Tag Archives: books

April Reading Wrap-Up!

 

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

Stats

Total books read: 13(!)

ARCs/review copies: 2

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on another spring edition of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon! I had such a great time devoting my day to reading and introverting, and actually got a lot more reading done than I thought I would. I think that my strategy of having a bunch of different book formats (poetry, graphic novels, short stories, novellas, audiobooks) really helped, as did the genre variety. I did read a lot less as it got later in the day, and didn’t have enough energy to stay up very late as I have during past readathons, but since I started reading pretty much as soon as Dewey’s began, that worked out fine.

Total books started & finished during the readathon: 5

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. ValenteOnly a Monster by Vanessa LenHeartstopper by Alice OsemanI Hope This Finds You Well by Kate BaerOf This New World by Allegra Hyde

During the readathon, I finished The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (science fiction novella, 160 pages); Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (YA fantasy, 416 pages); Heartstopper, Vol 1 by Alice Oseman (YA contemporary romance graphic novel, 263 pages); I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer (poetry, 80 pages); and Of This New World by Allegra Hyde (short stories, 124 pages). Of these, my favorite was The Past is Red; I love Valente’s writing style and the story was a lot more twisty and complex than I’d predicted it would be.

Books read from, but not both started & finished: 3

Boyfriend Material by Alexis HallNettle & BoneThe Donut Trap

I was also able to finish my re-read of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (contemporary romance, 65 pages) and start 2 new books: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (dark fairy tale, 33 pages) and The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu (contemporary romance, 82 pages). I’m planning to add those last two to my May TBR, and am particularly excited about Nettle & Bone–it’s extremely well-written, and I’m very invested in the story already.

Total pages read: 1,223 (!)

Overall, it was a great readathon, and I can’t wait for the next round in October!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Updates and Mid-Event Survey!

I’m halfway through the readathon, so here’s the Dewey’s 24-hour readathon mid-event survey!

  • What are you reading right now?

Of This New WorldBoyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material, #1)

I’m 2 stories into Of This New World by Allegra Hyde, a short story collection focused on different kinds of utopias. I’ve also been intermittently dipping into my re-read of Boyfriend Material via audiobook that I started prior to the readathon, which I’m almost finished with.

  • How many books have you read so far?

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. ValenteOnly a Monster by Vanessa LenHeartstopper by Alice Oseman

So far, I’ve finished 3 books: The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (science fiction novella, 160 pages); Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (YA fantasy, 416 pages); and Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman (YA contemporary graphic novel, 263 pages).

  • What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the readathon?

Nettle & BoneI Hope This Finds You WellOf This New World

I’ve been debating what to pick up next, because all of the books on my TBR are very appealing, but I think I’m most drawn to trying Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher. It’s a dark fairy tale, and it’s a shorter novel, so I’m hoping that could mean that I could both start and finish it before I get too tired later tonight. And I’d still like to read the Kate Baer poetry collection, as well as finish the short story collection I started. The thing is, my productivity and energy levels tend to take a serious dip during the second half of the readathon, so it’s hard to predict what I’ll actually be able to accomplish.

  • Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Luckily, not much! I was really in need of some hardcore bookish hermit time, so I’ve been able to devote my Saturday to readathoning so far.

  • What surprises you most about the readathon, so far?

I’ve read more than I thought I would have at this point in the readathon! I think having shorter books and different genres/formats to choose from was really key.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon TBR and Plans

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

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

Novellas

The Past Is RedSummerwater

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

Poetry, graphic novels, short stories

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

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

Full-length 2022 releases

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

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

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

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

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

 

March Reading Wrap-Up

Unfortunately, March wasn’t my favorite reading month, although I did still find several books I enjoyed (including a new 5-star read!). Several books I chose were a bit disappointing (or more than a bit, in the case of one in particular). Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 3

ebooks: 2

Novellas: 3

Stone Heart by Katee RobertAssembly by Natasha BrownAll of Us Villains by Amanda FoodyAll's Well by Mona AwadThe Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison BechdelOur Favorite Songs by Anita KellyThe Verifiers by Jane PekHouse of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. MaasThe Cult of We by Eliot BrownStuck with You by Ali Hazelwood

All’s Well by Mona Awad (5 stars) – This Shakespeare-infused fever dream reminded me of everything I love about Mona Awad and her creative, entrancing writing. (A reminder: she wrote my FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, Bunny!) I think that anyone who loved this book will also really enjoy Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, and vice versa, as both use Shakespeare’s works in twisted and modernized ways, but All’s Well is also completely unique. On its surface, it’s about Miranda, a theater professor experiencing chronic pain after a tragic fall off of a stage, who miraculously finds a respite after encountering three mysterious men in a bar; it’s infused with aspects of All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that Miranda insists on her students performing despite their objections, as well as Macbeth, the play that the students actually want to perform. It’s tricky and fabulist, and at times reminded me of cautionary fairy tales. It also extensively discusses the invisibility of chronic pain as well as the reluctance of people to believe women’s pain in general, while subverting all expectations about where the story is going. I’ll keep picking up anything this author writes.

Assembly by Natasha Brown (4 stars) – The writing in this novella is incredible, as is its characterization and discussions surrounding racism. It would have been a 5-star read for me had it not been for one aspect of the plot that I, as a health care provider, can’t get behind, even as a symbolic literary choice meant to emphasize the exhaustion the main character is facing from systemic racism.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (4 stars) – This YA fantasy was a surprise hit for me! I haven’t seen many reviews, let alone many positive ones, but I’m here to tell you that this book is dark and underrated fun. The town of Ilvernath hosts a secret, deadly competition every twenty years between its powerful magical families, with the prize being control of a rare type of magic that’s disappeared from everywhere else. This year, however, the secret’s out–an anonymous author has released a tell-all depicting the entire blood-soaked history of the town’s tournament, which involves a teenage representative of each magical family battling each other with spellwork until there’s only one champion left standing. So now journalists and paparazzi have flooded Ilvernath, lending even more pressure and weight to this year’s contest and its unique champions. It’s told in four different perspectives, with great audio narration, and it’s a suspenseful ride full of magic, alliances, betrayal, and a potential enemies-to-lovers romance.

Our Favorite Songs by Anita Kelly (4 stars) – I continued to love Anita Kelly’s sweet, big-hearted, romantic writing with this second installment of their Moonlighters novella series, which is centered around a queer karaoke bar. This one is sort of an enemies-to-lovers story; the protagonists knew each other in high school but each had misinterpreted the other’s behavior, and when they meet again as adults they reconnect in a new way. I’m continually impressed with how fully Anita Kelly develops characters in such a short format, and makes their romances feel complete yet concise.

The Verifiers by Jane Pek (3.5 stars) – I’m very hit-or-miss with mysteries, rarely finding ones I vibe with, and although it did drag at times, I overall enjoyed modern-day techno-mystery The Verifiers. It’s set around the world of online dating, but my favorite aspect was its likable heroine, an avid mystery reader who jumps into investigating the death of a client at her company, and the dynamics surrounding her family.

Stuck With You by Ali Hazelwood (3.5 stars) – I felt similarly about this second book in Hazelwood’s Steminist novella trilogy compared to the previous installment, with the caveat that I think I enjoyed it slightly more? I’m beginning to notice repetitiveness in Hazelwood’s writing style and characterizations; I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis, but I feel like the protagonists of its two follow-up novellas are essentially the same as in that novel. It was still a fun audiobook, but I’m lowering my expectations for the trilogy’s third installment and, unfortunately, her new novel that comes out this summer.

The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (3 stars) – After listening to the WeCrashed podcast and watching Hulu’s WeWork documentary, I still had questions and interest in the failure of this once-lauded startup company. Parts of this book were interesting, but parts dragged, and I felt like it focused overmuch on numbers rather than telling a story. However, I’m still interested in the story enough to watch the scripted WeCrashed show that’s coming out this month.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (3 stars) – I haven’t read a graphic novel in several years, and I picked this one up because Alison Bechdel was doing a speaking event in my city. Unfortunately, I missed her event, and also unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this memoir that used the author’s fitness journey to discuss her developing relationship with different philosophies. It didn’t work for me as well as her other graphic memoir Fun Home, feeling too didactic and self-aware for my personal taste.

Stone Heart by Katee Robert (3 stars) – I loved the first two books in Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus series, Neon Gods and Electric Idol, but unfortunately this prequel novella featuring an instalove romance between Medusa and Calypso lacked enough plot and character development for me to fully get on board. I’m still really looking forward to the next book in the series, Wicked Beauty, which I’ve preordered.

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas (2 stars) – Coming from someone who really enjoyed House of Earth and Blood, this book is without a doubt my most disappointing read so far in 2022. Here is my succinct, fairly spoiler-free pro/con breakdown of why.

Pros:
-I like the worldbuilding and the wide variety of magical creatures
-A lot of the side characters are interesting/compelling

Cons:
-Please stop using the word alphahole
-I really really hate that our male lead is an ANGEL who wears a BACKWARDS BASEBALL CAP
-The plot in this one is really, really rough. It doesn’t make sense, it’s repetitive, and I don’t understand the point of the vast majority of it.
-I really don’t like the central romance
-It’s really not interesting when every single character is the most powerful person ever
-I liked Bryce so much less in this book
-The ending is truly terrible
-The most interesting (to me) characters are either dead or not really even in this book
-If so much of the plot hinges on Danika, she really shouldn’t have died so early in book 1, because it makes no sense that she hid everything about herself from someone she had such a deep bond with
-This book could have been better in SO MANY WAYS that reading it was incredibly frustrating.

 

 

Feb Reading Wrap-Up

My Feb reading involved several novellas, a healthy dose of romance, several scifi selections, and a new favorite for the year. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats

Total books read: 10

Novellas: 3

ARCs/review copies: 2

Audiobooks: 3

ebooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen CollinsWahala by Nikki MayUnder One Roof by Ali HazelwoodPortrait of a Scotsman by Evie DunmoreLight from Uncommon Stars by Ryka AokiMaking Up by Lucy ParkerSing Anyway by Anita KellyGet It Right (Love at Knockdown, #1)How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia NagamatsuSkye Falling by Mia McKenzie

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (5 stars) – I don’t always find book blurbs or comparison titles to be terribly accurate, but whoever decided to market Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki as Becky Chambers meets Good Omens knew what they were doing. This book combines the feelings of Chambers’ big-hearted scifi with the irreverent humor and unconventional demonic elements of Good Omens, but it also keeps itself grounded with a strong contemporary fiction storyline. Light From Uncommon Stars has so much that I look for in a book: it’s unique, creative, written in a way that’s engaging and immersive, and it has a lot of heart, anchored in its young trans violinist prodigy protagonist, Katrina. There’s a fantastical element–Katrina’s violin teacher is seeking to collect her soul–and scifi as well–the neighborhood donut shop is run by a family of intergalactic refugees–but the story still feels so grounded with emotion. It’s an endlessly imaginative book that’s also full of feelings, which is exactly what I want in a great read, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins (4.5 stars) – One of my reading goals for 2022 is to read more short story collections than I did last year, since they’re one of my favorite types of books to read. I’m already ahead of schedule after reading My Monticello last month (which is my favorite book I’ve read this year so far!) and now just having finished Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins, which I also ended up loving. The stories in this collection were written decades ago but not published as a collection until 2016. They’re thoughtful and poignant, with themes involving racism, colorism, and complex family and relationship dynamics present throughout. It’s a very short but impactful collection, and some of the stories actually gave me goosebumps. I did find some stories much stronger than others, which is why this was a 4.5 star read for me, and I’d highly recommend it.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (4 stars) – It’s understandably taken me awhile to feel mentally prepared to read a book with any kind of post-apocalyptic or dystopian setting, let alone one featuring a pandemic. How High We Go in the Dark was my first return to this kind of literature, and it’s a take that I haven’t quite seen before. It’s told in a series of interconnected stories, many of which feature recurring characters and themes, that span a fairly contemporary setting during the awakening of what will come to be called the Arctic Plague to far in the future. For these reasons, I’ve seen it compared to Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven; I’d also throw in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles for a better idea of its structure. As a fan of short story collections, I liked that the story was told this way, but this also of course necessitates that some stories and characters will be more successful than others. The book opens with a beautifully written section that seamlessly combines climate change, family ties, and archaeology, and if every section had been like that one, this would have been a five-star read for me; unfortunately, I didn’t find every story to work quite as well. I think some readers may still be wary of picking up pandemic-related books, and if so, I’d definitely give this one a pass–although not every story is set during the Arctic Plague, many are, and some can be difficult emotionally. If this doesn’t bother you, I think that many fans of literary science fiction and short story collections will really appreciate How High We Go in the Dark.

I received a free copy of How High We Go in the Dark from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wahala by Nikki May (4 stars) – Wahala follows a friend group of three biracial women who are half Nigerian and half British, and whose different personalities and lifestyles have never gotten in the way of their love for one another–until a new friend worms her way into their dynamic and things slowly begin to change. I really enjoyed reading this book; it switches perspectives often enough that the narrative with any one friend never felt stale. I’m always drawn to novels about complex female friendship dynamics, and Wahala works very well in this theme. I have to call out the Sex and the City comparisons this book is getting, though–the two stories have nothing in common except that both have four central female characters, and I’m not sure why this comp is being used in reviews and marketing. Overall, I found it an entertaining read with a compelling plot that I’d recommend, although some aspects of the ending felt frustrating to me.

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

Sing Anyway by Anita Kelly (4 stars) – A lovely contemporary romance novella that’s a fantastic exhibit of what a novella can and should be, with the exact right amount of character development, plot, and romance. After loving  Anita Kelly’s Love & Other Disasters, my favorite romance of 2022 so far, I immediately went to their backlist and discovered this series of novellas set in and around a queer karaoke bar. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series!

Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (4 stars) – Another great example of how wonderful contemporary romance novellas can be. Skye Kilaen is a new-to-me author, and I’ll definitely want to pick up more from her after this. The romance and characterization developed so seamlessly, and it’s another first-in-series, which bodes well for my future novella TBR.

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – I really enjoy this historical romance series that focuses on a friend group fighting for women’s suffrage, and although this was probably my least favorite pairing and plot so far, I continue to enjoy Dunmore’s writing style.

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (4 stars) – An audiobook I started somewhat randomly while searching for books read by one of my favorite audio narrators, Bahni Turpin, I ended up laughing out loud many times during this one. There’s a thoughtfulness and character growth to this story in addition to the humor, and I’ll be looking out for what the author comes out with next.

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood (3.5 stars) – I knew that this was a novella going into it, but sometimes the stories that authors choose to develop into novellas rather than novels would be better suited to a longer format. I enjoyed the enemies-to-lovers romance in Under One Roof; the main characters had great chemistry and I liked how their relationship developed. I wasn’t a fan of the premise, however, which seemed a bit too silly for me, and I wished that we had spent more time with these characters than we did.

Making Up by Lucy Parker (3.5 stars) – This isn’t the last book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series, but since I read the last 2 books first then circled back to books 1-3, it’s my last reading experience in the series (unless she publishes more, which it seems like she might be planning to?). It wasn’t my favorite in the series, but was still a very cute and enjoyable audiobook following Trix, an aerialist, and Leo, her makeup artist nemesis-turned-love interest.

Most Anticipated Books of 2022, Part 3

 

Because parts 1 and 2 apparently weren’t enough, please enjoy Part 3 of my most anticipated new releases of 2022!

A few reminders: I’m only including books here that have both a cover and a release date, but those release dates are of course subject to change.

 

Clean Air

Clean Air by Sarah Blake (release date 2/8/22) – I’ve only recently become able to consume books about the apocalypse again, which is good timing for Clean Air. It’s set in the far future and also involves a mystery surrounding a serial killer.

From Goodreads: The climate apocalypse has come and gone, and in the end it wasn’t the temperature climbing or the waters rising. It was the trees. The world became overgrown, creating enough pollen to render the air unbreathable.

In the decade since the event known as the Turning, humanity has rebuilt, and Izabel has gotten used to the airtight domes that now contain her life. She raises her young daughter, Cami, and attempts to make peace with her mother’s death. She tries hard to be satisfied with this safe, prosperous new world, but instead she just feels stuck.

And then the peace of her town is shattered. Someone starts slashing through the domes at night, exposing people to the deadly pollen—a serial killer. Almost simultaneously, Cami begins sleep-talking, having whole conversations about the murders that she doesn’t remember after she wakes. Izabel becomes fixated on the killer, on both tracking him down and understanding him. What could compel someone to take so many lives after years dedicated to sheer survival, with humanity finally flourishing again?

 

Jawbone

Jawbone by Monica Ojeda (release date 2/8/22) – I love the cover and the fabulist-sounding description of this book, and have been hearing good buzz so far.

From Goodreads: Fernanda and Annelise are so close they are practically sisters: a double image, inseparable. So how does Fernanda end up bound on the floor of a deserted cabin, held hostage by one of her teachers and estranged from Annelise?

When Fernanda, Annelise, and their friends from the Delta Bilingual Academy convene after school, Annelise leads them in thrilling but increasingly dangerous rituals to a rhinestoned, Dior-scented, drag-queen god of her own invention. Even more perilous is the secret Annelise and Fernanda share, rooted in a dare in which violence meets love. Meanwhile, their literature teacher Miss Clara, who is obsessed with imitating her dead mother, struggles to preserve her deteriorating sanity. Each day she edges nearer to a total break with reality.

Interweaving pop culture references and horror concepts drawn from from Herman Melville, H. P. Lovecraft, and anonymous “creepypastas,” Jawbone is an ominous, multivocal novel that explores the terror inherent in the pure potentiality of adolescence and the fine line between desire and fear.

 

Only a Monster

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (anticipated release 2/22/22) – YA fantasy is very hit-or-miss for me, but morally gray characters and questions about who the real monsters are make me very interested in this one.

From Goodreads: It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.

 

Our Wives Under the Sea

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (anticipated release 3/3/22) – I liked but didn’t love Armfield’s short story collection Salt Slow, but definitely found myself intrigued by her concepts and premises. This novel sounds mysterious and haunting.

From Goodreads: Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

 

Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays

Girls Can Kiss Now by Jill Gutowitz (anticipated release 3/8/22) – I tend to really enjoy listening to essay collections on audiobook, since I sometimes find it easier to pay attention to audiobooks in bite-size chunks. This also sounds like the mixture of memoir and pop culture commentary that I love in a collection.

From Goodreads: Jill Gutowitz’s life—for better and worse—has always been on a collision course with pop culture. There’s the time the FBI showed up at her door because of something she tweeted about Game of Thrones. The pop songs that have been the soundtrack to the worst moments of her life. And of course, the pivotal day when Orange Is the New Black hit the airwaves and broke down the door to Jill’s own sexuality. In these honest examinations of identity, desire, and self-worth, Jill explores perhaps the most monumental cultural shift of our lifetimes: the mainstreaming of lesbian culture. Dusting off her own personal traumas and artifacts of her not-so-distant youth she examines how pop culture acts as a fun house mirror reflecting and refracting our values—always teaching, distracting, disappointing, and revealing us.

Girls Can Kiss Now is a fresh and intoxicating blend of personal stories, sharp observations, and laugh-out-loud humor. This timely collection of essays helps us make sense of our collective pop-culture past even as it points the way toward a joyous, uproarious, near—and very queer—future.

 

In a Garden Burning Gold (Argyrosi, #1)

In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power (anticipated release 4/5/22) – I read Rory Power’s Wilder Girls as an eARC a few years ago, and really liked her writing style and the character dynamics she created in a creepy setting. Her newest release sounds very different: it’s high fantasy, which I don’t always gravitate towards, but it sounds like a unique take on the genre.

From Goodreads: Twins imbued with incredible magic and near-immortality will do anything to keep their family safe—even if it tears the siblings apart—in the first book of a mythic epic fantasy from the New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity helping their father rule their small, unstable country, using their control over the seasons, tides, and stars to keep the people in line. For a hundred years, they’ve been each other’s only ally, defending each other and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground and their father’s rule weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep their family—and their entire world—from crashing down around them. But other nations are jockeying for power, ready to cross and double cross, and if Rhea and Lexos aren’t careful, they’ll end up facing each other across the battlefield.

 

When Women Were Dragons

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill (anticipated release 5/7/22) – I’ve had Kelly Barnhill’s short story collection Dreadful Young Ladies & Other Stories on my TBR for years, which is embarassing, but I’m still going to add this unique-sounding alternate-history fantasy to my TBR as well.

From Goodreads: Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950’s America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies. Seemingly for good. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex’s beloved Aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn’t know. It’s taboo to speak of, even more so than her crush on Sonja, her schoolmate.

Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of dragons: a mother more protective than ever; a father growing increasingly distant; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and a new “sister” obsessed with dragons far beyond propriety. Through loss, rage, and self-discovery, this story follows Alex’s journey as she deals with the events leading up to and beyond the Mass Dragoning, and her connection with the phenomenon itself.

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, award-winning author Kelly Barnhill boldly explores rage, memory, and the limitations of girlhood. When Women Were Dragons exposes a world that wants to keep women small–their lives and their prospects–and examines what happens when they rise en masse and take up the space they deserve.

 

How to Be Eaten

How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann (anticipated release 5/31/22) – not only does this debut novel involve fairytale retellings, but it’s being compared to 2 of my favorite authors (Kelly Link and Carmen Maria Machado). It’s at the top of the list for me.

From Goodreads: In present-day New York City, five women meet in a basement support group to process their traumas. Bernice grapples with the fallout of dating a psychopathic, blue-bearded billionaire. Ruby, once devoured by a wolf, now wears him as a coat. Gretel questions her memory of being held captive in a house made of candy. Ashlee, the winner of a Bachelor-esque dating show, wonders if she really got her promised fairy tale ending. And Raina’s love story will shock them all.

Though the women start out wary of one another, judging each other’s stories, gradually they begin to realize that they may have more in common than they supposed…What really brought them here? What secrets will they reveal? And is it too late for them to rescue each other?

Dark, edgy, and wickedly funny, this debut for readers of Carmen Maria Machado, Kristen Arnett, and Kelly Link takes our coziest, most beloved childhood stories, exposes them as anti-feminist nightmares, and transforms them into a new kind of myth for grown-up women.

 

Always Practice Safe Hex (Stay a Spell, #4)

Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross (anticipated release 6/6/22) – I love Juliette Cross’s New Orleans-set paranormal romance Stay a Spell series, and this newest installment will finally have a love interest that’s one of the mysterious Grims that we’ve been hearing so much about.

From Goodreads: Livvy Savoie is a people person. Not only does she have the magical gift of persuasion, but her natural charisma charms everyone she meets. She hasn’t met a person she didn’t like. Until her annoyingly brilliant competitor walks through the door. No matter how hard she denies it, loathing isn’t the only emotion she feels for him.

Grim reaper Gareth Blackwater is rarely, if ever, moved beyond his broody, stoic state. But the witch he’s partnered with in the public relations contest is destroying his peace of mind. He’s convinced that the flesh-melting attraction he feels for her is merely her witchy magic at work.

But forced proximity proves there is more than magic sparking between them. Livvy learns this enigmatic grim’s abilities are beyond any supernatural she has ever known. And when Livvy becomes the obsessive target of a dangerous wizard, Gareth proves just how powerful he truly is. Because no one is going to hurt his Lavinia.

 

The Romance Recipe

The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (anticipated release 6/28/22) – I’m always looking for new contemporary romance authors to try, particularly authors writing F/F romance, and my love for all things Top Chef and Food Network-related is just one more reason to pick this up.

From Goodreads: A fiery restaurant owner falls for her enigmatic head chef in this charming, emotional romance

Amy Chambers: restaurant owner, micromanager, control freak.

Amy will do anything to revive her ailing restaurant, including hiring a former reality-show finalist with good connections and a lot to prove. But her hopes that Sophie’s skills and celebrity status would bring her restaurant back from the brink of failure are beginning to wane…

Sophie Brunet: grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer.

Sophie just wants to cook. She doesn’t want to constantly post on social media for her dead-in-the-water reality TV career, she doesn’t want to deal with Amy’s take-charge personality and she doesn’t want to think about what her attraction to her boss might mean…

Then, an opportunity: a new foodie TV show might provide the exposure they need. An uneasy truce is fine for starters, but making their dreams come true means making some personal and painful sacrifices and soon, there’s more than just the restaurant at stake.

 

Thrust

Thrust by Lidia Yuknavitch (anticipated release 6/28/22) – I’ve never read from this author before, but I’m a sucker for a unique premise.

From Goodreads: Lidia Yuknavitch has an unmatched gift for capturing stories of people on the margins–vulnerable humans leading lives of challenge and transcendence. Now, Yuknavitch offers an imaginative masterpiece: the story of Laisve, a motherless girl from the late 21st century who is learning her power as a carrier, a person who can harness the power of meaningful objects to carry her through time. Sifting through the detritus of a fallen city known as the Brook, she discovers a talisman that will mysteriously connect her with a series of characters from the past two centuries: a French sculptor; a woman of the American underworld; a dictator’s daughter; an accused murderer; and a squad of laborers at work on a national monument. Through intricately braided storylines, Laisve must dodge enforcement raids and find her way to the present day, and then, finally, to the early days of her imperfect country, to forge a connection that might save their lives–and their shared dream of freedom.

 

The Dead Romantics

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston (anticipated release 7/5/22) – I’m really liking the current publishing trend of contemporary paranormal romance books, and this sounds like a unique play on the term “ghostwriter.”

From Goodreads: Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

 

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)

Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews (anticipated release 8/23/22) – Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors, and I absolutely can’t wait for the third book in her second trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world. These books are really well done paranormal romance and I enjoy the heck out of them.

From Goodreads: An escaped spider, the unexpected arrival of an Imperial Russian Prince, the senseless assassination of a powerful figure, a shocking attack on the supposedly invincible Warden of Texas, Catalina’s boss… And it’s only Monday.

Within hours, the fate of Houston—not to mention the House of Baylor—now rests on Catalina, who will have to harness her powers as never before. But even with her fellow Prime and fiancé Alessandro Sagredo by her side, she may not be able to expose who’s responsible before all hell really breaks loose.

 

Love on the Brain

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood (anticipated release 8/23/22) – Since The Love Hypothesis was my favorite romance of 2021, I’m really excited about Ali Hazelwood’s second nerdy contemporary romance novel coming out this summer.

From Goodreads: Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project—a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia—Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school—archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

 

Nona the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #3)

Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (anticipated release 9/13/22) – This is the third book in Muir’s Locked Tomb series; I absolutely loved the first book but had some serious issues with its sequel. The bonkers-sounding premise of this third installment makes me hopeful that I’ll get back on board with the series this fall.

From Goodreads: Her city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…

 

The Golden Enclaves (The Scholomance #3)

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (anticipated release 9/27/22) – I really can’t wait for the third book in Novik’s Scholomance series; books 1 and 2 were both 5-star reads for me. I honestly don’t know how she’s going to resolve the cliffhanger from the previous book and bring the trilogy to a conclusion, but I’ll be picking this one up the second it comes out.

From Goodreads: Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

Almost singlehandedly–although backed by an increasingly large cadre of genuine friends–El has changed the nature of the Scholomance forever. But now that she is back in the real world, how will the lessons she learned inside the school apply? Will her grandmother’s prophecy come true? Will she really spell the doom of all the enclaves forever?

As the quest to save her one true love ramps up, however, El is about to learn the most significant lesson of all–the dire truth on which the enclaves and the whole stability of the magical world are founded. And being El, she is not likely to let it lie….

 

Tread of Angels

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (anticipated release 11/15/22) – A novella from one of my favorite fantasy authors was an unexpected piece of great news; the premise sounds intricate and fascinating.

From Goodreads: High in the remote mountains, the town of Goetia is booming as prospectors from near and far come to mine the powerful new element Divinity. Divinity is the remains of the body of the rebel Abaddon, who fell to earth during Heaven’s War, and it powers the world’s most inventive and innovative technologies, ushering in a new age of progress. However, only the descendants of those that rebelled, called Fallen, possess the ability to see the rich lodes of the precious element. That makes them a necessary evil among the good and righteous people called the Elect, and Goetia a town segregated by ancestry and class.

Celeste and Mariel are two Fallen sisters, bound by blood but raised in separate worlds. Celeste grew up with her father, passing in privileged Elect society, while Mariel stayed with their mother in the Fallen slums of Goetia. Upon her father’s death, Celeste returns to Goetia and reunites with Mariel. Mariel is a great beauty with an angelic voice, and Celeste, wracked by guilt for leaving her sister behind, becomes her fiercest protector.

When Mariel is accused of murdering a Virtue, the powerful Order of the Archangels that rule Goetia, Celeste must take on the role of Advocatus Diaboli (Devil’s Advocate) and defend her sister in the secretive courts of the Virtue. Celeste, aided by her ex-lover, Abraxas, who was once one of the rebels great generals, sets out to prove Mariel innocent. But powerful forces among the Virtues and the Elect mining barons don’t want Celeste prying into their business, and Mariel has secrets of her own. As Celeste is drawn deeper into the dark side of Goetia, she unravel a layer of lies and manipulation that may doom Mariel and puts her own immortal soul at risk, in this dark fantasy noir from the bestselling mastermind Rebecca Roanhorse.

 

Astrid Parker Doesn't Fail (Bright Falls, #2)

Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake (anticipated release 11/22/22) – I haven’t yet read Blake’s first F/F romance of 2022, Delilah Green Doesn’t Care, but that’s not going to stop me from including her second on this list, because both sound great.

From Goodreads: For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she’s been focused on her career—her friends might say she’s obsessed, but she’s just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn’s renovation that will be broadcasted on a popular home improvement show, Innside America, Astrid knows this is the answer to everything that is wrong with her life. It’ll be the perfect distraction from her failed love life, and her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her nod of approval.

However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru’s granddaughter and lead carpenter for the inn’s renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family’s inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into a little light sabotage, ruffling Astrid’s perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other turns into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she’s expected to lead, or the one she wants?

Winter TBR Smash-Up Readathon Recap!

This past week, I really enjoyed participating in the Winter TBR Smash-Up, a low-pressure, friendly readathon hosted by @instalovewithbooks and @reluctantreader on Instagram. I decided to track my reading for motivation purposes, since I was trying to finish a certain few books before the month ended.

Here are my weekly tracking stats and overall readathon summary:

Sing Anyway by Anita KellySkye FallingGet It Right (Love at Knockdown, #1)How High We Go in the Dark

Day 1

Pages read: 96 pages of Sing Anyway, 41 pages of Get it Right

Audiobook time: 2.5 hours of Skye Falling

Books started: Get it Right

Books finished: Sing Anyway

Day 2

Pages read: 42 pages of How High We Go in the Dark, 10 pages of Get it Right

Audiobook time: 1 hour of Skye Falling

Books started: None

Books finished: None

Day 3

Pages read: 16 pages of Assembly

Audiobook time: 1.5h Skye Falling

Books started: Assembly

Books finished: None

AssemblyHouse of Sky and Breath (Crescent City, #2)

Day 4

Pages read: 70 pages of Get it Right

Audiobook time: None

Books started: None

Books finished: Get it Right

Day 5

Pages read: 58 pages of How High We Go in the Dark

Audiobook time: 1/2 hour of Skye Falling

Books started: None

Books finished: None

Day 6

Pages read: 86 pages of How High We Go in the Dark, 32 pages of House of Sky & Breath

Audiobook time: 2.5 hours of Skye Falling

Books started: None

Books finished: How High We Go in the Dark

Day 7

Pages read: 161 pages of House of Sky & Breath

Audiobook time: 2 hours of Skye Falling

Books started: None

Books finished: Skye Falling

 

Overall stats:

Total books finished: 4

Sing Anyway by Anita KellyGet It Right by Skye KilaenHow High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia NagamatsuSkye Falling by Mia McKenzie

Total pages read: 612

Audiobook time: 10 hours

Books started, but not finished: 2

AssemblyHouse of Sky and Breath (Crescent City, #2)

Favorite Books of 2021 (in every category I could think of)!

I wanted to highlight a lot of favorites in this post, and I ended up with not only a top 10 for the year but also a runner-up top 10, as well as many different genre and category favorites. I’m still working on my stats post, so that will come later, but first I wanted to talk about as many of the fantastic books I read this past year as possible.

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2021:

The Office of Historical CorrectionsPlain Bad HeroinesLegendborn (The Legendborn Cycle #1)Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans – fantastic debut short story collection focusing on themes of racism, with some fabulist elements

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth – genrebending horror with timelines in the past and present, a story within a story with a unique structure and a trio of compelling main characters

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn – the book that restored my faith in YA fantasy this year

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. – a fascinating new fantasy world from a past favorite author

Writers & LoversThe Atlas Six (The Atlas, #1)TenderA Deadly Education (The Scholomance, #1)

Writers & Lovers by Lily King – an emotional coming-of-age story about writing, grief, and love

The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake – a dark academia fantasy that sets up a fascinating world and cast of characters

Tender by Sofia Samatar – a unique short story collection inspired by folklore and mythology

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik – an incredibly darkly funny YA dark academia fantasy with a memorable main character

The Vanishing HalfMediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – an immersive historical fiction following the diverging paths of two sisters and their daughters

Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo – a fascinating nonfiction book exploring racism and misogyny

 

Runner-Up Favorites of the year:

Winter's Orbit by Everina MaxwellRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis HallDisfigured by Amanda LeducWhat We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell – a slow burn science fiction romance featuring an arranged marriage

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall – a big-hearted and wonderful contemporary romance set around a Great British Baking Show-esque competition

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda LeDuc – a nonfiction book combining discussion of fairy tales and folklore with memoir

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons – a short, powerful novel about grief and belonging

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat HowardThe Love Hypothesis by Ali HazelwoodThe Last Graduate by Naomi NovikThe Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard – a short story collection from an author I’ve really enjoyed in the past, featuring a fantastic Arthurian-myth inspired novella set on a college campus

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood – my favorite romance of the year, which was originally written as fanfiction and featuring women in STEM

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik – the second book in Novik’s Scholomance trilogy, which hit me hard with emotion particularly at the end and made me need the final book ASAP

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson – literary science fiction dealing with climate change, overconsumption, and AI, heavily leaning on the concept that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah JohnsonTranscendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson – science fiction featuring an indomitable main character in alternate universes on the same world plagued by deep inequality, that I read near the beginning of the year but has stuck with me ever since

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – a thoughtful, introspective book dealing with science and religion

Favorite contemporary romance:

The Love Hypothesis by Ali HazelwoodRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis HallAct Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia HibbertThe Heart Principle by Helen HoangSecond First Impressions by Sally Thorne

I read a LOT of amazing romance in 2021, but these 5 were the best of the best. 4 were from authors I’ve previously read and loved, and 1 (The Love Hypothesis) is a debut from an author I can’t wait to read more from.

Favorite UF/PNR:

Witches Get Stitches by Juliette CrossBlood Heir by Ilona AndrewsFables & Other Lies by Claire Contreras

I didn’t read nearly as much UF/PNR compared to contemporary romance, but I enjoyed the heck out of reading these three.

Favorite historical romance:

A Rogue of One's Own by Evie DunmoreThe Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

2021 was not a big historical romance reading year; I kind of thought it would be after devouring tons of the genre in 2020. However, I did read 2 new favorites, and am looking forward to picking up the next installments in these series in 2022.

Favorite nonfiction:

Mediocre by Ijeoma OluoDisfigured by Amanda Leduc

I read a lot of nonfiction in 2021, mainly on audiobook, but Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo and Disfigured by Amanda LeDuc really stood out.

Favorite science fiction:

Winter's Orbit by Everina MaxwellThe Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Favorite fantasy:

Black Sun by Rebecca RoanhorseThe Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

Favorite debut novels:

Winter's Orbit by Everina MaxwellThe Space Between Worlds by Micaiah JohnsonWhat We Lose by Zinzi ClemmonsThe Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Favorite YA:

Legendborn by Tracy DeonnA Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Like I said earlier, I was pretty shocked to discover 2 amazing new YA favorites in 2021, after some disappointing YA reads over the past few years. Not only are these favorites for 2021, but they’re also all-time YA favorites for me.

Favorite sequel or next-in-series:

The Last Graduate by Naomi NovikWitches Get Stitches by Juliette Cross

I absolutely loved The Last Graduate, a 5-star read and the sequel to A Deadly Education, and had so much fun reading the third book in Juliette Cross’s Stay a Spell series, Witches Get Stitches.

Favorite novella:

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard

This is a great short story collection overall, but my favorite piece was the novella, Once, Future, which is a modern-day King Arthur retelling set on a college campus that also ruminates on the enduring power of myth.

Favorite short story collection:

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle EvansTender by Sofia Samatar

Most disappointing reads of 2021:

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky ChambersFates and Furies by Lauren Groff

I’ve loved several of Becky Chambers’s books, so the fact that her newest novel was underwhelming was a disappointment. And I’ve ranted a lot about the issues I have with Fates & Furies, which I think could have been a really great novel but it had too many serious flaws.

Worst books I read in 2021:

Talk Bookish to Me by Kate BromleyThe Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

I unfortunately really, really disliked both of these contemporary romances from new-to-me authors. Both had premises that really interested me, but both had extremely unlikable characters and romances that I just couldn’t root for.

Favorite covers of 2021 reads:

Fables & Other Lies by Claire ContrerasA Certain Appeal by Vanessa KingFlyaway by Kathleen Jennings

New-to-me authors I can’t wait to read more from:

The Love Hypothesis by Ali HazelwoodFortuna Sworn by K.J. SuttonA Certain Appeal by Vanessa King

There are a lot of authors who could fit this category, but I wanted to highlight Ali Hazelwood, who has a bunch of books coming out in 2022; K. J. Sutton, whose Fortuna Sworn series I’m looking forward to continuing; and Vanessa King, whose Pride & Prejudice-inspired book A Certain Appeal was a great surprise.

 

What were some of your favorite books of 2021? Let me know in the comments!

January Reading Wrap-Up!

 

I started 2022 off strong with 2 five-star reads and read several more review copies than I normally do in most months. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats

Total books read: 12

ARCs/Review copies: 4

ebooks: 3

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

A Marvellous Light (The Last Binding, #1)Never Say You Can't Survive by Charlie Jane AndersLove & Other Disasters by Anita KellyA History of Wild Places by Shea ErnshawCount Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria BellefleurWhere the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuireMy Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole JohnsonAlways Only You by Chloe LieseForged in Fire by Juliette CrossThe Sum of Us by Heather McGheeOut Front the Following SeaElectric Idol (Dark Olympus, #2)

My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson (5 stars) – Consisting of 5 short stories and the titular novella, My Monticello is written in a way that’s incisive and impactful. Many of the stories center around themes of racism and use uncommon voices (second person, first person collective) to convey their messages. Although all 5 of the short stories were excellent, my favorite part of this collection was its novella, which is, hands, down, the best novella I have ever read. Set in the near future after climate disasters have disrupted the central government and infrastructure, a group of white supremacists drives members of a Virginia community out of their homes. They’re then forced to seek refuge in the only safe place they can find–Monticello. While there, they deal with both the house’s racist history and the threats that they are facing in the present; it’s devastating and so well-crafted.  I’ve been recommending this book like crazy, and I think it’s one that everyone should read.

Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly (5 stars) – This is only the third book I’ve read in 2022, and the first romance, but I don’t see how it won’t be my favorite romance of the year.

Love & Other Disasters is incredibly sweet, well-written, inclusive, and big-hearted, and it made me cry several times (to clarify, these were happy tears due to how absurdly cute it is). It’s a contemporary romance following two contestants on a Top Chef-esque reality show who, after an awkward first meeting, develop a friendship and begin to fall for each other. Our protagonists are at very different places in their lives: Dahlia is recently divorced and struggling with her direction in life and self-confidence, and plans to use the prize money to help pay off her student loan debts; London, the show’s first openly non-binary contestant, is happy with their life and career in Nashville, but dreams of using the prize money to start a charity for LGBTQIA+ youth. Dahlia is outgoing and quirky, whereas London exudes quiet confidence, and their opposite personalities complement one another from the start.

I really can’t overstate how much I loved this one. Dahlia and London have a very sweet and supportive foundation, but also fantastic chemistry. Since I love Top Chef, I liked the cooking show premise, but it never overshadows the development of their relationship; I’d say that it takes up exactly the right amount of the story. I don’t know the last time I read a romance where I felt that the characters fit together so well on both an emotional and a romantic level, and where I loved both protagonists and their perspectives equally. More than anything else, this book just made me really, really happy to read, and I’ll be recommending it to everyone all year.

I received a free copy of Love & Other Disasters from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee (4 stars) – An extremely informative and well-researched look at economic inequality and its roots in racism that discusses how racist policies negatively impact not only Black Americans, but all of society. I felt like I learned so much while reading this book; I don’t have much background knowledge in economics, so there was a bit of a learning curve while reading this book, but it’s still accessible.

Electric Idol by Katee Robert (4 stars) – I think I liked the second book in Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus series even more than the first. It’s a marriage of convenience story between Eros, who for years has been doing the dirty work to keep his mother, Aphrodite, in power, and Psyche, a strategic and good-hearted daughter of Aphrodite’s mother Demeter. When Aphrodite asks Eros to kill Psyche, he finds himself drawn to her and marries her for her protection instead. I really liked the way their romance developed quickly from fake to genuine, and this book seems to also set up several possible subsequent romances. As a Greek mythology and romance fan, these books are a lot of fun; I’ve seen critiques saying that they stray too far from the original stories, but that’s very intentional–they’re inspired by the gods’ characters and power struggles rather than direct retellings.

Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman (4 stars) – One of my 2022 reading goals is to pick up more historicals (fiction, fantasy, and romance alike) and I’m glad to have started off with a book that I loved.

Out Front the Following Sea’s protagonist Ruth is a smart, indomitable survivor and a feminist in a time where it wasn’t safe for women to be anything close to one. The story begins with her trapped in a small New England town that considers her a witch and blames her for the deaths of her parents, and Ruth’s dreams of escape manifest in a twisted sense when she’s forced to flee for her life. Ruth’s saga, and her quest for not only survival but to live without having her intelligence and ambitions quashed, is a twisted path full of different types of danger and occasional unexpected friendship. There’s also a very human love story at the center of the narrative between Ruth and her childhood best friend, half-French sailor Owen, although rising tensions between the English and French threaten to divide them more than societal norms already do. The incredible historical details of life in late-1600s New England keep the story rooted in a deep sense of place, even as its themes still resonate in today’s society. I’d definitely recommend this one; it’s fast-paced and full of both action and emotion, and I really enjoyed it despite not being an avid historical fiction reader.

I received an ARC of Out Front the Following Sea from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this third installment in Alexandria Bellefleur’s Written in the Stars series, which is centered around a group of friends living in Seattle. Count Your Lucky Stars is an estranged childhood best friends-to-lovers romance between recently divorced Olivia, who is struggling with anxiety and and her tendencies to prioritize others’ needs over her own, and prickly Margot, who after seeing her best friends fall in love is starting to yearn for her own deeper romantic connection.

As teenagers, Margot and Olivia found their friendship deepening into a brief romantic connection, which quickly ended due to miscommunication and lead to their separation for many years. They reunite as twentysomethings when Olivia becomes the wedding planner for Margot’s best friend’s wedding, and find that their chemistry and love for each other is still alive and well. I’m not normally the biggest fan of second chance romance, but I found Margot and Olivia’s connection really beautiful and believable, and I liked how they encouraged and brought out the best in each other by continually advocating for one another. I also liked the reappearance of Darcy and Elle, one of my favorite fictional couples, from the first book in Bellefleur’s series. It’s a very sweet story about friendship and love, and I’d recommend it to any contemporary romance reader.

I received an eARC of Count Your Lucky Stars from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire (4 stars) – I liked this installment in the Wayward Children series much better than the previous one; we learn about the second, sinister rival school to Eleanor West’s, where the previous books are based around, and a new, large-scale, real-world conflict is introduced. It isn’t my favorite book in the series, but I read it in one setting and very much enjoyed the read.

Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this nonfiction audiobook focused on how to write and be creative during difficult times. It’s read by the author, who I’ve been following since she ran the science and science fiction site io9 and who I’ve been lucky enough to see speak at BookCon, and has a lot of really solid writing advice as well as inspiration.

Forged in Fire by Juliette Cross (3.5 stars) – Forged in Fire is the first book in a UF/PNR trilogy that was re-released this month and originally published in 2015. I’m a huge fan of Juliette Cross’s Stay a Spell series, so I was excited to be able to check out one of her earlier works.

Set in New Orleans, Forged in Fire follows Gen, a college student who’s thrown into an underworld of demons and demon hunters when she discovers that she’s a Vessel, meaning that she has access to a variety of magical powers that make her a target for powerful demons looking to use her for evil. Helping to train and protect her is Jude, a powerful demon hunter with a mysterious past, and who Gen immediately finds herself falling for.

I didn’t love this book quite as much as Juliette Cross’s Stay a Spell series, but I really loved Gen as a main character. She’s strong yet flawed, and you can’t help but root for her. She’s determined to hang on to some form of normalcy while being thrust into a world that she doesn’t understand, and she keeps the story grounded through its introduction of more and more otherworldly elements. I also liked the concept of the Vessel and the worldbuilding of a demonic underworld hiding in plain sight.

What I didn’t love quite as much, unfortunately, was the romance between Gen and Jude, which developed a bit too quickly for my taste, and felt too unbalanced in terms of age and experience level. I’d also caution readers that there are several scenes of sexual assault in this book (perpetrated by the villains), which I did at times find difficult to read.

I received an eARC of Forged in Fire from the author in exchange for an honest review.

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw (3.5 stars) – I’m very hit or miss with mysteries, and I was hoping that this book, with its mild infusion of fantasy, would hit the sweet spot for me. Instead, it was more of an up and down reading experience; I was really interested in the first viewpoint character, a private investigator with the power to see a person’s past by holding an object they interacted with, who was searching for a missing author of disturbing children’s books. Unfortunately, the middle of the book, where we spend time in the forest cult where we believe the author to have disappeared, really dragged, and the three new viewpoint characters didn’t have very interesting personalities. The ending of the book did add more interest, and my investment in finding out the book’s twist kept me reading rather than DNF-ing, but I’m not sure that I’d recommend this one.

Always Only Yours by Chloe Liese (3.5 stars) – I read my first Chloe Liese contemporary romance at the end of 2021, and decided that I wanted to pick up more from her. I generally steer clear of sports romances, but for some reason (probably because I’m from Buffalo), hockey tends to be a bit of an exception, so I enjoyed most of this romance between a prickly social media manager and a cinnamon roll hockey player. It did get a bit too sweet for me at times, as did my previous Chloe Liese read, but I do think I’ll try her again in the future.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske (3 stars) – My first read of January was, unfortunately, my most disappointing of the year so far. I really thought I’d love this historical fantasy romance, but despite the great premise, I found that the characters and the plot both fell very flat for me. I needed more dimension in the characterization and more intrigue in the plot; I’ve seen so many glowing reviews of this book, and I wish that mine was one of them.