I read quite a bit in May (not quite as much as April, my most prolific reading month so far this year, but still a lot) and found a new 5-star read as well as a favorite new fantasy book. I’m quite late with my wrap-up again, as I’ve not been keeping up with reviews very well, but better late than never!
Total books read: 11
ARCs/review copies: 2
2022 releases: 6
Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (5 stars) – a gorgeously written collection featuring many stories inspired by Filipino mythology. Others involve futuristic elements or are supernatural takes on contemporary issues; all resonate with meaning and are grounded by characters despite their supernatural or otherworldly elements. Highly recommend for fans of fabulist collections.
The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick (4.5 stars) – This book made me question why I haven’t been picking up chunky fantasy books as much in the past few years. It’s a complex, well-written fantasy book told in multiple perspectives and with plenty of mysterious undercurrents. Our main protagonist Ren is attempting to pass herself off as a long-lost relative of a noble family in the city of Nadezra in order to escape the poverty she and her sister have faced all of their lives, and she soon finds herself embroiled in various schemes and mysteries in a city where everyone has an agenda. It has a wide cast of morally gray characters, including a smuggler trying to go at least somewhat legitimate, a mysterious vigilante fighting the injustice the nobility wreaks on non-nobles, and a member of law enforcement out for revenge for his brother’s death. I was equally intrigued by all of the viewpoint characters, and after that ending I’m extremely curious to see what happens in the next book.
True Biz by Sara Novic (4 stars) – I learned a lot about deafness and the deaf community from True Biz, and I hope it’s a book that’s widely read for that reason. I did have some structural and plot-related quibbles: I thought it could have had one less perspective than the three it had, the ending was a bit anticlimactic, and I thought that the plot often focused in less interesting places. That being said, it was an impactful and informative read, which vastly outweighed its less positive aspects.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake (4 stars) -I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews of this book from readers who are bothered by its “unlikable” protagonist, Delilah, a photographer who is at times self-absorbed, petty, and purposely aggravating. However, as a self-identified unlikable protagonist, I really liked reading about her. I love well-rounded characters with flaws, and Delilah’s flaws had a clear narrative purpose: she spends a large part of the story coming to grips with her childhood grief and neglectful upbringing by her surviving step-parent. Her love interest Claire is more mature and well-adjusted, but I thought that this brought a great tension and contrast to their relationship. I also really enjoyed the small-town setting, tight-knit friend group, and tumultuous sister relationship in this book, which perfectly sets up its sequel. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Blake’s adult contemporary romance series when it’s released, but I’d also highly recommend her YA contemporary Girl Made of Stars for those who haven’t read it yet. Both would be great June reads for anyone looking for Pride reading recs!
The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu (4 stars) (review copy) – I really enjoyed this underrated, family-focused contemporary romance featuring a millennial protagonist attempting to figure out her path in life while working at her family’s struggling donut shop. Our main character Jasmine is a bit adrift when the novel begins, but starts to find her footing when she attempts to use social media to boost the family business, and discovers love and a new career prospect along the way. I think some readers may have struggled with the fact that although a romance, it focuses just as much as not more on Jasmine’s career prospects and family relationships as it does its romantic ones, but that’s something I enjoy as long as it’s done well. The Donut Trap‘s characters are all flawed in believable ways, and I rooted them because of rather than in spite of their imperfections. I think that this book would work for contemporary readers as well as romance readers for that reason.
I received a free copy of The Donut Trap from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert (4 stars) (eARC) – I continue to love Katee Robert’s romantic Greek mythology-inspired Dark Olympus series; although my favorite book so far has been the second one, Electric Idol, I still enjoyed this third installment featuring an M/M/F relationship. Helen, daughter of the prominent Kasios family whose older brother has recently assumed the role of Zeus, is tired of being relegated to just a pretty face or a prize to be won. When a contest to name the next Ares approaches, and Helen is ordered to marry the winner, she instead enters the contest to fight for the title and prove herself worthy of a seat at the table. Her efforts are complicated by Achilles and Patroclus, a couple who are both fascinated by Helen, but who are also determined to win the title of Ares for Achilles. The three develop a relationship amidst the contest, with the power structure of Olympus hanging in the balance.
I’d say that Wicked Beauty was likely the most plot-heavy installment in the Dark Olympus series so far, as it revolves around a three-stage competition with high stakes. The action sequences surrounding the contest were really fun to read, and we also got to meet a bunch of new side characters who are set to appear in future books (I’m most excited for Atalanta; she was always a favorite of mine from mythology) as well as the threat of new villains appearing from outside the Thirteen. Although the romance at times took a backseat to the action, I still enjoyed the development of a relationship between the couple of Achilles and Patroclus with Helen; I think it’s difficult to do that without making it seem like a third person is intruding on a happy couple, but Katee Robert handles it well. I’ll keep looking forward to future books in this series to be released, and I can’t wait to read more.
I received an eARC of Wicked Beauty from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross (4 stars) – I’ve enjoyed every book in Cross’s Stay a Spell series, which is comprised of contemporary paranormal romances following a group of witch sisters who run the supernatural community in New Orleans. This fourth installment follows influencer witch Livvy and her enemies-to-lovers romance with Gareth, one of the mysterious grim reapers we’ve only seen bits about in previous books. I thought that Livvy and Gareth had great chemistry, and I enjoyed learning more about the grims’ community and abilities. I’m sad that there are only 2 more books left in this series!
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (3.5 stars) – I had mixed feelings about McQuiston’s first YA book; like most of the book community, I absolutely loved Red, White, and Royal Blue and enjoyed One Last Stop a bit less; I’d say that Shara Wheeler is my least favorite McQuiston so far. That’s not to say that it’s a bad book–I think it has a lot of great inclusive messages for teens, its side characters are just as compelling (if not more so) than the main couple, and I thought that its ending was really well done. That being said, this did read a bit young for me (it is YA, but I’d say that the immaturity of its main characters would make it appeal more to a younger YA audience) and a lot of the characters’ actions were a bit too unbelievable for me to be fully on board.
Of This New World by Allegra Hyde (3 stars) – This short story collection was the last book I finished during Dewey’s 24-hour readathon (the reason it’s in my May wrap-up rather than April is that I finished it after midnight, so technically on May 1st) and unfortunately was a disappointment. I like picking up books from indie publishers, and I love short stories, so I wanted to love this collection centered around the concept of different utopias; unfortunately, none of the stories were very strong or impactful for me, nor very memorable.
Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander (3 stars) – I wanted to love this cooking-inspired contemporary romance, as that is becoming a favorite subgenre for me, but unfortunately I found the actions and self-centered focus of the viewpoint character Simone too distracting from the otherwise fun story. I think this romance would have benefited a lot from being told in dual perspectives, as its most compelling character, kitchen director and aspiring brewer Ray, never gets to speak for themself. I liked the book’s ending and a lot of aspects of the plot, but I needed more maturity and depth from the viewpoint character and another perspective to make the book fully work.
The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi (3 stars) – A YA fantasy sequel that was sometimes fun, but at other times felt too simplistic in plot to compensate for the great characters and more interesting setup. I enjoyed the previous book The Gilded Wolves more, and I don’t think I’ll be picking up the final book in this trilogy.