Tag Archives: book review

April Reading Wrap-Up



Total books read: 9

2023 releases: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 3

The Pisces by Melissa BroderBabel by R.F. KuangMagic Tides by Ilona AndrewsThe Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu MandannaWordslut by Amanda MontellBook of Night by Holly BlackSecretly Yours by Tessa BaileyIf Only You by Chloe LieseSweep of the Heart by Ilona Andrews

Babel by R. F. Kuang (5 stars) – I started reading Babel at the very beginning of the year, and this weekend I finally finished it! Sometimes when I’m really loving a book, I read it extremely slowly, until I get to a certain threshold and need to devour it. I knew when I started it that Babel would be a 5 star read for me (and all of the glowing reviews were further clues in that direction) but it’s hard to prepare yourself for a book this devastatingly powerful. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long, long time.

Magic Tides by Ilona Andrews (4.5 stars) – Ilona Andrews is bringing joy to the world by coming out with new novellas starring Kate Daniels, heroine of their 10-book series (and my favorite UF series of all time) that take place after the end of book 10. I knew I’d love this book, but it was actually even better than I expected, possibly because I love Kate and all of the side characters so much. This was a great first-in-series/follow-up-to-series which made me immediately wish the next book was out. Luckily, it’s out in June!

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (4 stars) – Contemporary paranormal romances have been a mixed bag for me, so I was initially skeptical of this one until a friend convinced me to give it a try. And it was extremely cute! All of the side characters were delightful, and it was a very happy book, which is very much needed sometimes.

Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language by Amanda Montell (4 stars) – A nonfiction book that was both interesting and informative that I’d recommend to readers of feminist works who are also interested in history and etymology.

If Only You by Chloe Liese (4 stars) – This is the 6th book in Liese’s contemporary romance Bergman Brothers series, but it’s only my second read in the series since I’m approaching it very out of order. I previously loved her modern Shakespeare retelling Two Wrongs Make a Right and enjoyed her Christmas novella The Mistletoe Motive, so now I’m jumping into her longest-running series. I’m not usually interested in sports romances, but Liese’s focus is much more centered around emotional growth and mental health, which keeps me coming back to her work. Ziggy is a great main character to root for, and I enjoyed both the romance and Liese’s writing.

Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey (4 stars) – I’ve gone back and forth a lot about Tessa Bailey on this blog; Secretly Yours was one of hers that worked for me. It’s cute and enjoyable, although I did want the main characters to communicate more. I do plan to pick up its follow-up, Unfortunately Yours, featuring side characters introduced in this one.

Sweep of the Heart by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – After Magic Tides, I needed more Ilona Andrews in my life, so I picked up their 2022 scifi release that features an alien version of The Bachelor but to pick a consort for the ruler of a bunch of planets. It was a really fun read, even if this isn’t my favorite series of theirs.

Book of Night by Holly Black (4 stars) – I wasn’t a huge fan of Holly Black’s Cruel Prince trilogy (I know, don’t hate me) but I enjoyed some of her earlier work enough to pick up her adult debut, Book of Night. I saw it getting so many negative reviews from fans of her YA that I wondered if, conversely, I might like it, and that instinct seems to have been correct. It’s a contemporary fantasy set in Western Massachusetts about 25 years after the art of shadow magic has been introduced to the world, and our morally grey protagonist is just trying to take care of herself and her sister while staying distant from her former life of crime. But when a man is murdered over a stolen book, she gets drawn into a mystery. The writing is skillful and I was a fan of Charlie, our “unlikable” protagonist, that we get to know both through her present as a bartender and her past getting drawn into becoming a thief and con artist due to a difficult childhood.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder (3 stars) – A disappointment after I enjoyed/was impressed by her sophomore novel Milk Fed. This just didn’t feel interesting or innovative enough for me despite the fact that one of the main characters is a merman.

March Reading Wrap-Up

I’m so happy with my reading in March! After a lackluster Feb dominated by work, I was actually able to read a ton this month, and loved a great deal of it. I read 3 books in the 5-star range, and also participated in 2 readathons: the Trans Rights Readathon and Tordotcomathon, both over on Bookstagram.


Total books read: 12

ARCs: 2

2023 releases: 6

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

The Writing RetreatBest Served HotSigns of Cupidity (Heart Hassle, #1)Bonds of Cupidity (Heart Hassle, #2)I Have Some Questions for YouBehind the Scenes by Karelia Stetz-WatersEmily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather FawcettFinna by Nino CipriSomething Wild & WonderfulA Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz MeadowsEven Though I Knew the End by C.L. PolkAll the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett (5 stars) – Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries was a delightful 5-star read for me; I loved the themes of folklore and myth and empathized with the main character’s constant struggle to get her work done while interacting with people as little as possible. Emily is brilliant, pragmatic (even ruthless), and fascinating as a viewpoint character; the book is written as her journal entries while doing fieldwork in Scandinavia to help complete her encyclopaedia. I wasn’t expecting a romance in this one, but it’s really well done; Emily’s colleague/rival Brambleby is a cheerful, whimsical foil to her seriousness and also an enigma that serves the story. I’d recommend this one to fantasy, romance, and romantasy readers alike, and am anxiously awaiting its sequel.

A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows (4.5 stars) -Speaking of having a great reading month in March, I also discovered this fantastically written fantasy/romance from a new-to-me author. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is not an easy read emotionally (check content warnings! it does contain sexual assault, PTSD, attempted suicide, and murders) but it’s a beautiful portrait of healing and discovering the freedom to be yourself. It’s fairly romance-centric, but the plot doesn’t suffer for it. Vel is a gay nobleman forced to hide his sexuality due to his repressive country’s laws and social stigmas, so he’s not exactly thrilled when his father arranges a marriage for him to a noblewoman from a neighboring country. After undergoing a trauma, however, his secret is revealed, and the ambassador proposes an alternative: Vel can instead marry Cae, his original fiance’s brother. Vel and Cae’s romance develops slowly and is very sweet, but the two are also forced to contend with mysterious factions working against them. This was a 4.5 star read for me and I highly recommend it to romantasy fans. The sequel is out later this year and is already on my wish list.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai (4.5 stars) – I’d describe this one as sort of a literary mystery that explores the nature of memory, the impacts of true crime media, and society’s more widespread current reckoning with the virulent racism and misogyny in our culture. I wasn’t really expecting to be as impressed with this book as I was, but the writing is extremely strong and the plot and concepts evoked both kept me hooked. I think this will be a book I will recommend widely, to all kinds of readers.

Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly (4 stars) – Anita Kelly was one of my favorite new authors I discovered in 2022, so their new 2023 release was instantly added to my TBR. Something Wild & Wonderful is about two men at crossroads in their lives who individually decide to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (which I mainly knew due to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild) but meet up and begin to hike together while mutually developing romantic feelings. Like other Anita Kelly books I’ve read, Something Wild is at its core big-hearted and centered around people trying to work through their emotions and find their paths in life. The trail setting added a unique component to the romance, presenting obstacles that the main characters had to work through together while simultaneously building up their relationship from friendship to something more. I didn’t love this one quite as much as Love & Other Disasters (which was one of my favorite books of 2022) but I found it a sweet and well-written romance that I’d absolutely recommend. I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Finna by Nino Cipri (4 stars) – A fun science fiction novella taking place inside an Ikea-esque store whose newest employees are forced to enter a wormhole to rescue a missing customer. Unfortunately, the employees are also recent exes, and the wormhole isn’t exactly safe. This was a great quick audiobook, and I’m likely to pick up its sequel as well.

Behind the Scenes by Karelia Stetz-Waters (4 stars) – A sweet contemporary Sapphic romance with themes of healing from physical and emotional trauma and embracing your creative side. The central romance is between Ash, a washed-up director, and Rose, a savvy businesswoman/secret ASMRtist, who come together to help create and pitch a new queer film. I especially enjoyed Ash’s found family of coworkers and Rose’s sisters as side characters, but the central romance was strong as well. I think ultimately I do prefer Stetz-Waters’s first book, Satisfaction Guaranteed, to this one, but I still really enjoyed Behind the Scenes as well. I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham (4 stars) – For the first time in my life, I went to a book club meeting this month! I joined at a bit of short notice, so I ended up listening to this audiobook over the course of 12 hours, and, not typical for me, listened at much faster than average speed. I don’t always have success with mystery/thrillers, but I thought this one was well-written, well-narrated, and definitely delivered on the twists.

Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk (3.5 stars) – This was my second read from Polk, and I gave it the same rating as I did The Midnight Bargain. Their premises are interesting, but something just feels lacking to me in execution, and this one also was much more religious-themed than I’d expected.

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz (3.5 stars) – This book was both better-written and twistier than I was expecting; it was also way more violent. A young writer goes to an exclusive retreat hosted by her favorite author, where she finds several other writers than include her frenemy, with whom she’s had a very complicated relationship. There’s an added incentive to write during this retreat–a winner will be chosen to actually publish their book and be ushered onto the literary scene by the famous author. Unfortunately, there are missing people and murder to contend with in addition to the writer’s block. Would I recommend this? I’m honestly not sure.

Best Served Hot by Amanda Elliot (3.5 stars) – This contemporary romance with food critic love interests sounded up my alley, especially since I loved last year’s Sadie on a Plate. I ended up frustrated somewhat with its main character and wanting more dimension from the love interest.

Signs of Cupidity by Raven Kennedy (3.5 stars) – I started this fantasy romance trilogy on a whim after seeing it on someone’s bookstagram, and found its first installment a very fun read with a silly, irreverent protagonist who’s a cupid out of water.

Bonds of Cupidity by Raven Kennedy (3 stars) – Unfortunately, I didn’t love the second installment quite as much as the first, and I won’t be continuing in the series. I’m not mad I picked these up, because they kept me from reading slumping, and I’d probably check out other books from this author in future.

January Reading Wrap-Up

Yes, I’m very, very late with this wrap-up, but I couldn’t let myself skip a month after keeping up with this blog for so long. (I blame my super busy and studying-filled February, when I was preparing for an exam and doing an absurd amount of continuing education.) Let’s do this!


Total books read: 10

2023 releases: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

The Employees by Olga RavnPeople Person by Candice Carty-WilliamsThe Return by Rachel HarrisonThe Veil by Rachel HarrisonBad Dolls by Rachel HarrisonTwo Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe LieseAstrid Parker Doesn't Fail (Bright Falls, #2)Ocean's Echo by Everina Maxwell“You Just Need to Lose Weight” by Aubrey GordonThe Cloisters by Katy Hays

Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell (5 stars) – My first 5-star read of 2023 was a twisty, smart political/military science fiction book with an opposites-attract romance at its heart. It also featured one of my new favorite characters, a prickly, manipulative mind reader who has run away from his upper-class world and family and become mixed up in a criminal underworld. When his aunt, a powerful politician, thinks he’s gotten completely out of hand, she enlists him in the military with orders to bind himself to a stubborn, steadfastly moral, by-the-books officer with mind control powers. The two clash at first but quickly form a deep connection that guides them through conflicts, coups, and battles. I loved that this book was action-packed but never lost its heart, humor, or strong writing style. If you love an acerbic, hilarious, “unlikable” main character, you’re going to love Ocean’s Echo.

The Return by Rachel Harrison (4 stars) – I just love Rachel Harrison. Cackle was a great surprise favorite for me in 2022, and I resolved to reach for more of her backlist this year. I listened to this female friendship-centric horror novel on audio and was never bored for a second; it’s weird and provides great commentary on the nature of communication within friend groups. I want to read everything this author writes.

The Employees by Olga Ravn (4 stars) – A very short, very weird science fiction book that was vague, poetic, haunting, and uniquely structured. Would recommend for fans of weird scifi.

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams (4 stars) – Candice Carty-Williams’s debut book Queenie was a huge hit on bookstagram back in 2019, but I unfortunately haven’t seen nearly as much love for her sophomore release, People Person. I say “unfortunately” because I thought it was great; it’s very much a character-driven book focused on sibling relstionships. Our book opens with five teenage half-siblings with four different mothers meeting each other for the first time, simply because their unreliable father has decided it’s time. We then flash forward to meet the siblings again as adults, and see them come together again for a traumatic event. Their interactions and bonds drive the book and kept me wishing it was longer. I’ll continue to pick up anything that Carty-Williams comes out with, and I highly recommend this one (and Queenie, if you haven’t read it yet!).

Bad Dolls: Stories by Rachel Harrison (4 stars) – I kept picking up more and more Rachel Harrison in January because, again, I love her. I actually had no idea this contemporary horror short story collection existed until I was searching for audiobooks from this author, and that’s a shame, because it’s excellent. These stories are weird, creative, and creepy; this would be a great October read and it’s also an excellent audio listen.

Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese (4 stars) – I love a well-done Shakespeare retelling, and Two Wrongs Make a Right by Chloe Liese really hit the spot for me. (Past favorite books involving Shakespeare retellings include All’s Well by Mona Awad and Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood.) In this contemporary romance, Liese takes on Much Ado About Nothing while also very much making the story her own; as with many of Liese’s books, our heroine is autistic, and her love interest has anxiety. She sets the stage also for future contemporary retellings with the protagonist’s two sisters (likely The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo & Juliet, based on their names), which I’m really looking forward to. I found this book at times very funny and the right amount of quirky. I will say that the only negative pattern I’ve noticed with Chloe Liese (which is very subjective!) is that the last quarter or so of the three books of hers I’ve read have all been a bit too sweet for me.

The Veil by Rachel Harrison (4 stars) (short story) -While I was on my Rachel Harrison reading kick this month, I discovered The Veil, her Audible exclusive short story that actually has terrible ratings but that I very much enjoyed. She always manages to subvert expectations and deliver on her endings, and I appreciate that very much.

Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake (3.5 stars) – Astrid’s story didn’t work for me quite as well as Delilah Green Doesn’t Care, and I also wasn’t as thrilled with the premise, which deals with interior design and home renovation. That being said, I did like the love interest, Jordan, quite a bit, and will continue to read in this contemporary romance trilogy.

You Just Need to Lose Weight and 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon (3 stars) – I loved Gordon’s previous book, What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat, but I found her sophomore effort to be less strong, It has a strange combination of being didactic while continuously undermining its own information by referring the reader almost constantly to other sources. There’s definitely some good information in here, most of which has also been addressed on Gordon’s podcast Maintenance Phase, which is excellent. I’d refer readers to her first book and podcast rather than to this one.

The Cloisters by Katy Hays (2 stars) – If a book is accumulating a lot of bad or mediocre reviews, it’s not always a deterrent for me picking it up. Books are often very subjective, and I frequently find myself with unpopular bookish opinions. The Cloisters, unfortunately, was a case where I should have trusted the reviews. Nothing really happens for the vast majority of this book, but its lack of plot is not offset by strong writing or interesting characters. On the contrary, everyone in this book is very flat, particularly our personality-lacking main character. Given its subject matter, I’d expect a lot more intrigue, but it simply never appears.

Feb Reading Wrap-Up

Going into Feb, I knew it would be a difficult reading month. On top of my job, I had to fit in 40 extra hours of continuing education and also study for a certification exam that’s still a few days away (I can’t wait for it to be over!). Because of all of this, my reading time took a significant hit. It also wasn’t a super successful month in terms of reading enjoyment, although it’s hard to say how much my overall mood could have played into this. I did still find some books I really enjoyed, however.


Total books read: 5

2023 releases: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 1

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. PolkThe Fine Print by Lauren AsherThe Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth ThomasRadiant Sin (Dark Olympus, #4)Out of Character by Jenna Miller

Out of Character by Jenna Miller (4 stars) – This is one of the best YA contemporary books I’ve read in recent memory. I found the characters to be so authentic and embodied; they felt genuinely like teens in a way that not all YA authors are able to portray. I loved the emphasis on friendships and the fact that the main character constantly struggles with genuine issues. I also found that the story never went in a predictable direction; there were several times that I worried we were headed into a cliche, but the author handled the plot so much more deftly and maturely than that. Highly recommend, even for readers like me who don’t often pick up YA.

The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (4 stars) – This was a nonfiction book that I was shocked I hadn’t heard of sooner, and that I’m also shocked isn’t talked about more among the book community. It’s definitely written in an academic style, which might dissuade some readers, but it involves very in-depth analysis of the handling of race and racism in several high profile media franchises like The Hunger Games and The Vampire Diaries through the lens of their most prominent Black female characters. Definitely recommend!

Radiant Sin by Katee Robert (3.5 stars) – This may have been my least favorite installment in the Dark Olympus series so far, but I still enjoyed the read. I’ll continue to pick up all of the loosely Greek mythology-inspired books in this series.

The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk (3.5 stars) – This historical fantasy was ultimately a bit of a disappointment for me. I was hoping to absolutely love it, but I found it far too long and repetitive, which overrode the great feminist themes and premise.

The Fine Print by Lauren Asher (3 stars) – I’ve been seeing this book, and this trilogy as a whole, on BookTok quite a bit and figured I’d give it a shot. The premise involves three brothers who are the grandchildren of the founder of a DisneyWorld-esque theme park and company, and who need to each perform a certain task in order to receive their inheritance. I liked the theme park setting and the female main character; parts of this are definitely very silly, and it was too long for what it was, but it was a fun read. I’ll probably read the next book at some point, which involves a marriage of convenience.

December Reading Wrap-Up

In December, I was lucky enough to discover two new 5-star reads, and also picked up several holiday romances. Let’s dive in!


Total books read: 8

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

2022 releases: 6

Cursed Bunny: StoriesKiss Her Once for Me by Alison CochrunHow to Be Eaten by Maria AdelmannCaste by Isabel WilkersonYour Table Is Ready by Michael Cecchi-AzzolinaWindow Shopping by Tessa BaileyYou're a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy JanovskyThe American Roommate Experiment (Spanish Love Deception, #2)


How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann (5 stars) – This ticked so many boxes for what I want in a book. It’s a modern-day retelling of fairytales through a feminist lens and using the device of a support group for women who have been through traumatic and public experiences. I love when books use old stories to shed light on relevant current issues, and I loved the dynamic between the complex female characters that comprise the support group.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson (5 stars) – A nonfiction work that explores the history and current state of racism in the U.S. through the lens of caste that is powerful, informative, incredibly well-researched, and devastating. It’s a book that you immediately realize should be required reading in this country.

Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung (4 stars) – This was one of those random indie bookstore finds that I ended up picking up much sooner than I thought I would. A lot of the initial appeal was based on the cover (I love bunnies in general; also, Bunny by Mona Awad is my favorite book of all time) but anytime I see a book of strange short stories I’m also drawn towards it. I found Chung’s writing to be overall quite strong, although my enjoyment of the stories themselves varied somewhat. The titular story was one of my favorites, and I liked the unsettling center at many of her tales.

Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey (4 stars) – I’m a year late to the party on this one, but I’m so glad I picked it up! This contemporary novella is possibly my new favorite holiday romance, and it’s a representation of the best of Tessa Bailey, an author I’ve had mixed results with in the past. It’s a good mix of spicy and sweet, with interesting main characters and a fun setting, and I read it while trapped inside during a massive blizzard. Definitely recommend!

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas (4 stars) – Was this as good as The Spanish Love Deception? Not quite, speaking about the actual romance, but I still thoroughly enjoyed Armas’s writing style. Like Armas’s debut, I started this one very slowly, then binge-read the last half. Could this illustrate a pacing issue? Maybe, but I really don’t have any complaints about her style or the story; I just find these books very fun.

Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochran (3.5 stars) – Another holiday romance I picked up during the month. I was hoping to enjoy Kiss Her Once for Me more than this author’s debut, The Charm Offensive, that ended up on so many favorites lists but was just OK for me personally, but I think I ended up liking the two about the same amount. Neither are favorites; this one had some fun tropes, and I liked the family characters, but the miscommunication was extremely frustrating to read about.

Your Table is Ready by Michael Cecchi-Azzolina (3.5 stars) – An interesting memoir on audiobook about a man who spent his career as a fixture in the New York restaurant scene, working as a waiter and maitre d’. It’s an interesting read for foodies and fans of Anthony Bourdain-type culinary memoirs, and a very entertaining listen.

You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky (3 stars) – This was my second underwhelming contemporary romance audiobook from this author; I picked it up looking for a holiday romance on audio and had a much more difficult time than expected getting through it, because I kept falling asleep every time I pressed play. (I’m not kidding! I don’t mean that in a mean way; that’s actually what happened.) I liked the premise, and the main character’s journey, but the romance didn’t work as well as I’d have liked and the ending wasn’t my favorite.

November Reading Wrap-Up

Look at me, posting my monthly reading wrap-up in a reasonable amount of time! I read exclusively fantasy and/or romance books in November, not intentionally, but that’s how my mood-reading seemed to steer me. I didn’t find any new favorites for the year, but I did overall enjoy everything that I picked up. Let’s get into it!


Total books read: 10

2022 releases: 10

ARCs: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Ship Wrecked by Olivia DadeParis Daillencourt Is About to Crumble by Alexis HallThe World We Make by N.K. JemisinResting Witch Face by Juliette CrossLove on the Brain by Ali HazelwoodThe Serpent in Heaven (Gunnie Rose, #4)The Holiday Trap by Roan ParrishTread of Angels by Rebecca RoanhorseCheck Your Work by Skye KilaenAngelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne

Love On the Brain by Ali Hazelwood (4.5 stars) – After three disappointing novellas, my faith in Ali Hazelwood was restored with Love on the Brain. I think her strength may just be in full-length novels, because I enjoyed this just as much as The Love Hypothesis. Her writing is very addictive, and this one kept me occupied through isolation due to testing positive for covid.

The World We Make by N. K. Jemisin (4 stars) – I think I enjoyed the second book in this contemporary fantasy duology more than the first; the pacing seemed better and the plot tighter, although I still don’t find these books as strong as other works by Jemisin.

Resting Witch Face by Juliette Cross (4 stars) – This second chance witch/vampire romance has been hinted at since the first book in the Stay a Spell series, and made me reconsider my negative feelings towards this particular trope. It’s a very fun read, but one with action and high stakes as well as a well-developed romance, and as usual it left me impatient for the next book in the series.

Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade (ARC) (4 stars) – Second-chance romance has always been my least favorite romance trope; I don’t like it when characters already have so much past and backstory that the reader isn’t included in, as it feels like we don’t get to know them as much as couples that meet for the first time on-page. However, the structure of Ship Wrecked made this much less of an issue, since we start with our main couple’s first meeting and understand their relationship dynamic by checking in on them at various points during the years they spend together in an isolated filming location. From there, we then get to see their dynamic develop all the way from one night stand to hurt feelings to strong friendship into eventual love. If this was a standalone, the second-chance romance aspect might have dissuaded me from picking it up, but since it’s the third book in a series I really love (that focuses on the actors starring in a Game of Thrones-esque show, and features fat main characters), I was more than willing to give it a chance. And I’m so glad, because I would have really missed out on an emotional, funny, and enjoyable read if I hadn’t. My favorite parts of this book were probably where we got to see glimpses of characters from past books, particularly in the Gods of the Gates cast group chat; I also loved confident, complex Maria as a main character.

I received an ARC of Ship Wrecked from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Holiday Trap by Roan Parrish (4 stars) – A cute, queer retelling of the movie The Holiday (which happens to be my favorite holiday movie, I think) in which two discontented people swap houses and find love (and themselves) in New Orleans and Maine (two favorite places I’ve visited!). In addition to the romances, there are plenty of discussions about family dynamics, setting boundaries, and self-discovery. Both Hanukkah and Christmas are featured, although I don’t feel that the book was as holiday-centric as I’d expected (in a good way). I also really liked both featured audio narrators, as they did a good job bringing a large cast of characters to life.

Check Your Work by Skye Kilaen (4 stars) – I continue to love this sweet, LGBTQIA+ contemporary romance series centered around an inclusive coffee shop in Austin, Texas. Since I’m bi, I often gravitate towards romances featuring bi main characters, but this might be the first romance novel I’ve read that features an M/F couple where both main characters are bi. (It seems like I had to have read one previously, but I can’t think of any! And now I want to read more.) This novella features a fake dating scenario between a math teacher and a programmer with a twelve-year age gap who have each had an unrequited crush on the other for years, and their dynamic is sweet and thoughtful even though at times I was internally begging them to just communicate and tell each other that their feelings for each other were very real. I plan to hopefully dive into Skye Kilaen’s backlist in the next year, but I’m also hoping that she continues this series.

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne (4 stars) – Sally Thorne’s newest release seems to be very unpopular among her fans, and although I do understand why, I personally really enjoyed it. This book is undeniably strange and clearly a risk for Thorne, with quite a departure from her previous insular contemporary romance releases; it’s historical science fiction romance as well as a retelling of a classic novel. It’s often very tongue-in-cheek and hilarious, but its humor is definitely darker than Thorne’s past works, and I think that this as well as its macabre premise was very off-putting for many readers. Its main character is undeniably flawed–Angelika is selfish, privileged, and intelligent although oblivious to common sense as well as the emotions of those around her–and although she grows quite a bit over the course of the novel, it’s understandable that most people would find her unlikable, because she’s supposed to be. Personally, I love a flawed female main character, and only found her a bit less humorous once she began to mature. It’s an odd story, one that I think benefits from not being taken too seriously, and is highlighted by a great performance by its audio narrator.

Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall (3.75 stars) – After loving several of his releases over the past few years, I’ve unfortunately been having bad luck with Alexis Hall’s 2022 releases. This is far from my least favorite (that dubious honor goes to Husband Material, which I still regret reading), but I went in with high expectations due to loving Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake so much and was unfortunately a bit disappointed. I have anxiety myself, and I found parts of this book difficult to read, because Paris’s anxiety comprises the bulk of the book’s plot. While it at times rang true for me, I also felt that its depiction was too repetitive and its portrayal could be frustrating. The baking show premise was still fun to read about, and there were parts I did enjoy, but I think I just wish I liked this one a lot more than I did.

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (3.5 stars) – In my opinion, this novella was far from Rebecca Roanhorse’s strongest work, but I still enjoyed the worldbuilding. The ending surprised me, in a good way, and it made the story end on a much more interesting note than I’d expected.

The Serpent in Heaven by Charlaine Harris (3.5 stars) -In the first three books in Charlaine Harris’s alternate history fantasy Western Gunnie Rose series, our main character is gunslinger Lizbeth, but the perspective shifts to her younger sister Felicia in this fourth installment. I was glad for the change of pace, as Lizbeth’s story seemed settled by the end of book 3, and Felicia is an interesting narrator to follow. She’s young, but jaded by an extremely difficult childhood, and is learning to adapt to a very new set of circumstances while discovering more about herself and her magic. I enjoyed the audio narration as well.

October Reading Wrap-Up

I’m so late for this October wrap-up that I don’t even want to talk about it. In my defense, the end of October/beginning of November was crazy; I went on a trip to Morocco (which was great!) then got Covid (which was not great, but at least my case was mild). However, I refuse to miss a monthly wrap-up blog, no matter how behind schedule I am, so here we go:


Total books read: 8

ARCs: 1

2022 releases: 5

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

CackleA Dreadful Splendor by B.R. MyersSeason of Love by Helena GreerGo Hex Yourself by Jessica ClareLakewood by Megan GiddingsComeuppance Served Cold by Marion DeedsSilver in the Wood by Emily TeshThe Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik


Cackle by Rachel Harrison (5 stars) – This was a perfect book for us witchy spinsters out there, but it’s hard for me to describe exactly what I loved about it. The author is apparently local to me, which made me want to love it, but I honestly didn’t expect to be giving it five stars. The ending went in a totally different direction than I’d expected, though, and I loved it, and that really cemented my rating.

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (4.5 stars) – The finale to Novik’s Scholomance series gave me what I was hoping for, but it also really made us work for it. I’d say that this is my least favorite out of the three, but since the other two were solid 5-star reads, that isn’t at all a bad thing; I think it’s hard to end a series well, especially one with this much worldbuilding and character-building, and this had most of what I could have wanted in a finale.

Comeuppance Served Cold by Marion Deeds (4 stars) – Definitely one of my favorite novellas I’ve read this year. It’s historical fantasy set during Prohibition in Seattle, with an interesting cast of characters including a thief in disguise enacting a plot, a city official and his son abusing their power to tamp down on the city’s magic practitioners, shapeshifters, and a speakeasy owner. I thought the pacing and plot were well done, leaving me with the feeling of a complete story but still leaving room for other possible stories featuring these characters.

A Dreadful Splendor by B. R. Myers (4 stars) – This book helped me break a mid-month reading slump, which I am very grateful for. It features Gothic vibes, a fake spiritualist protagonist grappling with potentially real supernatural occurrences, a murder mystery, and light romance, and was a great fall reading pick.

Season of Love by Helena Greer (4 stars) (ARC) – This was a perfect read for us Jewish folks who love a good Christmas romance. Since my family celebrates Chrismakkuh, the premise of a Jewish family who owns a Christmasland getaway felt very familiar, as did the blend of holidays that occur over the course of the book. Miriam Blum is an artist and influencer who’s been running from her abusive father for her entire adult life, and unfortunately that’s also caused her to distance herself from her best friend/cousin and her aunt’s magical Christmas tree farm/hotel that she grew up exploring. When her aunt passes away, Miriam is left a portion of the estate alongside her cousins and attractive farm manager Noelle. While Miriam has to face her past by returning home, Noelle grapples with her difficulty to trust in the pull she feels toward Miriam. This book has a fun, “we all need to band together to save Christmas (while still enjoying Hanukkah!)” plot while still managing to delve into deeper emotional issues. In that sense, I think it would work for those looking for a book that feels like a Hallmark Christmas movie but wanting more depth. Highlights for me included the side characters (will any of them be getting spin-offs?) and Miriam’s art; I did struggle somewhat with the arguments between Noelle and Miriam. While they eventually have really positive emotional discussions, I was frustrated by how often Noelle was willing to see the worst in Miriam. I received an ARC of Season of Love from the publisher in  exchange for an honest review.

Lakewood by Megan Godwin (3.5 stars) – I primarily listened to this audiobook during Dewey’s 24-Hour readathon; it seemed like a good October read because it’s horror but not the keep-you-up-at-night-jump-scare type of horror. Instead, it’s horror that takes historical and contemporary issues related to racism and brings them into the present in an insidious way. I thought that the writing was very strong, but that the plot dragged a bit.

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (3.5 stars) – Another Dewey’s read, this novella was one that I enjoyed at the time but didn’t leave a large impression on me. It’s historical fantasy, which is a subgenre that can be hit or miss for me, and I didn’t know going in that it has a sequel so the story isn’t fully complete. I probably won’t be picking the sequel up?

Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare (2 stars) – I…really did not like this book. I had high hopes because I enjoy both paranormal and contemporary romance, as well as witchy things in general, but the characters, plot, and writing style all really didn’t work for me. Cringey is probably the word that best describes this book overall.

September Reading Wrap-Up

In September, I began what I like to think of as fall-themed or spooky season reading, while also picking up new releases in a variety of genres. In other bookish news, I was able to attend a day of WorldCon on a visit to Chicago with my brother this year, and we had a lot of fun attending panels and found a few books on the convention floor. I think that means I’ll be able to nominate and vote for next year’s Hugo Awards as well, which puts added motivation on me to read lots of 2022 SFF releases. Let’s get into the stats!


Total books read: 11

2022 releases: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle ZevinL'Esprit de L'Escalier by Catherynne M. ValenteRuby Fever by Ilona AndrewsThe Romance Recipe by Ruby BarrettSiren Queen by Nghi VoHigh Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly RobsonA Proposal They Can't Refuse by Natalie CañaWoman, EatingThe Hollow Places by T. KingfisherBecause I Want You by Claire ContrerasA Highlander for Hannah by Mary Warren

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda (5 stars) – Sometimes all I have to do is hear the vague premise of a book to know I’m going to love it. In this case, it was the phrase “literary vampire novel.” Woman, Eating is in many ways a classic coming-of-age story about Lydia, an artist living on her own for the first time, doing an internship in London that’s allegedly going to help jumpstart her career. She deals with both racism (Lydia is of Malaysian, Japanese, and English heritage) as well as sexism. And like many young women (and people of all genders), Lydia is intensely preoccupied with food; she thinks about it constantly, watches food videos on YouTube, and daydreams about what she wishes she could eat but can’t. It’s only that she’s a vampire and her only source of nourishment is blood that separated her from the rest of us, although we quickly begin to see how slim that difference is. Woman, Eating is written in fairly spare prose and is very approachable; if you’re thinking that you don’t like either literary novels or paranormal ones, this could still easily work for you. Despite her vampirism, Lydia is very easy for any milennial to relate to and identify with, and her growth of self is both literal and metaphorical over the course of the novel. I loved this one.

Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – This was the conclusion to the second trilogy in Andrews’s Hidden Legacy series, and although it didn’t necessary blow me away in the same way that the first and second books did, I still love these characters and this series very much. I’m also very much hoping that the family’s third sister gets her own trilogy next, as I’m very much not ready to say goodbye to this world.

L’Esprit de L’Escalier by Catherynne M. Valente (4 stars) – I was lucky enough to see Catherynne M. Valente speak at 2 different panels at WorldCon in Chicago this year, which pushed me to pick up another one of her works ASAP. This novelette was one of her Hugo-nominated pieces this year; it’s a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth done in a way that’s macabre and highlights the story’s misogyny. Like everything I’ve read from her, its lush and detailed prose impressed me, and I’m sad she didn’t end up winning any Hugos this year.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (4 stars) – The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher might be the first and only book I’ve read in 2022 to legitimately freak me out. In that way, it was an excellent way to kick off spooky reading season. It combines horror and portal fantasy in a way that makes both genres appealing to a wider range of readers, and utilizes both mundane creepiness and utter strangeness to great effect. This is actually the second Kingfisher book I’ve read this year, after Nettle & Bone (a dark fairytale that I also really enjoyed) and definitely won’t be my last. A very solid 4 star read perfect for fall.

High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson (4 stars) – Since I recently spotlighted some of my favorite short books, it seems timely to also talk about the fantasy novella I just finished reading, High Times in the Low Parliament by Kelly Robson. Our main character Lana is a fun-loving, flirtatious scribe who gets conned into working for Parliament. It’s a riskier job than it sounds, since if the delegates can’t read an agreement, everyone in the city is drowned as part of a peace-keeping pact made with fairies centuries ago. It’s a fun mix of lighthearted humor and just enough depth to keep the stakes high, and I enjoyed the read.

A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Cana (4 stars) – A cute contemporary romance featuring an enemies-to-lovers, fake-dating romance between a chef and a whiskey distiller whose families have always been close but whose relationship has grown tense in recent years. I thought that the characterization in this book was really well done, with fleshed out family members on both sides, and I’m a sucker for a fake dating premise with all of.its accompanying hijinks. I liked that both protagonists were flawed but showed a lot of growth, and I thought the audio narration was excellent.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (3.5 stars) – I’ve been seeing a lot of readers with glowing 5-star reviews for this book, and I honestly wish that I was among them. A lot of aspects of this were really interesting to me, particularly the descriptions of the different games that the main characters were developing, but I thought that the character development overall was lacking, with too much telling and not enough textual evidence. Sadie, the main female character, particularly suffered, and although she wasn’t, at times she really felt to me like a cliched female character written by a male author.

The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (3.5 stars) – One of the many chef-themed contemporary romances I’ve been picking up recently, and although I didn’t dislike it, not one of my favorites. It was still overall an enjoyable read, but didn’t blow me away.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo (3.5 stars) – A very cool premise and collection of ideas that felt disjointed in plot and execution.

Because I Want You by Claire Contreras (3 stars) – I picked up this romantic suspense novel on a whim; I’ve enjoyed several books from Claire Contreras in the past and read an excerpt of this one on her Instagram that made me immediately pick it up. I ended up liking some features of it (great chemistry with forbidden romance due to the fact that our female MC is the male MC’s brother’s ex-girlfriend) and other aspects less so (the plot really dragged as the book went on).

A Highlander for Hannah by Mary Warren (3 stars) – It’s great to see more plus-size representation in romance, and this one had a fun premise, but both main characters were immature and their dynamic wasn’t always fun to read about.

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!


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!


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.