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August Reading Wrap-Up

 

In August, I focused my reading on review copies and 2022 releases, and managed to have a very productive and enjoyable reading month. Let’s get into it!

Stats

Total books read: 13

2022 releases: 9

Review copies: 3

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky ChambersThe Dead RomanticsHusband Material by Alexis HallDrunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie RobsonBloody Summer by Carmen Maria MachadoBook Lovers by Emily HenryCircling Back to You by Julie TieuSummerwater by Sarah MossWomen & Power by Mary BeardCounterfeitThe Guest List by Lucy FoleyFated Blades by Ilona AndrewsBliss Montage by Ling Ma

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (5 stars) – After much ado, here is my long-awaited (long-awaited by me only, but still) definitive ranking of Emily Henry’s adult contemporary romances!
1. Book Lovers
2. Beach Read
3. People We Meet on Vacation
Here’s the thing, though–I LOVED Book Lovers. For me, it took every aspect that had potential but didn’t always stick the landing in her first two books and executed it in a way that just hit perfectly. I both laughed and cried at multiple points in the story, and I identified more with its main character than I have with an MC in awhile (not that I have to identify with a character to enjoy a book, I just liked seeing someone with a lot of my traits that are often portrayed as flaws in a protagonist role). For me, 5 star reads are often the ones that make me all-caps FEEL THINGS, and Book Lovers absoluely did that.

Bloody Summer by Carmen Maria Machado (short story) (5 stars) – This is how you write a short story. Machado crushes it with a story told like a research paper focusing on a small town in PA and its haunting, mysterious tragedy known as Bloody Summer. I got goosebumps countless times while reading this, and loved the mythology and faux historical elements. It’s free on KU, so go read it!!

Drunk on All Your Strange New Words by Eddie Robson (4 stars) – Drunk on All Your Strange New Words is one of those hidden gem 2022 releases that no one seems to be talking about. Its fast-paced blend of science fiction and murder mystery kept me hooked; its deeper concepts connects it to contemporary issues like xenophobia and the questionable accuracy of news reported through social media. It’s set in a future where humans have made contact with an alien species called the Logi, who can only communicate mentally, and utilize specially trained human translators like our main character Lydia in order to navigate Earth’s society. The problem for the translators is that the Logi’s form of mental communication causes a chemical reaction in the brain that simulates feeling of drunkenness, so the more translation she does, the more drunk she feels, with expected complications. What’s not expected, though, is that Lydia awakens after a strenuous evening of translation to find that her client, the Logi cultural attache for Earth, has been murdered, and she soon gets sucked into the mystery of how and why. It’s a twisty, surprising book that kept me guessing until the end, and it was so interesting to learn more about the future, information-saturated world that Lydia navigates through her investigation. I think this one is a great crossover read for mystery readers looking to dip their toe into science fiction, and vice versa.

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (4 stars) – I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ling Ma’s debut short story collection, as I had mixed feelings about her debut novel, Severance. What I found was a collection that was at turns surprising, challenging, and unique, utilizing fabulism in interesting and varied ways as it explores the trauma of past relationships and complex relationships with both friends and family. My favorite stories from the collection were “Los Angeles,” in which a woman’s one hundred ex-boyfriends occupy an entire wing of the house she shares with her husband and children, and “Oranges,” which delves into a woman’s past relationship with her abusive ex. These stories shared similar themes and resonance; although I enjoyed the other six stories from the collection, these two stayed with me the most. I think that the endings to short stories are often controversial because they often are left open-ended, although typically with a note of impact that demands further contemplation; in this collection, I did feel that some of the endings felt unsatisfying in a way that took away from their overall meaning. That being said, I’d absolutely recommend this collection to short story fans, and I’ll be picking up whatever this author comes out with next.

I received an ARC of Bliss Montage from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss (4 stars) – A quiet, ominous novel set in an isolated Scottish valley where families have gathered to vacation, but where the rain refuses to stop as tensions simmer. I’d describe this as primarily a character study (of a lot of different characters staying in the valley) with a subtle disturbing through narrative. It wasn’t as strong for me as Ghost Wall, but still had an impact.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley (4 stars) – To say that I’ve been struggling with mysteries and thrillers in 2022 would be an understatement, so I’m happy to report that my mediocre thriller streak was broken by The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I knew going in that it’s a murder mystery set during a high profile wedding on an isolated Irish island, but I quickly found out that the mystery isn’t just who the murderer is, but who the victim is as well. It’s told in alternating perspectives from all of the main figures at the wedding: the bride, groom, best man, bridesmaid, wedding planner, and plus one, and each story kept my attention and built a fully developed character and perspective. The constant perspective switching kept the pace fast and ominous, as did the creepy setting. I’m planning to pick up another Lucy Foley read during the upcoming spooky season, in hopes that I’m now on a mystery hot streak!

I received a free copy of The Guest List from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (4 stars) – I’m definitely understanding the popularity of this ghostly adult contemporary romance debut from a previous YA author. Florence grew up feeling alienated in a small town due to her ability to see and communicate with ghosts, and despite her close-knit and loving family (who own and run a funeral home) she leaves for New York as soon as she can to launch her career as a writer. She ends up ghostwriting for a famous and widely loved romance novelist, but her world is shaken when she meets a new, intriguing editor and she finds out that her father has passed away. Things only get more complicated when she returns home for her dad’s funeral and her new editor appears–as a ghost. This romance deals heavily with grief and heartbreak, along with complex family dynamics, and despite its ghostly element, I’d say it will be totally fine for contemporary/realistic fiction readers, as it’s otherwise very grounded in reality. The romance itself is sweet, although I did wish for a bit more depth and development, and I really liked all of the side characters and small-town setting.

Women & Power by Mary Beard (4 stars) – This book is actually a transcription of 2 lectures the author gave regarding the classical roots of today’s misogyny, mainly as it’s presented in the spheres of politics and rhetoric. It’s a short little book (about 100 pages) which makes it great for a readathon; it’s also one of those books that I almost couldn’t believe I hadn’t read yet. It’s well-written, but I didn’t necessarily find it groundbreaking compared to other feminist texts I’ve read.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers (4 stars) – The second book in a hopepunk scifi duology that’s focused on friendship, philosophy, and environmentalism. I think I liked this one more than its predecessor; it’s a very nice, cozy read.

Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews (3.5 stars) -Not my favorite Ilona Andrews, but this scifi that can be read as a standalone still works with their characteristic action and wit.

Circling Back to You by Julie Tieu (4 stars) – A workplace friends-to-lovers contemporary romance set in the California real estate industry that does an equally great job of establishing interesting family dynamics and a sweet relationship between its two main characters. I continue to be confused by the fact that Julie Tieu’s books have relatively low ratings on Goodreads, because I really enjoyed both this book and The Donut Trap, but I will also say that readers who felt The Donut Trap didn’t have enough emphasis on the romance will enjoy Circling Back to You more, as it’s much more central in this story.

I received a free copy of Circling Back to You from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Husband Material by Alexis Hall (3 stars) – I wanted to wait and try to process my feelings about this book before writing a review, but that doesn’t seem to be working, so now I’m going to attempt to just process them while writing this. Alexis Hall’s Boyfriend Material is one of my all-time favorite contemporary romances. It has everything that I love about the genre–an emotional opposites-attract romance that begins with fake dating; laugh-out-loud humor; flawed but lovable main characters; quirky yet well-drawn side characters; and a plot with a big emotional arc for both leads. And, at the beginning, Husband Material has most of these components as well; it starts off feeling exactly like a continuation of its predecessor, which was maybe a bit repetitive but I didn’t mind much at first because, again, I’m a big fan of Boyfriend Material. Unfortunately, this started to get frustrating; it felt like we returned to every side character in Boyfriend Material in order to give them unnecessary storylines, while main characters Luc and Oliver were fighting about the same things they did in book 1, except in a worse way, because it had all happened already and (supposedly?) they’d both experienced growth. The arguing only seemed to increase as the book went on, making it difficult for me to root for one of my favorite book couples of all time (and yes, I do understand that in life, couples fight, and that growth isn’t always linear, but the way it was written just didn’t make sense for their characters), and yet the book’s central conflict doesn’t seem to actually arise until the story is literally about to end. And, no spoilers, but the ending was what threw me off more than anything. The central conflict needed a LOT more buildup and groundwork in order to make sense and to have a satisfying payoff, and it just didn’t. I’m disappointed and frustrated; I didn’t hate this book at all, and really enjoyed the first half to 2/3 of it, but the way things played out makes me like the first part less in retrospect. I’d still highly recommend Boyfriend Material (and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, another favorite Alexis Hall romance), but some readers may want to skip this installment.

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen (3 stars) – I found this book equal parts interesting and frustrating; I wanted the world of counterfeit luxury purses to be explored more than it was, and I wasn’t a fan of the ending.

July Reading Wrap-Up

I’m SO BEHIND on posting my July wrap-up (possibly the latest I’ve ever posted a monthly wrap-up? A fun new record for me!), but at least I have good reasons. July was an extremely busy month for me; not only was I the Best Woman in my brother’s wedding, but I also traveled to Portugal for 10 days in the middle of the month. Understandably, I’ve been playing catch-up with a lot of things since then, including book reviews. Let’s get into it!

Stats

Total books read: 11

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

Audiobooks: 4

ebooks: 3

2022 releases: 5

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena ArmasThe Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. WaggonerLegends & Lattes by Travis BaldreeActs of Violet by Margarita MontimoreThe Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. WaltherThe Woman in the Library by Sulari GentillCover Story by Susan RigettiWicked Ugly Bad by Cassandra GannonThe Stranger by Albert CamusJade City by Fonda LeeQueerly Beloved by Susie Dumond

Jade City by Fonda Lee (4.5 stars) – I get hesitant about picking up long, new-to-me fantasy books because I hate the idea of investing so much time and energy into something I don’t end up loving or even liking; Jade City was a great example of why I need to get over this line of thinking. I loved its action-packed storyline, the fascinating dynamics of the No Peak clan, and thorough worldbuilding; I’ve already purchased the sequel and have gotten my brother into the series as well.

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas (4 stars) – Was this a perfect book? No. It is a bit too long, and it took me awhile (like 30%) to really get into the book and the romance. But did I enjoy the heck out of it anyways? Absolutely. Now I can’t wait for Armas’s next romance, The American Roommate Experiment, which comes out in September.

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (4 stars) – This book’s subtitle, “a novel of low stakes and high fantasy,” is extremely apt; it’s cozy and character-driven, focusing on friendships and the establishment of a coffeeshop that brings together a group of misfits. It was nice to pick up a fantasy novel that felt so relaxing to read.

The Summer of Broken Rules by K. L. Walther (3.5 stars) – this was a quick contemporary romance read that’s perfect for summer; I believe it’s technically YA but works well as a crossover into adult.

Wicked Ugly Bad by Cassandra Gannon (3.5 stars) – A really enjoyable UF/PNR read set in a fairytale world populated by all of our favorite storybook characters, who are sorted at birth into being good and evil and treated (or discriminated against) accordingly. It’s the first book in a series, and focuses on a romance between one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters and the Big Bad Wolf as they scheme together to break out of a prison populated by people and creatures unfairly categorized as evil. If this sounds a bit silly, it is, but in a good way; it’s a very fun and funny read that immediately made me want to pick up the next book in the series (a Beauty and the Beast retelling!). This series was recommended awhile ago by Ilona Andrews, my favorite UF/PNR author of all time, who specifically recommended book 3, so I’ll likely be picking up more of these soon. FYI: the whole series is available on Kindle Unlimited!

Queerly Beloved by Susie Dumond (3.5 stars) – There’s a lot to like about this contemporary romance centered around a lesbian baker who’s fired by her anti-LGBTQIA+ boss and becomes a bridesmaid-for-hire in an attempt to make some quick money; the main character goes through a lot of personal and career development and I enjoyed following her story. However, this unfortunately comes at the expense of the romance, which is a bit under-developed in comparison.

The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner (3.5 stars) – This is a historical fantasy featuring a thief/con artist/fire witch protagonist who joins an eclectic group of lady fighters and con artists as bodyguards for a traveling noblewoman; it was fun at times and I enjoyed the central romance but the plot progressed more slowly than it could have, and the story dragged at many points.

Acts of Violet by Margarita Montimore (3 stars) – A cool audiobook experience since the story is told partially in podcast episodes investigating the mysterious disappearance of a famous magician, but ultimately underwhelming in terms of plot or actual content.

The Stranger by Albert Camus (3 stars) – Some classics resonate through decades and even centuries, remaining relevant to this day; in my opinion, this is not one of them.

Cover Story by Susan Rigetti (3 stars) – I’m obsessed with the Anna Delvey/Anna Sorokin story (I’ve read My Friend Anna multiple times) so I had to pick this one up even if my expectations weren’t high. If you know the story, it’s VERY similar, and although it was an entertaining audiobook listen told in unconventional formats (emails, diary entries, etc), the main character was so frustratingly naive that it took away from my enjoyment.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill (3 stars) – I was hoping that this mystery would work for me since it involves a murder in the Boston Public Library (one of my favorite places to go when I was in grad school in Boston) and an unconventional format (it alternates between a mystery author’s letters to a penpal and the chapters of her new book she is sending him as she writes them), but it really lacked in both character development and plot.

Bout of Books TBR!

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, August 15th and runs through Sunday, August 21st 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 35 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Tomorrow is the start of a new round of Bout of Books, a low-key, week-long readathon that occurs several times per year and always helps give my reading a boost. I’m planning on tracking my reading this week for extra motivation, and although I’m not making myself stick to a firm TBR, I have some books I’m considering for the week. I’m also participating in month-long reading challenges involving picking up ARCs and 2022 releases in general, so my Bout of Books reading will likely reflect that.

Possible physical TBR books:

Yerba BuenaHigh Times in the Low ParliamentIn the Shadow GardenBliss Montage

Possible audio TBR:

Lessons in ChemistryThe Romance RecipeMy Mechanical Romance

 

 

 

June Reading Wrap-Up

In June, I focused on reading books featuring LGBTQIA+ authors and characters, and also tried to finish a few books I’d started in previous months. I found one new favorite, thoroughly enjoyed a re-read, and found a bunch of excellent 4-star books from new-to-me authors. Let’s get into it!

Stats

Total books read: 11

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

ARCs: 2

2022 releases: 8

Shake Things Up (Love at Knockdown #2)She Gets the Girl by Rachael LippincottIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanThe Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat SebastianNettle & Bone by T. KingfisherD'Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. HigginsDress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. StevensNever Been Kissed by Timothy JanovskyThe Wedding Crasher by Mia SosaA Mirror Mended by Alix E. HarrowOranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (5 stars) – This is Jeanette Winterson’s first and semi-autobiographical novel about growing up as the queer adopted daughter of an extremely strict and fanatically religious mother. This is also my fourth time reading Winterson, and her prose always impresses me; the novel is full of stories, metaphors, and digressions as we learn about Jeanette’s childhood and adolescence that is dominated by her devout faith, encouraged by her mother and congregation, and eventual young adulthood and understanding of her sexuality, which conflicts with the rigid rules of her church. My favorite Winterson novel remains The Passion, but Oranges is just as impressive, made even more so by the fact that it was written when she was only 24.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (re-read) (5 stars) – 5 stars is not enough. I loved the crap out of this book.

In Other Lands fits right into that niche genre of books that satirize and also pay homage to traditional portal fantasy stories, like Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, or Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, or Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. If you liked any of those, you’ll also probably love this book. We follow Elliott, a young bisexual British boy, who’s given the opportunity to enter the fantasy realm of his dreams–except nothing there is as he expects it to be, and he finds himself constantly challenging society’s expectations and norms. Elliott is extremely intelligent but very difficult in social situations, and he’s constantly butting heads with everyone around him except for his crush, Serene-Heart-In-the-Chaos-of-Battle, a beautiful elf maiden who is also, like all female elves, a deadly warrior. The two of them form an at-first tension-filled friend group with Luke Sunborn, a seemingly perfect stereotypical male fantasy hero, with the three of them gradually becoming closer and learning more about accepting each other’s faults as they progress in their training to join the Border Guard, which acts as a military force policing both the fantasy realm and its border with the human ones.

I will say that if you are a stickler for structured plots, then you may have issues with this book. Personally, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m reading and I love the characters, I could care less about having drawn-out battle scenes or whatever, so it didn’t bother me at all, but I could see some readers taking issue with the fact that the story meanders without following a traditional conflict/resolution fantasy plot structure.

This book is a beautiful story about growing up and learning to challenge traditionally held beliefs, which may not be the right ones, and learning to understand and accept yourself for who you are. It’s about friendship and how people can complement each other while still being from very different backgrounds. It’s about learning your strengths and using them to make the world a better place. It made me laugh out loud continuously and also cry multiple times. It’s one that I can see myself re-reading and enjoying just as much each time. It’s honestly wonderful, and I really hope that more people read it.

Edit: Upon re-read, In Other Lands has become one of my favorite books of all time. You should all stop what you are reading and immediately read this instead, because it’s better.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (4 stars) – Finally finished and ended up really enjoying this short fantasy novel filled with dark fairytale vibes. Nettle & Bone takes a lot of typical fairytale elements–fairy godmothers, princesses, the goblin market, enchanted toys, seemingly impossible quests–and distorts them, presenting them in unexpected and unconventional ways. Characters that might be sidekicks or background players in most stories take center stage, and strength takes different forms as a band of misfits slowly assembles to take on an evil prince. This was my first time reading T. Kingfisher, but it won’t be the last. I’d recommend this book particularly to fans of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, as it has some similar thematic elements.

She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick (4 stars) – This YA romance set during freshman year of college was a surprise hit for me. It’s told in alternating perspectives between two girls experiencing issues in their love life who form an unexpected friendship (and more) when they agree to help each other navigate their issues. It was very cute, had great characterization, and was full of genuine emotion.

Dress Codes For Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens (4 stars) – This big-hearted YA contemporary that is an extremely relevant book to be picking up during Pride month and also in the wake of these devastating anti-LGBTQIA+ laws being passed across the country. Billie and her friend group live in small-town Kentucky and are grappling with their sexualities and gender identities while facing pressure from many people in their community, including Billie’s preacher father, to conform to expected norms. Despite this, the friend group stays true to themselves and work through growing up, falling in and out of love, and helping their community keep its traditions while showing others that you don’t need to conform to be a good person. Honestly, it’s everything I wished Shara Wheeler had been, and I highly recommend it!

Shake Things Up by Skye Kilaen (4 stars) – I loved this second book in Kilaen’s Love at Knockdown series just as much as the previous one, Get it Right; Kilaen has a writing style that’s very comforting and kind to read. This novella depicts the romance between an established couple and a woman they meet under unexpected circumstances that develops as the three take a road trip to a music festival together.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian (4 stars) (ARC) – This historical romance follow-up to The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, a surprise favorite for me from last year, was just as enjoyable as its predecessor. We’re following two bisexual leads, which is great to see in a historical romance, on the run after one of them murdered her husband (she had reasons!). Their banter and relationship dynamic was well-crafted and fun to read about, and Cat Sebastian does a great job at integrating relevant political and societal issues into her romances. I really enjoyed this read, and look forward to more from this author.

I received an ARC of The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow (4 stars) – The sequel to A Spindle Splintered, a remixed Sleeping Beauty novella, this one focuses on the Snow White story, and more specifically the Evil Queen character trope. I enjoyed it just as much as its predecessor; it’s hard for me in general to not want to pick up any kind of fairy tale remix/retelling situation.

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa (3.5 stars) – I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Sosa’s previous contemporary romance set in the D.C. area and focused on the same family, The Worst Best Man, but I enjoyed returning to the setting and seeing a lot of the same characters. It’s got the fake dating trope, which I normally love, but the romance was not as enjoyable for me.

D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins (3.5 stars) (ALC) – This was a very cute, reality TV-inspired contemporary romance between a fitness influencer and a school counselor who face challenges in their attraction to one another as the TV show that introduced them causes them to question what parts of their relationship are real vs. fake. D’Vaughn and Kris are both contestants on the first queer season of Instant I Do, a reality show where contestants are randomly paired together and have to convince their friends and families that they are getting married and planning a wedding in only 6 weeks, all while dodging hurdles from the producers. There’s instant attraction between the two of them, but D’Vaughn has auditioned primarily to win the monetary prize and secondarily to help come out to her family, while Kris joined the show in hopes of falling in love. The two leads had great chemistry, and I thought the premise was really fun and presented the right amount of challenges to their relationship; my issue with the story lay with the fact that both D’Vaughn and Kris were forced to lie to friends and family members that they were supposedly extremely close to, without much guilt or regret, throughout the book. I had assumed that revealing the truth to their families would be a significant source of conflict, but it was handled very anticlimactically, which for me really hurt the emotional resonance of the story. Overall, though, it was a cute, fun read with great audio narration.

I received an advance listener’s copy of D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Never Been Kissed by Timothy Janovsky (3 stars) – A contemporary romance set around a drive-in movie theater and the attempt by our two love interests to unearth the hidden gem of a pioneer female filmmaker. The premise and plot were somewhat fun, and I liked the main character, but the love interest lacked personality and I was never quite on board with their chemistry for that reason.

2022 Reading Goals Check-In

Since we’re at the halfway point for the year, I like to take a look at the reading goals I set for myself back in January and see how I’m doing so far. Spoiler alert: not too bad!

  1. Read all 10 of the books on my Top 10 TBR/5 Star Predictions for 2022

So far, I’ve finished 4 books from my top 10 TBR list.

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole JohnsonLight from Uncommon Stars by Ryka AokiAll's Well by Mona AwadOranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

That means that I still have to finish 6 in the second half of the year, which isn’t ideal. I did already read the first few stories from Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, technically my 5th book, so I have a bit of a head start there.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea

Although ideally I’d have reached the halfway point with this goal, reading the 6 remaining books is certainly something I can do.

2. Increase my ratio of 5 star reads from my Top 10 TBR – In 2021, 4 books from my Top 10 TBR/5 star predictions stack ended up being actual 5 star reads; so far in 2022, ALL 4 OF THE BOOKS FROM MY STACK HAVE BEEN 5 STAR READS! That’s pretty amazing, and it puts me in a good position to hit this goal–all I need is one more 5 star book out of my last 6 picks!

3. Buy more of my books from independent bookstores. I think I’ve been doing pretty well with this goal! I’ve visited my local indie bookstore a few times so far this year, and have also stopped by multiple indie bookstores while visiting family in Chicago.

4. Read a classic. I technically haven’t done this yet; the closest I have come would be Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, a classic of queer literature that was published in 1985.

5. Finish (or decide to DNF) books I started in 2021 but didn’t finish. I’m doing really badly at this goal. I’ve only finished one of the books from my previous list of “paused” books, A Marvellous Light, and I really didn’t enjoy it. (I’ve also picked another one, The Spanish Love Deception, back up, and am enjoying it this time around.) Furthermore, I’ve expanded my list of paused reads to include even more titles, and yet I also haven’t decided to DNF any of them. Here are my current paused reads:

The Memory TheaterJust Last NightA ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)Half Sick of ShadowsThese Hollow Vows (These Hollow Vows, #1)LovelessThat Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon (Mead Mishaps, #1)

By the end of 2022, hopefully I’ll either have finished or DNF’d all of these, but I’m not sure how optimistic I am about that.

6. Read at least one poetry collection. I did this! I read and enjoyed I Hope This Finds You Well, a collection of found poems by Kate Baer.

I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer

7. Read more short story collections than last year. Since I read 4 short story collections in 2021, my goal is to read at least 5 in 2022; since we’re halfway through the year and I’ve already read 4, I’m ahead of schedule for this goal.

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole JohnsonWhatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen CollinsOf This New World by Allegra HydeNever Have I Ever by Isabel Yap

 

May Reading Wrap-Up

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!

Stats:

Total books read: 11

ARCs/review copies: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 8

2022 releases: 6

Of This New WorldThe Donut Trap by Julie TieuThe Mask of Mirrors by M.A. CarrickTrue Biz by Sara NovićWicked Beauty by Katee RobertNever Have I Ever by Isabel YapI Kissed Shara WheelerChef's Kiss by T.J. AlexanderThe Silvered Serpents by Roshani ChokshiDelilah Green Doesn't Care (Bright Falls, #1)Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross

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.

Most Anticipated Books of 2022, Part 4

Because I don’t already have enough 2022 releases on my TBR, I’m here with Part 4 of my most anticipated releases of the year!

If you’ve missed any of my previous posts, here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

As always, I’m listing them in order of planned release date, and am linking to their Goodreads pages so that you can easily add them to your TBR as well if they sound interesting.

Since we’ve already done this 3 times this year alone, let’s just get into it!

 

The Stardust Thief

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah (release date 5/17/22) – This book actually came onto my radar through Book of the Month, and I ended up picking it as my choice for June because it sounded like a great new start to a fantasy series.

From Goodreads: Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

 

A Lady for a Duke

A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall (release date 5/24/22) – I can tell it’s been a long time since I started making this list when I’m already reading the books on it, which is the case currently for A Lady for a Duke. It’s SO GOOD so far, with little funny moments but an overall undercurrent of very strong emotion.

From Goodreads: When Viola Caroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.

 

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows (anticipated release 7/26/22) – I continue to generally be interested in a lot of releases from Tor, and this fantasy romance sounds really intriguing.

From Goodreads: Velasin vin Aaron ever planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead.

Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock.

With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another.

Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page.

 

Booked on a Feeling: A Novel

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee (anticipated release 7/26/22) – I keep searching for more new-to-me contemporary romance authors, and realized I have yet to pick up anything from Jayci Lee. Her newest release appeals to me the most, and I can’t wait to pick it up.

From Goodreads: Lizzy “Overachiever” Chung, Esq. has her life mapped out neatly:
* Become a lawyer. Check.
* Join a prestigious law firm. Check.
* Make partner. In progress.

If all goes to plan, she will check off that last box in a couple years, make her parents proud, and live a successful, fulfilled life in L.A. What was not in her plans was passing out from a panic attack during a pivotal moment in her career. A few deep breaths and a four hour drive later, Lizzy is in Weldon for three weeks to shed the burnout and figure out what went wrong. And what better place to recharge than the small California town where she spent her childhood summers with her best friend, Jack Park.

Jack Park didn’t expect to see Lizzy back in Weldon, but now he’s got three weeks to spend with the girl of his dreams. Except she doesn’t know of his decades-long crush on her–and he intends to keep it that way. She’s a high-powered attorney who lives in L.A. and he’s a bookkeeper at his family’s brewery who never left his hometown. He can’t risk their friendship on a long shot. Can he? When Lizzy decides that the local bookstore needs a little revamp, of course, Jack is going to help her bring it back to life. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to ignore there might be more than just friendship among the dusty shelves and books…

 

The Monsters We Defy

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope (anticipated release 8/9/22) – an historical fantasy heist? Yes please!

From Goodreads: Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.

Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.

 

Heartbreaker (Hell's Belles #2)

Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean (anticipated release 8/23/22) – I read Bombshell, the first book in the Hell’s Belles series, earlier this year and really enjoyed the writing style and romance, so I’m really excited to see the stories of the other members of the friend group play out.

From Goodreads: Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help brides avoid the altar.

Henry, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection. He has no time for the salacious gossip that arises every time the Matchbreaker ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close.

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, it’s impossible for Clayborn to resist this woman who both frustrates and fascinates him. But late-night carriage rides make for delicious danger…and soon Adelaide is uncovering Clayborn’s truths, throwing his well-laid plans into chaos…and threatening to steal his heavily guarded heart.

 

All of Our Demise (All of Us Villains, #2)

All of Our Demise by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (anticipated release 8/30/22) – All of Us Villains was a surprise YA fantasy hit for me earlier this year, and it ended on a surprising note; I honestly have no idea where the plot will go in its sequel.

From Goodreads: For the first time in this ancient, bloodstained story, the tournament is breaking. The boundaries between the city of Ilvernath and the arena have fallen. Reporters swarm the historic battlegrounds. A dead boy now lives again. And a new champion has entered the fray, one who seeks to break the curse for good… no matter how many lives are sacrificed in the process.

As the curse teeters closer and closer to collapse, the surviving champions each face a choice: dismantle the tournament piece by piece, or fight to the death as this story was always intended.

Long-held alliances will be severed. Hearts will break. Lives will end. Because a tale as wicked as this one was never destined for happily ever after.

 

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match

Angelika Frankenstin Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne (anticipated release 9/6/22) – I really did not expect Sally Thorne to dive into genre fiction, but I can’t say I’m mad about it now that it’s happening.

From Goodreads: For generations, every Frankenstein has found their true love and equal, unlocking lifetimes of blissful wedded adventure. Clever, pretty (and odd) Angelika Frankenstein has run out of suitors and fears she may become the exception to this family rule. When assisting in her brother Victor’s ground-breaking experiment to bring a reassembled man back to life, she realizes that having an agreeable gentleman convalescing in the guest suite might be a chance to let a man get to know the real her. For the first time, Angelika embarks upon a project that is all her own.

When her handsome scientific miracle sits up on the lab table, her hopes for an instant romantic connection are thrown into disarray. Her resurrected beau (named Will for the moment) has total amnesia and is solely focused on uncovering his true identity. Trying to ignore their heart-pounding chemistry, Angelika reluctantly joins the investigation into his past, hoping it will bring them closer. But when a second suitor emerges to aid their quest, Angelika wonders if she was too hasty inventing a solution. Perhaps fate is not something that can be influenced in a laboratory? Or is Will (or whatever his name is!) her dream man, tailored for her in every way? And can he survive what was done to him in the name of science, and love?

 

Thistlefoot

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott (anticipated release 9/13/22)

From Goodreads: The Yaga siblings–Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist–have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive a mysterious inheritance, the siblings are reunited–only to discover that their bequest isn’t land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs.

Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas’ ancestral home in Russia–but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine’s blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family’s traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide–erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.

An enchanted adventure illuminated by Jewish myth and adorned with lyrical prose as tantalizing and sweet as briar berries, Thistlefoot is an immersive modern fantasy saga by a bold new talent.

 

House of Hunger

House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson (anticipated release 9/27/22) – I love books featuring vampires, and have been hearing great buzz about this author.

From Goodreads: Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation is all she knows. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper, seeking a bloodmaid.

Though she knows little about the far north—where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service—Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery—and at the center of it all is her.

Countess Lisavet, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when her fellow bloodmaids begin to go missing in the night, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home—and fast—or its halls will soon become her grave.

 

Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble (Winner Bakes All, #2)

Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall (anticipated release 10/15/22) – I can’t wait for this follow-up to Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake! I have so many Alexis Hall books on my most anticipated reads lists, but this one might just be the one I’m looking forward to the most.

From Goodreads: Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favourite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.

But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.

But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves.

 

The Atlas Paradox (The Atlas, #2)

The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake (anticipated release 10/25/22) – I needed the sequel the instant I finished The Atlas Six; I can’t wait to return to these characters.

From Goodreads: The Atlas Paradox is the long-awaited sequel to dark academic sensation The Atlas Six—guaranteed to have even more yearning, backstabbing, betrayal, and chaos.

Six magicians. Two rivalries. One researcher. And a man who can walk through dreams. All must pick a side: do they wish to preserve the world—or destroy it? In this electric sequel to the viral sensation, The Atlas Six, the society of Alexandrians is revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way. But the cost of knowledge is steep, and as the price of power demands each character choose a side, which alliances will hold and which will see their enmity deepen?

 

The World We Make (Great Cities #2)

The World We Make by N.K. Jemisin (anticipated release 11/1/22) – Although I love Jemisin’s writing, I didn’t love The City We Became as much her other books, but I’m still really looking forward to its sequel.

From Goodreads: Every great city has a soul. A human avatar that embodies their city’s heart and wields its magic. New York? She’s got six.

But all is not well in the city that never sleeps. Though Brooklyn, Manny, Bronca, Venezia, Padmini, and Neek have temporarily managed to stop the Woman in White from invading–and destroying the entire universe in the process–the mysterious capital “E” Enemy has more subtle powers at her disposal. A new candidate for mayor wielding the populist rhetoric of gentrification, xenophobia, and “law and order” may have what it takes to change the very nature of New York itself and take it down from the inside. In order to defeat him, and the Enemy who holds his purse strings, the avatars will have to join together with the other Great Cities of the world in order to bring her down for good and protect their world from complete destruction.

 

Ocean's Echo

Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (anticipated release 11/1/22) – Winter’s Orbit was a surprise favorite for me in 2021; science fiction romance in general isn’t a genre I gravitate towards, but I now implicitly trust Everina Maxwell.

From Goodreads: Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe.

Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Like all other neuromodified “architects,” he can impose his will onto others, and he’s under orders to control Tennal by merging their minds.

Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal’s escape.

Their best chance arrives with a salvage-retrieval mission into chaotic space—to the very neuromodifcation lab that Surit’s traitor mother destroyed twenty years ago. And among the rubble is a treasure both terrible and unimaginably powerful, one that upends a decades-old power struggle, and begins a war.

Tennal and Surit can no longer abandon their unit or their world. The only way to avoid life under full military control is to complete the very sync they’ve been faking.

Can two unwilling weapons of war bring about peace?

 

Even Though I Knew the End

Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk (anticipated release 11/8/22) – I always keep an eye on upcoming Tor.com novellas, and this queer historical fantasy has really caught my attention.

From Goodreads: A magical detective dives into the affairs of Chicago’s divine monsters to secure a future with the love of her life. This sapphic period piece will dazzle anyone looking for mystery, intrigue, romance, magic, or all of the above.

An exiled augur who sold her soul to save her brother’s life is offered one last job before serving an eternity in hell. When she turns it down, her client sweetens the pot by offering up the one payment she can’t resist―the chance to have a future where she grows old with the woman she loves.

To succeed, she is given three days to track down the White City Vampire, Chicago’s most notorious serial killer. If she fails, only hell and heartbreak await.

 

Ship Wrecked (Spoiler Alert, #3)

Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade (anticipated release 11/15/22) – After enjoying both Spoiler Alert and All the Feels, I have high hopes for the third romance in Dade’s geeky contemporary romance series.

From Goodreads: Maria’s one-night-stand—the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note—just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends—possibly even best friends—but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.

 

Two Wrongs Make a Right

Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese (anticipated release 11/22/22) – I think I’ve now read 2 of Chloe Liese’s contemporary romances, which I liked but didn’t love, and the Shakespeare inspiration behind her newest release makes me think that this could become my favorite of hers.

From Goodreads: Opposites become allies to fool their matchmaking friends in this swoony reimagining of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.

Jamie Westenberg and Bea Wilmot have nothing in common except a meet-disaster and the mutual understanding that they couldn’t be more wrong for each other. But when the people closest to them play Cupid and trick them into going on a date, Jamie and Bea realize they have something else in common after all—an undeniable need for revenge.

Soon their plan is in place: Fake date obnoxiously and convince the meddlers they’re madly in love. Then, break up spectacularly and dash their hopes, putting an end to the matchmaking madness once and for all.

To convince everyone that they’ve fallen for each other, Jamie and Bea will have to nail the performance of their lives. But as their final act nears and playing lovers becomes easier than not, they begin to wonder, what if Cupid’s arrow wasn’t so off the mark? And what if two wrongs do make a right?

 

The Two Doctors Górski

The Two Doctors Gorski by Isaac Fellman (anticipated release 11/29/22) –

From Goodreads: Annae, a brilliant graduate student in psychiatric magic and survivor of academic abuse, can’t stop reading people’s minds. This is how she protects herself, by using her abilities to give her colleagues what they each want out of their relationship with her.

When Annae moves to the UK to rebuild her life and finds herself studying under the infamous, misanthropic magician Marec Górski, she sees inside his head a dangerous path to her redemption. Annae now faces two choices—follow in Dr. Górski’s lead, or break free of a lifetime of conditioning to follow her own path.

 

Alone With You in the Ether

Alone With You in the Ether: A Love Story by Olivie Blake (anticipated re-release 12/6/22) – The Atlas Six introduced me to the lovely, emotional writing of Olivie Blake, and now I want to read everything she writes. Luckily, Tor is re-releasing one of her earlier indie releases, which sounds like it will be gorgeous.

From Goodreads:

CHICAGO, SOMETIME —
Two people meet in the armory of the Art Institute by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy.
After their meeting, those things do not change. Everything else, however, is slightly different.
Both obsessive, eccentric personalities, Aldo Damiani and Charlotte Regan struggle to be without each other from the moment they meet. The truth—that he is a clinically depressed, anti-social theoretician and she is a manipulative liar with a history of self-sabotage—means the deeper they fall in love, the more troubling their reliance on each other becomes.
An intimate study of time and space, ALONE WITH YOU IN THE ETHER is a fantasy writer’s magicless glimpse into the nature of love, what it means to be unwell, and how to face the fractures of yourself and still love as if you’re not broken

 

Never Ever Getting Back Together

Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales (anticipated release 12/6/22) – I discovered this book somewhat accidentally when it was available to download from NetGalley, and then wondered how I hadn’t already heard about it. It’s set on a reality TV show, which is somewhat of a trend in contemporary romance, and features an F/F romance. I feel like I’m likely to read this one long before its December release date because it sounds very fun (and is named after a Tswift song, which I can’t be mad about).

From Goodreads: It’s been two years since Maya dumped her cheating ex-boyfriend Jordy, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country, and in the lead up to the wedding he captured hearts globally as the eligible younger brother. So, when Maya receives an invitation to be a contestant on Second Chance Romance, a new reality show in which the now-famous Jordy will re-date his ex-girlfriends in an effort to find “the one that got away,” she isn’t interested…that is, until she realizes she can use this opportunity to exact her revenge. If she can make it to the finale, she can reject Jordy and publicly break his heart. As far as Maya’s concerned, it’s payback with interest: just what a guy like Jordy deserves.

But when she gets to the set, she’s confronted with the one person she hasn’t accounted for: Skye, the beautiful, charismatic girl Jordy cheated on Maya with. How is she supposed to live with this girl for six weeks? Sharing bunkbeds, for crying out loud?

Except, of course, there’s more to Skye than she lets most people see. Skye has her own reasons for being careful with her heart, and might be more willing to take Maya’s side than it initially seems. If they can sustain their reluctant alliance—and keep their unexpected chemistry from interfering—they might just have a chance to take Jordy down.

 

Witcha Gonna Do

Witcha Gonna Do? by Avery Flynn (anticipated release 12/6/22) – I can’t help but be intrigued by any cute-sounding witchy romance, and I find the cover really appealing.

From GoodreadsCould it possibly get any worse than having absolutely no magical abilities when you’re a member of the most powerful family of witches ever? It used to be that I’d say no, but then I keep getting set up on dates with Gil Connolly whose hotness is only matched by his ego. Seriously. I can’t stand him. Even if I also can’t stop thinking about him (specifically kissing him) but we’re going to pretend I never told you that part.

So yeah, my life isn’t the greatest right now, but then it goes straight to the absolute worst hell when I accidentally make my sister’s spell glitch and curse my whole family. And the only person who can help non-magical me break the spell? You guessed it. Gil the super hot jerk.

Now we have to work together to save my family and outmaneuver some evil-minded nefarious forces bent on world domination. Oh yeah, and we have to do all that while fighting against the attraction building between us because I may not be magical, but what’s happening between Gil and I sure feels like it.

April Reading Wrap-Up!

 

April was my most prolific reading month so far this year, thanks mainly to Dewey’s 24-hour readathon. There were no full 5-star reads this month, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy most of what I read. Let’s get into it!

Stats

Total books read: 13(!)

ARCs/review copies: 2

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 9

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate MascarenhasWild and Wicked Things by Francesca MayHook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa BaileyMilk Fed by Melissa BroderBombshell by Sarah MacLeanBelow Zero by Ali HazelwoodFirekeeper's Daughter by Angeline BoulleySadie on a PlateThe Past Is Red by Catherynne M. ValenteOnly a Monster by Vanessa LenHeartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)Boyfriend Material by Alexis HallI Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer

The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (4.5 stars) – I continue to be a huge Valente fan; she’s yet to disappoint me. For some reason, I went into this novella with lower expectations than I have with her novels, but I shouldn’t have worried; it’s just as intricate and creative as her full-length works tend to be. It’s a dark story with a lighter tone, which provides an interesting contrast throughout, and it’s full of themes of environmentalism and wealth inequality while also turning the nature of optimism vs. pessimism on its head. It’s a good introduction to Valente and also a great readathon pick.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (re-read) (4.5 stars) – I enjoyed this sweet, wonderful, big-hearted contemporary romance just as much the second time as I did the first time. Its sequel, Husband Material, comes out this summer, and I wanted to refresh myself on the characters before I picked it up.

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (4 stars) – I really enjoyed my first experience with Melissa Broder’s writing. As a not-religious Jewish woman with a history of a difficult relationship with food, there were a lot of elements of the main character that I identified with, and I thought that her depiction of disordered eating (while it might be very triggering for some to read) was done very well. I also liked the stylistic choices of short chapters and straightforward, declarative sentences, although I could have gone without some of the descriptions she chose to include. I hope to soon pick up The Pisces as well, which has sat on my TBR shelf for an embarrassingly long period of time.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (4 stars) – My relationship with YA books is a rocky one lately, but this one had so many glowing reviews that I had to pick it up. I’d say that it’s definitely geared towards more mature YA readers, as it deals with a lot of really difficult topics, and I found it to be well-written and grounded in the characterization of its protagonist, Daunis, who is one of the most well-rounded YA heroines I think I’ve ever read about. I learned a lot while reading it, and though I don’t think the plot is without its flaws, it was still a strong read for me.

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May (4 stars) – Wild and Wicked Things is a darkly atmospheric historical fantasy set on a fictional island off the coast of post-WWI England, in an alternate history where magic has recently been banned after its less than savory aspects were put on display during the war. Our protagonist Annie finds herself on Crow Island for the summer after the death of her estranged father, ostensibly to settle his estate, but finds herself embroiled in the island’s undercurrents of illegal magic. She reunites with a childhood friend who mysteriously left home for Crow Island a year earlier, and also meets her intriguing next-door neighbor, Emmeline, whose reputation of hosting wild, witchcraft-infused parties precedes her.

I’ve recently gotten a lot more interested in historical fantasy, and Wild and Wicked Things was a great example of how to infuse fantastical elements in ways that emphasize the actual tones of an era, like underscoring the horrors of World War I and compounding the excesses of wild 1920s parties. Wild and Wicked Things shines in its foreboding tone and depictions of magic, personified by Emmeline and her siblings Nathan and Isobel; their characters were well-crafted yet made the reader want to see more of them every time they left the page. I found protagonist Annie’s character to be less compelling, although she does serve as a naive window into a new world for the reader. I thought that the book’s mysterious undercurrents and flashbacks were well done, but it did feel overly long and dragged at times that could have been more concise.

I received an eARC of Wild and Wicked Things from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (4 stars) – I’m not much of a mystery reader, but I do like when mystery is ensconced inside of another genre, like science fiction in this case. This is an interesting alternate history SF murder mystery with an almost entirely female cast of characters that takes on the history of unjust treatment towards people, especially women, with mental illnesses as one of its core themes. The worldbuilding and treatment of time travel and in particular the insular culture of time travelers was very interesting, but I thought there were too many perspective shifts, which muddled the story a bit.

Bombshell by Sarah MacLean (4 stars) – Bombshell by Sarah MacLean is a great example of the fact that sometimes you need to give an author you’re not sure about a second chance!

A few years ago, I decided to give historical romance a try by picking up A Scot in the Dark, which I’d heard recommended on a podcast. And…it really didn’t work for me. (I think not vibing with the audio narrator may have been a contributing factor.) But then I started hearing about Bombshell, which centers around a friend group that’s part of a feminist organization secretly protecting and getting revenge for women in Regency London, and I was intrigued enough to try this author again. I’m so glad I did–Sesily is a mature heroine (she’s 30! usually unheard of in historicals) who owns her sexuality and harbors a deep commitment to helping others. Her love interest Caleb is (gasp!) an American she’s had a thing for for awhile, but that didn’t bother me the way it sometimes can in books. I’m really looking forward to more in this series as well, since Sesily’s three best friends are all strong and interesting characters in their own right.

I received a free copy of Bombshell from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer (4 stars) – The concept of this poetry collection–found poems made using hate-filled DMs, political speeches, and in a few cases fan letters–is fantastic, as is the way Baer manages to shift the messages of the original texts using their own words.

Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this delightful contemporary romance, and I feel like it deserves more attention than it’s been getting. If you, like me, are a Top Chef fan (my all-time favorites are Stephanie Izard, whose restaurants I’ve been lucky enough to eat at and were PHENOMENAL, and Melissa King) then you really need to check this one out. The cooking competition central to the story is very closely based on Top Chef, and at times reading it was almost like watching an episode. As a Jewish chick myself, I also really liked that our main character Sadie’s culinary perspective was modern spins on traditional Jewish dishes. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the love-interest-as-judge premise, but I think the execution really worked, and I liked Sadie’s friendships with her fellow contestants just as much as the romance. Recommend to fans of both Top Chef and contemporary romance, and I thought the audio was very well done!

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (3.5 stars) – Mixed feelings about this hyped YA fantasy new release. It was a very fast read, which worked well for Dewey’s 24-Hour readathon, but it never quite delved deeply enough into its themes or characters for me. I’d say that I liked it but didn’t love it; I’m not sure whether or not I’ll reach for the sequel when it comes out.

Heartstopper, Vol 1 by Alice Oseman (3.5 stars) – After watching the adorable Netflix adaptation of this graphic novel, I wanted to check out the source material, which was also very cute. Personally, I actually liked the show version a lot better, and would highly recommend it!

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – Although I enjoyed this book’s plot and romance more than the previous installment in this series, It Happened One Summer, I continue to take issue with Tessa Bailey’s outdated use of gendered language and stereotypes. I’d really like to see this author take into account that being tall/short/big/small does not make a person more masculine or feminine, and that people outside the gender binary exist as well. Outside of that not insignificant issue, this was a fun read for the most part, with a likable protagonist in Hannah, but it was frustrating that she was doing 99% of the work in the relationship and that this was never adequately reciprocated or addressed.

Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood (3 stars) – I continue to be less than thrilled with this novella audiobook series. I thought that the Arctic setting could add an interesting dimension to this last installment, but it was too similar to and suffered from the same issues as the previous two novellas.

Bout of Books Updates: Days 1-3

Grab button for Bout of Books

Here with my first few days of updates for this round of Bout of Books! I normally start off readathons with novellas or shorter books so that I can finish things more quickly, but this readathon was more about making progress on my current reads. I read from 4 of those reads during these first few days of the readathon, and even managed to finish one (an eARC, which is extra helpful since it comes out next month).

Never Have I EverThe Wedding CrasherWicked Beauty (Dark Olympus, #3)I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Day 1

Books started: none

Books finished: none

Pages read: 58 pages of Never Have I Ever, 40 pages of The Wedding Crasher, 120 pages of Wicked Beauty

Day 2

Books started: none

Books finished: none

Pages read: 47 pages of Never Have I Ever, 102 pages of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Day 3

Books started: none

Books finished: Wicked Beauty

Pages read: 56 pages of Wicked Beauty, 71 pages of Never Have I Ever, 32 pages of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

 

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon TBR and Plans

It’s time for another round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon! I had a really stressful day at work today, so a day dedicated to reading is just what I need tomorrow. I have a fairly solid TBR, a loose game plan, and the Do Not Disturb setting ready to go on my phone, so let’s get started!

For my TBR, I’m looking to focus on short books, highly anticipated 2022 releases, and a mixture of book formats so that I have a lot of options if my energy/attention starts to flag.

Novellas

The Past Is RedSummerwater

I’ve had previous 5-star reads from both of these authors (Deathless, Radiance, and Space Opera from Catherynne M. Valente, and Ghost Wall from Sarah Moss) so I have high hopes for these novellas.

Poetry, graphic novels, short stories

I Hope This Finds You WellHeartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)Of This New World

I watched the new Netflix show Heartstopper last weekend and decided to order the graphic novel, even though I’ve had mixed feelings about the format in the past; I figured it could help mix things up during the readathon. I also keep meaning to pick up Kate Baer’s poetry collection that my friend sent me a few months ago, and it’s very short so this is the perfect chance. And I always like to include a short story collection on my TBR; I think this is the shortest one on my shelf.

Full-length 2022 releases

The Wedding CrasherOnly a Monster (Monsters, #1)Nettle & Bone

I feel like I probably am only capable of actually finishing one of these since they’re a bit longer, but it’s possible I could start a second one as well. I have one adult contemporary romance, a YA fantasy, and a dark fairy tale.

My current reads, in case I’m in the mood to read those rather than start something new:

The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, #1)Boyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material, #1)

I’m still working on my main read for Tome Topple (which technically ended yesterday, but I’ll likely finish sometime in May), The Mask of Mirrors, and I’ve also been doing an audio re-read of Boyfriend Material in anticipation of the sequel, Husband Material, which is coming out this summer.