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!

Friday, June 3, 2022

On the Shelf: May 2022

May was my ARC-wheedling month. I shamelessly slid into Eva Leigh's DMs for an advanced of her next Last Chance Scoundrels book, and I'm not even sorry about it. I'll probably do it again when the final book, a second-chance romance full of groveling, is ready. What's the point of being an author if you can't hit people up for early copies? 😆 Further to that, I got Tracey Livesay's American Royalty from my friend Elizabeth, and it honestly restored my faith in the steamy contemporary romance. I'm not shading the "rom-com boom," (at least not today! lol) but I've been missing romance books that aren't women's fiction-adjacent. And this opposites-attract-but-they're-not-really-opposites love story between a rapper and a prince was just what I needed! I loved watching Dani and Jay fall hard within a framework that was a little bit Meghan-and-Harry, a little Serena-and-Alexis, and all Tracey Livesay wit and heat!

Alexis Hall's A Lady For a Duke and Charlie's Pack of Lies rounded out my ARC haul, and both were time incredibly well-spent. There's a reason those two writers are fan faves. Readers are in for such treats this summer and fall! There is so much good stuff headed your way. I also indulged in some excellent new releases, like Mia Sosa's and Sonali Dev's. I think Vansh and Naina's book might be my favorite of Sonali's Rajes series, especially since there's a lovely secondary romance. And I'm a little sad the series is over! Now let's get to the lists...