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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

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.

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 TBR!

Tomorrow is another round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon, one of my favorite bookish events, and I am very last-minute about posting my TBR! Here’s what I’m thinking about picking up during the readathon:

Books that I’m currently reading:

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)Writers & Lovers

Books from my physical TBR:

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder, #1)The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)FlyawayOf This New World

Audiobooks:

You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed MessagesBroken (in the best possible way)

As far as my plans for tomorrow go, I’m likely going to spend the first portion of the day reading outside at the park, and then take a break before continuing readathoning at home. I’m really going to try to resist the urge to finish watching Shadow & Bone and focus only on reading for the day (I’m 5 episodes in and LOVING IT), but I’m unsure how successful I’ll be at that. Wish me luck!

March Reading Wrap-Up

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’m kind of on a roll with reading so far in 2021!

March was a fantastic reading month for me. I managed to finish 2 fairly long fantasy books (450+ pages), read 2 books from the Women’s Prize longlist, found a great new author who writes romance in several different genres, read a book that’s been on my shelves for at least 5+ years, and finished a book that will definitely be making my favorites of the year list. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats:

Total books read: 9

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

And Again by Jessica ChiarellaTranscendent Kingdom by Yaa GyasiFables & Other Lies by Claire ContrerasBlack Sun by Rebecca RoanhorseExciting Times by Naoise DolanDead Blondes and Bad Mothers by Sady DoyleAcross the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuireHarrow the Ninth by Tamsyn MuirThe Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (5 stars) – I haven’t been gravitating as much towards epic fantasy in the past few years the way that I used to, but Black Sun reminded me of everything I loved about the genre. The worldbuilding is intricate and extremely well-crafted; the setting is inspired by the civilizations of the pre-Columbian Americas but is completely unique. We’re following four main characters in shifting perspectives who seem to be set on a collision course centered around the upcoming eclipse and Winter Solstice in Tova, the city that’s the religious center of loosely allied lands in what seems to be a tenuous peace. I was equally interested in the storylines of Xiala, a ship captain with magical singing powers who is ferrying a mysterious young man who thinks he’ll find his destiny in Tova, and the Sun Priest of Tova, who is fighting conspiracies and popular opinion shifting against her that seems to be centered around the mysterious Carrion Crow people. Compelling is a word that gets thrown around a lot to describe books, but it’s very apt in this case. The pacing is extremely well done, with no slow moments, with the multiple perspectives contributing to this. I loved this one and already can’t wait for the sequel.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (4.25 stars) – This book is a thoughtful, introspective work that delves into conflicts between science and religion, but is also the very personal story of a young neuroscientist mourning the loss of her brother to a heroin overdose and trying to help her mother manage her severe depression. The timeline constantly shifts between adult Gifty as a PhD candidate researching the causes of addiction and attempting to find a cure for the same and her childhood growing up in a very religious household, where we learn why Gifty is drawn to the research she is doing and how her family has shaped her present. It’s beautifully written and a very worthwhile read; the audiobook is narrated by Bahni Turpin, my favorite narrator, and is extremely well done. It’s clear why this was nominated for the Women’s Prize, and it seems like a strong contender to win.

Fables & Other Lies by Claire Contreras (4 stars) – I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to Fables & Other Lies by Claire Contreras because of its gorgeous cover, and once I heard that it was a Gothic romance I was completely on board. Penelope is reluctantly returning home to Pan Island for her father’s funeral and quickly finds herself enmeshed in the island’s mythology and legends that she’d thought she’d escaped. She also finds herself catching the eye of River, the mysterious heir to the family that’s the legendary rival of hers–a family rumored to be cursed. I loved the mystery and supernatural elements that are essential to this book; there was the perfect amount of twists and suspense enmeshed with the romance. It ends up feeling like a modern, fantastical Gothic romance that’s very grounded in its sense of place. More than anything, this was just a joy to read; I enjoyed myself throughout, and never doubted that the author would take the story where it needed to go. The writing style is more spare and may not work well for every reader, but I loved it enough to immediately purchase another Claire Contreras book after I finished this one. Fantasy romance and/or PNR readers should definitely check this one out.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (4 stars) – This was the fourth longlisted nominee for the Women’s Prize that I’ve picked up. I found it funny and incisive, although its title belies a very introspective and uneventful tale. Ava is a young Irish woman who moves to Hong Kong to teach English and in search of something new, and she’s drawn to two different people while there: Julian, a British banker, and Edith, a lawyer with roots in Hong Kong. I particularly enjoyed the book’s exploration of women’s rights in Ireland and its discussions about bisexuality. I did feel that it reads like a debut novel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–it’s very much coming-of-age and self-exploration-focused. Its quiet nature means it may not be for everyone, but I quite enjoyed the read and will be looking for what Dolan does next.

And Again by Jessica Chiarella (4 stars) – a novel with a science fiction-inspired premise but an entirely character-driven narrative. It’s set in the approximate present or very-near future, with the caveat that the U.N. has made an exception to the ban on human cloning, for medical purposes only. We meet the four people involved in the first phase of the clinical trial that clones a terminally ill patient, rapidly ages the clone to the patient’s age, and then transfers a part of the patient’s brain into the cloned body, so that the patient awakens in a new, healthy body, but ostensibly can retain their memories and personality. We see the emotional fallout, both positive and negative, from the perspectives of Connie, a former soap star determined to return to the acting world; David, a Republican congressman whose constituents would be furious if they knew he was part of a treatment involving human cloning; Hannah, an artist who felt like she was losing her sense of self even before the transfer; and Linda, a fan of Connie’s soap who struggles to feel like a part of her family. At the beginning, I was favoring certain characters’ chapters over others, but before long I was equally invested in all four stories. I really enjoyed delving into their interactions in group therapy and their transfers’ ramifications on their lives; the only part of the book I wasn’t a huge fan of was the ending.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (4 stars) – I think I set myself up with impossible expectations for Harrow the Ninth, since Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth has become one of my all-time favorite SFF novels and is a book I find myself thinking about frequently. It’s not that I didn’t like Harrow, it’s just that, for me, I didn’t love it nearly as much as Gideon. I really struggled with its pacing and repetitiveness; I thought that the book could have accomplished the same things more concisely and with more impact. That being said, I’m very excited with where things left off heading into the third book, Alecto the Ninth, which is set to come out in 2022.

Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle (4 stars) – Doyle uses historical  and true crime examples as well as digressions into horror and fiction to talk about the portrayal of women as monsters, and how this at times can either challenge or reinforce the structure of patriarchy. If you enjoyed her previous book Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why, Dead Blondes acts as a solid follow-up to her combination of sociological discussion intermingled with pop culture and feminist history. Of the two, I probably preferred Trainwreck, but I thought that this book provided a lot of interesting discussion and analysis.

The Simple Wild by K. A. Tucker (3 stars) – This book was frustrating to me because I thought it was well-written and I loved the atmospheric Alaska setting, but I absolutely HATED the love interest and the romance storyline as a whole (which isn’t great, since it’s technically a contemporary romance). It’s never good when you finish a romance book and think, hm, that would have been a really great book if the romance part didn’t exist. I just don’t get the appeal of a love interest who treats the protagonist in a demeaning and frankly misogynistic manner for the entire book, lies to her, steals from her, etc. It was honestly pretty disgusting, but the quality of the writing really saved this one from a much lower rating from me. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it, though.

Across the Green-Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire (3 stars) – Unfortunately, this was by far my least favorite book in the Wayward Children series so far. It felt uneventful and incomplete, with the characters lacking the depth explored in previous books’ protagonists. I’ve overall loved this portal fantasy YA series featuring doors that lead children to other worlds somehow perfect and challenging for them, and sometimes rejecting them to unite at a school for those who have been to other worlds, and I plan to continue with it, but this entry was very much a miss for me.

March TBR

I keep telling myself I’m going to step away from making TBRs, since I’m a mood reader at heart, but then I somehow end up setting a TBR anyways because at the start of the month I’ll be just beginning a whole new set of books and want to talk about them. My TBR for March has unintentionally become very fantasy-heavy, which is interesting because in Feb I gravitated the most towards nonfiction and in January mainly contemporary fiction and romance. Am I somehow accidentally focusing on certain genres every month? That would have been a really cool yearly reading goal if I’d actually planned on doing that.

Anyways, here’s what I’m thinking for March! I’ve sort of loosely organized the books into categories that they sort of fit.

Books from reading challenges (Top 10 TBR for 2021 and/or TBR shelf poll): I’m trying to pick up at least 1 book per month from my Top 10 TBR for 2021 list (so that I don’t fall behind and have to read them all in November/December like last year) and hope to continue that streak with Black Sun. Black Sun also won a TBR shelf poll I did over on my Bookstagram account where I had people vote for the book from my shelf they thought I should pick up next; that also turned into a whole other TBR challenge where I decided to try to read as many of the recommended books as possible before the end of the year. One of those is And Again by Jessica Chiarella, which I’ve actually already started and am enjoying so far. I’m also really glad to be picking it up finally, since I think it’s been on my shelf for about 5 years now.

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)And Again

2021 releases (new releases and/or eARC): One of my most anticipated books of 2021, A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas, came out in Feb and I’m kind of surprised I haven’t finished it already. I’m about 70 pages in and definitely enjoying returning to the world, but haven’t yet been in the mood to sit down and really immerse myself in the book; I assume I’ll do that in March. I also want to get to a NetGalley eARC, Malice, which is a Sleeping Beauty retelling.

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)Malice

Other books I really want to read: I wanted to start a new short story collection immediately after I finished What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi last month, and I chose Tender by Sofia Samatar, an SFF collection that was nominated for several awards. I also want to pick up one of my Book of the Month selections this month (I’m trying to do the Book of the Month challenge, and to win you need to read at least 12 2020 or 2021 picks over the course of a year), and I’m leaning towards Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, which I keep hearing great things about.

TenderTranscendent Kingdom

Feb Reading Wrap-Up!

I had a great reading month in Feb! I managed to read a ton of fantastic books, several of which I suspect will be appearing on various end-of-the-year favorites lists, and finished 2 books from my Top 10 2021 TBR, which also both happened to be books that have been on my TBR shelf for several years. I read a LOT of nonfiction, but also some SFF and short stories.

Stats:

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 3

Mediocre by Ijeoma OluoAct Like It by Lucy ParkerWhite Rage by Carol AndersonLegendborn by Tracy DeonnFates and Furies by Lauren GroffThe Space Between Worlds by Micaiah JohnsonHow to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. KendiWhat Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen OyeyemiWeird but Normal by Mia Mercado

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (5 stars) – I’m sometimes leery of the hype surrounding new releases, but in Legendborn’s case, it’s completely deserved. We’re following Bree, who’s starting an early college program at UNC-Chapel Hill with her best friend Alice after losing her mother a few months ago. Bree has been feeling fractured and like she has to hide her true feelings after her mother’s death, and then her world is rocked again when she discovers a secret society of warriors and mages who are the living descendants and heirs of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Bree soon suspects that magic and the society may have been involved in her mother’s death, and finds herself entering into a tournament to obtain a place in the society in order to better investigate, while she simultaneously learns she may have a different power of her own.

Legendborn is the best YA book I’ve read in years. Bree is a determined main character who’s dealing with so much, and the plot never drags for so much as a chapter. The worldbuilding is unique and complex, and but in addition to the magic and action, the book focuses on addressing issues of racism, grief, and intergenerational trauma. I’d highly recommend this if you’re looking for a book to get lost in.

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo (5 stars) – An excellent nonfiction book that I listened to on audiobook. Oluo uses examples from throughout American history (some recent, some not) to discuss how the ideology that contemporary Trump supporters rally around has been present throughout, just in slightly different clothing. It’s very informative but completely accessible; I felt like I learned so much that gets glossed over in most historical narratives. It’s a hard book to summarize because it discusses so much, but it’s definitely one I’d recommend to everyone. It somehow manages to be both concise and thorough in its account of how racism and misogyny has shaped American history and its policies.

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson (4.25 stars) – I haven’t gravitated towards science fiction in awhile, but I picked up The Space Between Worlds on a whim due to insomnia one night, since the audiobook was available from my library and read by one of my favorite audio narrators, Nicole Lewis, who also narrates Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I was instantly drawn into the concept–in a world where the multiverse theory has been proven and is now being exploited for data and resource collection, Cara is a Traverser, able to travel to different versions of Earth on behalf of a company with questionable motives. There’s a catch, though–you can only travel to worlds where the version of you on that world is dead, and the reason Cara is such a valuable Traverser is that she’s died on almost all of the other Earths. Scientists and wealthy employees of the company aren’t able to travel within the multiverse because they’ve lived safe, privileged lives, whereas people like Cara grew up expendable, and on many worlds never grew up at all. Because of this, Cara is a scrappy, compelling main character determined to keep this version of herself alive.

This book has a lot of different elements that I loved, including a Mad Max:Fury Road-esque city; a suspicious tech company; interesting family dynamics; and compelling romantic storylines. Being able to see different versions of characters in different worlds was something I loved and didn’t know I needed; I also loved the writing style and the themes explored in this book.

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (4.5 stars) – A fairly short nonfiction book about the history of racism in the U.S., but one that is incredibly informative and packed with crucial information that hasn’t been highlighted nearly as much as it should be. It’s a book I think everyone needs to read and learn from; I mainly listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the author.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (4.5 stars) – I wasn’t aware when I picked this book up that it not only encompasses sociological discussion of racism and antiracism, but is also part memoir, with Kendi recounting various times he either exhibited or witnessed racist or antiracist behaviors in his life. I thought that the addition of these sections made it even more powerful; the last chapter in particular hits especially hard. It’s an extremely valuable book that I recommend everyone pick up; it’s told in short chapters that discuss different aspects of racism and antiracism.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (4 stars) – The stories in Helen Oyeyemi’s What is Not Yours is Not Yours are connected by the recurring motif of keys and also by a few recurring characters. Many of them have fabulist elements, which is something I’m always drawn to in short stories, and they often contain stories within stories that don’t seem to relate to each other at first but then blend beautifully by the end. My favorites in the collection were “‘sorry’ doesn’t sweeten her tea,” about a man trying to help his stepdaughter deal with the revelation that her musical crush is facing a MeToo allegation, and “is your blood as red as this?” about aspiring puppeteers and their very strange puppets. Although Oyeyemi’s writing is consistently great throughout, some of the stories grabbed me much more than others.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker (3.5 stars) – This is the first book in Parker’s London Celebrities series, a contemporary romance series centered around the theater world of London’s West End, but it’s actually the third book in the series I’ve read (I previously read books 4 and 5, The Austen Playbook and Headliners, both of which I loved). This time we’re doing the fake dating trope between likable actress Lainey and notoriously grumpy actor Richard. As with previous books, I loved the setting, side characters, and world in this one, but I did overall enjoy it slightly less than the other books in the series so far. The two main characters seemed a bit less well-developed than couples in books 4 and 5, and although I did like both of them, it caused the book to have a bit less emotional resonance for me. I’m still really looking forward to moving forward with book 2, Pretty Face, probably sometime in the next few months. (I’m not so sure about book 3, Making Up, since it involves the circus and I really hate anything circus-related.)

Weird But Normal by Mia Mercado (3 stars) – a debut essay collection that was fun at times but not a standout for me. My favorite essays dealt with millennial childhood nostalgia, mental health, and Mercado’s discussions of growing up biracial in the Midwest; the second half of the collection was much less successful for me, and many of the pieces included felt unnecessary.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (2.5 stars ) – I’ve been struggling as to how to rate and review this book, since my feelings about it have been a bit of a rollercoaster. The premise is simple: it’s the story of a marriage, with the first half of the book told from the husband’s perspective and the second half from the wife’s; we know going in that the husband, Lotto, becomes a famous playwright, supported by his wife, Mathilde. I started out hating the book, in part due to my strong dislike for its main character, Lotto, and almost DNF’d it. I kept going because there were certain elements of the writing that I did like, and then I started to enjoy the book a lot more when Lotto and Mathilde got together and the author showed the passage of time in a really interesting way, by showing scenes and snapshots of the parties they held in their first apartment over the years with a cast of friends. The prose can be beautiful at times, but is often pretentious and overwrought, but the parts I liked kept me interested through the parts I didn’t. I was determined to make it to the perspective shift, since I really wanted to see what the author would reveal, but I ended up more disappointed than not with the last section; there were certain plot points that I did appreciate the author shining a light on, but it was more anticlimactic than expected, and I found the ending itself to be somewhat of a letdown. I can completely understand why there are people who love this book, and also why there are many who hate it; its characters are determinedly unlikable, and its prose definitely isn’t for everyone, but there are things that the author does very well. For me, it was neither great nor terrible. While I did find it interesting, and I don’t think I regret reading it, I also don’t think I’d be missing anything if I’d skipped it, because when I add up the elements I did and really didn’t like, I’m left with a feeling that for me, the book was just OK. (I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Fates and Furies has a really absurd amount of fat-shaming. It’s present both in explicit statements from characters and the omnipotent narrator and also implicitly, with its only fat characters presented as the book’s biggest villains. It’s something that really takes away from the story, and I think readers should be aware.)

January Reading Wrap-Up

I started out my reading year strong with a whole bunch of compelling reads and a much more prolific reading month than I’d expected. I managed to kick off my Top 10 2021 TBR/5-star predictions list with my first 5-star read of 2021; caught up on several books that I’d meant to pick up as 2020 was winding down; and finished 2 NetGalley eARCs from my list. Let’s check out some stats and reviews:

Total books read: 10

ARCs: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Such a Fun AgeFirst Comes Like by Alisha RaiA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasHeadliners by Lucy ParkerA Rogue of One's Own by Evie DunmoreWhite Ivy by Susie YangDo You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa DareThe Russian Cage by Charlaine HarrisThe Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle EvansDon't You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (5 stars) – My first 5-star read of 2021! I picked up this short story collection after I saw that it was highly recommended by Roxane Gay, one of my favorite writers, and found it to be fantastically, skillfully crafted throughout. The stories in this collection are all very distinct, although many of them focus on themes of racism and all contain extremely compelling characters. It’s difficult to choose favorites within the collection, but if I had to choose, I’d highlight “Happily Ever After,” which focuses on a woman working in the gift shop of a Titanic replica museum; “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain,” which follows a reluctant guest at a wedding that gets unexpectedly derailed; and of course the title novella, “The Office of Historical Corrections,” which discusses misinformation and racism throughout American history. I can’t recommend this one highly enough; any short story fans should immediately pick it up.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (re-read) (4.5 stars) – I kicked off my intended re-read of the ACOTAR series in January, and ended up enjoying the first book even more this time around.

White Ivy by Susie Yang (4 stars) – This was a fantastic debut novel. I loved its twists, its “unlikable” main character, and its smart subversions of expectations. We’re following Ivy, who is taught to steal by her grandmother at a young age, and who falls for the golden boy at school, Gideon, who’s from an old money New England family. We then flash forward to an adult Ivy determined to make an adult Gideon fall for her–and to become a part of the world he represents. I was hooked early on by the premise and the compelling style, and this book continually surprised me.

A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – The second book in Dunmore’s League of Extraordinary Women historical romance series, which revolves around a group of suffragist friends fighting for womens’ rights in late 1800s England. I continue to love Dunmore’s writing style and her passionate activist female protagonists, and I really liked the relationship dynamic between suffragist leader Lucie and rake/poet/war veteran Tristan in this book. I can’t wait for the next book in September, which is set to focus on banking heiress Hattie and shady businessman Lucian Blackstone.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane (4 stars) – Mhairi McFarlane is becoming one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. Both books of hers that I’ve read have been extremely well-written and contain a lot of heart; her main characters are so lovable and are dealing with a lot. In this one, protagonist Georgina gets unfairly fired from her waitressing job and walks in on her boyfriend cheating on her on the same day. She’s facing a lot of judgment from her family, who feel that at 30 she should be further along in her career and/or romantic life, and she falls into a new job at a bar that turns out to be co-owned by her high school boyfriend, whom she’s really never stopped carrying a torch for. It’s a sweet romance that’s also really a story about Georgie finding herself and standing up for herself, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (4 stars) – You can read my full review for this fun contemporary romance featuring a beauty YouTuber and great family and friendship dynamics here. (I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (4 stars) – It took me a little while to fully get into this story, but once I was past the first big twist, I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading until I’d finished it. I can see this making a really great movie someday; the dialogue felt very authentic, and it had thoughtful discussions and portrayal of racism throughout.

Headliners by Lucy Parker (4 stars) – Another great installment in Parker’s London Celebrities series; I liked this one just as much as the only other book in the series I’ve read, The Austen Playbook. Parker is great at setting up chemistry, and the enemies-to-lovers dynamic was very well done. Sabrina and Nick, rival TV presenters, are forced to work together due to a company merger and for the sake of ratings, and hijinks quickly ensue. Their relationship evolution is well-paced and believable, and I liked both of them more and more as they began to fall for each other. I’m looking forward to going back and reading the first few books in this series, since I sort of skipped to the fourth and fifth, and I hope that even more books come out in future.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare (3.5 stars) – A historical romance with a bit of mystery, featuring a diplomat/spy marquess and a young woman with an undeservedly bad reputation. I loved the premise of this book, which involves the protagonists attempting to discover the identity of a pair of mystery lovers at a country retreat to prevent being forced into an engagement for the sake of propriety, and I overall did like both main characters as well. However, the plot stagnated for a good portion of the book, and I didn’t love it quite as much as some of Dare’s other works.

The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris (3.5 stars) – This is the third book in Harris’s Gunnie Rose series, which is a unique combination of alternate history, fantasy, and Western . Set in the 1930s, the U.S. has been fractured into pieces, with East Coast Brittania realigning with England, the South becoming independent Dixie, Texas and Oklahoma forming Texoma, where our protagonist Lizbeth Rose lives, and California and Oregon becoming the Holy Russian Empire, ruled over by the escaped royal Romanov family. In The Russian Cage, we’re finally getting a glimpse of the mysterious Holy Russian Empire (HRE) when Lizbeth rushes there to help her love interest, Eli, who’s been imprisoned under murky circumstances. Lizbeth remains a pragmatic, antisocial, capable main character who you can’t help but like and root for; I loved that we got a lot more interaction between her and her younger sister in this installment. I continue to be fascinated by Harris’s worldbuilding and the sharp contrasts between the places we visit in each book. I did, however, feel that the writing in this one wasn’t as strong as in some of Harris’s previous books, and the ending left me wondering where the plot will be going in future books. I received an eARC of The Russian Cage from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (Modern Love #3)

Genre: contemporary romance

Release date: 2/16/21

Rating: 4 stars

First Comes Like is a book I’ve been anxiously awaiting for a very long time. We first meet its protagonist Jia in Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series as the younger sister of past protagonist Sadia who’s determined to forge her own path by leaving medical school to dedicate herself to her true passion. Jia is a beauty influencer with a YouTube channel and a large dedicated fanbase–she’s passionate about makeup and skincare, and dreams of one day owning her own makeup company. She’s a creative and charismatic character, and I’m so glad that she finally got her own story, after being featured as a side character in not only the Forbidden Hearts series but also the first two books of the Modern Love series. Although I’m fairly terrible at makeup, I enjoy watching beauty Youtubers, and I thought it was so much fun to have one as the main character in a romance novel–we get to see behind the scenes of what Jia’s process is like and watch her struggle with a creative rut and fears that she’s out of touch as an “older” influencer, and also see what some of her past content has looked like.

Like the previous two books in Rai’s Modern Love series, First Comes Like deals with a modern dating conundrum–catfishing. (The Right Swipe was focused around ghosting, while Girl Gone Viral featured, well, going viral.) Jia thinks she’s been talking to famous Indian actor Dev through his verified account, but when she finally tries to meet him in person, she realizes that he has no idea who she is–she’s never actually spoken with him in the first place. Nevertheless, Dev is intrigued by Jia, and after a rocky start the two begin a whirlwind and very sweet fake relationship that quickly turns into real feelings.

Everything I love about Alisha Rai was present in First Comes Like: a badass female protagonist, a strong friendship group that supports one another, complex and interesting family dynamics. I did find Jia a more compelling character than Dev, who has a quieter and less forceful personality, but I really liked their interactions and their eventual HEA. This is a great series that contemporary romance fans absolutely need to check out if they haven’t already, and I can’t wait to see what Alisha Rai comes out with next.

 

I received an eARC of First Comes Like from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.