Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

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Summary:

Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

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book review - pink

★★★✩

I had a hard time trying to come up with a rating with this before even trying to write a review, so I’ll just get straight to the point: I listened to this and I usually can follow audiobooks very well. (If you’ve read my Audiobook Guide, you know this by now, and you’ll probably laugh at me for this. If you haven’t read it yet, go read it and then come back so you can laugh at me.) I’ve listened to fantasy books with worldbuildings supposedly more complicated than this one and felt like I understood them with no problems. And yet, listening to this I felt like I was lost half of the time. Part of it I’m sure is due to the fact that I didn’t like the male narrator – while he can do dialogues and voices splendidly, he’s always so….monotone and boring when actually narrating. And since he had most of the worldbuilding to do (because of Séverin’s POV), that was a big deal that made me not enjoy this/not understand this as much as I would’ve liked. But seeing as I had similar problems with the other narrator, which I liked much more, makes me think that the book itself was confusing too.

The pacing and amount of action was also not for me. I usually prefer slower books where I get to know the characters slowly and everything builds up to a big action-y thing, but not before a good 200 pages of build-up in which I actually get to care about what’s going on and I am able to familiarize myself with the stakes and consequences if things go wrong. In this book, I felt like one action scene was followed by another, and this, on top of my problems being able to follow the audio, threw me off things.

I also feel like there was a disconnect between how I felt about the characters for like, 80% of the book and how I felt about them by the end. I definitely loved the found family element in this and I think the squad + Hypnos are going to be a lot of people’s new favorites, but I hard a hard time getting invested. It’s not that I didn’t care about them, but I couldn’t stop seeing them as very arbitrarily constructed archetypes that had to make up just the perfect recipe in order for the reader to fall for them. No, I’m not trying to go the “let’s compare every trait of every TGW characters to every trait of Six Of Crows characters” route, because while I definitely would recommend this books to SoC fans, such a trait-by-trait comparison has been done before and I don’t think that’s a very kind thing to do to an author. These are Roshani Chokshi’s characters, but they only started to feel like actual people to me at the end of the book.

And what an ending this book has. I might not have known what was going on most of the book but BOI did the entire ending shook me to my core. That’s where I saw the characters come truly alive for the first time, and everything about it made me want to jump right into the next book. Which, you know, won’t be out for at least another year, which is totally. fine. Yep. Most definitely. f i n eJUST KIDDING I kind of need it right now.

Another thing I loved is the casual diversity and how everyone’s identity is fleshed out and is fully part of them. Because of the problems I had following the book and because so many of these characters’ experiences (effects of colonialism, being biracial, being brown, being white-passing, not fitting in or being welcome in any of your cultures, etc) aren’t in any way similar to my own, I don’t feel like I can properly talk about them in depth, so I definitely encourage you to look for more reviews. For example, check out Mel’s review in which she talks more about Enrique’s character. All I can speak for myself is that I loved the fact that not one but TWO characters (Enrique and Hypnos) are bi/pan and that they’re kind of in a low-angst love triangle (which I’m hoping is going some kind of way *coughs*polyam triangle*coughs* in book two but WE’LL SEE).

Overall I can say that I definitely liked a lot of elements in this but I also feel like I didn’t get the best experience I possibly could out of this, and I can’t gauge how much of that is actually the book’s fault, which frustrates me to no end. I’m going with a 3 stars rating for now, but I WILL reread before the next book comes out and this time I’ll get my hands on a paper or digital copy, since the audiobook didn’t work for me.

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6 Reasons To Read: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant // mermaids, but terrifying

I don’t usually feel like I can review audiobooks. Most of the time, I read them for my own pleasure without thinking about writing a review after I’m done with them. However, I loved Into the Drowning Deep so much that I thought I couldn’t possibly not talk about it.

This is still not a review but I’m trying out this format for the first time and I’m hoping to use it in the future for other audiobooks too!

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The casual and effortless diversity. If anyone goes “oh diversity nowadays is so forced” I’ll just throw this book in their faces. Seriously, this is a brilliant example of an adult book that is not about any particular identity, the characters just are, but at the same time their identity is important to them and is fully part of their character, it’s never forgotten or brushed aside and I think the author does a great job of giving each marginalized character their own agency and analyzing the way that their identity plays into that and their action.

A non-comprehensive list of identities includes: bisexual MC, autistic lesbian LI, Hawaiian rep, a character with chronic pain, a Latino character, two deaf twins who use ASL.

Scientific research added a new fascinating layer to mermaids. If you like science and facing in a more scientific way, you will like this. Mermaids are treated like the scientific mystery they are and it’s absolutely mesmerizing. Think of what we’d do as scientists if we ever came face to face with aliens from space: this is what this book does with mermaids, because they’re just as alien.

The atmosphere is terrifying. If you think mermaids are lovely sea creatures made for soft romances and fun adventures, think again. Or rather, they can be, but this book will make you reconsider how you think of the sea and its creatures. But if you’re like me, it also won’t make you scared of anything too tangible. Unless you live very close to the deep sea. Or are reading it while on a cruise. Then I would recommend reading it when you’re far, far away from the ocean.

It has so many POVs and it’s never confusing. I know some people don’t like many POVs in their books, but I personally have a weird love for the most obscure POVs that are only there for one chapter and then never again. I don’t know, I think they are kind of a way for me to see if the author is really good: if you make me love a 3-pages POV, you’re a writing genius. Most POVs here are the main characters but there were a few random ones that were just the best, whether they were bloodcurdling or jaw-droppingly beautiful.

• It’s as much tension-driven as it is character-driven. I want more horror books to be like this. The tension is always present, even when you think the characters can relax a little you know things won’t stay calm for long. This book also has probably one of the most suspenseful scenes I’ve ever read, I still get chills just from thinking about it. But it’s also a book that focuses a lot on the different characters and their relationships to each other, whether professional or personal. It’s basically the best of two worlds.

It has so many themes it’s hard to even begin listing them. Some of the prevalent ones are environmentalism, the relationship that humans have with nature, the way abled people often behave towards disabled people, and of course scientific research and what we’re willing to do for the sake of knowledge. But there are so many other social, ethical and philosophical themes that are mentioned even just in passing, maybe just in a sentence or two, and they still hit you like a punch in the gut. But like, in a good way.

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What are your favorite not-too-scary horror books? Have you read Into the Drowning Deep

 

All I Learned About Audiobooks: A Guide

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In January 2018  I started listening to audiobooks. If someone had told me before that that I’d not only end up liking them, but that I would rely on them as much as I’ve done this past year, I wouldn’t have believed them.

One year later, I’ve read a total of about 40 audiobooks and I’ve collected a few general thoughts on them that I thought I’d share so everyone who’s still uncertain can decide whether this format might work for them too. Also let me point out that these are just some of the things I noticed that work for me, we’re all different and what works for me might not work for everybody.

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Why audiobooks?

  • You’re a slow reader: finish a book faster by finding a playing speed that works for you (and even work your way towards higher speeds).
  • You’re in a reading slump: try switching the format by listening to an audiobook, it might just be the thing to take you out of your slump.
  • You need glasses to read but you’re doing a face mask and you can’t wear your glasses: oddly specific AND YET I bet y’all have in been in this situation.

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  • You have a long commute: whether by car or by train/bus/tram, you can get a lot of reading done that way.
  • You’re “too tired to read”: sometimes that just means you have to rest your eyes and use your ears instead.

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  • You have problems focusing/ADD/ADHD: audiobooks seem scary for those of us who have problems concentrating (I don’t have a diagnosis yet but I’m probably ADHD myself), but once you find a way to keep yourself focused (I’ll talk about this in the next category), listening to audiobooks actually helps you not get distracted as much as you do while reading on a page.

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  • You need motivation to do chores: this works best if you stick to listening to audiobooks almost exclusively while you do chores instead of listening to them in your free time. You have no idea how much I hate washing the dishes, but sometimes while I’m in the middle of a good audiobook I find myself looking forward to it because I know I’ll be listening to it while doing it (pro tip: use headphones if you’re doing “loud” chores, with running water etc.)

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  • Sometimes the performance adds to enjoyment of the book: a good narrator can make a book a thousand times better. They can give a totally different vibe to a book and even make your rating go up one or two stars compared to your rating if you’d only read it.
  • If you’re not in love with a particular genre but you still want to read a specific book: okay hear me out, I tend to postpone reading books I know are going to be on the more action-y side or have elements that I personally don’t care much about. But if I know from other reviews that they also have great characters, great relationships, etc, I found that listening to them doesn’t make me dread the parts that I normally wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about. Example: The Disasters.

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How to read audiobooks?

  • Fast or slow: this totally depends on factors only you know, like your knowledge of the language you’re listening to, and how used you are to listening to books on faster speeds. All listening speeds are valid and it doesn’t matter if you listen on 0.75x or 2.5x speed as long as you’re enjoying it. Pro tip: you don’t have to listen to the whole book at the same speed! You can slow down on dialogues or parts you feel are more important and speed up in action scenes or descriptions.

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  • While playing a casual puzzle game: this is what I mostly use when I want to focus and I’m not doing a repetitive chore. I have trouble focusing unless I’m doing something with my hands that doesn’t require a lot of effort. I like playing some sort of Tetris game on my phone, sometimes I switch it up by playing different things like Dots or Bejeweled, but you could play Candy Crush or Bubbles…there’s a lot of choice out there.
  • With a coloring book: this serves the same purpose of the previous point. I haven’t done this since this summer but sometimes I’m just tired of phone games (or my phone/iPad needs charging lol). There’s lots of coloring books whether it’s for adults or for kids (I don’t judge) so just find something you like. I personally prefer sticking to abstract figures but you do you boo. I know my friends who are artists like to draw while listening so that might be something worth thinking about if you’re good at that.

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    • With headphones: this is obvious on train/bus/etc but I find it helps at home too, especially while doing chores with running water or if you have to go from one room to another. Bluetooth headphones work best for this so you’re free to move around (AirPods users now it’s your time to shine, if you can actually find them).

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Which types of books work best?

  • Action-packed: a good narrator will make the scene come alive and if you’re like me and like action scenes but can’t for the life of you picture what’s going on when you read on a page, audiobooks are a great help. Example: all the Rick Riordan books, Kingdom of Ash, Six of Crows.

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  • “Slow” books with lots of character development: sometimes it’s easy to get impatient with a slow book although we’re enjoying it. Audiobooks make the slower parts go by faster (just adjust the speed) and they give more depth to the internal monologues. Example: Nine Perfect Strangers.
  • Rereads: this is one of my favorite use of audiobooks. Rereading feels like I’m wasting my time sometimes (which is NOT true!!! but I feel like my TBR is judging me), but if I listen to it I know that I’m much faster and I don’t feel as guilty. It’s also incredibly enjoyable to go back to a world you loved and experience it in a different format.
  • Extremely long books: this ties back to the fact that you’re most likely reading faster if you’re on audio. It’s scary to look at how many hours the book will last, but if you’re on 2x speed the book will be half the length. Example: Kingdom of Ash.

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  • Honestly? Any book. I haven’t read all kinds of them and a lot will depend on the narrator or the subject of the book, but I see no reason to exclude any category or genre, you just have to find what works for you.

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Cons of audiobooks?

  • Can’t see words/names on page: this is especially frustrating when you’re reading fantasy or reading in a second language and hearing a lot of new names of people or places. It makes it awkward to write a review or chat about it with online friends, because sometimes you just don’t know how to spell things.
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idk I just really wanted to add a Runaan gif. isn’t he beautiful?
  • Beautiful prose gets lost, can’t highlight without a visual version: sure, you can bookmark the spot you’re on if you’re on Audible, but unless you also own an ebook or printed version it’ll be awkward to write down a quote whether it’s for your future reference for a review or just because you enjoyed that particular sentence.
  • They’re expensive: there’s little going around this, audiobooks are expensive. If you’re lucky you have a library near you that lets you borrow them and use apps like Libby, but that’s not the case for most of us internationals. I like my audible subscription because I feel that it lets me make the most out of my money, but it’s still very expensive and I know it’s not for everyone.
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with a little bit of poetic licence I’m using cabbages as a metaphor for money
  • No time to process emotional scenes: especially if you’re going fast, it might be hard to remember to pause while you’re in the middle of something Big going on in the book because you want to know what comes next. This can make it so that some of the dramatic moments get lost among the sea of information being thrown at you at 2x speed. I personally like to take a moment to cry or at least process that something dramatic has happened while I’m reading, but it can be hard to do with audios.

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  • You might not like narrator: a narrator can make or break a book. I haven’t found many bad narrators and the few I did find haven’t made it impossible to enjoy the book, but that’s because they were rereads of books I already knew and loved. Definitely always try to check out a sample of the book (Audible has 5-minutes samples for every book) and sort reviews in a way that shows you the ratings of the performance. If you feel like a particular narrator might turn you off an otherwise good book, maybe it might be worth giving the paper or digital version a try instead.

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Where to start?

  • Rereads: these are probably the easiest books to get into if you’re still uncertain whether audiobooks are for you or not. Think about that one book you’ve been postponing rereading for ages and just try it out! I would, however, suggest avoiding your favorite books, the ones you’ve reread 1000 times, where every line of dialogue already has a specific tone and feel to it, because it will inevitably be different when the narrator reads it.
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look at him being smarter than you and me
  • Tales: I don’t know how to categorize this but my first audiobook ever was Norse Mythology and it made me feel like when my mom read to me before bed when I was little. It just felt like something meant to be read out loud and it made me fall in love with audiobooks in general. It doesn’t have to be this book in particular but try to find something that gives you the feel of fairy tales or mythology and that you’re interested in and that you might think it’s meant to read out loud by a fire or something like that.

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A few quick recs of personal favorite audiobooks with great performances:

✨ Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant ✨

✨ Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty ✨

✨ Far from the Tree by Robin Benway ✨

✨ Sadie by Courtney Summers ✨

✨ The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas ✨

✨ Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman ✨

✨ The Disasters by M.K. England ✨

✨ The whole PJO series by Rick Riordan ✨

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So that’s it for this guide! I hope you enjoyed it and if it was useful to you please leave me a comment because I love feeling like I helped!

I’m also just casually dropping my Ko-Fi here and pretending to slowly walk away in a way that lets you know I don’t really care if you click on the button or not but it would also made my day.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

ARC Review: My Fake Canadian Wife by M. Hollis // sapphic fake dating

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: When Dora receives a letter from the immigration service in Canada saying she will be deported soon, as her visa is expiring, a friend suggests she marry a woman. Since she doesn’t currently have a girlfriend, faking a relationship might be her only option since she can’t muster the desire to return to school for advanced photograph studies.
Abby is a reserved librarian who seems enthusiastic about helping with the marriage plan. As the two girls get to know each other through dates in snowy Toronto and meeting Abby’s family for Christmas, Dora starts to wonder how much of this relationship they are faking and how much is real.

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book review - pink

★★★✩

M. Hollis’s books continue to be a safe haven for queer women and I’m so grateful for her.

This book is about Dora, a lesbian girl from Brasil living in Canada, who has to find a way to not get deported because of her expired visa. One way would be to get married, and when a friend of a friend, Abby (who is pansexual), seems willing to fake a relationship with her, the two have to spend some time together to have proof of their relationship.

What I always love in M. Hollis books is the relaxed atmosphere, which is always very queer-positive and comforting. The writing always goes straight to the point but I wouldn’t say it’s a case of too much tell and little show. It just does what it’s supposed to do, especially in books that are on the shorter side (this one is around 100 pages).

With that said, one of the reasons I love the fake relationship trope is to get to that moment when both characters are so deep into the act that their own feelings start coming to the surface and they forget for a second that the relationship is fake. This is something I didn’t really feel happened in this book, and I sort of missed it. Everything played out very safely and neatly but I wish I could said that I rooted for the couple more than I did. I know it’s supposed to be short, but for a romance, I felt like it ended at what would’ve been the 40 or 60% mark on a full-length novel with a similar premise.

In any case, I really appreciate the kind of stories this author puts out because they always find a way to make you feel safe and seen in your identities. I definitely recommend this book if you want a soft romance that’s low on angst and with a cozy, winter atmosphere.

Review: Accepting the Fall by Meg Harding

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 
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Summary: Confronting the past is never easy.

Cole Whitaker is happy. He has the job and boyfriend he always wanted. His heart’s in no danger of being broken, and he can’t ask for more from life. As a kindergarten teacher, he sees it all; however, one troublesome student has him reaching out to the parent, wanting to help. There’s something about Savanah that tugs at his heartstrings.

He never expected her father.

Zander Brooks hasn’t had an easy life, and he’s made some mistakes. Freshly retired from the military and working as a firefighter, Zander thought he’d left Cole in the rearview mirror. He’s not expecting him to appear in St. Petersburg, Florida, of all places, teaching his daughter’s kindergarten class. Suddenly, his biggest mistake is being shoved in his face.
This is Zander’s chance to close a door he’d never fully shut, but time with his former flame might change his mind.

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book review - pink

★★★★

I loved this second-chance romance so much, without realizing it I even finished it within one single day (more like single evening) and that never happens because I’m a very slow reader.

The story is about Cole, a gay kindergarten teacher, and Zander, a Black bisexual firefighter whose daughter is in Cole’s class. Cole and Zander both grew up on military bases and they meet each other again after almost two decades of having had a relationship that ended abruptly as teens.

It’s hard to find anything I didn’t like about this book, to be honest.

I loved the single-parent aspect, and how Zander didn’t really know what to do with a little kid (he only had her for a few months because her mom dropped her on his doorstep and disappeared) but how he loved her so much and always wanted to do what was best for her. He is working as a firefighter and his job makes him a little absent from his daughter’s life at first but he learns to do things with her and how to be a great dad. I also loved that this wasn’t a story about him coming out and that his colleagues and friends knew about him being bisexual and nobody had a problem with it.

Cole was a sweetheart and he loves the kids he’s teaching and seeing him with all his pets and farm animals had me so soft. He is also in an established relationship at the beginning of the book, which is something that initially I didn’t like because I never know where a story might go from there. Fortunately there was no cheating and instead we were given enough time (I believe in the book a few months passed) to see why his current boyfriend wasn’t good for him. It’s not that he was a bad guy or anything (I also hate when someone is in an abusive relationship and finds a new partner, because I’m never sure that they love the new partner or if they’re really just looking for something better). In fact, the guy was great on paper, but just not what Cole needed in his life.

Once things with Cole’s ex ended, the romance took up from there. Cole and Zander’s dates were so adorable and once they started dating there was no real obstacle to their romance. Most of the conflict was from their time together when they were teens, and I loved seeing snippets from the past to understand what had gone right and what had gone wrong.

I also liked the focus on Savanah’s mental health and trauma of her mom leaving her and how she interacted with the world (mostly Zander and Cole, but also the other kids) because of it. I just wanted to hug her and make sure she was okay and I cried with that epilogue because yes, she turns out okay and loved.

So, I can’t recommend this book enough if you want to read a cute second-chance romance with a single parent trope and an out and proud bisexual Black man.

TW: mentions of past homophobia, past break up, car accident, hospitals, child abandonment

A very late December Wrap-Up

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I’m going to keep this post short because it’s kind of late and I feel bad for posting it basically in mid-January. But I love doing it and I didn’t want to skip a month so I guess we’re here.

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I’ve read a total of 20 books which is much more than the previous month, but don’t be fooled, a lot of it was just me reading short things, being on Christmas break and going on a webcomic binge of epic proportions.

○ 3 audiobooks

○ 1 rereads

○  9 graphic novels/webcomics

○  3 ARCs

Overall this was a really good reading month for me. There were new favorites within their genre, stuff I’d been meaning to read for a long time that I finally did, some objectively good books that didn’t really stay with me, and a lot of mood reads that were perfect for me at the time when I read them.

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📖 Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo (reread, audiobook) – this book is still miles away from the perfection that is Six of Crows, but Bardugo has grown so much between Shadow and Bone and Ruin and Rising, it’s amazing. In R&R we finally get some of those squad dynamics and banter that will shine even brighter in SoC and this squad made me feel at home because I remember loving them the first time I read this series. I only read this series again to remember details that will probably help me immerse in King of Scars even more, and if you’re anticipating that book as much as I am and you have the time I highly recommend reading or rereading this series. ★★★★.5✩/5 

📖 No End by Erli & Kromi -I have a whole review about this webcomic (please go read it, both the webcomic and my review) and if I had to choose only one highlight for this month I think it would be this one. It had been a while since I kept thinking about characters from a book or comic while not reading but whenever I had to put this down to do other things I kept wondering what would happen next. I just love everything about it with all my heart and I can’t recommend it enough. ★★★★★/5

📖 A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole – I’d been wanting to read this since I heard about it and idk why I waited so long but boi oh boi! I am glad I finally read it. First of all, the cover is stunning. Second, I loved both MCs SO MUCH. Prince Thabiso is the only man I love so jot that down. The romance was so, so good. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. ★★★★.5✩/5

📖 Shootaround by Suspu – I was recommended this as I was in No End hungover so I decided to start it to ride that gay zombie apocalypse wave. This is very different from No End but just as gay and it’s much more a hilarious take on the zombie apocalypse. I mean, it has its serious moments but it’s truly going to make you laugh out loud and it’s so positive and it has such diverse rep (various disabled people, a trans MC, almost every girl is queer, almost every guy is bi or pan, two Japanese MCs, one Mexican MC, and more that I’m sure I’m forgetting). It’s also complete so you can read it all in one go and reach the end without having to wait for further updates. ★★★★★/5

📖 Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (audiobook) – first off, I knew this series had some queer characters but I didn’t expect just how diverse this was (asexual MC and trans FTM secondary character). I truly went into this book without knowing anything about the plot or setting but I loved it. Listening to it made me feel a little disconnected from it at first but it ended up being so, so good. ★★★★.5✩/5

📖 Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (ARC) – this book surprised me because I thought I would like it but still be kind of neutral towards it, and instead I ended up loving it and having a lot of Feelings about the queer rep and the friendships portrayed and even Josh. Read my full review and then go read the book for yourself. ★★★★.5✩/5

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📑 Fake Out by Eden Finley – you can read my full review here. There are more personal reasons why this didn’t work for me but mostly I’m just tired of m/m authors being generally shitty when it comes to the rest of the spectrum, which usually shows when they write really transphobic comments in their books (and I bet they thought they were being woke). Just stop writing queer fiction if all you care about is just some of the letters of the acronym.

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I’m not completing this post with my current reads because by the time this post is out I’ve already read 6 books in January and it doesn’t make sense to add my CRs from the end of December here.

Instead I want to know what your favorite part of last year was for you, whether it was a book or a vacation you took or a new recipe you discovered or anything. I hope you have an amazing month!

Review: On the Fly by P.J. Trebelhorn // for the f/f sports romance lovers out there

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Courtney Abbott is a gold-medal-winning Olympian who always dreamed of playing in the NHL. But breaking into a man’s game is nearly impossible, and she’s put her all into playing in a semi-pro women’s ice hockey league.

Concert violinist Lana Caruso and her teenage son return home to care for her father. The move is only temporary, though—as soon as he recovers, Lana plans to return to Chicago and her position in the orchestra.

Court knows Lana isn’t going to be sticking around for long, but she’s used to living life on the fly. She doesn’t think for even a second she’ll end up truly falling for Lana, but when hearts are on the line, love becomes the one game she can’t afford to lose.

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book review - pink

★★★★.5

This book is a romance between hockey player Courtney Abbott and Lana Caruso, a violinist who has to take time off from her orchestra in Chicago in order to help out her family because of her father’s health issues. Lana also has a teenage son so there’s a single parent trope in this too, which I really liked. Because he’s 15 and plays hockey too, he had kind of a important role and I thought the scenes with him were really cute and endearing.

I thought that because the romance was going to be between an athlete and a violinist, this book wouldn’t focus so much on the sports element, but I was wrong and I really enjoyed this aspect. Particularly I loved how fierce Court’s teammates were when it came to backing up one of their own, even if it was usually against a new member of their own team who caused trouble. In this it reminded me a bit of The Foxhole Court, just in how violent and threatening some scenes were. It’s nowhere near TFC levels though. Although at the beginning it was cool to see this strong friendship among women, it also annoyed me that the main conflict had to be a teammate who was causing trouble for no reason other than the fact that she’s a bigot and has a problem with Courtney being a lesbian. That grew old soon and it distracted from the romance and the cute scenes. If I’m reading an f/f book I usually don’t want to be reminded of queerphobia. I also didn’t like the implication that because she’s a homophobe she has to be secretly closeted and not accepting of her own sexuality. It’s a tired argument that’s only meant to justify bigotry.

On Lana’s side of the story, she has to help out in her family’s pizzeria and try to find a relationship with her parents where she doesn’t really have one. I am Italian and I have to say that I recognized Lana’s family’s mentality as typically Italian and not in a stereotyped way. It was the small things that made it real and I don’t know if the author really did her research or what but I thought it was spot-on.

The romance itself was really good. I liked them right away and how flirty they were with each other. I really felt for them because they knew the time they had was limited since Lana would go back to Chicago after a few months. Something that was different compared to other romances was the fact that the book stretched onto a long time period, overall I think about two years? It had some necessary time jumps at the end but that was expected, however even while Lana was still in town sometimes I thought the pacing was a bit off.

There were a few other things that bothered me like the equivalence that having breasts = being a woman, or the fact that sex was treated as something everyone needs to have, and one comment in Court’s POV about bisexual women that I thought could have been edited out (Lana is a lesbian but Court initially thinks she’s bi because she has a son, and thinks in her internal monologue that she doesn’t have a problem with bi women but doesn’t want to hear about their sex with men, which….was really not prompted by anything and just made me uncomfortable) but overall I had a really good time while reading this and I would definitely recommend it for fans of f/f and sport romances.

TW: lesbophobia, mention of suicide, past death of a parent, cancer, hospitals, violence, the d slur