February Reading Round Up
I hope you all are ready for an avalanche of romance books! Because what else would I read in February?
With Valentines Day and Black History month, I wanted all of my reading focused on either romance or books written by a black author. Bonus points if the book did both! (Because apparently it's a competition with points?)
We can officially say whatever issue I was having at the start of January with my reading focus is completely gone and I've read A TON of books this month! It's been a good time. I think I'm going to throw the whole "read less" goal out the door because reading a ton of books is who I am, and I like it!
Some notes on how I do wrap ups: I don't include plot summaries because the publisher can summarize them much better than I can. If you want to know the plot summary, I've left an Amazon affiliated link in the book title so you can check it out. I rate books on a 1-5 star scale. (1= worst book ever why did I read this?; 2= did not enjoy; 3= this was good!; 4= I really liked it! 5= OMG LOVED THIS IT'S THE BEST EVER!) For the most part, you're going to see 3-5 star ratings from me and not a lot of negative simply because if I don't like a book, I'm not going to finish it.
Life is too short to read books you don't like, right? Right.
Let's get to it then and let me know if you've read any of these books and what you read in February!
Amethyst (Chase Family Series #1) by Lauren Royal
- Genre: Historical Romance
- Format: ebook
- Rating: 3.5 Stars
In December I read Lauren Royal's novella A Secret Christmas and it was really cute. So, when I found that it was part of a series which all follows the same family line, I thought it would be fun to start from the beginning.
I liked reading a full length novel by this author to get a better idea of how she usually plots and develops characters. There didn't seem to be a whole lot to the plot and premise, so it could have been condensed to a novella. But, I also didn't feel like it dragged at all. I would have liked a bit more development with the characters though, instead of stretching the plot. I liked the couple a lot, but they also didn't know each other very well and the first half of the book I felt like the tension between them was a bit forced and they'd start kissing and making out and I'd be like "that came from nowhere..." But it got much better as the book went on.
What I appreciated a lot was that we got to see some of their lives after the "happily ever after" and how they overcame challenges as an established couple. You don't see that very often.
It was a fun fast read, but not one of my favorites. But I'm still willing to give another book or two in this series a try.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: Romance, history, falling in love with someone of a different class/station trope, falling in love but you're betrothed to someone else trope, big loud families
- Trigger Warnings: fire, loss of parents, orphans, on page sexual assault/rape attempt, cheating
Binti: Home (Binti 2) by Nnedi Okorafor
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Format: ebook
- Rating: 4 stars
This was a great follow-up to the first novella, Binti! In this one, she returns home for her pilgrimage, and learns more about who she is and what she has become as a result of the events in the first novella.
It was really good and I'm excited to read the third and final book in this trilogy, but it didn't pull me in as much as the first. Still fantastic, though!
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: sci-fi, space, unlikely friendships, African inspired, coming of age, navigating changing family ties
- Trigger Warnings: PTSD
Wires and Nerve: Gone Rouge (Wires and Nerve 2) by Marissa Meyer
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Format: Hardcover
- Rating: 3.5 stars
This was a really fun follow-up to Wires and Nerve and I believe it is also the conclusion of Iko's story. I'm glad it was longer than the first one, because we were able to see more of all of our favorite Lunar Chronicles characters and get more into the plot. I felt the first one went a little too quickly! But, I also don't read many graphic novels so I always feel as though they go by fast!
You definitely need to read The Lunar Chronicles and the first Wires and Nerve book before this one! The first book wraps up what happens in The Lunar Chronicles but you won't get all of the nuances and backstories as much. If I wasn't a Lunar Chronicles fan already, I don't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: graphic novels, cyborgs, romantic comedy, sci-fi, werewolves
- Trigger Warnings: prejudice
Size Matters (Perfect Fit #1) by Allison Bliss
- Genre: Contemporary Romance
- Format: Library Mass Market Paperback
- Rating: 3.5- 4 stars
Super fun and fast read! I got through this book in only a few hours. It's the first in a new trilogy all focused on heroine's who are plus size. Which, I think is fantastic because women of all shapes and sizes can be beautiful and have amazing love stories! Personally, I think we could have seen more of our main character, Leah, outside of the fact that she was overweight. Her learning to overcome it and get past her insecurities was a big part of the plot, so I understand why the focus was how it was, but at the same time it sometimes felt like it was her whole identity. Looking at the future books in this trilogy though, it doesn't appear as though we'll have the same focus for the other characters which makes me feel better.
Size Matters definitely took on the vibe of a romantic comedy where there's a lot of miscommunication and situational comedy where the characters get into ridiculous situations and chaos ensues. At first, I didn't mind some of the miscommunication because it was very relateable. How many times do words get twisted around or you're nervous and don't say what you really mean? It happens all of the time! But after awhile, it was simply frustrating. JUST USE YOUR WORDS.
In spite of those things, Size Matters was still really fun. It has it's flaws, but still compelling and enjoyable.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: heroine's who aren't you're typical stick-thin models, situational comedies, romantic comedies, the "be in a fake relationship than fall in love for real" trope.
- Trigger Warnings: Fat phobia/hate, critical parents, body image insecurities
Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann
- Genre: Contemporary Young Adult/New Adult Romance, #ownvoices
- Format: Library Hardcover
- Rating: 4 stars
Let's Talk About Love started out rough for me. I'm not a huge fan of Kann's writing style, and I personally felt you could tell this was a book that had been published because the Internet liked it. (This was from a site called Swoon Reads where people post their manuscripts, people vote on them, and the most popular books get published.) One of the big culprits is her overuse of parenthesis. As someone who also overuses parenthesis, as well as ellipses, I totally get that it was a "voice" and stylistic choice. But at the start of the book it was WAY over the top that even I wasn't a fan. Another reason it was slow for me was because I felt very old when reading it. I could very much tell that while this is a YA, or more of a New Adult book, and a 31 year old is not the target audience.
Both of these things got better the longer I read, though.
I loved that the main character is both bi and asexual. Both of these types of representation is pretty rare, so I really enjoyed just "listening" to that point of view and learning about it more. I for sure saw how much I still need to learn.
The more I read, the more I enjoyed the friendships and the relationship between our main character and the love interest. They were adorable!
What's a bummer is that this book is marketed as young adult. It should absolutely be considered new adult. All of the main characters have completed their first year of college or have even graduated college. They have an apartment together and a lot of the story is about paying rent, figuring out the next steps for your future, and dealing with picking a major. People lately have been begging for the new adult genre to go beyond what's considered "trashy" romance novels. As much as I love romance novels, I too would love to see this group of books expand beyond that because it's definitely an age group that needs great books. Books such as Let's Talk About Love for sure fit the bill and I hope we see more of this style.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: contemporary romance, LGTBQIA+ rep, new adult, young adult, stories about college, friendship goals, ownvoices
- Trigger Warnings: aphobia, creeper guys at parties, mediocre parenting
Relationship Goals by Christina C. Jones
- Genre: Contemporary Romance Novella, #ownvoices
- Format: ebook
- Rating: 5 stars
THIS NOVELLA WAS SO GOOD.
First of all, it's written by a black author, it's a romance, AND has disability rep because our hero has Sickle Cell Disease. So... that's a win!
One of the things I loved about this novella is how "normal" it felt. When I read YA romance, most of the time (or at least the ones I like the most) feel like real life. I can see these events actually happening in reality and I appreciate the real world and real people more. While I love adult romance, I don't get that vibe. I get more of the "I wish that would happen in real life" vibe. While there's a bit of the over the top romance in Relationship Goals, ultimately I could see this love story actually happening.
There's the social media element, but it's not done in a way that makes your eyes roll the way so many books have it done. They have a long distance relationship, they deal with past mistakes, there's a ton of feminism, and both characters are fantastic.
I loved how they handled his SCD. It was a vital part of who he was, but you for sure did not see him as just the guy with a chronic illness. He was a fully fleshed out character. When he talked about it, I loved how he pointed out the way most people at first aren't phased by it. When he first tells them, it's not a big deal. But when they're faced with the long-term reality of being fatigued easily and how he could randomly go to the hospital at any time, it's a totally different story. These are SO MANY of the thoughts I have too, even though I have a completely different condition.
I was rooting for them from page one and read this in just a few hours. So great!
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: romantic comedy, books that feature social media, realistic romance
- Trigger Warnings: hospital visits, cheating, being lied to in a relationship, a lot of swearing
Take My Hand (Take My Hand #1) by Nicola Haken
- Genre: Contemporary New Adult Romance
- Format: ebook
- Rating: 3 stars
Usually, I'm not one to complain about covers of books. I love it when a cover is GORGEOUS of course. But when I'm not a fan, I don't care a whole lot. That being said, I really hate the covers for this series. I think it's mainly because I hate wife beater tank tops and the mix of the American and British flags in the background give me a very "'Merica vibe"... even though a majority of the book takes place in London and the author is also British.
I also want to say, I'm in this series for Rachel. I discovered a blog called Sense and Disability where she reviews romance books which feature characters with disabilities. It's fabulous. She reviewed a book in this series which is about Rachel who has paraplegia. It looked really good, but it's the third in the series and she said that while it can stand alone you need to read the other books to see how this couple met. Therefore, I started with book one.
At first, I was very turned off by how the main character, Emily (go figure!), talked about Rachel. The intro paragraph about Rachel was "Rachel is a paraplegic" and hardly any of the characters at first could even talk about her without mentioning the wheelchair. In fact, a character even called her "wheelchair girl" or something along those lines. NO THANK YOU. But, it did get better as the book went on and Rachel is a pretty bad ass character, so I let it slide.
As for the main love story which was about Emily... it was good. I was always rooting for them and liked the progression of the relationship. It's very bad boy meets good girl which can be fun. The hero has a very sordid past, and adds another layer to their relationship that plays a big part. But, they became a little too "I'm going to fix you and I need you to survive" for my taste. Again, I was always rooting for them. It just felt a bit unhealthy for me.
I also wasn't a huge fan of the writing style. A lot of times the characters would break the fourth wall and talk to the reader which unless you're Zach from Saved by the Bell... no thanks. There also were many times when I got "hetero-normative" vibes. It wasn't shaming LGTBQIA+ or anything, but also didn't sound supportive of it either. While, I get this wasn't an LGBTQIA+ story, if all you're going to do is throw shade at it... don't put it in your book.
This book was enjoyable, but not a favorite. I was looking at book two and it seems like I might be able to just skip ahead to Rachel's story in book three. If I can, I'm definitely going to go with that and not read the remainder of the series, unless something changes where I'm enjoying it more.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: bad boy/good girl trope, guys with piercings, a more dramatic romance vs. comedic, books that take place in the UK
- Trigger Warnings: excessive alcohol use, addiction recovery, loss of parents and siblings, reference to past drug use, reference to past abusive relationships, hetero-normative vibes, a lot of swearing
Tessa Ever After (Reluctant Hearts #2) by Brighton Walsh
- Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
- Format: ebook
- Rating: 5 stars
Now this is what I'm talking about! I can't get over how great this couple was. I read the first book in this series, Caged in Winter, and it was good but not a favorite. We meet the couple for Tessa Ever After in Caged in Winter, but you don't have to read the first book to follow what happens in this one. I was a bit hesitant about this couple. I knew I liked Tessa, but the love interest, Jason, I was like "him.. really?"
But it didn't take my long to see why Jason was so great. He had me from the moment he stepped on the page! Jason is the rich guy who wants to get out from under his parents thumb and make his own way (they were very Richard and Emily Gilmore) as well as a notorious play boy. He also is funny, and completely adorable with Tessa's daughter. Going back to the Gilmore Girls references, think Logan with a bit more heart. As one of the only "Team Logan" people in the world - I loved Jason.
Tessa was an awesome character too. I loved getting to know her and her daughter better, and seeing all that she deals and struggles with as a young single mom. (She's about 22, her daughter is about 3 or 4.) Again, with the Gilmore Girls comparisons, she's kind of like a Lorelai where she makes it out on her own with her daughter at a young age, is honest about how difficult it can be, but still a really strong person. She and Jason were so good for each other, and I can't stop flailing over them.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: single mom meets guy who is good with her kid, player meets good girl, childhood friends turned to lovers, guy falls in love with best friends sister, adorable kids, realistic romance, romantic comedy
- Trigger Warnings: single mom struggles, awful parents
An Extraordinary Union (The Royal League #1) by Alyssa Cole
- Genre: #ownvoices Historical Romance
- Format: ebook
- Rating: 5 Stars
I thought Tessa Ever After was going to be my favorite book of the month. THEN I READ AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION. Just... it was so perfect. I'd heard great things about this book, but I didn't expect to love it as much as I did.
First, we have our heroine, Elle who was born into slavery but escaped with her parents as a child and is now a spy for the Union and is undercover at a southern mansion. She's a total bad ass, smart, sassy, educated, and has an incredible photographic memory. I loved learning how she sees the world because most Civil War stories are from the perspective of the swooning Southern belles. Elle was completely fantastic.
Then we have our hero, Malcom, whose family endured hardships in Scotland and he is now a detective for the Union. He was very Jamie Fraser from Outlander, but better, because there wasn't that really warped abuse/manipulation/possessive thing that Jamie has. I found his perspective fascinating too because we see how much he's had to go through in life as well, but still seeing him learn how privileged he was.
I wasn't sure how the author would deal with the dynamics of a bi-racial relationship during this time period, but from my limited perspective and knowledge I thought Cole handled it perfectly. She didn't shy away from the challenges, dealt with the power struggle of their different social classes, and had the characters thoroughly think through the choices they were making.
On top of a super swoony (and really sexy!) love story, you also have all of the spy and detective elements and the Civil War that took up a lot of the plot!
I'm officially becoming an Alyssa Cole fangirl and I definitely want to read her other books!
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: historical romance, Civil War stories, spies, bi-racial couples
- Trigger Warnings: depictions of slavery, references to sexual abuse, loss of parent due to suicide, references to war violence
Glamour in Glass (The Glamourist Histories #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal
- Genre: Historical Fantasy/Romance
- Format: Library Hardcover
- Rating: 4 Stars
This is the second book in The Glamourist Histories which is basically a series that feels like a Jane Austen book but with magic. Awesome, right?
Because it has a Jane Austen feel, it took me a bit to get used to the writing style since it's very different than the other books I'd been reading in February. Once I did though, I really enjoyed this book.
What was really great about it is that since it's the second book in the series, the couple is already married. You don't get to read about already established couples often, and I love seeing them navigate the early stages of marriage. Another thing that was really great about this book is she focused more on the political goings on of the time in this book and went beyond just the parties, balls, and other social aspects of Regency society.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: Jane Austen, historical romance, political intrigue, stories about already established couples
- Trigger Warnings: miscarriage, gunshots
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
- Genre: Urban/Contemporary Fantasy
- Format: ebook
- Rating: Currently Reading
I first tried this book as an audio because I had a credit from Audible to use. It was the first time I hated the narrator so much I ended up returning the audiobook for a full refund. The main character is in her 20s, but the narrator sounded like a bratty 10year old. But, I learned Audible does do refunds as long as the purchase was within the last year. Sweet!
However, I could tell that the book and writing itself was good and I did own the ebook and switched to that.
So far, it's significantly better.
I read a couple Robin McKinnley books when I was younger (particularly, Beauty her Beauty and the Beast retelling) and I remember really enjoying it. I had no idea she had written a vampire book too! It was high time I read this one. Although, it's been slow going. Not because it's not good, but because I had other books I wanted to finish in February. I'll definitly be finishing this one soon though!
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
- Genre: Young Adult Fantasy and #ownvoices
- Format: Hardcover
- Rating: 3 stars
I had such high hopes for this book, and I know a ton of people on Goodreads loved it. And rightly so. The writing is lovely, it's an #ownvoices narrative, has a powerful and poignant message about beauty standards, there's tiny teacup animals (adorable!), some awesome throwbacks to the story of Snow White which was really cool, and rich world building.
The thing is, everyone always mentions in their trigger warnings about the sexual assault scene. Which is good! But, no one talks about how there are several scenes depicting their painful beauty routines and procedures. A large part of the world building is how the Belles can alter your appearance and make you more beautiful, and while you can drink this special tea to dull the pain, it's still painful. These scenes happen nearly every other chapter. Some of them even have characters who go under these procedures unwillingly and are screaming in pain, and one scene they don't even administer the tea. So... basically it's torture. Usually, I can handle violence and such in books without a problem. But when a book talks about breaking bones and really experiencing severe pain the way this book did, it's too much for me because of my own experiences with extreme pain. There were several times I wanted to stop reading the book because of these scenes and they distracted me from the characters and the story.
If it weren't for that I probably would have enjoyed this book much more. But, this is why I include trigger warnings in my reviews so that other people don't have to go through what I did while reading.
I fully support this book, and I think there are women and girls who'll really connect with what this book is saying about beauty and culture and will love the story and characters. However, that's not me and I will not be continuing with future books in this series.
- You'll like this book if you also enjoy: French/New Orleans inspirations, fantasy, commentary on beauty, own voices, adorable tiny pets, awesome friends groups, stories where everyone isn't what they appear,
- Trigger Warnings: sexual assault, torture, painful beauty regiments, loss of parent
What did you read in February? Have you read any of these books?
For March, it's Women's History Month! I don't have any articular reading goals because I basically read almost all female authors already. But, I'm thinking of sharing some Women's History Month recs on my Instagram throughout March! (@eehornburg and @coffee_book_love_!)
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