My Feb reading involved several novellas, a healthy dose of romance, several scifi selections, and a new favorite for the year. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!
Total books read: 10
ARCs/review copies: 2
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (5 stars) – I don’t always find book blurbs or comparison titles to be terribly accurate, but whoever decided to market Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki as Becky Chambers meets Good Omens knew what they were doing. This book combines the feelings of Chambers’ big-hearted scifi with the irreverent humor and unconventional demonic elements of Good Omens, but it also keeps itself grounded with a strong contemporary fiction storyline. Light From Uncommon Stars has so much that I look for in a book: it’s unique, creative, written in a way that’s engaging and immersive, and it has a lot of heart, anchored in its young trans violinist prodigy protagonist, Katrina. There’s a fantastical element–Katrina’s violin teacher is seeking to collect her soul–and scifi as well–the neighborhood donut shop is run by a family of intergalactic refugees–but the story still feels so grounded with emotion. It’s an endlessly imaginative book that’s also full of feelings, which is exactly what I want in a great read, and I highly, highly recommend it.
Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins (4.5 stars) – One of my reading goals for 2022 is to read more short story collections than I did last year, since they’re one of my favorite types of books to read. I’m already ahead of schedule after reading My Monticello last month (which is my favorite book I’ve read this year so far!) and now just having finished Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins, which I also ended up loving. The stories in this collection were written decades ago but not published as a collection until 2016. They’re thoughtful and poignant, with themes involving racism, colorism, and complex family and relationship dynamics present throughout. It’s a very short but impactful collection, and some of the stories actually gave me goosebumps. I did find some stories much stronger than others, which is why this was a 4.5 star read for me, and I’d highly recommend it.
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (4 stars) – It’s understandably taken me awhile to feel mentally prepared to read a book with any kind of post-apocalyptic or dystopian setting, let alone one featuring a pandemic. How High We Go in the Dark was my first return to this kind of literature, and it’s a take that I haven’t quite seen before. It’s told in a series of interconnected stories, many of which feature recurring characters and themes, that span a fairly contemporary setting during the awakening of what will come to be called the Arctic Plague to far in the future. For these reasons, I’ve seen it compared to Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven; I’d also throw in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles for a better idea of its structure. As a fan of short story collections, I liked that the story was told this way, but this also of course necessitates that some stories and characters will be more successful than others. The book opens with a beautifully written section that seamlessly combines climate change, family ties, and archaeology, and if every section had been like that one, this would have been a five-star read for me; unfortunately, I didn’t find every story to work quite as well. I think some readers may still be wary of picking up pandemic-related books, and if so, I’d definitely give this one a pass–although not every story is set during the Arctic Plague, many are, and some can be difficult emotionally. If this doesn’t bother you, I think that many fans of literary science fiction and short story collections will really appreciate How High We Go in the Dark.
I received a free copy of How High We Go in the Dark from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Wahala by Nikki May (4 stars) – Wahala follows a friend group of three biracial women who are half Nigerian and half British, and whose different personalities and lifestyles have never gotten in the way of their love for one another–until a new friend worms her way into their dynamic and things slowly begin to change. I really enjoyed reading this book; it switches perspectives often enough that the narrative with any one friend never felt stale. I’m always drawn to novels about complex female friendship dynamics, and Wahala works very well in this theme. I have to call out the Sex and the City comparisons this book is getting, though–the two stories have nothing in common except that both have four central female characters, and I’m not sure why this comp is being used in reviews and marketing. Overall, I found it an entertaining read with a compelling plot that I’d recommend, although some aspects of the ending felt frustrating to me.
I received a free copy of Wahala from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sing Anyway by Anita Kelly (4 stars) – A lovely contemporary romance novella that’s a fantastic exhibit of what a novella can and should be, with the exact right amount of character development, plot, and romance. After loving Anita Kelly’s Love & Other Disasters, my favorite romance of 2022 so far, I immediately went to their backlist and discovered this series of novellas set in and around a queer karaoke bar. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series!
Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (4 stars) – Another great example of how wonderful contemporary romance novellas can be. Skye Kilaen is a new-to-me author, and I’ll definitely want to pick up more from her after this. The romance and characterization developed so seamlessly, and it’s another first-in-series, which bodes well for my future novella TBR.
Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – I really enjoy this historical romance series that focuses on a friend group fighting for women’s suffrage, and although this was probably my least favorite pairing and plot so far, I continue to enjoy Dunmore’s writing style.
Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (4 stars) – An audiobook I started somewhat randomly while searching for books read by one of my favorite audio narrators, Bahni Turpin, I ended up laughing out loud many times during this one. There’s a thoughtfulness and character growth to this story in addition to the humor, and I’ll be looking out for what the author comes out with next.
Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood (3.5 stars) – I knew that this was a novella going into it, but sometimes the stories that authors choose to develop into novellas rather than novels would be better suited to a longer format. I enjoyed the enemies-to-lovers romance in Under One Roof; the main characters had great chemistry and I liked how their relationship developed. I wasn’t a fan of the premise, however, which seemed a bit too silly for me, and I wished that we had spent more time with these characters than we did.
Making Up by Lucy Parker (3.5 stars) – This isn’t the last book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series, but since I read the last 2 books first then circled back to books 1-3, it’s my last reading experience in the series (unless she publishes more, which it seems like she might be planning to?). It wasn’t my favorite in the series, but was still a very cute and enjoyable audiobook following Trix, an aerialist, and Leo, her makeup artist nemesis-turned-love interest.