Look at me, posting my monthly reading wrap-up in a reasonable amount of time! I read exclusively fantasy and/or romance books in November, not intentionally, but that’s how my mood-reading seemed to steer me. I didn’t find any new favorites for the year, but I did overall enjoy everything that I picked up. Let’s get into it!
Total books read: 10
2022 releases: 10
Love On the Brain by Ali Hazelwood (4.5 stars) – After three disappointing novellas, my faith in Ali Hazelwood was restored with Love on the Brain. I think her strength may just be in full-length novels, because I enjoyed this just as much as The Love Hypothesis. Her writing is very addictive, and this one kept me occupied through isolation due to testing positive for covid.
The World We Make by N. K. Jemisin (4 stars) – I think I enjoyed the second book in this contemporary fantasy duology more than the first; the pacing seemed better and the plot tighter, although I still don’t find these books as strong as other works by Jemisin.
Resting Witch Face by Juliette Cross (4 stars) – This second chance witch/vampire romance has been hinted at since the first book in the Stay a Spell series, and made me reconsider my negative feelings towards this particular trope. It’s a very fun read, but one with action and high stakes as well as a well-developed romance, and as usual it left me impatient for the next book in the series.
Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade (ARC) (4 stars) – Second-chance romance has always been my least favorite romance trope; I don’t like it when characters already have so much past and backstory that the reader isn’t included in, as it feels like we don’t get to know them as much as couples that meet for the first time on-page. However, the structure of Ship Wrecked made this much less of an issue, since we start with our main couple’s first meeting and understand their relationship dynamic by checking in on them at various points during the years they spend together in an isolated filming location. From there, we then get to see their dynamic develop all the way from one night stand to hurt feelings to strong friendship into eventual love. If this was a standalone, the second-chance romance aspect might have dissuaded me from picking it up, but since it’s the third book in a series I really love (that focuses on the actors starring in a Game of Thrones-esque show, and features fat main characters), I was more than willing to give it a chance. And I’m so glad, because I would have really missed out on an emotional, funny, and enjoyable read if I hadn’t. My favorite parts of this book were probably where we got to see glimpses of characters from past books, particularly in the Gods of the Gates cast group chat; I also loved confident, complex Maria as a main character.
I received an ARC of Ship Wrecked from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish (4 stars) – A cute, queer retelling of the movie The Holiday (which happens to be my favorite holiday movie, I think) in which two discontented people swap houses and find love (and themselves) in New Orleans and Maine (two favorite places I’ve visited!). In addition to the romances, there are plenty of discussions about family dynamics, setting boundaries, and self-discovery. Both Hanukkah and Christmas are featured, although I don’t feel that the book was as holiday-centric as I’d expected (in a good way). I also really liked both featured audio narrators, as they did a good job bringing a large cast of characters to life.
Check Your Work by Skye Kilaen (4 stars) – I continue to love this sweet, LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance series centered around an inclusive coffee shop in Austin, Texas. Since I’m bi, I often gravitate towards romances featuring bi main characters, but this might be the first romance novel I’ve read that features an M/F couple where both main characters are bi. (It seems like I had to have read one previously, but I can’t think of any! And now I want to read more.) This novella features a fake dating scenario between a math teacher and a programmer with a twelve-year age gap who have each had an unrequited crush on the other for years, and their dynamic is sweet and thoughtful even though at times I was internally begging them to just communicate and tell each other that their feelings for each other were very real. I plan to hopefully dive into Skye Kilaen’s backlist in the next year, but I’m also hoping that she continues this series.
Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne (4 stars) – Sally Thorne’s newest release seems to be very unpopular among her fans, and although I do understand why, I personally really enjoyed it. This book is undeniably strange and clearly a risk for Thorne, with quite a departure from her previous insular contemporary romance releases; it’s historical science fiction romance as well as a retelling of a classic novel. It’s often very tongue-in-cheek and hilarious, but its humor is definitely darker than Thorne’s past works, and I think that this as well as its macabre premise was very off-putting for many readers. Its main character is undeniably flawed–Angelika is selfish, privileged, and intelligent although oblivious to common sense as well as the emotions of those around her–and although she grows quite a bit over the course of the novel, it’s understandable that most people would find her unlikable, because she’s supposed to be. Personally, I love a flawed female main character, and only found her a bit less humorous once she began to mature. It’s an odd story, one that I think benefits from not being taken too seriously, and is highlighted by a great performance by its audio narrator.
Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall (3.75 stars) – After loving several of his releases over the past few years, I’ve unfortunately been having bad luck with Alexis Hall’s 2022 releases. This is far from my least favorite (that dubious honor goes to Husband Material, which I still regret reading), but I went in with high expectations due to loving Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake so much and was unfortunately a bit disappointed. I have anxiety myself, and I found parts of this book difficult to read, because Paris’s anxiety comprises the bulk of the book’s plot. While it at times rang true for me, I also felt that its depiction was too repetitive and its portrayal could be frustrating. The baking show premise was still fun to read about, and there were parts I did enjoy, but I think I just wish I liked this one a lot more than I did.
Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (3.5 stars) – In my opinion, this novella was far from Rebecca Roanhorse’s strongest work, but I still enjoyed the worldbuilding. The ending surprised me, in a good way, and it made the story end on a much more interesting note than I’d expected.
The Serpent in Heaven by Charlaine Harris (3.5 stars) -In the first three books in Charlaine Harris’s alternate history fantasy Western Gunnie Rose series, our main character is gunslinger Lizbeth, but the perspective shifts to her younger sister Felicia in this fourth installment. I was glad for the change of pace, as Lizbeth’s story seemed settled by the end of book 3, and Felicia is an interesting narrator to follow. She’s young, but jaded by an extremely difficult childhood, and is learning to adapt to a very new set of circumstances while discovering more about herself and her magic. I enjoyed the audio narration as well.