Thursday, September 1, 2022

On the Shelf: August 2022

I slacked off a little in August when it came to gorging on books. And you know what? I'm okay with that. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this isn't a race or a contest. Reading is what I do to recharge, for enjoyment, and it should never feel like a chore. You know what definitely wasn't a chore? Alisha Rai's next contemporary romance, Partners in Crime. It was hijinks-heavy and delightfully caper-y. Much like lawyer Naveen, the reader thinks they know the set-up when accountant Mira Patel comes to him to settle her aunt's estate—but they will quickly realize they're in for a bonkers ride. I loved it. It reminded me of watching Indian serials with my mom and grandmother. 

Another upcoming contemporary I really enjoyed was Jen DeLuca's Well Traveled. It's always fun running off to her Renaissance Faire. In this fourth book, Lulu Malone does exactly that to escape her high-pressure job. In doing so, she grows closer to guitarist Dex MacLean, the faire circuit's most notorious womanizer. As they move from camp to camp, they learn a lot about moving beyond what people expect of them—and I was with them every step of the way. This is such a charming world, and I can't wait for another visit! 

The Reading Rundown

Trapper Road by Rachel Caine and Carrie Ryan (suspense/thriller)
Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca (out 12/6, contemporary romance)
If She Says Yes by Tasha Harrison (contemporary romance, erotic romance)
Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai (out 10/18, contemporary romance)
Nobody's Princess by Erica Ridley (historical romance)
Lay Me Down in Ivy by Stefanie Simpson (historical romance, BDSM/femdom romance)
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (mainstream fiction)

Backlists and Rereads: I reread Messy by Katie Porter, possibly for the second time this year, and I am not one bit sorry about that.

Currently Reading: I'm still working on a reread of Sunshine by Robin McKinley and Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed. Books keep jumping the line and impeding my progress!

On the TBR/wish list
The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev (12/1)
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (out 9/6)
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

On the Shelf: July 2022

I think I still have a good-book hangover from all the great stuff I devoured in July. Like the early copies of Kennedy Ryan's Before I Let Go and Husband Material by Alexis Hall. There's a reason Kennedy is one of the most-lauded authors in romance fiction right now. Because her books make you feel every emotion, including ones you didn't know you had. And the second-chance romance of Yasmen and Josiah is a gripping and gorgeous roller coaster of feelings. Meanwhile, Husband Material—which hits store shelves today—is another hit for Alexis. It's bursting with so much wit you might have to take hilarity breaks like I did. I also took a stroll down Angelina M. Lopez's Milagro Street, where a passionate bartender wants to save her family legacy any way she can. It's by no means an easy road, but certainly a compelling, and at times very entertaining, one.

And then there's Tasha Suri's Wuthering Heights remix, What Souls Are Made Of. Holy crap, this book is beautiful. I fully admit that I have never read the source material. I keep meaning to watch the movie with Merle Oberon and haven't gotten to that either. But I know enough of the story and characters from pop culture that I wasn't lost and could see what the author was subverting. Tasha's exquisite and lyrical retelling grounds this famous and familiar tale in themes of cultural loss and unmoored identity, and thus renders the selfish Cathy and brutal Heathcliff in much more sympathetic lines. It's a far more hopeful book, too. We need more hope in our lives.      

The Reading Rundown
Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre (YA thriller/suspense, YA romance)
A Christmas Spark by Diana Biller (historical romance, short story)
Olivia and the Masked Duke by Grace Callaway (historical romance)
Pippa and the Prince of Secrets by Grace Callaway (historical romance)
Fiona and the Enigmatic Earl by Grace Callaway (historical romance)
Husband Material by Alexis Hall (contemporary m/m romance)
After Hours on Milagro Street by Angelina M. Lopez (contemporary romance)
Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan (out 11/15, contemporary romance)
What Souls Are Made Of by Tasha Suri (YA romance, gothic romance, Wuthering Heights retelling)
Take Her Down by Lauren Emily Whalen (YA fiction, YA LGBTQ+ fiction)

Backlists and rereads: Locked Box, Open Hearts, and Baby Talk by Eve Dangerfield and Too Wicked to Kiss by Erica Ridley were my forays into author backlists this month. Meanwhile, I made a return visit to Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas, as well as Backwoods, Getaway, and Shivaree by Cara McKenna.

Currently reading: Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed and Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai.

On the TBR/wish list
The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev (12/1)
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (9/6)
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri (8/16)
All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

Saturday, July 2, 2022

On the Shelf: June 2022

Halfway through the reading year, I have racked up 77 books. I feel like I'm already well ahead of where I was in 2021. Heck, I even topped my April record of 17 books with 19 in June! I know what you're thinking. "Are you still reading a ton just to avoid writing books of your own, Suleikha?" I plead the Fifth, Your Honor.

Much like in previous months, I wandered across genres, dipping into mysteries and thrillers, historical romance, erotic romance, and some absolutely charming contemporaries. Seriously: Denise Williams is one of my go-tos for feelgood present-day romance, and Christopher Rice's Sapphire Sunset is a much-needed stand-out in a subgenre saturated by cis women writing what they think gay men are like*. I can't wait for the next books in both series! I also thoroughly enjoyed Mikaella Clements and Onjuli Datta's celebrity fake-dating romance, which had some beautiful angst as it navigated a complex friendship amidst equally complex family dynamics.

Of course, my TBR wasn't just California sun and sexiness, jet-setting friends-to-lovers, or sweet airport shenanigans. I always need some darkness to balance out the light. Courtney Summers is one of those authors who writes ripped-from-the-headlines books with gut-wrenching detail, and her upcoming I'm The Girl is no different. Major content warnings for sexual assault in this harrowing look at how young women are groomed and victimized by wealthy predators ala Maxwell and Epstein. I felt like my skin had been scoured by a cheese grater when I was done. But as a survivor of childhood trauma, I also felt very seen.

*I've written gay romance myself and am therefore included in that criticism. Not letting myself off the hook by any means!