My goal this month was to read 28 books and, um, well, so far so good. That means I have a TON of books to talk about so buckle up!
1. It Takes Twoby Jenny Holiday
My least favorite of the otherwise delightful Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series. I still need to read the Merrily Ever After novella, Holiday published independently, but otherwise I’ve completed this series. I’m going to link Aarya Marsden’s review because I think she does an incredible job looking at why Wendy’s Chinese Canadian heritage comes across not so great and she points out some other issues I had with it as well. This book is best friend’s older brother so I had some HIGH hopes for it, but I just generally didn’t really wind up liking it. I did, however, love all the legal banter. Do I want to marry another lawyer? Probably not, but if I did, I would definitely want us to joke back and forth like this.
2. Three Little Wordsby Jenny Holiday
In contrast, I absolutely loved this one! The conclusion to the Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series, this one follows Gia, our Sam of the group, if you’ll excuse the Sex in the City reference. Gia is not shy about the fact that she has slept with a lot of people and she has some rules about making sure no one gets attached. The intimacy issues stem from a place, but I didn’t feel like she ever shames herself for liking to have sex with whoever she wants. And Bennett is our chef hero and omg, the man can cook! I loved every scene about food in this book, except when Gia rejected the grilled cheese because GIRL, why would you do that?! I love grilled cheese THE MOST (I’m a child, it’s fine), but to be fair, Gia has a lot of food issues because she’s a model and her metabolism is starting to slow down. She doesn’t have a diagnosis in this book, but she’s definitely restricting her food. The way the two of them navigate their relationship, taking care of one another in turns, and breaking their rules is absolutely wonderful. I loved this one with my whole heart.
3. Ruin & Risingby Leigh Bardugo
I am offended on behalf of Leigh Bardugo that so many people don’t like the end of this series and that’s really all I can say because even that is probably a spoiler… Anyway, I am PUMPED for King of Scars now that I’m actually caught up to it.
4. Kindredby Octavia Butler
I cannot believe I put this novel off for as long as I have. Kindred is an incredible work of fantasy and a classic in the genre and I can absolutely see why. It’s obviously brilliantly written and emotional to read, but the characterization and the study of human nature and how we can accept the horrors that are happening to and around us is just… Wow. If you’re unfamiliar with Kindred, essentially Dana is randomly transported into the past and a different location from the 1970s to antebellum Maryland. She saves a red headed boy and then gets threatened with a gun and finds herself back in the 1970s and her husband is like wtf just happened. That’s not the only time she gets transported across place and time and she experiences some really awful things associated with slavery. I won’t say I enjoyed this book because it hurt me, but it was really, really good.
5. The Courtesan Duchessby Joanna Shupe
I didn’t like this book at all. I don’t even know what to tell you. Like, the premise is that our heroine has been abandoned since the wedding CEREMONY between her and the Duke and he’s off galavanting around ignoring her existence to prove a point to his dead dad. She’s desperate for money because his manager person is a sleezy scum bag and so she trains with a courtesan and then jets off to Venice and proceeds to seduce her husband while he thinks she’s a widow who can’t get pregnant. I could spoil the whole thing for you, but let’s just say that I recommend you skip this and go on to The Lady Hellion because that book is hands down the best in this trilogy and it’s best to just pretend the other two don’t exist. (Book two is okay, I guess.)
6. Daughters of a Nationby Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, and Piper Huguley
In the Morning Sun by Lena Hart begins with Maddie being raped so serious TW for that (it’s not graphic though). She’s still carrying that trauma with her two years later when she moves to Nebraska to teach Black people to read and write. She thinks her fiancé died in the Civil War but, uh, he didn’t! The two of them coming together is sweet, but they have to overcome so much. All things considered I didn’t LOVE this one, but I learned a lot.
The Washerwomen’s War by Piper Huguley also taught me about a thing I had no idea about, aka the Black Washerwoman’s Strike, so that was super cool. I really liked the romance between Mamie and Gabriel. Mamie starts out so against dating a minister, but Gabriel winning her over by playing on her desire to have good food and advocate for her students was A+ romancing.
A Radiant Soul by Kianna Alexander was probably my least favorite story.For one thing it felt incomplete and for another, there was one glaring editing mistake that really bothered me. In addition, I REALLY didn’t like Owen. Like… At all. Their romance felt like at the end of a season of The Bachelor where you’re like, “Cool, you’re in love, but what now?” I think this would have worked better as a novel.
Let Us Dream by Alyssa Cole is such an incredible story about a former sex worker and widow who basically forged her way into owning the club she now runs and I love her. The hero is Indian and he doesn’t really have status because our immigration laws then were more overtly racist then than they are now. Anyway, she hires him as a dishwasher at the club but soon he wows everyone with his chef abilities and basically, this one is fantastic! Also, this is available by itself in the Audible romance package.
7. Dark Desires After Duskby Kresley Cole
Who wants to explain how I absolutely adore Cade given that he’s a self-professed misogynist? Any takers? I’ve got nothing. Anyway, I do really like Cade and I loved the way he takes care of Holly. To me, he just accepts her as she is and challenges the things that he thinks she can be pushed on, but otherwise takes care of her. Like when he made sure to buy multiple bottles of water in case she accidentally touched the rim when she took the lid off? I loved that. If you aren’t reading Immortals After Dark yet and enjoying the Fated Matespodcast, you really should be.
8. Sinnerby Sierra Simone
“Biblical metaphors for God include a laboring woman, a breastfeeding mother, even a mother hen. And man and woman were both created in God’s image, were they not? Why use Him and not Her? In fact, why even say God instead of Goddess? Both Him and Her are not enough to contain the fullness of God, who is outside the construct of gender, who is so much more than the human mind can conceive.”
I was supposed to be waiting to read this until ContemporaryAThon started, but it was the ONLY thing I wanted to read last week and so I finally let myself indulge and it was WORTH it. Seriously. I adored everything about this masterpiece. I cried like four times because it’s so emotional and I’m just honestly not ready to talk about this book? But if you think erotic romance has nothing to offer, you should reconsider in light of this book because it is powerful as all get out. Also, SO angsty. I was not convinced I was getting an HEA! Sierra is too good at angst.
9. All You Can Ever Knowby Nicole Chung
This memoir is about Nicole Chung’s experience having a closed adoption where she grew up as a Korean American woman in a white family in a place where she was pretty much the only Asian person around. Nicole Chung is so vulnerable in her writing as she weaves the complexities around her decision to ultimately search for her birth parents and how her experience as an adopted woman makes it difficult for her to say if adoption is good or bad. It’s a complex question and, on a personal note, as a woman who thinks she may want to adopt a child one day, this book brought up a lot of things to think about. Also, check out The Short Stacks episode on this memoir and the book club discussion of it! (P.S. Right now neither of those have episode links, but I promise they both exist.)
10. Untouchableby Kresley Cole
I loved this story of Daniela, the ice maiden, and Murdoch, the most mysterious Wroth brother! Murdoch is interesting because he’s one of the brothers who was like, sure, I’ll become a vampire as opposed to Sebastian and Conrad who are SEETHING about being a vampire 300 years later (or you know, they are until they fall in love). I also really loved that we get to see Murdoch’s perspective of the events that were happening in past books. So like he and Danii watch The Talisman High results together. (Is it high? Y’all, audiobooks destroy my ability to spell these things!) Anyway, I loved this a whole, whole bunch. I really liked Danii being like, “I blooded you, where is your possessive streak, you jerk?!” That was super fun. It was exasperating that it took SO LONG for them to figure out the solution to not being able to touch though. But all in all, a good time.
11. The Brightest Dayby Kianna Alexander, Alyssa Cole, Lena Hart, & Piper Huguley
Amazing Grace by Lena Hart has a Confederate soldier hero and I mean, I know it’s post war and all that, but like…. I don’t want to read a Confederate soldier as a hero? I guess I should be all about redemption, but… Um. Idk, y’all. 2019 is too much for me to be reading Confederate heroes.
Drifting to You by Kianna Alexander is one of those novellas that doesn’t work for me because I’m like ??? How did you decide you love each other that fast? It was good and if you can just fill in the blanks of their history so their story is satisfying, you’ll probably really enjoy it. Maybe I was just cranky when I read it?
A Sweet Way to Freedom by Piper Huguley was difficult. I struggle with romances with accidental pregnancy on the best of days, but when you give me one with a hero who doesn’t want to take responsibility for much of anything in his life? I’m pretty much checked out before we even really get started. There is not enough groveling IN THE WORLD for that.
Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole is absolutely wonderful and amazing. Essentially it’s about a black woman and a Jewish man who grew up together because her mom worked for his. Well, her mom died, and her dad went way too overbearing and really stifled her. But she sees this flyer at church about an activist group for nonviolent sit ins and she goes and who is there but this hot as hell white man. Turns out the white man is her old friend! And the two of them falling in love is freaking everything. Not to mention all the fierce resistance and also, the Civil Rights Movement people were fierce af and we do not appreciate them enough. Like John Lewis is still ALIVE y’all. This was not that long ago. But when I tell you how little I know about this era because it wasn’t taught in school, I’m not kidding. I know the big things, right? Like Brown v. Board and Plessy v. Ferguson and Loving v. Virginia, but that’s because I’m a lawyer, not because my high school did a good job teaching. Anyway, I’m going to get off my soap box now because this post is already so long.
12. Rafeby Rebekah Weatherspoon
My first read for ContemporaryAThon, so I’m not going to say much here besides I loved it! You’ll have to wait for the ContemporaryAThon Wrap Up for more!
13. 99 Percent Mineby Sally Thorne
My second read for ContemporaryAThon, which I did not love, but I’m not going to say more here!
14. The Warlord Wants Foreverby Kresley Cole
So I read this once I finished 99 Percent Mine for a couple of reasons. One was that I wanted to finish this one so I could listen to the Fated Mates episode the following morning and two was that I really didn’t like 99 Percent Mine and I wanted Kresley to make it better. And boy did she! Kresley has broken me for things that I would usually hate. With her writing it, I”m just like, okay, okay, that’s some serious dub con, but okay. And uh, yeah. This book is problematic and I LOVED it. Ooh, maybe I should count this one as my HBReadingEmbrace for Your Faves Are Problematic. Hmm… Possibly. Oh yeah, so this one follows Nikolai Wroth who after seizing a castle also winds up with the prisoners in the dungeon. One of the prisoners is Myst and she bloods him (aka she’s his Fated Mate). There’s a great world building conversation on the podcast about this though, for the record. Anyway, it’s delightful but seriously dubious consent warning.
15. The Ones who Got Awayby Roni Loren
Another last minute addition to the ContemporaryAThon line up that you’ll have to wait for my thoughts on! I’m honestly still gathering them myself.
16. The Masterby Kresley Cole
This book is actually my most recently acquired book as I acquired it last Saturday so it actually belonged on my ContemporaryAThon TBR even though I meant for that spot to go to On the Come Up. Ah well, I’m still going to read that one too. But anyway, check the ContemporaryAThon Wrap Up to see how things went!
Someone remind me why I thought challenging myself to read 28 books when I review them in wrap ups like this was a good idea? Anyway, here you are! I think my favorites for the month are All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, Sinner by Sierra Simone, and Three Little Words by Jenny Holiday. That said, I enjoyed most of these books, with some obvious exceptions thrown in. What have you read and loved so far?