Book Reviews

My Favorite Books of 2021

I’d like to begin by saying this is in no way a comprehensive list of my favorite books. Throughout the year, I read roughly 120 books, so to narrow this down, I went through my reading log spreadsheet and picked through my top 5 star books. The following books are in no particular order, but I did group them together by semi related genres/feelings.


The Intensity!

Jade War by Fonda Lee– book 2 in the Green Bone Saga (see Jade City for book 1) did not disappoint. I actually had a hard time getting through parts of Jade War because I needed to put the book aside and calm down. This book of magic, family, political intrigue, and the brutality of street wars is incredibly intense but worth the heart palpitations.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse– a multi-POV fantasy set in an alternate version of Central America where colonialism didn’t destroy the Nahuatl/indigenous cultures. If you’re into soft but dark magic ridden boys, headstrong female captains who are a bit of a mess, and incredibly intriguing mysteries, Black Sun is one to pick up.
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark– What is the KKK were actual monsters? Ring Shout tells the story of a diverse group of resistance fighters who decide to take on the KKK and bring them down once and for all. What I absolutely loved about this was the way African root/folk magic was interwoven with historical events and eldritch abominations. All of Clark’s works are a must read for me.


Kissing Books

Tommy Cabot Was Here by Cat Sebastian– While narrowing down my list, there were 3 Cat Sebastian books with 5 stars that I read this year, so take it as a blanket statement that I love her work. Tommy Cabot Was Here is deliciously filled with hurt-comfort as Tommy deals with a divorce and making a new life with his son while grappling with feelings for his best friend (his son’s teacher at the boarding school they attended as boys). If you love queer historical fiction, Cat Sebastian is a fav of mine.
Seducing the Sorcerer by Lee Welch– Goofy magic horse? Check. Middle aged protagonists in a queer romance? Check. A Diana Wynne Jones magical vibe? Check. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you aren’t into BDSM (it was pretty light overall), but this just hit the spot for me. Charming, complex, yet easy to sink into.
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert– As soon as I see a book with neurodivergent love interests, I am sold. I love Eve and Jacob’s dynamic, both messes in their own way. Tornado of chaos meets stuffed shirt to create the perfect balance. All of the books in the Brown Sisters series are wonderful, but I think this one is my fav.


Into New Worlds

An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley– This is another one that I think hit all my sweet spots. It reminded me of Hocus Pocus in terms of the brother-sister would kill for you dynamic. I’m also a sucker for Louis XIV/Rococopunk type stories, and this doesn’t disappoint with a plot to kill Louis XIV while overthrowing the government and creating an even worse one featuring magic and poisons.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRou by V. E. Schwab– A girl in 17th century France sells her soul to have a different life and quickly finds herself in a Monkey’s Paw situation where no one remembers her. Until she meets Henry. This one is a slow start, but once it got going, I was hooked and finished it in like two days.
Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko– If this sounds good to you, make sure to read Raybearer first. Both books follow Tarisai as she joins the future emperor’s court, finds a new family, and discovers that she is so much more than she thought. I always worry a second book in a fantasy duology will be too samey-samey with the first one or go totally off the rails. Ifueko creates an interesting world filled with so much magic and how one deals with a legacy of pain to make a better future.


Life Is Complicated

Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi– Talk about complicated sibling relationships. June and Jayne are sisters who seem a world apart when in reality, they are both messes. Jayne is envious of her corporate, high-rise sister while she is struggling through college and clout-chasing friends in a crappy apartment. When June steals Jayne’s identity, the sisters are drawn together and deal with their new realities and futures. I’d also like to mention that I love Mary H. K. Choi’s books, and if you haven’t read Emergency Contact, you should.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston– time traveling lesbian, need I say more? After spotting a leather jacket lesbian on the train (Jane), August takes the train to get to know her and quickly realizes Jane has been stuck on the same train since the 70s. It’s a story as much about NYC and queer history as it is a sapphic romance and begs the question, will August and Jane get to be together?
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen– Vanja has been impersonating Princess Gisele for over a year, but her deception comes crashing down after being cursed for her greed and discovering her horrid betrothed is plotting something horrific. Vanja has to team up with a motley crew, complete with a stuffy inspector, to save her country and maybe even save herself. Set in a German-like fantasy world, the folklore and magic was *chef kiss*


Let me know in the comments what are your best books of 2021!

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: A Little Light Mischief

A Little Light Mischief is a novella that captured my heart with a blunt lady’s maid and a cast out spinster teaming up for a bit of revenge and romance.

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Alice Stapleton is newly cast out and newly a lady’s companion, but now that she no longer has her father’s vicarage to run, she’s itching to something, which is apparently something the ton don’t do. To occupy herself, she sews, writes, and studies the assets of her companion’s lady’s maid. Molly knows Alice is watching, but she’s sworn off the sins of her past unless absolutely necessary, but there’s something about the quiet woman that intrigues her. As they grow closer, Alice and Molly find they have far more in common than they thought and embark on a revenge mission to get Alice back what she lost.

I received a copy of A Little Light Mischief in exchange for an honest review, and keep in mind, I really like Cat Sebastian’s books, so I’m a tad biased. If you like your romance on the low stress side, this novella is for you. Plus, it’s f/f, which is even better!

What I love about this story is both main characters are women with jobs. We tend to think of Regency period women as wandering aimlessly through the grounds or a mother, but both Molly and Alice are take-charge in their own ways and very capable people. There is discussion of women’s work in terms of value and the unseen toll of being a woman, especially under the control of a man. I love seeing this power dynamic being discussed in a context that isn’t centering on a marriage. Both Molly and Alice harbor secrets from their past, but neither dominates their lives and they aren’t the fallen angels some authors would happily portray them as.

Molly is what I wished other “strong” historical women were like. She’s loud, she’s take-charge, she’s cunning, but she isn’t a caricature. She’s multifaceted and willing to quiet down and meet Alice in the middle. Meanwhile, Alice is drawn out of her shell by Molly and uses her new-found moxie to help them both. Women helping women is my jam and needs to be in more f/f fiction (looking at you, Sarah Waters).

Overall, A Little Light Mischief is a wonderful f/f romance novella that has characters you cheer for and villains you are more than happy to see get their come-up-ins.

Grab your copy here.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: Hither, Page

Hither, Page is a murder-town mystery featuring a spy, a doctor struggling with PTSD, a dead maid, and a socialist, flask-swilling, graveyard inhabiting teenage girl who may be my favorite person in a book ever.

hither page

Dr. Sommers wants nothing more than stability and to put the war behind him, but in a country that is still picking up the pieces, that’s hard to do, even harder when his town’s peace is shattered by the death of the town gossip. In comes Leo Page, a spy for the crown whose entire life has been a series of transient identities. Page and Sommers soon team up to discover who killed the gossiping chambermaid and uncover the townspeople’s secrets, but they find more than they bargained for in each other.

First off, I received an ARC of Hither, Page in exchange for an honest review, and secondly, I’m super biased because Cat Sebastian’s books are some of my favorites but if you like romance with mystery and social commentary, then you’ll probably like it as well.

This was one of those books that was so satisfying that I was beyond overjoyed to see that it was part of a series. What I loved about this book is how Sebastian is able to take characters who might be seen as horrid people in other lights and show their humanity and goodness. The characters in Hither, Page are layered, and as you get further in the book, the layers peel away to reveal who they truly are, for better or worse. Sommers is one of those do-gooders who truly only wants the best for others while Page is great at his job as an agent because it is so easy to shed identities when you never really had one. They compliment each other perfectly, stability and flux, and their relationship is a slower burn considering the genre.

The ensemble cast and setting are what really makes this couple shine. There are high stakes in terms of intrigue, but that’s tempered by a sleepy, peaceful country town filled with children and little old ladies who make ginger cookies. To counterbalance the imagery and aftermath of war, there is so much tenderness in this story. The imagery of Christmas decorations and canned soup on a cold night are touches that make this story shine above other historical romances.

Hither, Page comes out tomorrow! Pre-order a copy here.

Book Reviews · Uncategorized

Reading Rec: A Duke in Disguise

In A Duke in Disguise, we get a long-lost nobleman, a saucy book about historical figures, and a woman who loves cheese nearly as much as I do.

adukeindisguise

Verity wants nothing more than to keep her family’s paper open despite her brother heading recklessly toward the gallows with his seditious ramblings. The only thing that seems to temper him is their dear friend, Ash. Ash is adrift. His ex-guardian and dear friend is headed off to Italy to improve his health, and after moving in with Verity and her brother, he finds himself unable to maintain the distance he once was able with her. The attraction is mutual, but they fear what might happen should their friendship become more since neither has many friends or relations to spare. That is until a chance meeting sends Ash into a crash course with a family full of secrets, some that will illuminate his past.

I received an ARC of A Duke in Disguise in exchange for an honest review and have been a fan of Cat Sebastian for a while, so take that into consideration when reading this review. Verity and Ash have a special place in my heart. Both are so earnest and sweet in their own ways, oblivious to the depth of each other’s feelings in a way that makes you want to simultaneously bash their heads together and hug them.

Verity is what I love in a heroine: strong-willed, driven (to the point of distraction), and a bit messy. I particularly love a heroine who has an appetite. In this case, food and sex (and we get some bi rep!). Ash is equally endearing. He is an artist who also has to deal with epilepsy. This features into the story’s plot, but it is handled realistically and doesn’t dominate the narrative. Ash is a softer hero, which I appreciate greatly in romance and is one of the reasons I love Cat Sebastian’s stories. He’s capable, tactful, and warm without being domineering or rude. The side characters, like Aunt Caroline and Roger are some of my favorite characters in this story. I am still hoping for short stories featuring the older characters because I’m a softy and love them as much as Ash does.

Overall, A Duke in Disguise has a wonderfully strong cast filled with characters devoted to each other. If you’re looking for a romance with reluctant nobility, an examination of power dynamics, and lots of wine, cheese, and cranky cats, you’re in for a treat.

A Duke in Disguise comes out April 9th, so grab a copy on Amazon now and have it delivered to your Kindle next week.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score

Cat Sebastian is one of my favorite romance writers, and her latest novel, A Gentleman Never Keeps Score, delivers a sweet yet poignant story.

gentlman never

As the second book in the Seducing the Sedgwick series, A Gentleman Never Keeps Score follows Hartley Sedgwick, the preening, prissy brother of Ben Sedgwick from It Takes Two to Tumble. Hartley has gone from social butterfly among the ton to pariah after it comes out through the rumor mill that he received his townhouse after an *cough* arrangement *cough* with his now dead godfather. Retreating into his home, Hartley becomes a glorified recluse looking for a way to get back at his godfather and whoever spread the rumor. His plans get thrown for a loop when he meets Sam. Barkeep and ex-boxer, Sam has created a haven in the Free Black community and does all he can to help his patrons. His brother’s girlfriend comes to him with a unique problem. Someone painted a salacious portrait of her when she was a teen and she wants it back before she marries Sam’s brother. The commissioner of the portrait was none other than Hartley’s godfather.

For anyone who says romance is shallow, I would like to point them to Cat Sebastian’s work (among several others I can name off the top of my head). This story not only grapples with the long-lasting scars of sexual abuse but racism/racial profiling, PTSD, the complexities of consent, and the fluidity/rigidity of class in Regency England. There’s a lot that can be unpacked from this novel, but above all else, it’s a satisfying romance between two lovable characters. All of the issues and topics mentioned above are done with an immense amount of sensitivity and obvious research.

Hartley is a popinjay. A preening dandy who uses his clothing and impeccable manners as a shield against the world. He’s been hurt in the past and has a lot of issues to work through, but it makes him feel human and complex. For as onion-like as Hartley is, Sam comes off as a much more even presence. He began life as boxer, like his father before him, and now makes a living running his pub, The Bell, along with his brother. Life is never easy as a black man in London, but he tries to make life a little easier for his patrons and friends. Sam is a wonderful foil for Hartley as he is a calming force while still maintaining a lively air and a realistic range of emotions. I mention this because it is often the calm characters who come off as cut-outs.

Cat Sebastian has once again created a warm-hearted romance that deals with deeply personal issues while leading readers into the next romance featuring Ben and Hartley’s brother Will and a down on his luck nobleman who seems to be having more issues than he’s letting on. If you like historical romances with prickly yet lovable characters, you need to grab a copy of A Gentleman Never Keeps Score.

Book Reviews

Reading Rec: It Takes Two to Tumble

June is LGBT+ Pride Month! That means LGBT+ book reviews, which means books I probably would have read on my own, but now, I’m making myself review them consistently. *drops voice* You don’t know how little follow-through I have while my house is a construction zone.

Anywho, I am a LGBT+ romance fan, so today’s recommendation is a historical-romance by Cat Sebastian entitled It Takes Two to Tumble.

it takes two

I’m pretty sure my first reaction upon finishing on of Cat Sebastian’s books is “That was so cute! I need more!” Her series are often the kind that follows families, such as in this series where we will follow the Sedgwick family (brothers mostly, it seems), and we begin this series with Benedict Sedgwick, unlikely vicar and free spirit, alongside the solemn, stern Captain Dacre as he comes home from two years at sea.

The Dacre children are hell-spawn. Left to their own devices after the death of their mother, they turn to terrorizing the town while their father is at sea. As a good natured vicar who devotes his energy to bettering his parishioners’ lives, Ben is called upon to wrangle the children into behaving until their father returns. Capt. Dacre reluctantly arrives home, not looking forward to facing the family he feels he abandoned and the house where his father made life miserable. He expects to see his children waiting by the front door as they did when his wife was alive only to find chaos and the vicar at the center of it.

I love the dynamic between Dacre and Ben in It Takes Two to Tumble. They are able to balance each other out without being polarizing. What I mean by that is that both characters have quirks and shortcomings that prevent them from being one-note. They come off as real people with idiosyncrasies, histories, and complications that muddy the waters of their relationships and their abilities to function apart.

On top of this, we have characters who are seemingly dyslexic. I say seemingly because it’s the early 1800s, so it doesn’t have a name, but it’s refreshing to have neuro-divergent characters who are able to work around their struggles without it becoming the core of who the character is. So far, this has been one of my favorite romances this year. Eventually, I will write a post about the importance of romance, and this book will be a core piece of that.

If you like romances where seemingly opposites attract, wayward children run amuck, and not-so-holy vicars come to terms with who they are, then you should check out It Takes Two to Tumble before book two comes out.