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Most Anticipated Book Releases of 2021 (Part 1)

It’s that time of year again, when the year starts to wind down, new book releases become more and more sparse, and I start to look ahead at all of the shiny new releases coming in the next year. I started compiling this list awhile ago and it has absolutely exploded since then, as I’ve heard about more and more enticing new releases coming in 2021. This is not at all an exhaustive list–it’s a very specific one consisting of all the books I’m personally excited for, and that I hope will interest you too. Like previous years, there are a lot of past favorite authors represented on this list, but there are also a bunch of new-to-me authors that I’m intrigued by. And genre-wise, we’re all over the place, which is exactly how I like it.

I’ve included links to the Goodreads pages as well as synopses for all of these so that you can see if you want to add them to your TBR as well; you can also check out my 2021 shelf on Goodreads (feel free to add me on there if you haven’t already). One more caveat–I limited the list this time to books that already have both covers and release dates, since there were already SO MANY to choose from, and there will definitely be a Part 2 list coming when I’ve accumulated enough new options. (And although I’ve organized them in order of anticipated release date, all release dates are subject to change–a TON of release dates got switched around in 2020, and I’m assuming there may be some of that in 2021 as well).

Let’s get ready for 2021!

 

Lore

Lore by Alexandra Bracken (anticipated release 1/5/21) – I’ve never read anything from this author before, but as a huge fan of Greek mythology, I’ve been searching for a mythology-related fiction book that I could really get into. I was lucky enough to be approved for this eARC via NetGalley, so my review should be up before too long. Gorgeous cover, too.

Goodreads synopsis: Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths. Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods. The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

Blood Heir (Kate Daniels World #1; Kate Daniels #10.5)

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews (anticipated release 1/12/21) – I don’t want to post the synopsis for this one, since it’ll probably spoil some aspect of its predecessor series (the Kate Daniels series, my all-time favorite UF/PNR). Suffice it to say that our main character this time is one of the side characters from the Kate Daniels world, and although Ilona Andrews has been self-publishing this on their blog for months now, I’ve been waiting to read it until it’s been edited and compiled into a full volume. I cannot WAIT to check in with some of my favorite characters and see what’s going on in this post-magic-apocalypse world.

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children, #6)

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire (anticipated release 1/12/21) – I’ve loved every installment in McGuire’s Wayward children series, portal fantasy focused on teens who enter and sometimes are rejected from magical worlds, and I’m hoping that this one lives up to the rest.

Goodreads synopsis: Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late. When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes. But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars, #1)

A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel (anticipated release 2/2/21) – I enjoyed Neuvel’s scifi novel Sleeping Giants and loved his creative novella The Test, and I’m intrigued by this first-contact historical SF concept.

Goodreads synopsis: Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race. But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes. A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the  men who are determined to stop them…

The Bride Bet (Girl Meets Duke, #4)

The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare (anticipated release 2/9/21) – I really dove into historical romance in 2020, and although I still can’t bring myself to love most of the covers, Tessa Dare was one of the writers that really got me through this rough year. This is the fourth book in her Girl Meets Duke quartet, which I’ve really been enjoying so far, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in historical romance but don’t know where to start.

Goodreads synopsis: Once upon a time, two sworn enemies – the bookish daughter of a scholar and the devilish heir to a duke – made a pact: If they were both still single in ten years, they would marry each other. It was a joke, Nicola thought. A duchess? Her? But when the Duke of Westleigh returns a decade later, he’s serious. He needs an heir, so he’s holding her to their marriage bargain—diamond ring, lavish gown, engagement ball, and more. Nothing Nicola says can dissuade him. When she calls him arrogant, he praises her honesty. When she makes social stumbles, he catches her fall. And when she gets exasperated, the duke can’t seem to get enough. For reasons she can’t fathom, he claims that no other woman will do. He’s betting he can change her mind, with logic and passion. She’s betting she can change his mind, just by being herself. And as the clock ticks down to a wedding day, neither is counting on losing their heart.

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (anticipated release 2/16/21) – This is the third installment in Rai’s Modern Love series, and since she’s one of my absolute favorite romance authors, this one is at the top of my TBR. Luckily, I was approved for an eARC via NetGalley, so I’ll be reading and reviewing this one soon. The main character is also one of my favorite side characters who’s appeared in several past books.

Goodreads synopsis: Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast. There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is. The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her… When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

 

The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (anticipated release 2/16/21) – I enjoyed Gailey’s contemporary fantasy Magic for Liars, and am very curious about this scifi thriller.

Goodreads synopsis: Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.
Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

 

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

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (release date 2/16/21) – I’m not going to lie, Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series is one of my favorite fantasy/romance series, and although I’m not the biggest fan of Nesta from previous books (I’m not the biggest fan of either of Feyre’s sisters after how they treated her), I’m still looking forward to the reappearance of other favorite characters. And who knows–maybe Maas can pull off a great redemption arc for Nesta. Anything is possible?

The Russian Cage (Gunnie Rose #3)

The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris (anticipated release 2/23/21) – This is the third installment in Harris’s Gunnie Rose series, which is a sort of fantastical alternate universe Western featuring a tough, gunslinging protagonist. I really liked the first book An Easy Death, but was let down by its sequel; I’m hoping I enjoy this one more than I did its predecessor.

Burning Girls and Other Stories

Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes (anticipated release 3/2/21) – this weird, fabulist short story collection sounds like it’s right up my alley; when Kelly Link is cited as a readalike, I generally have to pick it up.

Goodreads synopsis: When we came to America, we brought anger and socialism and hunger. We also brought our demons. In Burning Girls and Other Stories, Veronica Schanoes crosses borders and genres with stories of fierce women at the margins of society burning their way toward the center. This debut collection introduces readers to a fantasist in the vein of Karen Russell and Kelly Link, with a voice all her own. Emma Goldman—yes, that Emma Goldman—takes tea with the Baba Yaga and truths unfold inside of exquisitely crafted lies. In “Among the Thorns,” a young woman in seventeenth century Germany is intent on avenging the brutal murder of her peddler father, but discovers that vengeance may consume all that it touches. In the showstopping, awards finalist title story, “Burning Girls,” Schanoes invests the immigrant narrative with a fearsome fairytale quality that tells a story about America we may not want—but need—to hear. Dreamy, dangerous, and precise, with the weight of the very oldest tales we tell, Burning Girls and Other Stories introduces a writer pushing the boundaries of both fantasy and contemporary fiction.

Down Comes the Night

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft (anticipated release 3/2/21) – This book sounds SO GOOD. I was lucky enough to be approved for an eARC via NetGalley, and I’m anxious to get to it soon as it strikes me as a good atmospheric winter read.

Goodreads synopsis: Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself. When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom. As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.

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

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (anticipated release 3/9/21) – this contemporary romance is the third installment in Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series, and as I’ve really enjoyed the other two (particuarly the second book, Take a Hint, Dani Brown) I’m definitely planning to pick this one up.

Goodreads synopsis: Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right. Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

 

Peaces

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi (release date 4/6/21 ) – every Helen Oyeyemi book always sounds amazing to me, and this one is no exception (hint: there might be a Helen Oyeyemi book coming up on my Top 10 TBR for 2021 as well). Also, her covers are always gorgeous.

Goodreads synopsis: When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment–and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together. A spellbinding tale from a star author, Peaces is about what it means to be seen by another person–whether it’s your lover or a stranger on a train–and what happens when things you thought were firmly in the past turn out to be right beside you.

Of Women and Salt

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (anticipated release 4/6/21) – This one sounds like a female-led, topical literary fiction book that will make waves in 2021.

Goodreads synopsis: In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt. From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals—personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others—that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.

Hummingbird Salamander

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer (anticipated release 4/6/21) – I’m really glad that Vandermeer’s newest is a standalone unrelated to his previous works–not because I didn’t like them (I do! I’ve given several of his books 5-star ratings) but because I’ve been struggling to continue on in the world of his previous book Borne despite how much I enjoyed it (I have yet to pick up either The Strange Bird or Dead Astronauts; both are glaring at me from my TBR shelf as I write this). I like the idea of delving into something entirely new from him.

Goodreads synopsis: Security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control. Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world.

Broken (In the Best Possible Way)

Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson (anticipated release 4/6/21) – I’ve listened to two of Lawson’s previous memoirs/essay collections on audio, and I plan to do the same with Broken, as I find her unique voice and humor lend themselves well to audio.

Goodreads synopsis: As Jenny Lawson’s hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In Broken, she explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation with brutal honesty. But also with brutal humor. Jenny discusses the frustration of dealing with her insurance company in “An Open Letter to My Insurance Company,” which should be an anthem for anyone who has ever had to call their insurance company to try and get a claim covered. She tackles such timelessly debated questions as “How do dogs know they have penises?” We see how her vacuum cleaner almost set her house on fire, how she was attacked by three bears, business ideas she wants to pitch to Shark Tank, and why she can never go back to the post office. Of course, Jenny’s long-suffering husband Victor―the Ricky to Jenny’s Lucille Ball―is present throughout.

 

Malice

Malice by Heather Walter (anticipated release 4/13/21) – I will never not be a sucker for a fairy tale retelling, or for a villain protagonist. This is another one that I was lucky enough to be approved for an eARC via NetGalley, and I’m really excited to check it out.

Goodreads synopsis: Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after. Utter nonsense. Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her. Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse. But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world. Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I— I am the villain.

Second First Impressions

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne (anticipated release 4/13/21) – Sally Thorne wrote one of my all-time favorite contemporary romances, The Hating Game, and I also enjoyed her most recent release 99 Percent Mine. I’m not actually sure how I feel about the synopsis of this one, but I trust Thorne’s writing.

Goodreads synopsis: Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too. Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

 

People We Meet on Vacation

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (anticipated release 5/11/21) – I really loved Henry’s Beach Read, which came out in 2020, and also her fabulist YA book A Million Junes. I’m glad that she’s writing more contemporary romance; this ones sounds like more of a friends to lovers romance (versus Beach Read, which was my preferred trope of enemies to lovers) but it still sounds great.

Goodreads synopsis: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

 

One Last Stop

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (anticipated release 6/1/21) – I think that after the fantastic and much-beloved Red, White, and Royal Blue, everyone has been clamoring to see what McQuiston will come out with next. This sounds like a cute contemporary but with a time-travel twist, which I’m definitely on board for.

Goodreads synopsis: Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that.

But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane. All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.

 

When Night Breaks (Kingdom of Cards, #2)

When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles (anticipated release 6/8/21) – Angeles’s Where Dreams Descend left off on an intriguing cliffhanger, and I’m very interested to see where she takes the sequel; I’m hoping for more magic from badass protagonist Kallia and more dimension to the love triangle set up in the first book.

 

Darling

Darling by K. Ancrum (release date 6/22/21) – I discovered K. Ancrum’s writing this year when I picked up the fantastic The Wicker King, a YA contemporary with sort of a woven-in fantastical narrative that focused on the relationship between its two troubled protagonists, and fell in love. Again, I love a good retelling, and I find Peter Pan retellings particularly interesting because there’s so much to explore and dissect; I can’t wait to see what Ancrum does with this one.

Goodreads synopsis: On Wendy Darling’s first night in Chicago, a boy called Peter appears at her window. He’s dizzying, captivating, beautiful—so she agrees to join him for a night on the town. Wendy thinks they’re heading to a party, but instead they’re soon running in the city’s underground. She makes friends—a punk girl named Tinkerbelle and the lost boys Peter watches over. And she makes enemies—the terrifying Detective Hook, and maybe Peter himself, as his sinister secrets start coming to light. Can Wendy find the courage to survive this night—and make sure everyone else does, too?

Reign (Stormheart, #3)

Reign by Cora Carmack (anticipated release 7/6/21) – Similarly to Where Dreams Descend, a great cliffhanger was set up in the previous book Rage, and I can’t wait to see where Carmack takes this fantasy/romance trilogy. I’m hoping to see protagonist Aurora truly come into her power and see how she navigates a growing conflict on a greater scale.

 

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (release date 7/13/21) – Becky Chambers wrote one of my all-time favorite science fiction books, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and every time she comes out with something new it instantly goes on my TBR. I’m actually not in love with the premise of this one, but I trust her writing.

Goodreads synopsis: It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools. Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

 

A Lesson in Vengeance

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (anticipated release 8/3/21) – this one is being recommended for fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House, so naturally I’m 100% on board; I’ve never read from this author before so I’m very much hoping it doesn’t disappoint.

Goodreads synopsis: Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School. Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds. Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

 

The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (anticipated release 8/17/21) – The release date for this one was pushed back from 2020 to 2021, and I bet it will be well worth the wait. Hoang wrote one of my favorite contemporary romances, The Kiss Quotient, and since fan favorite Quan is the protagonist of this newest installment in the series, I have high hopes.

Goodreads synopsis: To most people, Quan Diep is nothing but a surly-looking, underachieving playboy. The problem is he’s not any of those things. And now that he’s the CEO of an up-and-coming retail business, he’s suddenly a “catch,” and the rich girls who never used to pay any attention to him are looking at him in a new way—especially Camilla, the girl who brushed him off many years ago. Anna Sun dislikes Quan Diep almost as much as germy bathroom door handles. Or so she tells herself. She will never admit that she has a secret crush on him, especially because he only has eyes for her charismatic and newly engaged younger sister Camilla. Over the years, Anna has worked hard to overcome her OCD, but she’ll still need to find a way to bury her anxieties and seduce Quan so he doesn’t ruin her sister’s engagement, and with it, a crucial real estate development deal. Slowly, Anna breaks down Quan’s dangerous and careless exterior while peeling off her own tough, protective shell. But when Quan discovers Anna’s true intentions, he’s forced to confront his own hurtful past and learn to forgive, while Anna must face her greatest challenge: truly opening herself up to love.

 

Under the Whispering Door

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune (anticipated release 9/24/21) – I found Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea to be a really sweet and enjoyable read, and this one sounds like it’ll be in a similar vein.

Goodreads synopsis: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life. When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days. By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.

 

What books are on your radar for 2021?? Let me know if any of these made your list (or if you have any good ones that I missed!) in the comments!

End of the Year Book Tag/December TBR!

As 2020 winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about the books I want to prioritize reading before the end of the year. Instead of a straightforward December TBR, I thought it would be more fun to combine it with the End of the Year book tag, which was created by Ariel Bissett.

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?/Do you have an autumnal book to help transition into the end of the year?

Melmoth

I’m currently about 60 pages into Melmoth by Sarah Perry, which has sort of fallish vibes and which I’ve put on pause for awhile since although I really like it I haven’t been quite in the right mood. But I’m going to make myself finish by the end of the year, since it’s on my Top 10 TBR for 2020 list.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

Ruinsong

There are definitely fewer new book releases toward the end of the year, but I’m really intrigued by Ruinsong by Julia Ember, described as a “dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy,” which actually comes out tomorrow.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Written in the StarsBridgerton: The Duke and I

There are two romance books I really want to finish before the end of the year; I was lucky enough to have been sent copies of both from the publisher. Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur is a contemporary F/F romance set during the holidays, so I think it will make a great December read, and The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is a historical romance adapted into a Netflix series that comes out on December 25th, so I really want to have finished the book before I watch the show.

A Tale for the Time Being

I’m also trying to get to another book from my top 10 2020 TBR list, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which has been sitting on my TBR shelf for way too long.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

Radiance

Yes! I think that Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente is a definite contender for favorite read of 2020, considering that her novel Deathless was sort of tied for my favorite read of 2019. Last year, several of my favorite books of the year were ones I read in December, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2021?

Yes! I started working on ideas for my top 10 2021 TBR awhile ago, because it’s a list that I always enjoy making. I’m looking to choose 10 books that are a variety of genres and encompass 2020 releases as well as some backlist titles, but of course everything depends on what I read over the next few weeks as 2020 winds down. I’ve also been putting together lists of highly anticipated 2021 new releases; one of those posts should be up within the next few weeks.

October Reading Wrap-Up

I did have several reads that I really enjoyed in October, but I also had a few that were really disappointing. In terms of quantity, it was a really excellent reading month; I tend to get excited about diving into fall-ish books this time of year and it definitely helps with my reading productivity. I also participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon again, which was great, and in non-reading updates, I spent a lot of this month doing textbanking for the Biden campaign.

Total books read: 10

ARCs: 1

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Spoiler Alert by Olivia DadeMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaRage by Bob WoodwardThe Regrets by Amy BonnaffonsGrown by Tiffany D. JacksonYou Had Me at Hola by Alexis DariaLittle Eyes by Samanta SchweblinFangs by Sarah AndersenLandscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. AndersonThe Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (4 stars) – In the awfulness that was the first week of October, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade managed to provide an extremely fun and relatable escape with this contemporary romance that’s well-written, authentic, and delightful. You can see my full review here; I received a free copy of Spoiler Alert from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Rage by Bob Woodward (4 stars) – this is the second of Woodward’s Trump biographies I’ve read (his previous book Fear chronicled Trump’s first year in the White House) and I continue to be impressed by his meticulous reporting and ability to combine accounts from various sources within the administration into a horrifying and fascinating account of a White House in constant turmoil. Rage is a ridiculously relevant book to be reading at this exact moment in time; its account extends to the summer of 2020, which feels impossibly current. It’s a must-read if you’re interested in politics and current events and are looking for a deeper understanding of the incompetence and danger of the Trump administration.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson (4 stars) – A great example of one of my favorite kinds of books: books that are very short and very weird. Aliens have arrived on Earth, and instead of attacking outright, they offer what at first seems like salvation: advanced technology, in particular the ability to heal any disease. But their technology soon decimates the global economy and its consequences destroy the environment in an apt metaphor for the effects of colonization. Our protagonist is a teenage boy trying to help his family survive in this new world and also finding escapism in his art, but he finds that the only way he can make money is by feeding into the 1950s fantasy view the aliens have of humans. It’s a quick read, but it does a lot in a short time, with some excellent sarcastic humor and an eerie look at a different kind of alien invasion than we’re used to seeing.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (4 stars) -This was the second great contemporary romance I read in October! Like Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria features thirty-something protagonists focused on career goals, which is always something I’m on board for. Jasmine and Ashton fall for each other while playing romantic leads in a new show for a Netflix-esque streaming service, and the book features great writing, interesting friendship/family dynamics, and a really cute relationship. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking to pick up a new contemporary romance.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (3.5 stars) – This was an excellent October read. Set in 1950s Mexico, we’re following college student and socialite Noemi, whose family sends her to a remote estate in the mountains to check on her cousin Catalina, whose most recent letter hints at disturbing happenings with her English husband, his reclusive family, and their mysterious house. It’s atmospheric and moody, with a protagonist not afraid to take the initiative, and although I didn’t necessarily love the main plot twist, I did overall really enjoy the reading experience.

The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons (3.25 stars) – The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons has, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing premises, and one of the most interesting covers, of 2020, but unfortunately its execution didn’t quite work for me. I mischaracterized it somewhat when I referred to it as a book where a woman falls in love with a ghost–it sort of is, but it’s more accurate to say that it’s the story of a young man caught between this life and this afterlife on a technicality of the rules of death, who meets and falls in love with a woman while he’s living a shadow of what his former life was.

I struggled to find cohesion in this book, not just because of its shifting perspectives, but because it sets itself up to be one thing (an exploration of this specific concept of what happens when you die, and then what happens when that doesn’t go according to plan) and then becomes something else (a somewhat meta and at times clicheed doomed love story with coming-of-age elements) without fully exploring the former. I love fabulism and I’m always attracted to weird premises, but I think that either the weirdness or the love story (or both!) could have been dialed up a few notches in this one. Although interesting in concept and very readable, I wished that it had either been distilled down more or expanded into a broader scope to add more interest.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (3 stars) – Unfortunately, Little Eyes ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me. I absolutely loved Schweblin’s first novel Fever Dream, which I thought was incredibly strange, haunting, concise, and impactful, and so I thought I would love her second novel as well. I didn’t rate it lower because I do think the writing was strong, but I just really did not enjoy the experience of reading it, as the book seemed to lean much more on sadness than it did strangeness or uniqueness. I think my expectations were just not aligned with what this book actually was; I went in expecting horror and weird fiction and instead got unrelenting depictions of loneliness and isolation in a tech-focused world.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin (3 stars) – a mystery/thriller that captivated me at first due to its true crime podcast premise, but lost me in the second half with a plot that wasn’t as interesting as it had seemed it would be and excessive graphic descriptions of sexual assault.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson (3 stars) – A timely, topical YA contemporary that deals with important subjects. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love the writing style and plot structure of this one, but it has a strong message.

Fangs by Sarah Andersen (3 stars) – this graphic novel about a vampire and a werewolf falling in love was definitely cute, but it was also extremely short and didn’t feel like a complete story.

November TBR/NaNoWriMo Game Plan/Thoughts on Reading on the Eve of the Election

I really have no idea what November is going to look like, book friends. It’s the eve of the U.S. presidential election, and it’s hard to plan ahead when there’s so much uncertainty. I’ve been spending the last few weeks volunteering for the Biden campaign, and I really hope that the hard work of so many Americans is about to pay off, but it’s a very scary time here. I actually didn’t read at all over the last week for this reason, but I’m trying to get back on track with both reading and writing for November (or at least as much as I can considering everything going on).

In an ideal universe, I was planning on doing another round of NaNoWriMo this month to hopefully finish the first draft of a fantasy novel I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I set a more modest goal (25,000 words instead of 50,000) and am planning on actually starting NaNo after the election. I’d consider any writing productivity a win at this point, to be honest.

Normally, I find TBR planning helpful during NaNoWriMo, as it helps me avoid spending time and energy choosing my next read when I’m devoting a lot more time than usual to writing. I tend to gravitate towards books by previously loved authors during this month, since I also don’t want to waste my time with disappointing reads. This month, I’m leaving things a little more open-ended, and I’m currently reading several books already that may take me a decent part of the month to complete.

Currently reading:

The House in the Cerulean SeaPiranesiWatch Over Me

Going into November, my current reads are The House in the Cerulean Sea (fantasy), Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (fantasy, by the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell), and Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (YA contemporary, audiobook).

Other November possibilities:

In the Dream House: A MemoirThe Austen Playbook (London Celebrities, #4)

I’d really like to get to another book from my Top 10 2020 TBR list, in this case Carmen Maria Machado’s haunting memoir In the Dream House. And I sort of barely started The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance) last month via ebook, then ordered the physical book after I had to return the ebook to my library.

Book Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Release date: 10/6/20

Genre: contemporary romance

Rating: 4 stars

In the awfulness that was the first week of October, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade managed to provide an extremely fun and relatable escape. It’s a contemporary romance that’s well-written, authentic, and delightful. We’re following geologist April, a superfan of the book and TV series Gods of the Gates (a Game of Thrones-esque series) who spends her free time immersed in fanfiction, cosplay, and fandom culture as a whole. A Twitter encounter with Marcus, the lead actor on the TV series and a closet superfan/fanfiction author himself, leads them to a real-life date–but it turns out that they’re already close friends online, which Marcus soon realizes but April doesn’t.

First of all, I loved that both protagonists are in their 30s; as a 31-year-old, it’s sometimes hard to relate to contemporary romances featuring 22-year-olds, and I liked that both main characters are career-focused and looking to take themselves to the next level. I also related so much to April’s struggles with reconciling her professional life and her personal life when it comes to fandom. There’s discussion about how some hobbies are more socially acceptable than others, and how it’s become normalized to talk about football with your coworkers but not things like fan conventions; even though Gods of the Gates is an extremely popular show, April worries her coworkers won’t see her as serious or professional if they find out the depth of her interest. (Kind of like how, even though books are an integral part of pop culture, I didn’t talk to my coworkers about going to BookCon; it’s as though there is a perceived threshold of how much interest is socially acceptable to have about a particular topic). There’s a lot to think about there with regard to feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Spoiler Alert is a great mix of relatable life and relationship issues with larger-than-life celebrity and fandom drama, and I think there are so many people who will be able to relate to one or both protagonists. I know that some readers don’t love the romance trope of “one character knows something about the other but won’t say that they know it,” so it may bother some people that Marcus realizes that he and April have been internet friends for years but doesn’t tell her, because he’s worried about his fandom involvement affecting his acting career (especially because his commentary on the show he stars in has not been entirely positive).

Definitely recommend to readers with ties to fandom, and to career-focused thirtysomethings looking to see themselves in a fictional character and enjoy a good romance at the same time.

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

September Reading Wrap-Up

In September, I managed to finish 6 books, most of which I really enjoyed. They’re also somewhat color-coordinated, which I’m also into, but was weirdly not intentional. Unfortunately, my 5-star drought has not yet ended, despite picking up several books this month that I thought had 5-star potential.

Reviews:

Emerald Blaze by Ilona AndrewsChosen Ones by Veronica RothSay Yes to the Marquess by Tessa DareWhen No One is Watching by Alyssa ColeThe Wicker King by K. AncrumNormal People by Sally Rooney

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (4.25 stars) – I’ve been looking forward to Emerald Blaze since pretty much the minute I finished Sapphire Flames, the first book in Catalina’s trilogy in Andrews’s Hidden Legacy series, and it was great to finally be able to return to this world of dueling magical families in Houston. Catalina and love interest Alessandro have both grown and matured a lot since the previous book, and are able to deal with a new threat together despite lingering resentment. I continue to love Ilona Andrews’s fantastic world building, lovable side characters, and great relationship development, but I enjoyed this one just slightly less than its predecessor.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (4 stars) – I’ve been struggling with how to review this book, because on the one hand I fell completely in love with its premise, main character, and first section, but on the other I felt that it stumbled somewhat with aspects of one plot twist and its ending. You can check out my full review here.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (4 stars) – I love books with unconventional formats; if I’m ever on the fence about picking something up, hearing that it utilizes drawings or documents or notes in its narrative will always tip me over the edge. That and several positive reviews were what influenced me to pick up The Wicker King by K. Ancrum, which is about best friends dealing with the fact that one of them is seeing things that can’t be real–another world overlaid over their own, to be specific. In addition to text interspersed with illustrations of the other world, mix CDs highlighting characters’ personalities, and police reports, the book also colors its pages differently as its two main characters become more and more immersed in the alternate reality. I loved how thoughtfully this book was constructed, and also loved its main characters and their intense relationship; I’ll definitely be picking up more from this author in the future.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (3.75 stars) – I’ve read a bunch of Alyssa Cole’s contemporary and historical romances, so of course I jumped at a chance to read a thriller from her, particularly in the fall, which for me is mystery/thriller season. When No One is Watching is set in a close-knit Brooklyn neighborhood threatened by gentrification and follows our protagonist Sydney, who’s reeling from her divorce and subsequent move back to Brooklyn from Seattle, as well as her mother’s illness. Frustrated by the whitewashing of her neighborhood’s history on a walking tour of the area, Sydney gets the idea to develop her own tour that focuses on the area’s Black community, and dives into research with the help of Theo, a new neighbor Sydney isn’t exactly thrilled to have an as assistant. But strange and sinister things are happening in the neighborhood, and Sydney and Theo have to team up to figure out exactly what’s going on and how to protect their community from encroaching threats.

Alyssa Cole creates an extremely strong sense of place and community that grounds When No One is Watching and immediately makes you empathize with its characters and their plight. The side characters in Sydney’s neighborhood were possibly my favorite part of the book; I wanted to see more of all of them, and I also enjoyed the addition of neighborhood online forum posts as a way to track the growing tension between its longtime residents and interlopers. It’s a fantastic depiction of different forms of racism, both overt and insidious, that can affect peoples’ day-to-day lives, and I was extremely invested in the story and, at a certain point, unable to stop reading so that I could finally find out what exactly was going on. It’s a bit of a slow build, but the action-packed ending definitely compensates for the overall slower pace, and I thought that the book’s message was clear and extremely relevant. What I liked least was probably the story’s dual perspective; I liked protagonist Sydney’s chapters, but I could have done without Theo as a POV character, as I didn’t find him as compelling. I definitely recommend this one, especially if you’re looking for a mystery/thriller that’s relevant for 2020.

I received an ARC of When No One is Watching from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare (3.25 stars) – I’ve been reading a lot of Tessa Dare in 2020 (at the moment, she’s tied with Alyssa Cole for my most-read author of the year); her books are fun to read but also so well-crafted, with clever jokes and great chemistry. Even though I liked this one less than I have the others I’ve read of hers, it was still an extremely fun read, particularly the premise: tired of the eight years she’s spent waiting for her fiance to return from the Continent, Clio attempts to get his black sheep brother Rafe to sign a contract releasing her from the betrothal. Unbeknownst to Clio, Rafe has been long harboring feelings for her, but he’s also determined that she’ll still marry his brother, and this begins a battle of wills as Rafe tries to get her excited about the wedding while Clio tries to convince him that she’ll be better off alone and free to run her own castle and business.

Normal People by Sally Rooney (2 stars) – I picked up this book expecting to love it, and unfortunately I really, really didn’t. Normal People was one of the books on my Top 10 TBR for 2020 (I’m trying to finish all of them before the end of the year and am a bit behind schedule), and I’ve been hearing great things about it for so long, as well as about its Hulu adaptation. But this book, for me, did not at all live up to the hype. I was really frustrated with the aspiring pretentiousness of the tone, which never felt natural or authentic, and by its odd structure that repeatedly used the same technique of jumping forward in time several months but then flashing back to what had happened in those prior months, thus completely negating the need for a time jump in the first place. I felt that Marianne’s story and agency were jettisoned in favor of Connell’s in a way that felt regressive and frankly sexist, particularly when it came to the book’s ending, and I thought that making Connell’s character a writer felt very overdone, particularly the passages where he’s trying to make these profound statements about writing and literary readings but just never says anything new or fresh. I don’t actually write negative reviews very often, both because I’m fairly good at predicting what books I’ll like and picking from those, and also because if I’m not enjoying a book I’m very likely to DNF it unless it’s a review copy, but I just had to with this one. The last thing I want to do is take away from anyone’s enjoyment of Normal People; I know that a lot of people really love it, and I wish that I had too. But I really don’t recommend this one if you haven’t tried it yet–there are just so many books out there that do similar things in a better way.

Book Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been struggling with how to review this book, because on the one hand I fell completely in love with its premise, main character, and first section, but on the other I felt that it stumbled somewhat with aspects of one plot twist and its ending. It definitely hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves, but I also can’t say that it was unreservedly perfect due to its aforementioned issues (I’d try to go into them more, but we’d be entering spoiler territory). I sometimes get frustrated by books that I feel could have been amazing if handled differently, maybe even more so than books I feel indifferent about, just because I want to love them so much but find myself not being able to. (I’d say that for comparison I also felt this way about Middlegame by Seanan McGuire and Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas: both 4-star reads that I was really hoping to be 5-star reads, and that therefore felt unsatisfying even though I loved so much of them.) It’s possible, also, that I am just picky and weird.

Anyways, this book is about five twenty-somethings who, ten years ago, were the Chosen Ones who saved our world from the mysterious Dark One, and who are now dealing with PTSD and trying to adapt to somewhat normal lives in Chicago, although they’re also treated as celebrities and frequently harangued in public and sought after for various events. Sloane, our Jessica Jones-esque protagonist (that is how I pictured her for the duration of the novel), is having a particularly hard time and, in an effort to help herself cope with her trauma, requests the release of documents surrounding the project that recruited and trained the teens, based on a prophecy, to find magical objects and use them to defeat the Dark One, whose workings caused mass deaths in places he caused a sort of people-melting magic tornado called Drains. In addition to the underlying tensions between the Chosen Ones and their individual struggles, we also start to suspect that evil may not be as gone from the world as we’d thought.

I’ll say it again–I LOVED this premise. I love books that delve into tropes and genre conventions only to subvert them, and I felt like this book was doing for superhero narratives what The Magicians did for portal fantasy. Sloane is a prickly, haunted, self-sufficient main character, and I loved her dynamics with golden boy Matt, her long-term boyfriend, and Albie, the Chosen One she’s bonded with the most based on a shared trauma the others weren’t present for. The inclusion of government documents and articles were a great way to slowly reveal information, and for the first part of the book I was completely on board with everything the book was doing.

And then, there’s a big twist, which I will say nothing about, and which I was at first cautiously optimistic about and then gradually liked less and less, as I felt it took away from the fascinating narrative we’d been building up until that point. I wish the book had taken a different trajectory, and although overall I did have a great experience reading it, I think it could have been stronger if it had.

October TBR/Reading Seasonally

It’s officially fall now, which tends to be my favorite season (yes, I get really basic during the fall, I won’t lie to you guys). To a certain degree, I like to read seasonally, which to me means that once fall hits I’m in the mood for paranormal, mystery, dark fantasy, weird fiction, and horror. Several of these genres are ones I rarely read from during the rest of the year, so I usually go into the fall with several books in mind that I’ve been saving for crisp nights with a mug of hot spiced cider.

This month, I’m thinking of prioritizing these 4 books:

Mexican GothicThe RegretsMelmothLittle Eyes

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a historical mystery set in 1950s Mexico; The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons, which features a ghost stuck between this world and the next and the woman who falls in love with him; Melmoth by Sarah Perry, historical fiction focusing on a dark European legend (also on my top 10 TBR for 2020/5 star predictions list I made at the beginning of the year); and Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, a weird fiction/horror novel about mysterious stuffed animals.

Depending on time constraints and my reading mood, I may also decide to delve into these ones also (particularly, I’m thinking, for the next round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon on October 24th):

The Only Good IndiansThe Damned (The Beautiful, #2)Fangs

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror novel that I’m waiting to arrive in the mail; The Damned by Renee Ahdieh, the sequel to YA historical fantasy The Beautiful; and Fangs by Sarah Andersen, a graphic novel about a vampire and a werewolf who fall in love.

 

What’s on your TBR for October? Any of these that catch your eye? Let me know in the comments!

August Reading Wrap-Up: ARC August and Bout of Books

In August, I had a productive reading month participating in ARC August, a reading challenge that focuses on catching up on Advanced Reader Copies, as well as the week-long Bout of Books readathon. I was able to finish 4 of the 6 ARCs on my list while still leaving some space for mood-reading, and although I didn’t encounter any elusive 5-star reads, I read several books that I really enjoyed.

Stats:

Total books read: 8

ARCs: 4

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Tools of Engagement by Tessa BaileyWe Are All the Same in the DarkA Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank GreenSlay by Brittney MorrisWhere Dreams Descend by Janella AngelesLuster by Raven LeilaniDon't Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Luster by Raven Leilani (4 stars) – A somewhat unsettling literary fiction coming-of-age novel focusing on a twenty-something losing her grip on the stability of her job and apartment and whose only apparent option becomes moving in with her married boyfriend, his wife, and their daughter. It explores the uncomfortable dynamics of an open marriage whose participants are clearly not equally happy with the situation, as well as the subtle racism facing the couple’s Black daughter, which our protagonist is clearly able to see but is invisible to her parents. Leilani’s prose is skillful and deft, and her sentences were fascinating to read. Luster came onto my radar after I saw it nominated for a debut fiction prize, and I’m so glad that I picked it up, because I’ll be extremely interested to pick up any future books from this author.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad (4 stars) – After reading Mona Awad’s Bunny, my NEW FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, earlier this year, I immediately bought Awad’s only other published novel in hopes that it would work similarly well for me. And there were definitely parts of 13 Ways that did. I think that Awad taps into the heart of our societal obsession with thinness and how diet culture is pervasive in so many aspects of life; there are so many scenes where the emotions and undercurrents are dead on. But there were other parts that dragged or felt superfluous, and I felt that it might have worked better as a shorter piece, even though it’s only about 200 pages long. So it’s not my new favorite book, but there were definitely aspects that reminded me why I love Mona Awad’s writing so much, and I think it’s a book that so many women can identify with in different ways. I absolutely don’t think it deserves its abysmal Goodreads rating, but I can see how it would be polarizing in the way that Bunny also was.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (4 stars) – My full review for this twisty, atmospheric, feminist mystery/thriller can be found here.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green (4 stars) – The sequel to the extremely fun and social media-focused An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was a little bit darker, more complex, and a very interesting ending to the saga of the mysterious Carls, alien technology that appeared simultaneously all over the world in the first book. I liked that it was told from multiple perspectives, which gave us a broader view on the situation, and I listened to the audiobook which was very engaging and well-narrated. I’d recommend this book to readers who mainly read contemporary fiction but are looking to dip a toe into near-future science fiction, and to social media-savvy readers.

Slay by Brittney Morris (3.5 stars) – An engrossing and addictive contemporary YA novel about a Kiera, a high school student and young game developer who creates Slay, a game that celebrates the Black experience, and whose world shifts when a player is murdered in the real world and she finds herself and her game the targets of blame and racist vitriol. Slay is a book that celebrates creativity and drive in a protagonist who’s balancing school, college applications, a boyfriend, and family with a secret passion no one in her day-to-day life knows about; I think readers of Fangirl and Eliza and Her Monsters will really like it for that reason. It also deals with the different types of racism Kiera experiences and the different ways that she and other characters take to combat this. It’s a book that I felt like I had to keep reading; at one part I got so emotionally invested that I had to peek ahead and spoil the ending for myself. Definitely recommend!

Don’t Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross (3.5 stars) – This is the second book in Cross’s Stay a Spell series, which is set in New Orleans and focuses on a family of witch sisters in charge of the city’s supernatural community. Isadora is a sweet, garden-loving witch who’s uncomfortable around most people outside of her family, and who enjoys gathering herbs and enchanting them for sale at her family’s witchy boutique. Devraj Kumar, a powerful vampire tasked with hunting down vampires who break their community’s laws, accidentally hits her with his car and becomes enchanted with her, although Isadora at first wants nothing to do with him. They’re thrown together further when young women begin disappearing from the New Orleans bar scene and it becomes obvious that vampires are involved, and Isadora and Devraj have to work as a team to take down the culprits.

I really love the supernatural worldbuilding that Juliette Cross develops in this series, from the witches and vampires to the mysterious Grims and artistic werewolves. I also love how she sprinkles in hints of relationships that will be the focus of future books (I cannot WAIT for the book focusing on Jules, the powerful head witch, and Ruben, the boss of the New Orleans vampires, who have great chemistry in every scene they’re in). Cross is also great at writing romantic scenes, and I loved Devraj as a character–he’s very complex, as one would expect from a centuries-old vampire who’s been able to travel the world and live life to the fullest. I connected less with Isadora, who didn’t have as strong of a personality as many of her other sisters, and who seemed much less dimensional than Devraj. Although I do really enjoy this series, as a whole I didn’t enjoy this installment quite as much as I did the first book, Wolf Gone Wild, but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the future.

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

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (3.5 stars) – I really enjoyed this feminist YA fantasy with Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge vibes. Female magician Kallia performs nightly at a club owned by the enigmatic magician Jack, but dreams of making a name for herself outside of its boundaries. She finds her chance when a mysterious nearby city hosts a competition for magicians, but when its participants begin to go missing and she is forced to confront the misogyny of the world of magicians, she realizes it may be more of a challenge than she bargained for. Kallia’s strength of character and her formidable magical talents are tested throughout the book, and twists abound. It’s definitely an intriguing book, featuring a love triangle and mirrors that hold dark secrets, and I’d definitely recommend it to YA fantasy fans. I received an ARC of Where Dreams Descend from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – In the third installment of Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series, which is centered around a house flipping company on Long Island, we’re re-introduced to the chemistry between perfectionist house stager Bethany and new-in-town Wes, who’s several years younger than Bethany but was forced to shoulder a lot of responsibility at a young age. Wes, who’s also a former rodeo competitor from the South, is instantly attracted to put-together Bethany, but she remains very skeptical of his motives for most of the book. When they’re thrown together in a house-flipping competition that’s being filmed for reality TV, their chemistry heats up as they begin to develop a mutual respect–Wes coming to see Bethany as a more complex person than the cool, calm, collected exterior she always portrays, and Bethany respecting Wes’s devotion to taking care of his niece after his sister left town.

Although I did think that Bethany and Wes had great chemistry with a lot of banter, I felt that the book overall tended to emphasize rigid traditional gender roles in a way that didn’t feel like it was set in 2020, which made it hard to fully enjoy the book. Although the development of the “Just Us League,” a group of women supporting women developed in the first book, seems on the surface to be a progressive, feminist act, there’s a lot of repetitive binary talk of “girls do this” and “guys do that” that’s never really challenged or explored in a modern sense. It’s something I noticed more and more as the series progressed, and that I wish had been addressed.

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

September TBR

I’m slightly late posting this one, but I’m really liking adding TBR blog posts to help map out my reading for the month, so we’re going to roll with it. In September, I play to do three things: start my fall-themed reading, get to a few fall ARCs, and finish the three books I’m carrying over from August.

ARCs:

We Were Restless ThingsWhen No One Is WatchingSpoiler Alert

We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu (release date 10/6) – YA mystery/contemporary fantasy about the mystery surrounding a boy who drowned in a lake that only his best friend can find.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (release date 9/1) – a mystery/thriller about gentrification in Brooklyn and the mysterious disappearances of the main character’s neighbors

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (release date 10/6) – contemporary romance centered around the fandom of a Game of Thrones-esque show

Currently reading/Unfinished August reads:

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)The Dreamers

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews – second in a trilogy (and also fifth in a series) following magical families in Houston, and focused on the romance between Catalina, the head of her family’s house and the possessor of siren magic, and Alessandro, an assassin with mysterious motives.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth – Following the five “Chosen Ones” who defeated the evil Dark One as teenagers, but ten years later when several of them are suffering from PTSD and struggling to figure out how to live their lives in the aftermath.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – following a variety of characters after a mysterious sleeping sickness originates in a small college town.

 

What are you reading in September?