I’m writing this post as an attempt to distract myself from emotionally dealing with the latest mass shooting because every time I open my social media, I find myself being confronted with the fact that in the U.S., we are literally not safe anywhere and the people in charge don’t seem to mind. So if you’re here because you also need a moment to breathe away from the horror that is so many children being murdered for no reason and two precious teachers having their lives cut short… Well, I’m sorry to confront you with this paragraph, but know that I too am grieving and angry. Furious, if we’re being honest. And also, as always, clinging to the hope that this time might mean we can finally, as a country, say that this is enough.
Now for the books that I have to review for you today. First up, we have The Bride Goes Rogue by Joanna Shupe, which is out from Avon as of Tuesday. I received this book as an e-ARC from Netgalley. Then we have You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi, out from Atria Books on Tuesday. I received this book as an e-ARC from Netgalley, but I purchased an audiobook copy from Libro.fm because Bahni Turpin was the narrator and it was a truly excellent choice. Then finally, we have How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder, her debut, I believe, and it’s out from Dell on June 14th. I received this book as an e-ARC from Netgalley. And, if you’re wondering if I had other books that are out in May that you haven’t seen reviews for yet, well, yes. I do. But hopefully you’ll have them next week. For now, let’s talk about these three, shall we?
The Bride Goes Rogue by Joanna Shupe
The beginning portion of this book is absolutely excellent. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way it went from engaging me fully to somehow losing that spark that gripped me, but since I cannot figure out why, I’ve decided it’s a me thing. So let me tell you all the reasons why this book is excellent.
Without spoiling the first third of this book, which was my favorite part, I will just say that Kat thought she and Preston were going to be married. When she finds out they’re not, she’s like, “great, I’m going to LIVE my life then.” There’s this ball situation and a super hot encounter takes place there and then things progress from there. I loved that first sexy scene so much. It was written so well and I really liked the character work and just everything about it.
And then, for romance reasons, Kat’s father is like, “Here, I’m giving you this plot of land that Preston thinks is his,” and suddenly it is on. But at the same time, Preston in all of his uptight ways and his need to control everything, finds himself softening to Kat. I always love seeing male characters like Preston come unraveled when they find themselves in love, so I appreciated that aspect.
Again, I cannot pinpoint what made this book lose that initial spark for me, but overall, I think this book was great and that most people will really enjoy it.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
I was so intimidated by this book because for some reason I had this idea in my head that Emezi’s writing would be too smart or too lyrical or too literary for me. So I waited until the audiobook released and on the one hand, a brilliant choice because Bahni Turpin is fantastic. And on the other hand, I loved the writing in this book so much, I’m mad I didn’t take the opportunity to read it with my eyeballs so I could highlight the many lines that hit me right in the feels. This feeling is actually quite rare, but I just have a feeling I’ll be acquiring a physical copy of You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty sooner than later so that I can annotate it to my heart’s content. But let me try and actually articulate why I really loved this book.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty took the real messy parts of life and just… laid it all out there. Feyi is a widow (car accident) and she’s sort of, finally, taking steps to return to the land of living, and part of that means dating. So this book opens with her having an Encounter with a man that is quite steamy. But Feyi, while proud of herself for taking this step, is not anywhere close to ready to actually let someone in all the way. The only person Feyi is really comfortable being utterly vulnerable with is her best friend, Joy. (I love Joy. Please tell me she’s going to have her own book. I am BEGGING.)
Feyi is an artist, also, and she gets the opportunity to do something very cool on an unspecified island (Trinidad & Tobago are referenced a lot, so I think this island is definitely in the Caribbean, but I am pretty sure it’s unnamed). Everything about her art and the way that it is described, and especially the parts later in the book that I obviously don’t want to spoil tackles grief in such a fascinating and really compelling way. I think we see those stages of grief so often and while we may know that grief is a cycle and all that, there was just something refreshing about the way Emezi just embraces the part of grief that is sheer fury.
This book does end with a happy for now and I know Emezi has made it clear in their press that they intended this book to be a romance, and while I respect that, I also know I benefited so much from Leigh’s review, which emphasized that this book doesn’t really have a central love story. But if you love messy characters and also characters that feel like real people and you also need the assurance of mess with an HEA guarantee, this book is a good choice.
How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder
You may know that Daisy Jones and The Six is my favorite book of all time. Somehow How to Fake It in Hollywood gives me some sort of mixture of Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid vibes. There are a couple of reasons for this. For one, How to Fake It in Hollywood doesn’t really romanticize Hollywood. Ethan and Gray set up their fake dating arrangement in the office of their shared publisher and they hammer out the details of a contract with their attorneys at the same office. Paparazzi are called to let them know when good photo opportunities will exist. It feels grounded in reality in that sense. But it’s also the fact that Ethan is dealing with alcoholism. He doesn’t see it, really. He rationalizes it a lot to himself. But the facts are the facts. He’s grieving, he doesn’t know how to be a person without his best friend, and eventually there’s a bit of a co-dependency situation. And Gray has her own issues. She seems to have this need to be liked, but also likes to keep her circle small, and has some unresolved issues with her mom.
I think, for me, it’s the fact that this book gives me some similar feelings to TJR, but then ultimately doesn’t quite manage to make everyone feel like totally real people (although I did love the cast of characters, I never forgot that this was a book and wasn’t trying to google these characters or their movies). And then there’s the fact that I think I needed a little more time to settle into the HEA before it hit. That said, the way this book actually ended? That epilogue? Brilliant. I wish more pieces like that had been woven throughout the story as I think that would have benefited it tremendously.
Overall, knowing that THIS book is Ava Wilder’s debut has me so incredibly excited for whatever comes next from her because this is an amazing first book!
Have you read any of these yet? Are you looking forward to any? Let me know!