Well, I hope your January was better than my January, but it ended on the most positive of positive notes: Miss Americana is out!! If you missed that I love Taylor Swift, allow me to introduce myself: I’m Jenica and I love Taylor Swift. Here are links to my Lover tags, part one and part two. I also did a fun birthday tag for Taylor once. And how can I forget my Reputation book tag? So, yeah, we stan Taylor Swift in this house. Anyway, you’re actually here about what I read in the second half of January, which was considerably more lackluster than what I read during the first half of the month. But let’s jump in.
The One Who Stays by Toni Blake
This is the first book in the Summer Island trilogy and I found it one of the strangest set ups to a romance series that I’ve ever read and I’m still not sure I liked it. This book sets up a love triangle with Zach, Meg, and Sam, but if you’re like me, you already know how this ends because I already looked at the synopsis for book three. And you get chapters from each of their perspectives, but not many from Zach. It’s just… weird. Idk. Anyway, it’s a small town romance and it’s basically about Meg trying to deal with whether she’s ready to move on from Summer Island, the place to which she kind of ran away from her problems. She’s feeling stuck in a lot of ways and a little dissatisfied with life. That’s when Sam comes along and Sam’s got some secrets and he’s maybe a little shady, but he’s also got a magnetic personality and Meg can’t seem to resist him. CW for cancer (past).
A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Y’all, this was delightful. Amnesia is just not a trope that is easy to pull off and I tend to avoid it (which makes it rather odd that I’ve read two in the same month, but whatever). Anyway, Rebekah Weatherspoon absolutely pulls it off. A Cowboy to Remember is utterly delightful in every way and I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I wound up loving it since I’d gone in wary since second chance + amnesia is even more challenging to pull off, in my opinion. But there’s not deception here. There’s just the fact that Zach Pleasants is back in Evie’s life, even if she doesn’t really remember him, to help her recover and get back on her feet. His apology for the events that have kept them apart for a decade is acknowledged and they move on. And it’s lovely. And then it’s angsty. So overall, it’s really the best read and I can’t recommend it enough.
Fated by Rebecca Zanetti
I read this because I requested the ARC of what turns out is like the twelfth book in the series or something and I wanted to have some basic world-building under my belt before I read it. This particular installment in the Dark Protectors series felt a little outdated in the way that it’s a fated mates story with gender essentialism and a very, very alpha male. It was enjoyable because I love Zanetti’s writing style, but it took me a real long time to get through it. But if you like a fated mates story and you’re cool with a kidnapping for your own good kind of scenario and you don’t mind gray area consent issues, you may enjoy this.
Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb
I’m loving my foray into the In Death series and book three was really, really lovely. I loved that we got steps toward Eve having a group of friends in this one, true friends, and realizing she can count on these women. It’s weird to see Eve be friends with her therapist though because that’s like, you know, frowned upon ethically, I think, but it’s easy enough to brush aside. Overall, I just think this was a great installment and Eve and Roarke are pretty much everything.
A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year by Jackie Lau
I’m really into Lau’s holiday novellas at the moment apparently, given that last month I read one of her Christmas novellas. Anyway, I read this as part of the Lunar New Year Readathon that Lacey and Lisa hosted and I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as One Bed for Christmas. This novella didn’t work quite as well for me and I’m still struggling to pinpoint why. It’s a fake dating, friends to lovers situation and normally that’s my jam, but I’ve been feeling slumpy, so maybe that hindered my enjoyment? Regardless, if you read this book, make sure you have Chinese food on hand, maybe especially orange chicken, because the food descriptions in this book had me starving.
Small Change by Roan Parrish
A few months ago I asked on Twitter for book recs for angsty romance novels and Melinda recommended me the second book in this series. As a series completionist, I was not about to jump into book two when I already owned this one, but um, I should have listened to Melinda months ago and started this book! I loved Small Change. It’s beautifully written to the point that I highlighted twelve lines/paragraphs when I’m usually lucky to have highlighted once. I love Ginger and her prickly ways and her fierce determination to do everything her way because she fought hard for this independence. And how can you not love Chris? He is the sweetest cinnamon roll to have ever lived and he’s so achingly beautiful in how he loves the people in his life. I just… This book is so good. Also, this is a queer m/f because Ginger is bisexual and the community surrounding the tattoo shop is just phenomenal and I can’t wait to read everything from Parrish in the future because I’m in love with her writing.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
I squeezed in my January nonfiction book right at the end of the month and y’all, this book about broke me. It’s Jones’ memoir about being black and queer and it is absolutely heartbreaking in so many ways. The biggest thing I took away from this book is the danger inherent in requiring someone (overtly or implicitly) to suppress who they are because there’s too high a likelihood that risk taking behaviors increase. From being a sixteen year old boy giving a grown ass man a blow job in a public restroom because it’s an opportunity to explore something about himself to high risk activities in college because he a little bit hates himself, Saeed lays out the good and the bad of his life. It was difficult to read and I was walking around the lake by my house unable to quite keep control of my facial expressions, which I’m sure were delighting everyone passing me. By the end of it I was crying. This book also deals with grief in a beautiful and poignant way.
Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
Another really solid book in the Wayward Children series, this book follows characters we’ve seen before throughout the series and it’s sapphic. It’s also dark af and has this lovely exploration of what it means to be a hero and there’s a really powerful exchange between two of the characters that I loved:
“The world gets heavy sometimes,” said [redacted name for spoilers] sadly. “That’s all. She’s carrying it as best she can, but… the world gets heavy. I hope she’ll be able to put it down soon.”
“Everyone puts it down sooner or later,” said Kade.”
I don’t really want to provide much more, other than to say that we return to the world we saw in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but with more characters we know adventuring there. The first book in the series was on sale for free, but I’m not sure if it still is.
The Giving Heart by Toni Blake
This is the second book in the Summer Island trilogy and it’s still weird to me. This time the love triangle is between Beck Granger and Meg’s sister, Lila, and Suzanne, whom he expressed interest in and she rebuffed repeatedly in the first book in the series. End game is established if you’ve looked ahead in the series order at all, so it’s still weird to me. And I didn’t love the perspective jumping any more in this installment than in the last. I did, however, really like Beck. I think he was a really solid hero and I loved his inner journey with finding peace with his deceased father. Lila is on the island having ran from her life in Chicago where something bad happened. She spends a lot of time ruminating about the something bad that happened, but not saying what it is. If you’re reading between the lines though, it’s apparent that she’s survived some sort of sexual assault, which proves true when she eventually discloses what’s going on to Beck. I think Lila’s guilt complex is fascinating and seriously overdone. The book just feels so repetitive because Lila talks about the same issues sixteen times without making forward progress (not about the sexual assault). It’s just… weird. So, yeah, I don’t think the series is quite for me, but I have book three as an ARC so you can expect a series review eventually.
And that’s it for January! My favorite book of the month was definitely The Rogue of Fifth Avenue, but I had a few other winners tossed in as well. What was your favorite book of the month? Let me know!