All posts by jaleenajo

May Reading Wrap-Up!

I had an absurdly productive reading month in May, and I’m still trying to process how it happened. I think it was a combination of reading shorter books, reading in various formats on a consistent basis, and participating in readathons and reading challenges. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

May stats:

Total books read: 13 (!)

Audiobooks: 4

ebooks: 2

ARCs/review copies: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Broken by Jenny LawsonThin Girls by Diana ClarkePretty Face by Lucy ParkerWriters & Lovers by Lily KingWriting into the Wound by Roxane GayDisfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making SpaceThe Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan HeThe Body Myth by Rheea MukherjeeRiot BabyHoney Girl by Morgan RogersRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis HallNeon Gods (Dark Olympus, #1)The Ex Talk

Writers & Lovers by Lily King (5 stars) – I have a lot of thoughts about this book, but more than thoughts I also just have a lot of feelings. Sometimes I describe 5-star reads as books that make me FEEL THINGS (in all caps, of course) and this is one of those times. I identified so much with Writers & Lovers’s protagonist, who is the same age as me and struggles with anxiety and obsesses about books and writing. I think that almost all aspiring writers will find pieces of themselves and bits of truth in her character. This book made me tear up several times, either because of the emotions in the story as Casey deals with the grief of the loss of her mother, her debts, and her physical and mental health, but also because of the beauty of its writing. The almost-meta, writing-centric themes made me think of Mona Awad’s Bunny, my favorite book, even though they are very different and Bunny is much, much weirder. Sometimes I really hate books with writer main characters, but Bunny and Writers & Lovers both get it right.

Disfigured by Amanda Leduc (4.5 stars) – A nonfiction book that’s part memoir and part analysis of the portrayal of disability in folklore and fairy tales, Disfigured was a powerful and multi-faceted read. LeDuc has a lovely writing style, and I’m interested to pick up her fiction after being impressed by this work. It made me consider the stories I’ve been hearing since childhood in new ways, and it also includes a lot of discussion about contemporary disability rights struggles.

The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee (4.5 stars) – After finishing The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee, I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author. We’re following Mira, whose husband died after less than one year of marriage, and who turns to books and philosophy in her grief to help her make sense of the world. She has a strange, chance encounter with an intriguing couple that ends up drawing her into their orbit and shifting her worldview yet again. I LOVED the beginning and middle of this book, and particularly thought Mukherjee’s writing itself was excellent, but was much less enamoured with the ending. Recommend if you like thoughtful character studies and short books written in interesting, meandering ways.

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall (4.5 stars) – My favorite romance of the year so far! After loving Hall’s Boyfriend Material, my favorite romance of 2020, I was a bit worried that any follow-up would be a letdown; I’m so glad that it wasn’t. Set at a pseudo-Great British Bake-Off show, Rosaline Palmer is a sweet, hilarious, thoughtful book about finding happiness by embracing what we truly love.

Thin Girls by Diana Clarke (4 stars) – I picked this one up because of a recommendation from Roxane Gay, who mentored the author, and I’m not sorry I did. Emotionally, it’s a very difficult read, and I would urge caution if you’re at all sensitive to reading about eating disorders; the main character is severely anorexic and is undergoing treatment throughout the book. I struggled through the first half, in which we become immersed in life at the inpatient eating disorder clinic our main character has been living at for a year, and gradually learn more and more about hers and her twin sisters’ past, particularly in regard to their relationships with food. The story picked up a lot for me in the second half, though, and I found the ending to be extremely satisfying, which lead me to significantly bump up my rating. I’d be interested to see what Clarke writes next.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (4 stars) – A lovely story about friendship, love, and self-love, Honey Girl is about a young woman suffering from burnout who finds herself abruptly married to a woman she meets one night in Vegas. After finishing her PhD in astronomy, Grace finds herself desperately needing a break before entering the job market, which is already difficult to navigate due to gatekeeping and racism, and she ends up finding herself by spending a summer in New York with her new wife and slowly falling in love with her. The central romance is very sweet, but the gorgeous friendships are given perhaps even more weight, and the story has great messages about the need for self-care and the problems with perfectionism and pushing yourself too hard.

Writing Into the Wound by Roxane Gay (4 stars) – This was a Scribd exclusive audiobook that I believe is technically an essay (it’s only about an hour long) discussing writing about trauma. Gay talks about her personal trauma as well as a course she taught at Yale on the topic; if you like her work, you definitely won’t regret picking this one up. I just wish it was longer!

Neon Gods by Katee Robert (4 stars) – As a huge Greek mythology fan, I’m always looking for great modern retellings of classic myths to pick up; as a romance reader, this was the Hades and Persephone retelling that I’ve been looking for. We have a mysterious modern setup that’s light on magic but heavy on political machinations, with the thirteen main gods and goddesses of Greek mythology recast as the Thirteen, roles that are either lobbied for or inherited and that combine to rule and oversee different aspects of the city. Persephone is trying to avoid the drama and power struggles while planning her escape from it all when she’s unexpectedly forced by her mother, Demeter, into an engagement with Zeus, who has rumored to have killed his previous few wives. Desperate, she flees across the River Styx into the territory of the one member of the Thirteen thought to be only a myth–Hades. The two develop instant, great chemistry, and I loved how they went from reluctant allies plotting against Zeus to much more. The book’s premise is perfect, and it also sets up potential sequels featuring Persephone’s sisters (in this world Psyche, Calliope, and Eurydice, who are traditionally from separate myths) and a whole cast of side characters (my personal favorite was Hermes, who I hope continues to be heavily featured in the series). I had a great time reading this book, and I’m very much looking forward to more Green mythology-inspired romance from Katee Robert.

I received an eARC of Neon Gods from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson (3.5 stars) – This is actually my third audiobook from Lawson, who writes essays that are a combination of funny and serious, mainly about her life in Texas and her mental and physical health. Most of the essays in this collection worked well for me, with one about depression being especially poignant, although some seemed a bit too silly to be believable.

Pretty Face by Lucy Parker (3.5 stars) – the second book in Parker’s London Celebrities series, a contemporary romance series centered on the theater world of London’s West End, but actually the 4th book that I’ve personally read in this series since I read it out of order. My main complaint about this installment is that it has a different audio narrator than the others, and that I unfortunately liked less, but I did like the forbidden romance between a TV actress looking to break into theater and her grumpy director.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He (3 stars) – A scifi YA 2021 release about two sisters, one of whom has disappeared and is trying to survive on a deserted island so that she can find her way back to her younger sister, who lives on a climate-controlled city hovering above the Earth’s surface. I was really interested in this book at first, but gradually lost interest and investment as the story progressed, mainly because I didn’t feel that most of the plot twists worked very well; there was also a romantic storyline that felt very superfluous.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (2.5 stars) – A 2021 contemporary romance release that I listened to on audiobook and unfortunately didn’t love. It’s about two rival coworkers who team up to create a radio show that portrays them as exes discussing various relationship-related topics, which in theory could have worked as a premise if executed differently. As it was, I never found the characters to be very well-rounded or believable, and the plot was frustrating, with the romance taking a long time to develop and never really gaining chemistry.

Reading Tracking Experiment!

So last week, when I was participating in 2 simultaneous week-long readathons, I noticed a definite uptick in my reading productivity, as well as a corresponding reduction in stress since I was channeling a lot of my spare time and thoughts into books. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could duplicate the reading productivity and stress-reducing aspects of a readathon without an actual readathon going on the week afterwards, by self-tracking my reading day to day without any prompts or the social aspects of a readathon. I wasn’t sure whether it would be something I would be able to stick to, whether I’d lose interest, or whether tracking my daily reading would make me feel better or worse about the amount of reading I was getting done, but I thought I’d find it at least kind of interesting nonetheless. And I did!

So, here are my day-to-day stats for my week-long reading tracking experiment. It was a pretty typical work week (aka fairly busy), with a good amount of friends/family time on the weekend, so I think it was a pretty good snapshot of what I can achieve reading-wise when I actually keep track and push myself a bit. I didn’t try to make myself read anything in particular, and instead mostly started out by continuing books I’d started during the readathons last week.

Day 1

Pages read: 14% of Neon Gods (eARC), 20 pages of Honey Girl, 112 pages of The Body Myth

Books started: Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Books finished: None

Day 2

Pages read: 64 pages of The Body Myth, 22 pages of Riot Baby, 13 pages of Hummingbird Salamander

Books started: Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuychi, Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer

Books finished: The Body Myth

Day 3

Pages read: 92 pages of Riot Baby, 17 pages of Hummingbird Salamander

Books started: None

Books finished: None

Day 4

Pages read: 60 pages of Riot Baby

Books started: None

Books finished: Riot Baby

Day 5

Pages read: 56 pages of Honey Girl, 1 hour of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake on audiobook

Books started: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

Books finished: None

Day 6

Pages read: 33 pages of Honey Girl, 1/2 hour of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake on audiobook

Books started: None

Books finished: None

Day 7

Pages read: 76 pages of Honey Girl, 20 pages of Act Your Age, Eve Brown, 5 1/2 hours of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake on audiobook

Books started: None

Books finished: Honey Girl

As you can see, I did pretty well! I managed to read and/or listen to at least something every day, I read from a variety of books, and I was actually able to finish some of them. Let’s take a look at my overall stats for the week as well:

Reading experiment wrap-up stats:

Total pages read: 913 pages

Total books finished: 3

The Body MythRiot BabyHoney Girl by Morgan Rogers

Books started, but not finished: 4

Neon Gods (Dark Olympus, #1)Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (Winner Bakes All, #1)Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)Hummingbird Salamander

So, my reading experiment week ended up being very similarly productive compared to my readathon-laden previous week (last week I read a total of 986 pages and finished 4 books, only slightly more than this week). I still felt motivated and enjoyed tracking myself, and I think that in itself helped inspire me to read more than I would in a typical week, even without an official readathon going on.

I had fun doing my reading experiment this week (even though I’m pretty sure no one but me will actually find this interesting!) and I’m actually considering repeating the experiment next week to see whether or not I can keep up the momentum. We’ll see!

Most Anticipated Books of 2021, Part 3

I’m back again with part 3 of ? of my most anticipated book releases of 2021!

I’d love to have been more organized with talking about all of these fantastic-sounding books, but I hear about different books at different times, thus the 3 (so far…) posts about them. A few of these books have already been released, because I was late hearing about them and still wanted to highlight their awesomeness (and because I still haven’t read them yet, either), but most are coming out sometime in the next few months. (Apologies in advance for helping your TBR grow exponentially.) They’re listed in order of release date, and I’ve included links and Goodreads synopses for more info. Enjoy!

 

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (release date 2/9/21) – I’m a huge fan of short story collections, and this one sounds gorgeous and intriguing; it’s also published by Kelly Link’s indie press, and I’ve loved several of their previous releases.

Goodreads synopsis: Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap’s debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, “A Spell for Foolish Hearts” to the terrifying tension of the urban legend “Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez.”

 

The Centaur's Wife

The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc (release date 2/16/21) – After reading Amanda LeDuc’s nonfiction work Disfigured (which is part memoir and part discussion of the portrayal of disability in fairy tales) this month, I’m really interested to check out her fiction.

Goodreads synopsis: Heather is sleeping peacefully after the birth of her twin daughters when the sound of the world ending jolts her awake. Stumbling outside with her babies and her new husband, Brendan, she finds that their city has been destroyed by falling meteors and that her little family are among only a few who survived. But the mountain that looms over the city is still green–somehow it has been spared the destruction that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Heather is one of the few who know the mountain, a place city-dwellers have always been forbidden to go. Her dad took her up the mountain when she was a child on a misguided quest to heal her legs, damaged at birth. The tragedy that resulted has shaped her life, bringing her both great sorrow and an undying connection to the deep magic of the mountain, made real by the beings she and her dad encountered that day: Estajfan, a centaur born of sorrow and of an ancient, impossible love, and his two siblings, marooned between the magical and the human world. Even as those in the city around her–led by Tasha, a charismatic doctor who fled to the city from the coast with her wife and other refugees–struggle to keep everyone alive, Heather constantly looks to the mountain, drawn by love, by fear, by the desire for rescue. She is torn in two by her awareness of what unleashed the meteor shower and what is coming for the few survivors, once the green and living earth makes a final reckoning of the usefulness of human life and finds it wanting.

In the Quick

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day (anticipated release 3/2/21) – I still haven’t read the other Kate Hope Day book that’s on my TBR (If, Then), but this one sounds too good to skip over.

Goodreads synopsis: June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention, who leaves home to begin a grueling astronaut training program. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station, but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world has forgotten them, June alone has evidence that makes her believe the crew is still alive.

She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégée, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the love that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create–and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.

Equal parts gripping narrative of scientific discovery and charged love story, In the Quick is an exploration of the strengths and limits of human ability in the face of hardship and the costs of human ingenuity. At its beating heart are June and James, whose love for each other is eclipsed only by their drive to conquer the challenges of space travel.

 

I'm Waiting for You and Other Stories

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-Young (anticipated release 4/6/21) – Another short story collection, and one that includes science fiction!

Goodreads synopsis: One of South Korea’s most treasured writers explores the driving forces of humanity—love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence—in two pairs of thematically interconnected stories.

In “I’m Waiting for You” and “On My Way,” an engaged couple coordinate their separate missions to distant corners of the galaxy to ensure—through relativity—they can arrive back on Earth simultaneously to make it down the aisle. But small incidents wreak havoc on space and time, driving their wedding date further away. As centuries on Earth pass and the land and climate change, one thing is constant: the desire of the lovers to be together. In two separate yet linked stories, Kim Bo-Young cleverly demonstrate the idea love that is timeless and hope springs eternal, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and the deepest despair.

In “The Prophet of Corruption” and “That One Life,” humanity is viewed through the eyes of its creators: godlike beings for which everything on Earth—from the richest woman to a speck of dirt—is an extension of their will. When one of the creations questions the righteousness of this arrangement, it is deemed a perversion—a disease—that must be excised and cured. Yet the Prophet Naban, whose “child” is rebelling, isn’t sure the rebellion is bad. What if that which is considered criminal is instead the natural order—and those who condemn it corrupt? Exploring the dichotomy between the philosophical and the corporeal, Kim ponders the fate of free-will, as she considers the most basic of questions: who am I?

 

Madam

Madam by Phoebe Wynne (release date 5/18/21) – I’ve realized that dark academia is a subgenre that really works for me, and I’ve found myself adding any book that seems like it fits the category to my TBR.

Goodreads synopsis: For 150 years, high above rocky Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat untouched, a beacon of excellence in an old ancestral castle. A boarding school for girls, it promises that the young women lucky enough to be admitted will emerge “resilient and ready to serve society.”

Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie: a 26-year-old Classics teacher, Caldonbrae’s new head of the department, and the first hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose is overwhelmed to be invited into this institution, whose prestige is unrivaled. But she quickly discovers that behind the school’s elitist veneer lies an impenetrable, starkly traditional culture that she struggles to reconcile with her modernist beliefs—not to mention her commitment to educating “girls for the future.”

It also doesn’t take long for Rose to suspect that there’s more to the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor—a woman whose ghost lingers everywhere—than anyone is willing to let on. In her search for this mysterious former teacher, Rose instead uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, forcing her to confront the true extent of the school’s nefarious purpose, and her own role in perpetuating it.

A darkly feminist tale pitched against a haunting backdrop, and populated by an electrifying cast of heroines, Madam will keep readers engrossed until the breathtaking conclusion.

 

Somebody's Daughter

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford (release date 6/1/21) – I don’t generally include much nonfiction on my most anticipated lists, which is strange since I do read a good amount of it, and I’m hearing quite a bit of buzz about this one.

Goodreads synopsis: For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he’s the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him too. He’s sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She’s certain that one day they’ll be reunited again, and she’ll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he’s in prison, and she doesn’t know what he did to end up there.

Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn’t know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that’s where the story really begins.

Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.

 

The Wolf and the Woodsman

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid (release date 6/8/21) – I love any kind of dark fairytale/folklore retelling, and I badly want to set aside my TBR to pick this one up ASAP.

Goodreads synopsis: In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.

 

For the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1)

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (release date 6/15/21) – see above, with dark fairytale retellings. Lots of buzz about this one, which I believe is YA but am not 100% sure; it might be more of a crossover.

Goodreads synopsis: For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

 

It Happened One Summer

It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey (anticipated release July 13th) – I’ve been picking up a lot of contemporary romance this year, and I’m quite liking the sound of this one, from an author I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Goodreads synopsis: Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.

 

Notes from the Burning Age

Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North (release date 7/20/21) – The synopsis of this one is pretty vague, but definitely intriguing. I’ve yet to read anything by Claire North, but this may be my opportunity.

Goodreads synopsis: Once, we lived through the Burning Age—the time when we cared so little for the world that it went up in flames. It was a punishment. But it was also a gift, and centuries of peace followed.

Once, Ven was a holy man, studying texts from the ashes of the past, sorting secrets from heresies. But when he gets caught up in the political scheming of the Brotherhood, he finds himself in the middle of a war, fueled by old knowledge and forbidden ambition.

There was a time when the world burned. Now, some want to set the fire again . . .

 

The Love Hypothesis

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (anticipated release 9/14/21) – I love a good fake dating romance, and the title of this one makes me think of favorite The Kiss Quotient, which is hopefully a good sign.

Goodreads synopsis: As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

 

Light From Uncommon Stars

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (anticipated release 9/28) – Possibly the book on this list I’m most excited for. It sounds completely unique while also being compared to two books I absolutely loved; I’ve already added it to my wish list.

Goodreads synopsis: Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in this defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

 

The Ex Hex (Ex Hex, #1)

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (anticipated release 10/5/21) – I used to read tons of paranormal romance, but have been having trouble finding good books in the genre in recent years. This is one of a few witchy books coming out in the fall that’s caught my eye.

Goodreads synopsis: Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

 

Payback's a Witch

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper (anticipated release 10/5/21) – See above! Really liking this witch romance trend.

Goodreads synopsis: Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

 

Comfort Me With Apples

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (anticipated release 10/26/21) – Valente is one of my absolute favorite authors, and I expect this novella to be as fantastic and unique as everything else I’ve read from her so far.

Goodreads synopsis: Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect. It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect. But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze…But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?

 

All the Feels (Spoiler Alert #2)

All the Feels by Olivia Dade (anticipated release 10/26/21) – I really enjoyed Dade’s fandom-heavy contemporary romance Spoiler Alert last year, and we got introduced to All the Feels’s main couple in that one; it’ll be great to return to that world again.

Goodreads synopsis: Following Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade returns with another utterly charming romantic comedy about a devil-may-care actor—who actually cares more than anyone knows—and the no-nonsense woman hired to keep him in line.

Alexander Woodroe has it all. Charm. Sex appeal. Wealth. Fame. A starring role as Cupid on TV’s biggest show, God of the Gates. But the showrunners have wrecked his character, he’s dogged by old demons, and his post-show future remains uncertain. When all that reckless emotion explodes into a bar fight, the tabloids and public agree: his star is falling.

Enter Lauren Clegg, the former ER therapist hired to keep him in line. Compared to her previous work, watching over handsome but impulsive Alex shouldn’t be especially difficult. But the more time they spend together, the harder it gets to keep her professional remove and her heart intact, especially when she discovers the reasons behind his recklessness…not to mention his Cupid fanfiction habit.

When another scandal lands Alex in major hot water and costs Lauren her job, she’ll have to choose between protecting him and offering him what he really wants—her. But he’s determined to keep his improbably short, impossibly stubborn, and extremely endearing minder in his life any way he can. And on a road trip up the California coast together, he intends to show her exactly what a falling star will do to catch the woman he loves: anything at all.

 

All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains, #1)

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (anticipated release 11/9/21) – True, I’ve been picking up less YA lately, but this one sounds too strange and interesting not to pick up.

Goodreads synopsis: After the publication of a salacious tell-all book, the remote city of Ilvernath is thrust into worldwide spotlight. Tourists, protesters, and reporters flock to its spellshops and ruins to witness an ancient curse unfold: every generation, seven families name a champion among them to compete in a tournament to the death. The winner awards their family exclusive control over the city’s high magick supply, the most powerful resource in the world.

In the past, the villainous Lowes have won nearly every tournament, and their champion is prepared to continue his family’s reign. But this year, thanks to the influence of their newfound notoriety, each of the champions has a means to win. Or better yet–a chance to rewrite their story.

But this is a story that must be penned in blood.

 

 

 

What books are you looking forward to in the rest of 2021? Did any of these make your list, and what books do you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

Readathon(s) Wrap-Up!

I’m really happy with the way that the readathons I participated in this week (Bout of Books and the Spring TBR Smash-Up) played out! I definitely think that the extra motivation helped boost my reading productivity, and I picked up a bunch of books that I’ve been really looking forward to. This weekend, I was able to finish strong and also enjoy some of the gorgeous spring weather. Here are my stats for the last two days of the readathons, and a wrap-up for the readathons as a whole:

Day 6

Pages read: 40 pages of Disfigured, 12 pages of The Body Myth, 50 pages of The Ones We’re Meant to Find, 60 pages of Honey Girl

Books started: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Books finished: Disfigured

Day 7

Pages read: 195 pages of The Ones We’re Meant to Find, 48 pages of Honey Girl

Books started: None

Books finished: The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Readathon(s) Wrap-Up!

Total pages read: 986

Books finished: 4

Writers & LoversWriting into the Wound: Understanding trauma, truth, and languageDisfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making SpaceThe Ones We're Meant to Find

Books started, but not finished: 2

The Body MythHoney Girl

Bout of Books/Spring TBR Smash-Up Days 2-5 Readathon Updates!

I’m back with updates for the two readathons I’m doing this week! I’m very happy with the amount of reading I’ve been able to get done during a fairly busy work week; I’ve been using a free trial of Scribd (not sponsored at all) for audiobook/ebook versions of the books I’ve been reading to help me maximize my reading time. Although I haven’t finished any books in the past few days, I did start two new ones that I’m really enjoying, and have been making steady daily reading progress on all of my current reads. Let’s get into the stats!

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making SpaceThe Body MythThe Ones We're Meant to Find

Day 2

Pages read: 60 pages of Disfigured by Amanda LeDuc, 24 pages of The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee

Books started: The Body Myth

Books finished: None

Day 3

Pages read: 45 pages of Disfigured, 22 pages of The Body Myth, 6 pages of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Books started: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Books finished: None

Day 4

Pages read: 17 pages of Disfigured, 63 pages of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Books started: None

Books finished: None

Day 5

Pages read: 28 pages of Disfigured, 61 pages of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Books started: None

Books finished: None

 

 

Bout of Books/Spring TBR Smash-Up Readathon TBR and Day 1 Updates!

That was possibly the longest title I’ve ever written for a blog post! Basically, there are 2 readathons taking place simultaneously this week that I really enjoy and want to participate in: Bout of Books and the Spring TBR Smash-Up.

Grab button for Bout of Books

The Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 10th and runs through Sunday, May 16th in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are reading sprints, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges, but they’re all completely optional. For all Bout of Books 31 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Since I’m posting this a bit late, I don’t necessarily have an official TBR, but here are my updates for my extremely prolific day 1 of both readathons. I had the day off and was able to make a good amount of reading progress by reading the second half of a book I’d started prior to the readathon; listening to an essay from a favorite writer on Scribd; and starting a new nonfiction read.

Writers & LoversWriting into the Wound: Understanding trauma, truth, and languageDisfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space

Day 1 Updates:

Pages read: 181 pages of Writers & Lovers by Lily King, 35 pages of Disfigured by Amanda LeDuc

Audiobook time: 1 hour of Writing into the Wound by Roxane Gay

Books started: Writing Into the Wound, Disfigured

Books finished: Writers & Lovers, Writing into the Wound

I’m not 100% sure what I’m planning to focus on for the duration of the readathon, but it would be great to finish Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (contemporary romance), which I started last month but haven’t made much progress on; to continue/finish Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda LeDuc (nonfiction); and maybe to start something new and random.

May TBR

My TBR for May is looking like it’s going to mainly consist of my current reads, carried over from April. I’m not yet sure exactly where I want my reading to go after I finish those, but I do have a few ideas.

Current reads I need to finish:

Writers & LoversAct Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)Thin GirlsBroken (in the best possible way)

Writers & Lovers and Thin Girls (both contemporary literary fiction) were two of my most anticipated 2020 releases; Act Your Age, Eve Brown (contemporary romance) and Broken (memoir/essay collection) are two of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

Re-reads:

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

I absolutely loved the Netflix adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, Shadow & Bone, and after I finished watching it I found myself really wanting to reread Six of Crows. I’ve barely started my re-read, and I love remembering how much I love this book.

New-to-me reads:

Writing into the Wound: Understanding trauma, truth, and languageHow the Blessed LiveLikes

I temporarily got a Scribd subscription so that I could listen to the audio of Roxane Gay’s essay Writing Into the Wound, which is only about an hour long but I’m sure is just as fantastic as Gay’s other work. And I also want to pick up a book from my Top 10 2021 TBR; I think I’m leaning towards short indie novel Where the Blessed Live. I’d like to pick up a short story collection as well; I’m leaning towards Likes by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum.

April Reading Wrap-Up

I had a really productive reading month in April! I managed to find a few new favorites, and I finally made some headway on picking up some of my most anticipated new releases of 2021. In general in 2021, I’ve been picking up fewer new releases than I’d planned, and now I have a bunch that I feel like I need to start catching up on. I did have a few disappointing reads this month, but overall it was excellent; I also enjoyed participating in another round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon.

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 8

ARCs/review copies: 1

ebooks: 1

Tender by Sofia SamatarThe Princess Trap by Talia HibbertWinter's Orbit by Everina MaxwellOne Person, No Vote by Carol AndersonSecond First Impressions by Sally ThorneTrick Mirror by Jia TolentinoFlyaway by Kathleen JenningsBlood Heir by Ilona AndrewsKingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Reviews & Ratings:

Tender by Sofia Samatar (5 stars) – Tender, an incredibly creative and thought-provoking short story collection by Sofia Samatar, should be a must-read for any SFF and/or short story fan. Divided into two sections, Tender Bodies and Tender Lanscapes, many of its stories heavily feature myths and folklore, while others are set in varied and unique futures. Many stories are told in unconventional formats (letters, journal entries, fictional historical documents) which serve to create even more impact and in many cases realism despite their fantastical and futuristic premises. My favorites from the collection include “Honey Bear,” about parents trying to give their daughter a ‘normal’ day at the beach in the midst of a haunting slow apocalypse; “Walkdog,” written like a school assignment and emphasizing guilt and local myth; and “Ogres of East Africa,” written like a compendium on the topic but with its narrator’s own story interwoven. If this book it’s already on your TBR, it should be.

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (4.5 stars) – This book was a surprise in all the best ways, and I’m really looking forward to picking up a lot more from this author. At its heart it’s a slow-burn romance between two men who find themselves forced into marriage to solidify an alliance, but it also has plenty of political maneuvering and investigations into a murder and potential conspiracy on the eve of a crucial interplanetary treaty renewal. It’s a lovely story about two people from different planets who want to understand each other and work toward a common goal, and everything that gets in the way of that. I think that both scifi and romance readers will find plenty to love in this book; it honestly just made me really happy to read.

The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert (4 stars) – A contemporary romance featuring modern royalty and a fake engagement that also deals with heavier topics like the emotional ramifications of child abuse. This has now become tied with Take a Hint, Dani Brown for my favorite Talia Hibbert novel; it reads very quickly and has a good balance of romance and emotional growth. HR representative Cherry has a chance encounter with an obscure European prince, and after they’re caught hooking up by paparazzi, the prince tells the press that she’s his fiancee in order to protect her from slander and the invasive photos being published. After I finished this book I immediately wanted to read even more from Hibbert. Although very distinct, The Princess Trap has similar themes to A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole (flirty prince of obscure European country has been depicted as playboy in the media but is dealing with private trauma; fake engagement; royal family secrets), which is my favorite novel by Cole, so I think readers of one will definitely love the other.

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – This is the first book in a new spin-off series from Andrews’ beloved Kate Daniels series, and it’s difficult to discuss the premise while avoiding major spoilers. But this book has everything I love about books from my favorite UF/PNR author: lovable characters, believable action sequences, humor, and heart. I can’t wait for more in this newest series.

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne (4 stars) – I’ve loved all of Sally Thorne’s books so far, and Second First Impressions was no exception. She writes with a lot of humor and quirkiness, and is adept at capturing the little weirdnesses in all of our minds. In Second First Impressions, we meet buttoned-up retirement community administrator Ruthie, who’s dealing with a lot of anxieties from her past and finding refuge by living on-site and helping the residents with everything they need. Her world is rocked by a rapid series of events: her boss goes away on a cruise, leaving Ruthie in charge; the temp in her office wants to help her start dating; and the parent company begins a site review of the retirement community that threatens Ruthie’s job and way of life. And most disruptive is the arrival of Teddy, tattoo artist and son of the parent company’s owner, who moves in on site for a temporary job and quickly develops an interest in Ruthie. I thought that Thorne developed great chemistry between Ruthie and Teddy, and I also loved the friendships that Ruthie developed with Melanie the office temp and the retirement community residents. It’s a really sweet, feel-good story, and I’d be surprised if this one doesn’t end up among my favorite romances of the year.  I received a gifted copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson (4 stars) – An extremely informative account of the history of voter suppression in America that is both historically thorough and extremely current. I learned so much about how voter suppression has been an endemic part of American history and the different ways in which it has been used and is currently used to suppress Black voices. It’s a book that could be relevant at any time, but in light of the new slate of voter suppression bills being introduced after the 2020 election it’s a reminder that this is nothing new and that it much be challenged and fought at every turn in order to obtain free and fair elections. It’s a book that should be required reading in America.

Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings (3.5 stars) – A folklore-inspired mystery novella set in a remote area of Australia, Flyaway is centered around a family that has unraveled and a girl struggling to uncover her memories of how it really happened. There’s a really well-crafted sense of place in this novella, and it was interesting hearing about the different folk tales of the area. I found the ending a bit anticlimactic, though, and the scenery descriptions, while lovely, became very repetitive even in a very short book.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (3 stars) – This essay collection was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I thought that some of the essays were strong, especially those that were primarily autobiographical; others really struggled with cohesiveness and contradictions.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (2 stars) – Unfortunately, this YA fantasy, although starting off with a great premise (demons and witches in historical Sicily, with a murdered twin setting off a mystery plot complicated by a possible romance), really failed in its execution of both plot and characters for me.

 

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Wrap-Up!

Closing Survey:

  1. How would you assess your reading overall?

All things considered, I think I did pretty well! I definitely struggled with focusing during the first portion of the readathon, but I got back on track during the second half. I managed to finish 2 books (Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings, which is technically a novella, and Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews), for a total of 534 pages, and listened to 2 hours of Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson on audiobook. It definitely wasn’t my most productive readathon ever, but I’m really happy with having finished 2 books.

2. Did you have a strategy, and if so, did you stick to it?

Sort of! I stuck to my plan of reading outside in the park for the first portion of the readathon, and really enjoyed the gorgeous spring weather. I did, however, think I would be jumping between books a lot more, not necessarily finishing any but making progress on several. Instead, I ended up starting and finishing 2 books after pretty much reading them straight through. I also thought I’d probably make progress on books I’d already started, but instead I opted to start new books.

3. What was your favorite snack?

I don’t really like to snack while I’m reading, because I’m always paranoid about getting my books messy! I did have some leftover pizza for dinner, though.

 

 

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon: Mid-Event Survey & Updates

1. What are you reading right now?

Broken (in the best possible way)Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder, #1)

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson, a memoir with a lot of humor that also discusses mental health, and I’m also reading Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews, the first book in a new spin-off series from my favorite urban fantasy, the Kate Daniels series.

2. How many books have you read so far?

Flyaway

So far, I’ve only finished one book, Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings. It’s a novella set in a remote area of Australia and featuring folklore, mystery, and family secrets.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I’m really excited to finally get to Blood Heir, which was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases. I’m not sure if I’ll be starting anything new before I fall asleep tonight.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

I have! I’ve been struggling a bit this readathon; I was reading outside at a park for a good portion of it, and I kept getting distracted and was switching between audio and physical reading. It was a gorgeous day out, but there were a lot of people around and I was having trouble focusing. I’ll be reading at home for the rest of the readathon and I’ve definitely been more efficient now that it’s quieter.