I moved toward the end of February and I STILL don’t have internet in my new place, which is why this post is so delayed. For some reason Wix doesn’t like to use my phone’s hotspot so I’m at our new Starbucks (which hallelujah praise the Lord, means Starbucks is now only 30 minutes away from me instead of an hour) typing this post. I hope you will excuse the brevity of some of these book summaries because I’ve already been here for a while fixing the Contemporary Romances to Escape from the World post that I was honestly more excited about. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this, I will have made my decision about whether or not to change my life so I’ll be more chill and capable of reading books I haven’t read before. (I’m currently re-reading Hidden Legacy again. Yeah. I know. My TBR. Shh.) Anyway, let’s hop to the books!
During ContemporaryAThon, I read three books I haven’t already talked about so you’ll find details of two of those in that post, but I’ll mention all three here.
18. Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole
“I’m not interested in a life that doesn’t have you in it.”
Oh my God, Sabine. SABINE. This woman. I kind of love her a lot. She’s got a moral compass that steers toward what is going to keep her and Lanthe (her sister) safe and there are few things I love more than sisters who would sacrifice the world for each other. I cannot wait to read Dark Skye and am actually very resentful I’m still several books away from that. I know Romancelandia seems to mostly love Lothaire, but he’s just… evil? Idk. Anyway, Kiss of a Demon King. Sabine kidnaps Rydstrom and holds him hostage so he can’t assist Cade in getting the sword that would kill evil dude, whose name I don’t remember and refuse to look up. The two of them are Fated, but they both have such a responsibility to something/someone else that their dynamic is absolutely fascinating. I really loved watching Sabine slowly begin to fall for Rydstrom. And Rydstrom learning to accept and love Sabine, and eventually find her to be a worthy Queen for his kingdom?? My freaking heart, y’all. This book was great.
See reviews for both of these five star reads in my ContemporaryAThon Wrap Up and see a shout out for Untouchable in my latest Contemporary Romances to Escape the World post.
21. Sweatpants Season by Danielle Allen
The cover of this one is really what drew me to this and I think someone posted a SmutAThon vlog where they talked about this book? Anyway, it’s a KU book and I really enjoyed it. It’s got almost over the top feminism in the best way and the meet cute is amazing. Akila and Carlos are lucky enough to be chosen for this seminar with a world class photographer and they wind up partnering together. Toward the end of the first class Akila discovers that Carlos is one of the three guys on this podcast that she finds absolutely abhorrent because of it’s blatant sexism. The two are continually pushed to work together and it’s honestly so great. I really enjoyed the set up and the chemistry between the two. It’s a hate to love slow burn and I think it was great.
22. Silent Bladeby Ilona Andrews
I read this one for Romanceopoly, the Taxi square, which was to read a book that the women running the show recommend. I really enjoyed this start to the Kinsman Universe, and I feel like you can see the bare bones of the world building that eventually paved the way to my favorite, Hidden Legacy. I really want to read the rest of the books in this world now because it was really great. Also, I think I might like sci-fi romance? Who knew? Anyway, this novella is about Meli, whose family asks her to kill one last time. Her target is Celino, the man who broke their betrothal and never looked back. She accepts the job. The novella is so quick, but I really enjoyed it.
23. The Riskby Elle Kennedy
Friends who say, “I love you,” every time you part ways are important Those are the ones you need in your life.
Also featured in my most recent Contemporary Romances to Escape Reality post, The Risk by Elle Kennedy is such a fun read, with some darker topics, like miscarriage (actually major CW for that; it’s in the past, but described pretty graphically) and addiction (not in a main character). This follows Brenna, the daughter of Briar University’s hockey coach, and Jake Connelly, the Captain of rival Harvard’s hockey team. Jake seizes the opportunity when he spots Brenna, who has been stood up, alone at a diner to warn her off his teammate. Their chemistry instantly leaps off the page. Events happen that lead to Brenna telling the man interviewing her that she’s dating Jake and then she asks Jake to help her out by pretending to be her boyfriend. Everything about this was great except this super unnecessary and obvious conflict at the end that I didn’t really care for. Otherwise, it was great.
24. Crashing Into Herby Mia Sosa
I really want to love Mia Sosa and I just… don’t. I always like her books for the most part, but I never really love them. I don’t know why, although my current working theory is that it’s because she doesn’t like Taylor Swift. (I’m only half kidding.) This book though had a few editing errors that just… really irked me? This book is published by Avon. Like… How did it make it to print when there’s a line of dialogue that starts, “Tori,” when it’s Tori who is speaking? There were also a couple of other issues, but that one is the one that stands out to me. I feel like I’m being nitpicky and I easily could have overlooked it, if it weren’t for the part where I already feel a disconnect from Sosa’s writing. And it’s not because I don’t like the components individually. I like her character’s (other than them not liking Taylor) and I like the plots of her books. Anyway, I don’t want this to turn into a me criticizing Sosa because I still have this book 3.5 stars. Eva, Tori’s best friend, and Anthony, Tori’s cousin, hook up after Tori’s wedding, thinking they’re never going to see each other again. Anthony has a strict one night stand only rule. When Eva moves to LA, the spark between the two of them is alive and well, as is the refusal to do anything about it. I really enjoyed the overarching arc of their relationship.
25. In an Absent Dreamby Seanan McGuire
“If you want to help her, you need to help yourself first. No one serves their friends by grinding themselves into dust on the altar of compassion.”
I really like this novella series, but something about it didn’t capture me the way they usually do. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it so much, but I wasn’t quite as entranced as usual. One of the things I did really like was getting to see the Market and the way that it worked. This world Lundy enters is a world governed by logic and fairness and what is fair value. I liked that Lundy comes and goes from this other world and how it affects her family. I liked seeing her make her decisions about things. But I feel like the part I didn’t like was that the ending was less happy than usual, in my opinion. And I felt like we weren’t shown incidents that heavily impacted what was going on. So this one felt more incomplete than the others for some reason even though this is kind of the point of the way the series works?
26. Pleasure of a Dark Princeby Kresley Cole
Fate has a way of getting what she wants, no matter how we try to avoid it.
I really, really liked this book. I gave it 4.5 stars and now I’m struggling to remember why I took off half a star… Probably the way it handled Charlie/Isabelle, actually, or how the first hundred pages was still kind of a struggle to get through because we’re just replaying scenes we saw in A Hunger Like No Other. That said, I wound up really loving the relationship between Lucia and Garreth. I especially love Garreth, actually. I felt like he did what he could to protect Lucia and respect her wishes even while not understanding why his fated mate was running from him. In a contemporary romance, this wouldn’t work, of course, because a dude chasing a woman across the world is not romantic, it’s creepy af. But I really liked it in the context of Immortals After Dark and I thought it was a great installment in the series.
27. An Unconditional Freedomby Alyssa Cole
“Do not think of yourself as a burden. You’re not,” she said softly, and the words tore into that secret longing he thought he’d shielded from everyone. He wanted to believe her so badly that the hope was a heavy ache in him. “I did it because I wanted to, but also because you deserve it. You deserve to be cared for.”
An Unconditional Freedom is a masterpiece of historical romance and historical fiction, generally, in my opinion. I know this book was hard for Alyssa Cole to write and I can see why. How hard must it be to write a book about fighting for freedom while watching our democracy seemingly take steps back toward hating people for the color of their skin or their religion being accepted? Those things have never fully gone away, of course, but for a while it did seem that we were on an upward trajectory. This book is so full of beautiful quotes and a beautiful story of Daniel, born free and captured and sold into slavery, and Juanita, born free and raised to think that she’s not actually Black. The two are struggling with accepting who they are, though in different ways, and I think they really brought out the best in one another. Daniel is struggling to believe that he’s still worthy of happiness, or maybe worthy isn’t the right word. He feels broken and it seemed like he thought he would infect others. Juanita, meanwhile, is sent to spy on the Loyal League to rescue her white father, and she’s realizing the man she thought she loved, never loved her. And that despite her privilege, in this world, the color of her skin means more than the relative privilege she enjoyed at home. She’s struggling to decide if she truly can betray the people living in slavery for the “love” of a man who really isn’t that great and for her father’s safety. Everything about this book is so well written. The emotions are visceral. I cannot say enough good things about this series or this book. If you haven’t read it yet, please pick up the entire series as soon as you can.
28. Akata Witchby Nnedi Okorafor
“There are more valuable things in life than safety and comfort. Learn. You owe it to yourself.”
This middle grade fantasy novel is really great, but there were times where the timeline had me woefully confused. I think maybe Nigerian schools don’t operate on the same M-F schedule that American schools do, maybe? Anyway, setting my confusion about the timing of the events in this book, I absolutely loved it. I did not want to stop listening to the audiobook ever because I was so immersed in this world. Essentially, Sunny befriends Orlo and Chichi, which leads to her discovering that she is a Leopard Person, aka she has magic. It also turns out that the three and Sasha, a new arrival from America, are the chosen four to fight this great evil, a serial killer who ritually kills children and, it turns out, is a Leopard Person himself. I greatly enjoyed this story and am excited to pick up the sequel.
29. Let’s Talk About Loveby Claire Kahn
Why on earth should she confront her problems when running had such delicious benefits?
I really wanted to love this book, but ultimately, I found that it was good, but not great. This book is about Alice, who is broken up with by her girlfriend because her girlfriend cannot wrap her mind around the fact that Alice can love her without wanting to have sex with her. Alice is asexual. (Honestly though, there’s an element of that particular relationship that feels super generalizable to the idea that breaking up with a person who wants you to have sex with them when you don’t really want to is high key a great life decision. Do not have sex when you don’t want to.) Setting that aside, I really appreciated reading a book from the perspective of an asexual woman who is trying to figure out what her attraction is to the new guy at the library, Takumi, and navigating her changing friendships with her best friends since forever, Fanny and Ryan. Alice starts therapy and she stands up to her parents and a lot of things happen to her. I think where the book lost me a bit is that it felt like a lot of things were happening but there were threads missing. It didn’t feel entirely cohesive. I am looking forward to Kahn’s sophomore novel though and I’m optimistic the learning curve of writing a book will mean the next book will be great!
My favorite books of February were Sinner by Sierra Simone, Untouchable by Talia Hibbert, An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole, and All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. What were your favorites?