain Brendan, a gruff, set-in-his-ways-never-leaving-this-small-town kind of guy, and the two rapidly fall for each other despite their differences.
I’ve been finding it a bit difficult to write this review, because I had very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really enjoyed the majority of my reading experience–I think that Tessa Bailey has a fun, compelling, easy-to-follow writing style; I liked the development of Piper and Hannah’s relationship to their father’s town and its interesting side characters; I liked Piper’s growth and new belief in herself as someone other than just a party girl; and I really liked music nerd Hannah and the potential for her story in a future book. But I was really put off by the rigid gender roles Bailey portrays in this book, and the consistently gendered language she used on a repetitive basis anytime there was an interaction between Piper and Brendan. I just don’t think that in 2021 we should be enforcing the ideas that “men are like this, and women are like this” without any acknowledgement of people who fall outside the gender binary, or of men and women who don’t fit the prescribed roles that society may set for them. It’s not only that this is mentioned once or twice either–it’s a constant throughout the story that left a bad taste in my mouth despite an otherwise enjoyable read. For that reason, I’d caution readers about this element before picking this one up, even though there were a lot of things I did like about the story.
I received an eARC of It Happened One Summer from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Teddy Spenser Isn’t Looking for Love by Kim Fielding (3 stars) – A cute but imperfect contemporary romance between a designer and a programmer working at the same startup who are sent to woo a potential investor despite the fact that they’ve never really gotten along. It’s not really enemies-to-lovers as advertised (it’s too sweet for that), and although I did enjoy the read, I wasn’t blown away by it.
Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley (2 stars) – I was really disappointed and frustrated by this one. It’s a contemporary romance with an author/bookstagrammer main character (although the bookstagram components felt very much shoehorned into the story), but unfortunately I really couldn’t root for the main couple to be together. At all. They were both fairly frustratingly terrible people, but the love interest in particular was condescending and treated the main character terribly. To be fair, it’s a second chance romance, which is definitely not my favorite trope, but I really can’t at all recommend this book.