Ack, I have so many books to talk about from the second half of the month. Seriously, I thought splitting my monthly wrap ups in two would keep them at a more reasonable length, but I have a bunch of books to talk about today, so settle in for a longer post!
Down by Contact by Santino Hassell
It’s finally here! Down by Contact is the long awaited (at least by me) sequel to Illegal Contact. Continuing the story of the fictional Brooklyn Barons, it follows former teammates turned enemies Simeon and Adrian as they are forced to work together leading a youth football camp as punishment for starting a fight on the field during the preseason. Only the more they work together, the more they realize that they really don’t hate each other at all.
I’ve been waiting for this book for so long and it was sooooo good. Simeon and Adrian are the perfect enemies to lovers couple; Simeon had every reason to genuinely hate Adrian, which made it even more satisfying to see Adrian grow as a person and the two of them fall in love. They’re just so cute together, and the ending! I can’t remember the last time I read such a satisfying ending in a romance novel. It was perfect (though I did have a few questions about the timeline of it…regardless, it was so swoon worthy). I do wish this book had been a little bit longer, as I wanted to spend a bit more time with Simeon and Adrian, but overall it was an excellent sequel. I think I still slightly prefer Illegal Contact, but I’m also 100 percent on board with Down by Contact and highly recommend these books. I saw on Twitter that Hassell is working on a third Barons book due out in September and I can’t wait!
In light of emerging information about Hassell’s inappropriate behavior, I no longer stand by this review of Down by Contact. Please see this post for more details.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Hunger is Roxane Gay’s brutal memoir about what it’s like to be overweight. And not just a little overweight, but more than 500 pounds overweight, and how her gang rape at a young age led to her eating and trying to hide her body in an attempt to feel safe again.
This book is just as impactful as I thought it would be. Gay’s story is heartbreaking, and I’m still in awe of how vulnerable she let herself be in this book and how much she shared. It’s such a personal book, but I think that’s a lot of what makes it so impactful. I really appreciated her insights into what it’s like to live in her body, as it’s an excellent reminder that there’s so much more to people than what you see at first glance, as well as how much we take for granted when we’re not morbidly obese. I thought this was going to be a brutal read, and while in a lot of ways it was, it was also super readable and something I got through really quickly. I really can’t recommend it enough, and I really want to go back now and read all of Gay’s fiction writing.
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Shadow of Night is the second book in the All Souls trilogy, which starts with A Discovery of Witches. I don’t want to share much about the plot of this one, but the first one follows Oxford scholar Diana as she finds a book long thought forgotten and becomes pulled into the paranormal world despite resisting her roots as a witch for almost her entirely life.
I enjoy this series so much. They’re a little slower for me to get through, and it was a little hard to get invested in this book because none of my favorite side characters from the first book were in the sequel, but once I got the hang of things, I enjoyed it just as much as the first book. I really liked learning more about Diana’s magic and seeing her relationship with Matthew continue to evolve as we learn more about his past, plus the history aspect of the book was so fun! I’ll admit, it sometimes annoys me when historical books incorporate real, well-known historical figures into them, and I still maintain that Matthew has too conveniently been at the center of every major historical element, but I thought Harkness did a pretty good job turning those figures into real people (though I love Marlowe and was sad to see him be such a nasty character!). Definitely a great second installment in the series, and I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion!
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Rear Window, The Woman in the Window is a thriller following an agorophobic, borderline alcoholic woman who spies on her neighbors and one day sees something she shouldn’t, setting off a chain of events that leave her questioning what is real and what is imagined.
This was my first official Book of the Month pick, and I was excited to read it. Unfortunately, though, I was not at all a fan and wound up DNFing it after 150 pages. Some of it is definitely personal preference as I tend to struggle with the unlikeable and unreliable narrator, though I loved Gone Girl, which is why I picked this book. But I also thought it took way too long for this book to set up the incident referenced in the blurb, as it only took place a third of the way into the book, and I didn’t think the first part really accomplished much other than establish the protagonist’s (rather boring) habits. I flipped to the end to see what happened and it seemed engaging enough, but I just had no emotional connection to the characters despite having read 150 pages, so I’m glad I didn’t stick it out for the last 250 pages.
Swept Away by a Kiss by Katharine Ashe
Swept Away by a Kiss is a pirate romance, or at least a romance set on the high seas, in which the heroine gets caught up in the hero’s plot for revenge and finds herself locked up in close quarters with him on a pirate ship.
I thought this book was going to be a lot of fun, but it wound up being just…ok. I really didn’t think there was that much romance in it! Like, there were two characters and the book was entirely about them, but I didn’t really feel like I saw them fall in love with each other. And the paranormal bits (mostly just the hero’s premonition about the heroine being “the one”) just seemed to conveniently further their relationship without actually doing any work to develop that relationship. I know I had some other issues, too, and I remember articulating all of them in my head when I finished reading the book, but I didn’t write them down and have since forgotten. Actually, I think the most useful thing I can tell you in my review of this book is that I read it less than two weeks ago and I can barely remember it.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
All you need to know about Every Heart a Doorway is that it’s about a school for kids who enter into portal worlds like Narnia, only to come back to our world unable to cope and desperate to go back.
I enjoyed this book a lot! I will say I’m definitely part of the camp that wishes this book were a full novel. I think I would have been more invested in the mystery and trying to figure out who the killer was, plus there was a lot of background about the school that I wanted to learn. BUT, you technically don’t need all of that stuff, and this is a case where I think it speaks well to McGuire’s storytelling that I was left wanting more. It’s just such an interesting concept and I’m eager to learn more about the different characters, so I’m really glad there are two more books for me to check out!
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
I won’t say too much about the plot of A Conspiracy of Kings since it’s the fourth in a series, but I will say that I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely different from the previous books, taking a step back from following Gen too closely and focusing on another character instead, but it’s really cool to see the world expand and evolve, and I’m so invested in these stories. Turner does an amazing job building out the world in this book and giving it a mythology and history while also creating characters you can’t help but root for and setting it against a backdrop of complex political plots that are impossible to untangle until the very end. I’ve been enjoying this series so much and can’t wait for the next one to come out in paperback so I can finally finish it!
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
A Princess in Theory opens with Naledi deleting the latest in a string of emails from a scammer trying to convince her that she’s betrothed to the heir to a small African kingdom. Only the emails aren’t a scam, and when Prince Thabiso shows up at the restaurant Ledi is working at and she mistakes him for another waiter, he decides to play along and see what happens. But the more serious things get between the two of them, the harder it becomes for Thabiso to tell Ledi the truth.
The publisher provided me with an advanced digital copy of A Princess in Theory via Edelweiss in exchange for a review.
This book was so fun! For everyone who’s looking forward to it, I think you’re really going to enjoy it. I will say, for the first half of this book I was obsessed and convinced that it was going to be one of my new favorite reads. It was just so fun and I loved the scammy emails and the chemistry between Ledi and Thabiso, and even though I say a lot that I dislike deception in relationships, this one largely seemed to work for me, which I find impressive. But the second half dragged a bit for me! I think there were just too many things going on and the focus wasn’t on just Ledi and Thabiso anymore? So you really didn’t get to see their relationship grow much past the first week that they met. I’m disappointed in the second half only because the first half was so good, but overall this was a great read and I think people we’ll really enjoy it, especially with the royal wedding coming up!
This is definitely a book to check out when it’s released on February 27.
March Book One by John Lewis
March is a really short little graphic novel that I flipped through during the 24 in 48 Readathon because I wanted to finish something after getting slogged down in Grant and Iron Gold (details about how the readathon went can be found on my Twitter!), and I really enjoyed it! I actually don’t know anything about Congressman John Lewis, so it’s really interesting to learn more about his experiences growing up and his connection to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Civil Rights Movement is an important part of history that I don’t know nearly enough about, so I’m excited to read the other two books in this trilogy.
The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice
So I almost shouldn’t even include The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty in here because I DNFed it after literally 20 pages, half of which I skimmed. This is actually the first time I hasn’t finished a pick for my book club. But you guys. The book literally opens with the prince using his sword to cut off Sleeping Beauty’s clothes and then proceeding to have sex with her while she’s asleep before finally kissing her and waking her up. Oh! And that’s after it’s mentioned that she was 15 when she was put under the sleeping spell!! Just no. Absolutely not. It did not get any better after that, as he refused to let her get dressed and “punished” her for trying to shield herself, and yeah. That’s about all I took away from this book before I put it down and returned it to the library. I know it has some rave reviews on Goodreads and I’m happy for those who loved it, but I just can’t read past the first chapter. I’m so glad I got this from the library and didn’t spend any money on it.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
You might be tempted to think that Born a Crime is just your typical celebrity memoir put out by comedian Trevor Noah, but you’d be so, so wrong. It’s actually about Noah’s experiences growing up in South Africa as the son of a black woman and a white man, a union that was illegal during apartheid and that literally made Noah’s birth a crime.
You guys! Everything you’ve heard about how amazing this book, especially the audiobook, is all true! It was so fascinating to learn about Noah’s background since all I know about him is that he’s the host of a comedy show, and I never would have been able to even guess that he had the experiences shared in this book. It’s so interesting to learn more about South Africa and apartheid since I don’t know much about it, plus I really liked learning how different and similar South African opinions about race are compared to American ones. It really gets you to think about your assumptions about the world and realize how many of them are just societal constructs. I really can’t recommend this book enough.
I also strongly encourage you to check it out on audio, even if you’re not much of an audiobook person. Noah narrates it himself and does a great job creating voices for the different people you meet in the book, plus he speaks a bunch of different languages, so he’s able to do the different accents and speak in various languages flawlessly. I think it adds another layer of richness to the story to actually be able to hear some of these languages that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise (or at least, I wouldn’t have since I’m much more familiar with European languages than with African ones). Seriously, the book and the audiobook are excellent, and I suspect you’ll see Born a Crime make an appearance on my favorite books of 2018 list.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Wow, I have not reread this book in such a long time, but with the movie coming up (which looks super awesome!), I decided to revisit it since I literally remembered nothing about this book. I was obsessed with L’Engle’s works when I was younger, I want to say in elementary or middle school, and read almost everything she wrote. So I assumed when I first picked this up that I would be rereading the entire quintet, as I remember loving all of the Murry/O’Keefe/Austin books that were interconnected. But after rereading A Wrinkle in Time, I’m not sure I really want to go back to reread them all. It was a lot of fun to essentially reread this book for the first time and I enjoyed revisiting the world, but it’s essentially a children’s book, and that’s just not what I want to read anymore. Or at least, not right now. Without the nostalgia, I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed this book, but I’m glad I reread it and I’m really looking forward to the movie. The book only highlighted what an amazing job they did casting the three witches!
Whew, that was a lot of books! Let me know in the comments what you thought if you’ve read any of these books, as well as what your favorite read in January was!