I love the idea of doing individual wrap up posts for each readathon I’m participating in this month, but that would result in three separate posts plus a fourth one for non-readathon books I’ve read, which just seems a little crazy and prevents me from posting about other stuff. So today I’m going to share the books I read that aren’t a part of any readathons, and at the end of the month I’ll share my monthly stats and wrap ups for the ContemporaryAThon, Tome Topple, and Nonfiction November.
I actually read a lot in the two-ish weeks of November before the ContemporaryAThon started! In hindsight, I really should have picked up a lot more nonfiction for Nonfiction November, but it is what it is. I definitely did some nonfiction reading in that time, but I just really like spacing out my nonfiction reads. For updates on my reading during Nonfiction November, be sure to follow me on Twitter! I’ve been posting weekly page updates on there.
In addition to feeling like I should have read more nonfiction in that time, I really should have used my time spent binging the Cyberlove series on books that I physically own, but I’ve been wanting to read more Santino Hassell for a while and was only planning to read the first book when I got sucked down the rabbit hole of almost the entire series. I’m not beating myself up about it too much, though, because those books are pretty short and I really enjoyed reading them.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Murder on the Orient Express is a classic mystery in which a murder is committed on a train that is stuck in the mountains because of a snowdrift. Unfortunately for the murderer, famed detective Hercule Poirot is on the train, and he interviews all of the passengers to determine exactly what happened.
I was really looking forward to this book after being so pleasantly surprised by And Then There Were None, but I did not like this one nearly as much. I just wasn’t as invested in this mystery. And Then There Were None had me guessing and second guessing the entire book, but in this one I didn’t care enough about the victim to be invested in the outcome. They made it pretty obvious early in the book that he generally deserved to die, so I didn’t really care who murdered him…plus I feel like I’ve seen this type of mystery before, though I suspect this was one of the first to employ this scenario. So overall I thought it was just ok, though I’m still excited to see the movie.
A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe
A Daring Arrangement is a Gilded Age romance set in New York that follows the story of Julian and Honora. Lady Honora is looking for a scoundrel to fake an engagement with in order to scare her father into summoning her back to England so that she can marry the artist she is in love with. Enter Julian, a stock market wizard and outlandish member of the nouveau riche, whom Honora thinks is the perfect man to force her father’s hand. Except their fake engagement quickly becomes all too real for the both of them.
I really like Joanna Shupe’s previous Gilded Age series and was excited for a new one, but I was not a fan of this book for the first half. I wouldn’t call Honora too stupid to live, but she was definitely an idiot and I hated watching her determination to throw herself into a scandal every time she turned around with little regard for the world around her. Julian finally told her off, though, and the story got much better from there. By the time I finished the book, I enjoyed it, but it’s definitely not my favorite romance novel from Shupe. Fingers crossed the sequel makes up for it.
Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Spartan General Julian of Macedon is cursed to live his life stuck in a book, only to be released when called upon by a woman to serve as her love slave before being imprisoned again. In Fantasy Lover, Grace’s friend convinces a drunk Grace to summon Julian to help her get over a romance gone wrong. Only when Julian appears, Grace isn’t interested in a physical relationship and instead is the first woman in millennia to show a genuine interest in Julian. As the two gradually fall in love, Grace and Julian work together to try and break Julian’s curse.
This was actually a really fun read. There were definitely a few issues with it…like Grace’s hangups about her past relationship were a little extreme, and it seems odd that she went on to become a sex therapist when she still had so many unresolved relationship issues of her own. And women’s crazy attraction to Julian got old after a while. The whole thing was a bit out there, but I liked the mythology and curse elements and just thought it was a quick and enjoyable romance novel.
Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan
Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead is the third book in the Magnus Chase trilogy, which follows Magnus Chase after he is killed and he goes to Valhalla because his father is a Norse god. I don’t want to spoil too much about the series by sharing the plot of the third book, but Magnus and his friends have to stop Loki from starting Ragnorak.
I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much as the second book in this series. It’s been a while (probably a year) since the last time I read a Rick Riordan book, and this one just felt very plotted out. Like, it went from point A to point B, and the whole story was mapped out pretty early in the book. So the plot wasn’t my favorite, but it was still a really funny book, and I love Magnus and his friends. Overall I thought it was a pretty satisfying conclusion to the series.
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Of Fire and Stars is a fantasy novel following the story of Princess Dennaleia, who has been betrothed to a neighboring prince for her entire life. But when Dennaleia finally meets him to prepare for their wedding, she winds up falling in love with his sister Amaranthine instead. When a shocking assassination rocks the kingdom, Dennaleia and Amaranthine must work together to solve the murder and prevent the kingdom from falling into chaos.
I’ve heard such amazing things about this book, so I decided to go ahead and read it as one of the last challenges I need to complete for the Read Harder Challenge. I’m sorry to say that I was not a fan. I thought the characters were really underdeveloped and I often struggled to tell their voices apart if I happened to not pay attention to the character name at the beginning of the chapter. I also thought a lot of the events in the book probably wouldn’t have taken place if the adults weren’t such idiots. I know it’s a thing for people to unconsciously judge f/f books harsher than m/f or m/m books, but I don’t think that’s factoring into my dislike of this book. It just wasn’t a very interesting fantasy world and the characters were really flat, so I was never invested in the story. I know Coulthurst has announced there will be a sequel, but right now I’m not particularly interested in reading it.
Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Garrett was just planning to play video games to pass the months until the end of his deployment when a chance encounter with fellow gamer Kai led to the beginning of an intense friendship. Neither of them expected it to lead to something more, and before they know it, Kai and Garrett are obsessed with each other. But neither of them knows what to expect when Garret finally comes back from his deployment and the two of them meet in person.
I loved Strong Signal so much. Illegal Contact is still my favorite Hassell book, but this is a pretty solid contender. I really liked watching Garrett and Kai’s relationship develop online, and then seeing how they handle actually being together in person. I don’t know very much about anxiety, so I can’t speak to how accurately it was portrayed, but I thought they did a really good job with it and showing Garrett help Kai deal with it. This was a really lovely story that I enjoyed a lot, and I’m so glad I caved and read this one.
In light of emerging information about Hassell’s inappropriate behavior, I no longer stand by this review of Strong Signal. Please see this post for more details.
Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Dominic is back working at his parents’ bagel shop after leaving the military following his last deployment. Luke has been burned in the past and now has strict rules compartmentalizing his life, unwilling to let anyone in. But when the two meet via an app and they realize how serious their chemistry is, Luke agrees to bend his rules in order to spend more time with Dominic.
So I loved Strong Signal, but Fast Connection was an excellent sequel. It was a lot different, but it was just as good in its own way. I would say I slightly preferred Strong Signal, but I was not at all disappointed in Fast Connection. I loved seeing Luke relax his guard and stop keeping different parts of his life compartmentalized, and I loved seeing Dominic come into his own and deal with figuring his life out after leaving the military. The two of them were so cute together, and I really enjoyed reading their story.
In light of emerging information about Hassell’s inappropriate behavior, I no longer stand by this review of Fast Connection. Please see this post for more details.
Hard Wired by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Hard Wired follows the story of Jessy and Ian, two mods for a famed Twitch streamer (Kai from Strong Signal) who meet and hookup at FallenCon. Only Jessy has no idea who Ian is, and Ian knows exactly who Jessy is, creating all sorts of problems when Jessy finally realizes what’s going on. Only he’s too addicted to Ian to let him go just yet, and their long distance friendship gradually grows into something more.
So after flying through Strong Signal and Fast Connection, I had to read Hard Wired. While I still really enjoyed this, I didn’t love it as much as the first two. I think some of it is because I wasn’t invested in their gaming or the cons that they went to, so I didn’t care about the book that much outside of their relationship. But I did think they were really interesting characters and I loved watching them support each other and grow closer. This one did derail me a bit from the Cyberlove series, though, since I don’t care all that much about the two characters from the next book who are introduced in this one, but I do want to read it sooner rather than later. Given the way this series has gone so far, I’m sure it will be good.
In light of emerging information about Hassell’s inappropriate behavior, I no longer stand by this review of Hard Wired. Please see this post for more details.
Off the Ice by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
Off the Ice is a bit of a professor/student romance. Tristan is a professional hockey player taking summer classes at the local college to finish his degree, but he doesn’t plan on being so attracted to his professor, Sebastian. The two of them can only fight their attraction for so long before finally giving in. Only Sebastian “lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL,” according to the blurb, forcing the two of them to reevaluate what’s most important to them.
I was hoping this would be another Illegal Contact, but it was nowhere close. In fact, I really disliked this book. Some of it is personal preference; the whole BDSM and control aspect of the relationship in this book wasn’t really my thing, though I’m sure other readers enjoy it. But my real problem was that the relationship between Tristan and Sebastian really went downhill once they got together. There was so much chemistry and tension between them when they were student and teacher, but once they finally got together (fortunately after the semester ended and the power discrepancy was removed), I felt like all of that chemistry and tension completely disappeared. Plus I didn’t really feel like there was much character or relationship development as the book continued, so I really wasn’t invested in their happily ever after once the book finally wrapped up. I have no intention to read the sequel whenever it comes out, and I’m not sure I’ll read another Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn book even though Santino Hassell highly recommends their book Permanent Ink.
Whew, that’s a lot of books! I can definitely say at this point that I’ve been having a solid reading month so far, though as I said, it hasn’t gone quite the way I planned. Given the nature of Tome Topple and the fact that the holidays are coming up and I’ll be spending time with family, I expect my next check in will have a lot less books! But I’m excited for what I have picked out to read during the rest of the month.
How has your November reading been going so far? Let me know in the comments, as well as what you’re planning to read before the end of the month!