Thank you to Netgalley & Park Row Books for an advanced copy of this title. The following opinions are my own.
“I know who I am, but who are you? I woke up during the sunrise, and your hair and your skin and the freckles on your nose glowed like gold. Honey-gold. I think you are my wife, and I will call you Honey Girl.”
And so begins the sapphic romance between Grace Porter and Yuki Yamamoto; two lonely souls who found each other in the desert. Grace and her two roommates and best friends, Ximena and Agnes, are on a mini vacation in Las Vegas to celebrate Grace’s PhD in Astronomy. On their last night in the city Grace meets a girl with rose-pink cheeks and pitch-black hair. When she wakes up the following morning in her Las Vegas hotel room she finds a photo, a business card, and a note on the bed next to her. These are the only items she has connecting her to the woman she drunk-married the night before. She doesn’t remember her name but she can’t forget how the beautiful girl made her feel. With only these memento’s and snippets of a champagne-bubble dream, Grace and her girlfriends get on a plane and fly back to Portland, Oregon, where Grace must once again face her stark reality. The only thing Grace knows for certain is that she doesn’t want to give up her wife, whoever she is, or the connection they inexplicably have.
I’ll admit that this book started out on a bit of a bumpy course for me. The story felt a little disjointed and the prose didn’t seem to flow well. Dialogue didn’t smoothly segue into thought. Unfortunately when I read a book that starts out this way I have a hard time deciphering whether it’s the book or just me. I also felt the pacing was a little off with the first 40% of the book following Grace and her friends from day to day and then in the second half there were quite a few time jumps. This was necessary for the progression of the story but the book would have benefitted from a more consistent timeline. All in all these are pretty minor infractions. Where the book really shines is in the characters and their growth throughout the story.
Grace’s mother lives in Southbury, Florida where Grace grew up among the trees in their orange grove. Grace’s father, the Colonel, took Grace and moved to Portland when she was quite young. Growing up in an unfamiliar city with only her father and lovely stepmother, Sharone, Grace slowly built her own family- an eclectic group of colorful humans that love and support one another above all else. Her two roommates, Agnes, the girl with claws and sharp teeth, and Ximena, the Spanish goddess who is the glue that holds them together, lean on one another and pick each other up when they need it.
Grace works at the Tea House owned by the lovely Indian family that has adopted Grace as their own. Meera is the calm and supportive sister-figure, while Raj plays the role of big brother and protector. Baba Vihaan, their father, lovingly embraces Grace as if she is his own. Later, we meet Yuki, the gorgeous Japanese storyteller that Grace married in the desert along with her 3 roommates. Sani, the Native American MMA fighter, Dhorian, the dark-skinned resident doctor, and Fletcher, the silly and loving school teacher.
The diversity in both ethnicity and sexuality make this a decadent and vibrant story. Different cultures and beliefs are touched upon throughout the book in subtle ways. Biracialism is front and center; Grace is half black and half white. The struggles she faces in both her life and her career are heartbreaking and appalling. Intersectionality also plays a big role in this book. The Colonel is both black and disabled; he lost a portion of his leg in the war. Grace is not only biracial but suffers with mental illness as well. And she isn’t the only one. Agnes is thriving with Ximena and Grace but she’s still battling with her illnesses.
“I am here, says the darkness inside Grace. I am listening.”
Both Grace and Raj are buckling under the weight of their father’s expectations but in very different ways. While the Colonel is extremely strict and refuses to give an inch, Baba Vihaan is loving and warm but their culture demands the eldest son take over the family business when the patriarch dies whether Raj wants that life or not.
When Grace decides to take some time for herself after eleven grueling years of non-stop education and job rejections that are based on her race and sexuality rather than her above board and absolutely stellar resume, she does so against the wishes of her very strict father. For the first time in her life she is making a decision for herself rather than someone else. Little does she know that flying to NYC and getting to know her wife will become the catalyst she needs to finally face her fears, confront the people that have hurt her, and begin the arduous task of freeing herself from many self-inflicted burdens.
Grace is a brilliant astronomer, vastly knowledgable, and has the degrees and doctorate to prove it but when it comes to knowing her inner-self, the things she needs to make her happy, she is woefully inept. Following along on her journey of self-discovery is both heartbreaking and inspiring; I have a feeling her story will resonate with many people of color, especially women. These beautiful humans can read this story and feel seen. Whether the reader is black, biracial, Indian, Spanish, Japanese, Native American, disabled, Buddhist, lesbian, bi, gay, or straight- this story is a love letter to you. That being said I highly recommend reading an own-voices review; a review from someone who has shared the experiences of our main character. I suggest the following reviews for your perusal: Mina Reads & Ahtiya (BookinitWithAhtiya).
If you’re someone who loves diversity, strong female leads, found-family, or self-discovery in your stories than look no further. Morgan Rogers did a phenomenal job representing so many marginalized people. This is a novel that I read with google open on my phone to search all the new things I discovered while reading, whether it was about culture, food, or ethnicity. This is an absolute feast of a book!
The quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
About the Author
Morgan Rogers is a queer black millennial. She writes books for queer girls looking for their place in the world. She lives in Maryland and has a Shih Tzu named Nico and a cat named Grace that she would love to write into a story one day. Honey Girl is her debut novel.
“I hate men” seems to be a well-worn phrase used by many heterosexual women. The work it takes when looking for a romantic partner, from dating to dolling yourself up, just to be let down yet again in the end, becomes a tiring exercise that eventually convinces a lot of women that there are no good men left. Add a previous sexual assault to the mix and the idea of finding a good man becomes even harder to believe.
Holly Bourne’s Pretending follows April, a sexual assault victim and charity worker, who’s been desperately searching for the man of her dreams but finds that all the men she meets are completely predictable, eventually scattering her hopes and breaking her heart. Until she decides she’s done being the vulnerable, nice girl and brings “Gretel”, her alter-ego, to life.
Please enjoy an excerpt from Pretending by Holly Bourne:
I hate men.
There, I’ve said it. I know you’re not supposed to say it. We all pretend we don’t hate them; we all tell ourselves we don’t hate them. But I’m calling it. I’m standing here on this soapbox, and I’m saying it.
I. Hate. Men.
I mean, think about it. They’re just awful. I hate how selfish they are. How they take up so much space, assuming it’s always theirs to take. How they spread out their legs on public transport, like their balls need regular airing to stop them developing damp. I hate how they basically scent mark anywhere they enter to make it work for them. Putting on the music they want to listen to the moment they arrive at any house party, and always taking the nicest chair. How they touch your stuff instead of just looking; even tweak the furniture arrangement to make it most comfortable for them. All without asking first—never asking first.
I hate how they think their interests are more important than yours—even though twice a week all most of them do is watch a bunch of strangers kick a circle around a piece of lawn and sulk if the circle doesn’t go in the right place. And how bored they look if you ever try to introduce them to a film, a band, or even a freaking YouTube clip, before you’ve even pressed Play.
I hate their endless arrogance. I hate how they interrupt you and then apologize for it but carry on talking anyway. How they ask you a question but then check your answer afterward. I hate how they can never do one piece of housework without telling you about it. I hate how they literally cannot handle being driven in a car by a woman, even if they’re terrible drivers themselves. I hate how they all think they’re fucking incredible at grilling meat on barbecues. The sun comes out and man must light fire and not let woman anywhere near the meat. Dumping blackened bits of chicken onto our plates along with the whiff of a burp from their beer breath, acting all caveman, like we’re supposed to find it cute that we may now get salmonella and that we’re going to have to do all the washing up.
I hate how I’m quite scared of them. I hate the collective noise of them when they’re in a big group. The tribal wahey-ing, like they all swap their IQs for extra testosterone when they swarm together. How, if you’re sitting alone on an empty train, they always come and deliberately sit next to you en masse, and talk extra loudly about macho nonsense, apparently to impress you. I hate the way they look at you when you walk past—automatically judging your screwability the moment they see you. Telling you to smile if you dare look anything other than delighted about living with stuff like this constantly fucking happening to you.
I hate how hard they are to love. How many of them actually, truly, think the way to your heart is sending you a selfie of them tugging themselves, hairy ball sack very much still in shot. I hate how they have sex. How they shove their fingers into you, thinking it’s going to achieve anything. Jabbing their unwashed hands into your dry vagina, prodding about like they’re checking for prostate cancer, then wondering why you now have BV and you still haven’t come. Have none of them read a sex manual? Seriously? None of them? And I hate how they hate you a little just after they’ve finished. How even the nice ones lie there with cold eyes, pretending to cuddle, but clearly desperate to get as far away from you as possible.
I hate how it’s never equal. How they expect you to do all the emotional labor and then get upset when you’re the more stressed-out one. I hate how they never understand you, no matter how hard they try, although, let’s be honest here, they never actually try that hard. And I hate how you’re always exhausting yourself trying to explain even the most basic of your rational emotional responses to their bored face.
I hate how every single last one of them has issues with their father.
And do you know what I hate most of all?
That despite this, despite all this disdain, I still fancy men. And I still want them to fancy me, to want me, to love me. I hate myself for how much I want them. Why do I still fancy men so much? What’s wrong with me? Why are they all so broken? Am I broken for still wanting to be with one, even after everything? I should be alone. That’s the only healthy way to be. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE. I hate men, that’s the problem. GOD I HATE THEM SO MUCH—they’re so entitled and broken and lazy and wrong and…and…
Holly Bourne is a bestselling and critically acclaimed UK-based YA and Adult Fiction author and is an Ambassador for Women’s Aid. Inspired by her work with young people, and her own experiences of everyday sexism, Holly is a passionate mental health advocate and proud feminist. In 2019, she was an Author of the Day at the London Book Fair, and was named by Elle Magazine’s weekly podcast as one of “Six Female Authors Changing the Conversation in 2019”. Pretending is her US debut.
Thank you William Morrow for sending me an early copy of this book. The following opinions are my own.
Survivor Song is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. Here are a couple of things that this story is not:
This is not a zombie novel.
This is not an apocalypse novel.
This book follows Dr. Ramola Sherman and her best friend, Natalie, after an outbreak of a super rabies illness. This illness is unlike the rabies we know and love where the symptoms can take several weeks to appear and we have all kinds of time to treat it before it becomes fatal. The super rabies has an incubation time of an hour or even less in some cases. Once it passes the brain barrier there is no hope of return.
Natalie calls Ramola when her husband is viciously attacked and killed by an infected neighbor and shares the news that she, too, has been bitten. Natalie is due to give birth in 15 days. As Natalie pulls into the driveway of Ramola’s home the clock starts ticking. The two women head out determined to get Natalie treated before the illness can do permanent damage and kill her friend and possibly her child.
This entire book, with the exception of the ‘postlude’ at the end, spans several hours as Ramola desperately tries to get Natalie to a hospital and a vaccine before it’s too late. On this journey through a chaotic Massachusetts that’s been set upon by the outbreak, everything that can happen does. It becomes a survival of the fittest type of situation and Ramola is willing to do just about anything to save her best friend. The chapters alternate between Ramola’s and Natalie’s point of view and the reader starts waiting with bated breathe to see if Natalie will mentally deteriorate like those all around her or if she was vaccinated in time to save her. One thing is for sure, though. They must deliver the baby by emergency c-section to save the child’s life in the event Natalie does not survive. Ramola doesn’t spare a single thought for anything else other than Natalie and her unborn child.
The story was gripping the whole way through. At every turn the two women face another challenge and you never know what they will do to meet it. They find themselves face to face with infected people and animals, conspiracy-believing zealots, car crashes, and two teenage boys who become more entangled in the story than expected. It’s a wild ride from beginning to end. This book goes a bit deeper than that, though. What I saw when reading this was the love and loyalty these women shared and what they were willing to do to help each other. I saw a doctor who is extraordinarily compassionate and held on to her morals with an iron fist no matter what. So while this is a horror novel about rabies-infected humans going around chewing on each other, it’s also a story about resilience and hope and I couldn’t put it down.
Some other aspects of the book I really liked were the creepy pages with the gothic writing peppered throughout and I also loved that the main character, Ramola, is a half white, half Indian, asexual woman with a British accent. Her character represented these qualities, not to further the plot, but just because that’s who she was. She has a really interesting background story that features her parents who are in an interracial relationship. I’d love to see more of this representation in books just for the sake of being there and not because it’s the focus of the story.
There are only a couple small criticisms I have as far as this book goes. One being that the chapters, especially Rams (Ramola), are very long. This doesn’t hurt the story and luckily this is a very fast-paced read so those long chapters don’t drag like they sometimes do in other books. I just prefer shorter chapters. And the second being that I don’t understand what the purpose was behind the decisions the teenage boys, specifically Luis, made after leaving Romola and Natalie. I thought that was an odd addition to the story and it felt like it didn’t fit. I think I would have enjoyed that part more if specifics from their background had been revealed and we could have learned what their secret was in more detail.
Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I enjoyed this infinitely more than The Cabin at the End of the World. If you weren’t a fan of that book but want to give Paul Tremblay another shot or if you haven’t read anything by him and want to then I’d definitely pick this one up when it releases in July. I love Paul’s writing. It’s really fantastic, and I felt that way when reading the previous book as well. But here the storytelling and writing are in sync to create an awesome book.
Beware of some triggers for: blood/gore, violence, loss of a spouse/loved one, animal deaths, and xenophobia.
➼ ARC provided by Wednesday Books and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Foul is Fair is a brutal retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Macbeth. In this take of the story, main character Jade, and her three closest friends, Mads, Jenny, and Summer, crash a St. Andrews Prep party to celebrate Jade’s sweet sixteen. These four girls are the ruling circle among their peers and are practically untouchable. Every other girl either hates them or wants to be them. Until the night of her sixteenth birthday when St. Andrews Prep golden boys choose Jade as their next victim.
Over the next several weeks Jade and her coven plan her vengeance against every single person who played a part that fateful night. Jade enters St. Andrews Prep as a student and quickly climbs the social hierarchy using Mack, an all-around good boy whose ambition will be used against him.
This time, they chose the wrong girl.
Sweet sixteen is when the claws come out.
Whew, where to even start! This book is so unique and Hannah Capin really has a way with words. The writing is so sharp it’ll cut you if youaren’t careful. This story is brutal and bloody. Every girl who has ever been a victim will let out a war cry when reading this book. I loved the protagonist, Jade. She was strength and bravery incarnate. A girl pushed to the ground who refused to stay there and then decides to make her abusers pay. Her friend group, or coven, was one of the best elements of the book. The relationships were portrayed beautifully and realistically; each girl having their own identities and personalities. I particularly loved Mads, Jade’s very best friend. Described as a beautiful dark-skinned warrior and someone who would stop at nothing to defend her friends. I am pretty sure she is a trans girl based on how she was described in the book. It wasn’t explicitly said but it was made pretty clear. I also loved Summer for the simple fact that we share a name and also because she is more a lover than a fighter but can still be counted on to do whatever it takes to help the rest of the coven. Summer is also either a lesbian or bisexual. This was also not explicitly stated but implied. It’s been a long time since I’ve loved a girl friend group as much as I did in this book.
I know better than I’ve ever known anything: every second in my whole life has just been practice for what I’ll do to these boys. This is why I’m alive.
This story is portrayed very dramatically, which is fitting since it is a retelling of a play. Because of this many metaphors are used and the reader has to parse out the true meaning of the words at times. I really enjoyed this part of the story but can easily see how some people wouldn’t care for it. Some suspension of belief is required to fully enjoy this book as well. In the real world many of the things that the characters did would’ve been discovered by police pretty quickly. Another aspect that may require a suspension of belief is the fact that upon meeting Jade, Mack is willing to do and believe anything she tells him. Even though they’ve only known each other for a matter of hours. I think all of this plays into the drama of the story though and I found it easy to accept.
I am deadly. I’m a poisoned blade. I’m all the power he thinks he has and more.
There are trigger warnings galore for this book which I’ll add at the end. When it is said that this story is brutal, make no mistake, it IS. There is a lot of blood and violence happening. There is also poisoning, and stabbing. This is a revenge story after all and it wouldn’t be much of one without these gory elements! If this is something that doesn’t bother you than I’d say definitely give this book a go. This story does deal with very important but sensitive topics. So please be sure to read the trigger warnings before picking this up if you are at all worried about any of the more sensitive aspects of the book.
TW: sexual assault (not depicted), rape culture, violence, an abusive relationship, a suicide attempt, and a brief scene with transphobic bullying.
➼ All quotes used in this review were taken from an uncorrected proofand are subject to change upon publication.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hannah Capin is the author of Foul is Fair and The Dead Queens Club, a feminist retelling of the wives of Henry VIII. When she isn’t writing, she can be found singing, sailing, or pulling marathon gossip sessions with her girl squad. She lives in Tidewater, Virginia. Find Hannah on twitter @tldaaollf.
My people had a saying about home, as they did about so many of the important things in life: a Varenian can never be lost at sea, because he calls the entire ocean home.
In the ocean city of Varenia law dictates that whichever girl the council of elders decides is the most perfect, the most beautiful, will move to the city of Ilara and marry the prince. This has been the tradition of the Varenian people for as long as they can remember. It is considered an honor to be chosen, or at least that is how you are expected to feel. In exchange for the beautiful bride the Ilarans will continue to trade with Varenia, buy their pearls, and keep the drinking water available to the community. The Varenians survival hinges upon this arrangement. Never are the Verenians allowed to travel on land and so they are at the mercy of the Ilarans.
Zadie and Nor are beautiful twins and the most likely to be chosen to marry the prince. Until Nor sustains an injury that leaves a scar upon her cheek and leaves Zadie to be the chosen one. But then the unthinkable happens and Zadie is gravely injured and Nor must go to Ilara in her place. Nor has always dreamed of traveling to land and discovering the world so this seems like it could be a dream come true for her until she learns the price that must be paid to be chosen for royalty. Prince Ceren, her betrothed, ends up being a cruel man who lives in a castle carved into a mountain where there is no sunlight or warmth. As Nor becomes close to Prince Ceren’s brother, Prince Talin, she begins to learn unbearable truths about her people and the maidens that were chosen before her. She also realizes that her family and all the other Varenians could be in grave danger and she is the only one who can help them.
The premise of an ocean city is what originally drew my attention to this book. The city is not below the ocean, but above. Houses are built on stilts and traveling from place to place requires a boat or you must swim. This turned out to be the most interesting part of this story. The plot is heavily reliant on the beauty trope for the first half of the book. At least for girls who have a chance at being chosen to marry a prince. The family of that girl is in turn heavily rewarded and would not have to worry about starving or the fact that they are able to find less and less pearls to trade to Ilara or less fish to feed to their family. In this case Nor and Zadie’s mother is completely obsessed with keeping Zadie absolutely perfect. She must not sustain an injury or have a scar of any kind. She must be perfect. Which is why it made no sense to me that she was allowed to go diving in dangerous places and continuously put herself at risk.
Nor and Zadie are extremely close. Nor has accepted that she will never go to Ilara and instead dedicates her life to protecting her sister and diving for pearls to feed their family. Zadie is the more demure of the two as she has been constantly practicing to be a queen since she was old enough to talk. She seems very willing to do her duty and leave Varenia forever no matter how much she’ll miss her family. That’s why Nor is shocked when Zadie requests the impossible from her. But Nor cannot refuse her beloved sister anything and the events that follow leave Nor going to Ilara in Zadie’s place. I did enjoy the portrayal of sisterhood. The two sisters really loved and cared for one another and Nor grieved the loss of Zadie pretty hard.
Unfortunately there are parts of this book I found lacking. Once in Ilara Nor uncovers many truths about both Ilara and Varenia. The conflicts during this second half of the book were simply not convincing. I felt the problems could have easily been fixed with much simpler solutions than putting an entire community of people at risk. There was one scene in particular where Nor could have made a very simple and easy decision that would have in turn saved both the Ilarans and Varenians in one fell swoop… and she just didn’t. It went against her morals. I found this to be extremely annoying. It just didn’t add up.
As for the courtier life and relationships that Nor built once in Ilara, I found that part of the book to be very bland. Not much happens at all until the end of the book when a large plot twist is revealed. The plot twist was probably my favorite aspect of the book and the only part of the story that made me even slightly compelled to read the next book. The building romance left me feeling nothing at all. I didn’t care about it. I felt it had potential when we were first introduced to the character but then it just fell flat. I’d say that the book would do fine without it but so much of what happens next will be reliant on that relationship. I especially wish it had been a more interesting element since it’s so necessary to the story.
The book was definitely written well and I liked the main character and her gumption but the other characters were not fleshed out well enough and in turn did not inspire me to care about them at all. The story didn’t have enough intrigue to make it shine among a million other books just like it in the YA fantasy genre, either. Even though some of the aspects were definitely unique and not something I had seen before, the bare bones of the story were just like so many others before it. I do think this book offers a sense of adventure for someone who’s looking for that in a book. It’s also pretty easy reading. Between these things and the strong main character I think this book could definitely appeal to some people, it’s just not the book for me.
↝ARC received by Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.↜
“The only thing death has never been is lonely.”
Renaissance Raines, newly resurrected, is now a psychopomp, a guide that leads the souls of the dead through the Seven Gates of the Underworld. Until she shows up at the supposed death of a boy name Ramses St. Cyr to find that he has managed to escape his moment of death. As she starts to investigate where her soul has gone she ends up in the thick of a plot created by the Gods. When she discovers who is responsible for the escape of Ramses there will be hell to pay.
Gather the Fortunes is the second installment in the Crescent City series by Bryan Camp. In this book we return to the world of New Orleans and gods and tricksters. The storyline is focused on the underworld, psychopomps, and loa which was only touched upon in the first installment. The atmosphere in this book is still just as palpable as it was in the first book, very creepy and dark and it was really good to visit this world again. Many of the characters that you meet in the first book, The City of Lost Fortunes, make an appearance in this one. The main character being Renai, who ends up being somewhere between the living and the dead, helping souls travel through the underworld. The plot is not as twisty in this second installment but in turn it is also much easier to follow.
Many of the chapters follow the same vein as the first book where they begin with different beliefs and mythologies throughout many different cultures; each usually focusing on one theme that is relevant to the chapter. Knowledge of the greek gods and mythology would make this book more enjoyable, I suspect, but it certainly isn’t required. I have very basic knowledge myself and still enjoy this series immensely.
“What’s a life-bringing rain god doing in the underworld?” “Same thing a god does anywhere else,” Sal said. “Whatever the F**k he wants.”
throughout this book Camp has touched on some extremely important subjects such as destruction, injustice, slavery, racism, and many other issues prominent today and in the past. He laces these important issues seamlessly throughout the book and uses his MC Renai as a voice of justice. I love her as a character. She is angry at the world for all the ways people can hate each other and she uses that anger as a powerful gift to take down her enemies. I think it’s really well done. Bryan Camp is a phenomenal writer with such intelligence I couldn’t help getting lost in the language of the book. If you read this series you will immediately understand my meaning. His books are filled to the brim with diversity of character and culture. I think there is something in these books to make almost anyone feel seen no matter where they hail from or what type of environment they grew up in. I love how the foundation of this story is built with Hurricane Katrina at its core and it speaks of a community torn apart but who refuse to stay down and are determined to rebuild again and again. In the Crescent City books New Orleans is a living, breathing character. Her Voice, Magic, and Luck being bestowed on some of my favorite characters in the books. Simply put, I doubt you’ll ever read a book like this one. If you enjoy learning about mythology, culture, gods, race, history, or the city of New Orleans specifically you will love this. I also recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy and magic in their books. This one is chock full of it. If you’re looking for a book with a young black woman as a main character, look no further. You’d be hard pressed to find another like Renaissance Raines.
Hello, Friends!! In the month of August I participated in the Magical Readathon hosted by G from the YouTube channel Book Roast. This is a two-part read-a-thon that begins with the O.W.L.S. in April and finishes with the N.E.W.T.S. in August each year. The read-a-thon is themed after the wizarding tests taken in the Harry Potter books and they are so much fun! If you love to read, whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not, I enthusiastically recommend joining us in April of 2020 for the next round. It’s an amazing community and adds a bit of a challenge to your reading which just spices things up a bit! Ok, enough about that; let’s get to the books!
I actually found that I read a bit less than my average in August which is totally fine but surprising. Although, I did read a couple lengthier books! My Stats for August:
Reading Goal: 129/150 (28 books ahead of schedule)
Books Read: 14
Pages Read: 5,249
Longest Book: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) By Sarah J Maas 645 pgs
Shortest Book: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter 296 pgs
Genres Read: 8 YA/Adult Fantasy, 5 YA/Adult Contemporary, 1 Horror (of these 14 books 12 are physical books, 1 is Audiobook, and 1 is a Graphic Novel. 8 are Young Adult, 6 are Adult.)
And finally… here are the books from lowest rated to highest! 🖤
The Bookshop of Yesterdays completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book between 350 and 390 pages.
This is the book that doomed my reading this month. I was so bored with it that it took up an entire week of my life and prevented me from reading anything else. I know I should have DNFed it but the mystery involved had me intrigued enough that I wanted answers. Once I got them I was pretty underwhelmed and regretted my decision to continue reading long past the ‘I’d rather go to the dentist than continue this book’ stage. No one is to blame but myself for this one! The writing isn’t bad but the main character is extremely annoying, the relationship between the MC and her boyfriend is completely unnecessary to the story and not even a good representation of what a relationship should be like. The MC is also spoiled rotten and terrible to her mother which was never addressed. Instead it was meant to be accepted because of the sad things that happened to her. BOO-HOO. No. You’re a crap person, Miranda. Please don’t show up in any more books.
Ironside completed the Challenge: History of Magic-Read a fantasy.
I read this book as part of the Faerie-A-Thon as well as the N.E.W.T.S. Faerie-A-Thon is hosted by the sweet and truly lovely Melanie from the YouTube channel Meltotheany. She can also be found at her blog of the same name. If you do anything at all today, visit Melanie. You will instantly love her! This read-a-thon is also hosted by the wonderful Alexa from the YouTube channel Alexa Loves Books, Kristin from the channel Super Space Chick, who is so sweet and gives me serious bookshelf envy, and Jane from the fantastic YouTube channel It’sJaneLindsey. If you’re ever looking for some BookTubers to follow these gals are a great place to start. As for the book; it was mediocre. Not bad but about what you’d expect from a YA Fantasy book published in 2007. It was entertaining, a super easy read, and a great introduction into Holly’s world of faerie which is the same world the The Cruel Prince (The Folk of Air, #1) is set along with the rest of the series and her other previous books!
Say You Still Love Me completed the challenge: Muggle Studies- Cover that includes an actual photo element.
I received this as an ARC for review from Netgalley and Atria books. To see my full review of this book visit this post. I was really hoping to love this book since I had heard such rave reviews for Tucker’s previous novel, The Simple Wild, which I have on my shelf and haven’t read yet. I found this book to be pretty average. It definitely wasn’t a bad book but it didn’t do anything special or manage to stand out in my mind in any meaningful way. If you like second chance romances with a female MC in a position of power I’d recommend this. I think there are a lot of people who will love this book; it just wasn’t for me.
Britt-Marie Was Here completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book with green on the cover.
Fredrik Backman has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I’ll read anything he writes. He’s just so gifted with words and really specializes in human emotion. He just GETS people. All of Backman ‘s books tell poignant stories about self-discovery, self-reflection, and relationships. That being said this was my least favorite book I’ve read by Backman so far. Even so, this book is still really well done and funny. Britt-Marie is a character we first meet in My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. In that book I pitied Britt-Marie but I didn’t like her. I found her to be meddling and annoying. This companion novel promised to tell her story and change the way you see her once you know who she really is at heart. It succeeded. I ended up caring about Britt-Marie and hoping for everything good in the world to happen for her. I’d recommend this book and anything else written by this author… even his grocery list.
Vassa in the Night completed the challenge: Astronomy- Read a book with the word night in the title or series name.
Vassa in the Night is an extremely strange retelling of the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful. This book made no sense at all and all the sense in the world. It’s twisty, weird, maniacal, and entertaining as hell. Even though this is possibly the strangest book I’ve ever read I still marveled at the authors imagination and ability to draw you in and keep you reading. The writing was spectacular. If you were to pull elements of this book apart and look at them separately you’d probably find that you weren’t interested in this book. Amputated hands that do their master’s evil bidding, a convenience store that dances on chicken legs, a talking wooden doll. All of these things seem so childish on their own but brought together they work seamlessly to create an extremely dark and creepy tale. This isn’t a book that can be explained, you just need to read it for yourself.
The Wicked Deep completed the challenge: Astronomy- Read a book with a moon on the cover or anywhere in the title.
This was the August pick for my reading group on Goodreads, The Reading Frenzy. There are 4 of us MODs and we create new read-a-thons and challenges each month to keep reading fun. Anyone can join, it’s a group for lover’s of all books and all genres. September’s Pick is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab and we have something special and exciting planned for October 👻☠️🎃👀. As for the Wicked Deep, I went into this with very low expectations based on some of the reviews I had seen. Due to that I was pleasantly surprised. I quite enjoyed this witch-y book set on a spooky island, completely separated from the town. Ernshaw knows how to build up the atmosphere, that’s for sure. I love being surprised by a book and even though some of the plot twists were predictable there were some that I never saw coming. If you haven’t read this yet and want to I’d recommend holding off until we really get into Fall. It’s the absolute perfect book for the Halloween season.
The Right Swipe completed the challenge: Muggle Studies- Read a book set in our world.
I read this book with the Goodreads Dragon’s and Tea Book Club hosted by Melanie (meltotheany) and Amy (acourtofcrownsandquills). This reading group focuses on marginalized and own-voices authors. I’ve been reading with them for several months and have had a successful reading experience so far. This month they are reading Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson. Y’all should definitely check it out! For the first time since joining this book club I was wavering on whether to join in on The Right Swipe; mainly because I had such a lengthy TBR already and it just wasn’t a book that was on my radar. After seeing so many people getting excited closer to its release I decided to go for it. I’m really glad I did. This book was great. It features an intersectional MC, which is always refreshing to see represented. The book doesn’t explicitly say that the MC has any mental health issue but it’s clear that she does have something going on. It read to me like anxiety and I personally thought it was well represented and realistic. This book also features a woman of color in a position of power and she’s tough as nails. I felt she was too tough at times but was able to understand her better by the conclusion of the story. If you like diversity, second chance romance, feminism, or football players 😉 than I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
Origin is the only title I read outside of the Magical Readathon this month. I listened to this on audio.
What is there to say about this book? It’s an oldie but goodie that I just recently discovered! I’ve been slowly listening to this series from book one. It’s become my guilty pleasure when driving to and from work or running errands. Although, guilty pleasure is just a figure of speech; I’m not feeling guilty at all. 😉
Wilder Girls completed the challenge: Herbology- Read a book with a flower on the cover.
Ever since the day this cover was revealed I wanted to read this book. I didn’t even need to know anything about it. I’m exciting to do a post at the end of 2019 featuring my favorite covers of the year. This one will be at the top of the list, guaranteed. I read this book with my Goodreads book club, The Reading Frenzy, for the Bookish Treasure Hunt Read-a-thon that I created. This was another creepy island story but instead of witches and ghosts like you find in The Wicked Deep, this story features an all girls school quarantined to their island while a sickness called The Tox spreads from the plants to the wildlife to the girls and women who live there. Grotesque things are happening to their bodies and rarely are any two girls sharing the same symptoms. When one of the girls in a particular friend group disappears after a flare up it becomes clear more is going on than meets the eye and the story really takes off from there. This book was fantastically gory and creepy and twisted. I loved it. The only real criticism I have is a pretty big one and one that prevented me from giving this five stars and that is the ending. The ending was bad. Period. This is a stand-alone story and yet the book just abruptly ends with a lot of things still unanswered. This isn’t a spoiler as many things are cleared up and the way in which it ends is still a mystery if you haven’t read it but if you go to Goodreads and read any random review you will see the majority of people complaining about the same thing. The terrible ending. Maybe some people could see past it and maybe it’s supposed to have some metaphorical meaning, but I didn’t see it. I was just annoyed. I’d still recommend this though if you like body horror. it’s a damn good book.
The Grand Dark completed the challenge: Arithmancy- Read a book that ends on an even page number.
I reviewed an ARC of this book that was provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager. To see my full review visit this post. This was the month of strange and unconventional books. This is another title that was so unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It felt like a mixture of steampunk, gothic architecture, 1920’s Noir, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it off. The world was brutal and dark. The characters range from savages, disabled, desperate, poor, rich, sick, healthy, powerful, and weak. The is a twisted story set in a twisted world and I definitely recommend it!
Legendary completed the challenge: Defense Against the Dark Arts- Read a book that’s black under the dust jacket.
Reading Legendary was so exciting since I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to get to it. I wasn’t disappointed. While this book was much darker than the more whimsical setting of Caraval, the main character’s had much better chemistry and the angst was palpable between them. I am so glad I have Finale already on my shelves after that kicker of an ending!
Heartstopper Vol. 2 completed the challenge: Transfiguration- Read a book with LGBTQ+ representation.
This graphic novel is everything. These characters were first featured in the full length novel, Solitaire, as side characters; this is the second volume of their back story. The MC’s are literally precious and I just want to hug them. Alice Oseman has a very distinct art style that I’m living for. The color scheme is beautiful as is the story she tells. If you’re looking for a queer graphic novel than look no further. This is a gem of a book!
An Easy Death completed the challenge: Defense Against the Dark Arts- Read the first book you remember from your TBR.
Charlaine Harris is an auto-buy author for me. She writes two of my favorite series, the Sookie Stackhouse series which is the inspiration for the HBO show True Blood, and the Midnight, Texas series, which was adapted into a T.V. show on NBC. I would never have picked up a book classified as a western under normal circumstances but all I needed to know before purchasing this book was that Charlaine wrote it. I was not disappointed. This book is so unique; I’ve never read anything even remotely like it. At first I was weirded out by the writing style because it was unusual and nothing like the author’s other books. But I quickly realized that she wrote the whole book in the way the MC thinks. It’s genius, honestly. The next book in this series, A Longer Fall, releases January 2020. I’ve requested an ARC so hopefully I’ll have a review up soon. Fingers crossed!
Queen of shadows completed the challenge: History of magic- Read a book that includes a map.
I’ve been slowly making my way through my reread of this series along with the girls hosting the #TOGreadalong, Kassie from MissSassyKassie & Brittni from Brittni’s Book Finds. Queen of Shadows was just as amazing the second time around. Shit. Goes. Down. in these books and I’m living for it! I’d lay down and die for my boy Rowan. I don’t think there’s much to say about this series. People either love it or hate it. How you could hate it is beyond me but hey to each their own! Next up is Empire of Storms and then there is only one book between me and Kingdom of Ash! I cannot wait to finally read the last book in this series… I’m sure it’s gonna kill me but sacrifices must be made.
That’s it for last month’s reading wrap-up. Also, I am now a Book of the Month YA affiliate! Click on the links on my page to sign up. I receive a small commission when you do, thank you kindly! I’ll see you soon for more bookish content!
ARC provided by Netgalley and Harper Voyager in exchange for an honest review.
Largo is a bike currier in Lower Proszawa, traveling all over the city dropping packages to the rich, the poor, and everyone in between. The Great War has just ended and the people of this ravaged city drown themselves in sex, drugs, and parties to forget the terror recently visited upon them. As they give themselves up to pleasures of all kinds they fail to notice that the reality around them is dire. Automata are running the streets, taking jobs from the humans when they most need them, more and more genetically engineered creatures being kept as pets or instruments of war, and the general morbidity of the The Grand Darkness, where very realisitic murders are played out on stage in all it’s gory glory. Despite being a drug addict, Largo makes it to work each morning and when the Chief Courier goes missing his job is offered to Largo. Things seem to be looking up for him, with a new promotion, his beautiful girlfriend, Remy, and all the drugs he could possibly need, Largo is living in a state of bliss. But all good things must come to an end.
This book was a beautiful chaos. It was like a mish-mash of gothic architecture, 1940’s noir, automatons, and a bit of a lovecraftian feel to polish it all off. Lower Proszawa is a place you can’t picture the sun shining or any life outside of its reality. I listened to the audiobook while reading along because the names and places were entirely impossible to pronounce; the names and places making me think it was inspired by the German language. Men and woman are referred to has “Frau”, “Herr”, and “Fräulein”. While listening a lot of the accents also sounded French. Yet there was nothing that implied that these places even existed in the world. Simply put, this world is entirely unique and palpable. While reading I felt completely immersed. I was THERE. Kadney truly is a gifted storyteller with a vivd imagination.
Largo and his actress girlfriend, Remy, along with most of the population, are addicted to a drug called Morphia. When they aren’t using Morphia, they are sniffing cocaine or getting drunk, seeing morbid plays that use a type of remote control doll to enact bloody scenes of murder and death, or having sex. In the absence of war, the people of the city have given themselves entirely to pleasure. But just below the surface dark and terrible things are stirring and there’s word that the war will be coming again. The Bollocks, or police, are trying to sniff out the people in the resistance and in turn end up brutalizing and jailing innocent people. Walking down the street isn’t safe, especially from the law. On every street corner the Iron Dandies can be found. Men that have returned from the war so maimed and disfigured that they must wear iron masks to cover their faces. There’s word that people are being abducted from the streets by slavers and everyones jobs are constantly at risk of being taken over by the Mara’s, genetically enhanced creatures that some keep as pets. And to top it all off there is a plague, known as The Drops, inflicting random people and no one is sure how it is contracted. It’s a bleak world and all anyone wants is to hide from reality.
I really loved the characters in this book. This story features a m/m relationship along with a few bi or pan (not entirely sure which) characters as well. There is also a lot of disability representation in general but two of the main characters specifically. One is blind and the other is disfigured and disabled. They were all well fleshed out and interesting and they all showed amazing character growth throughout. Some of them were utterly unrecognizable by the end of the story. I loved how most of them reacted when faced with hard decisions and the things they were willing to do to protect the ones they loved. Previously seen as frivolous and uncaring, they now showed outstanding grit and determination in the face of their adversaries. The plot was fast-paced and held my attention until the last page. Most of the places this story took us I never saw coming and it was brutal. Kadney held nothing back, there’s blood and gore and death aplenty.
This is definitely a book that speaks more for itself than I can. It’s very hard to explain a world this detailed that is pulled from so many different things to create this one amazing place. Lower Proszawa is really a character all it’s own with it’s carnival, its slums and upper-classes and all it’s crisscrossing streets and alleys; it has it’s own personality and moods. Kadney really created something unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m only sorry it ended like it did. As far as I know this is a standalone. It did resolve the most important plot points but there are a few burning questions that never got answered. That is really my only criticism.
There are some triggers to be aware of: Addiction (alcohol and both real and invented drugs), PTSD (maimed & disfigured soldiers are very prominent), Homophobia, Police Brutality & abuse of power, minor animal cruelty (not that any is ok!), Violence (a lot of blood and gore), Sex (not really a trigger but there is a lot of sex or sexual behavior throughout the book), Spreading of Disease/plague, Brutal Death of a Parent (witnessed by child), Brutal Death of a close friend (witnessed by child).
Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker is a second chance romance between two people from very different worlds. In their teens, Kyle and Piper both attend summer camp as counselors and quickly fall into an intense romantic relationship. When Piper’s father finds out that his daughter is dating the child of a criminal from the wrong side of the tracks he demands that Piper end the relationship immediately. When she fails to follow his orders and finds herself getting into compromising situations that land her in a load of trouble, the summer comes to an abrupt end and Piper doesn’t hear from Kyle again. That is until he reappears thirteen years later as a security guard for the building her family owns and in which she is the VP of the company. Yet, when Piper approaches Kyle he seems to have forgotten her name… and their romance entirely.
I really wanted to love this book. I had heard many good things about this author’s previous novel, The Simple Wild, and was expecting her most recent novel to be similarly good. And it was, but nothing more. The story alternates between the past when Kyle and Piper were teens at summer camp and current times when they are reconnecting after thirteen years. The current timeline was very dull. Chock full with the day to day luxurious life of Piper and her job as VP of a huge real estate company. At first I thought this was just a slow burn type of romance and I was totally down with that. Well, it was a slow burn all right. So slow the flame nearly snuffed itself right out. At the 40% mark of the book there was still nothing happening between Piper and Kyle. Instead we were learning about her job and family dynamics. The flashbacks were the only element carrying this story along and I found I enjoyed those chapters infinitely more even though it had turned this adult romance into more of a YA romance. The scenes between the two MC’s at camp were steamy and pretty graphic, while the adult portion was the polar opposite. Even after Piper and Kyle’s adult story finally starts moving along the steamier parts are pretty much grazed right over. This isn’t a huge deal to me but I was a bit surprised since the scenes involving them as teens were so detailed.
There were definitely elements of this story that I liked quite a bit. Piper is snarky and smart and I really liked her character. I liked seeing how she handled being a woman in a position of power in a male dominated world. She’s down to earth without being unrealistically so and I really enjoyed that, too. I liked that Kyle was a bit different than your average teen love interest with his lip piercing, faux hawk, and tattoos. The chemistry between the two of them was palpable. I just wish there had been more of that chemistry in their adult relationship. Several times I found myself laughing out loud. The characters were definitely witty and interesting. Unfortunately, I felt like I was waiting for the entirety of the book for something to happen and when it did it kind of fell flat. I enjoyed my time with this novel but it was nothing to write home about.
There was very little diversity, a gay couple was mentioned once or twice and the story features a disabled MC, but that’s really it. There are themes of divorce, absent parents, cheating, underage drinking, loss of virginity, and some derogatory comments towards women and the people who work for the wealthy. Nothing I would consider majorly triggering.
💜 This tag was originally createdby booktubersChami&Ely.
When going back through the books for the first half of the year (from jan 1-jun 30) I was really surprised to see that many of them were rereads! So that left me with a somewhat limited amount of books to assign to each question. Still, I think this is a fun idea and I had a good time looking back on what I’ve read! I’ll start with my stats so far and then get to the questions. 😎
MY 2019 STATS (so far)
Reading Goal: 108/150 (was originally 100 but I bumped it up to 150 once I met my original goal) I am 27 books ahead of schedule.
Out of the 90 books I read as of June 30th 16 of them were rereads.
What is the best book you’ve read so far this year?
For me this is always the hardest question to answer. So many books are the best in their own way! But, I had to choose just one, so I’m going with: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston! I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to many but it sure was a surprise for me! I’ve read a lot of contemporary this year but I’m primarily a fantasy reader/lover and I never suspected that my favorite book so far would be a contemporary!
What is the best sequel you’ve read so far this year?
I haven’t read a ton of sequels so far. That will definitely change in the second half of the year but as of now I didn’t have a whole bunch to choose from that weren’t books that I was re-reading. Even if I had read multitudes of sequels, though, I have a feeling this one would still make my list of favorites: The Wicked King by Holly Black. I’m sure this is also a book people will see a lot of on top 10/favorites lists this year as well!
What is a new release that came out in the first half of the year that you haven’t read yet?
I don’t know what it was aboutWarrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller that had me waiting with bated breath for it’s release but I pre-ordered it and waited for the mailman….and still haven’t picked it up! Who knows why we, as book lovers, consistently do this! I want to get to this soon, though. I just have a feeling I’m going to love it.
What is your most anticipated book for the second half of 2019?
Hands down the answer for this is Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff and that’s saying a lot considering how many epic titles are releasing in the second half of the year!
What was your biggest disappointment so far thisyear?
Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry came highly recommended by Booktuber Emmabooks so I’m not sure why I was so surprised but I think it’s because of HOW MUCH I loved this. I expected to like it but not to adore it like I did!
A List of Cages by Robin Roe is possibly the saddest book I have ever read. I had no idea going into this what I was facing.. It was like a sucker punch to the emotions. Man, even now thinking about this book breaks my heart.
This was a fun way to see what I’ve been reading and to take a moment to think about books that I read earlier in the year and just revisit my thoughts on some of them. So often I feel like I’m reading at the speed of light and some books I don’t think about again for a long time if ever! I also think it’s interesting how differently you see or feel about a book after some months have passed; I found in a lot of cases my view had changed quite a lot from my original thoughts! Anyway, I’ll be back soon with more Riveting content! 👏😂