July 2022 Wrap Up: SFF reads, cozy mysteries and good romances

July was such a good reading month and I’m hoping that it’s a sign that my reading slump is finally going away. Not only did I read a lot in terms of the number of books, I also read a few really long ones and I discovered that reading long books – which is the opposite of what I have been doing- may be what I need to get out this reading slump because it makes me feel more invested in the characters and plot. It’s sonething i’ll take into account going forward.

But without further ado, let’s talk about the books:

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine (4 stars): While I liked the first book more than this one, I think this sequel did a good job and continued the story successfully. This is such a thought-provoking sci-fi series, full of political maneuvering and intrigue, clever and interesting characters, and worldbuilding that is complex without being hard to understand. I really appreciated the addition of new pov characters in the second book, it added so much complexity to the story, it allowed an exploration of the different political factions within both the Teixcalaanli Empire and Lsel Station, and it expanded the world so much in comparison to the first book. This sequel includes some interesting discussions about empires and ethics, cultural assimilation vs cultural isolationism, the value of ancestral knowledge and collective memory, power dynamics in romantic relationships and so much more.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark (4 stars): I have been slowly making my way through the novellas and short stories in this series this year and while I have always recognized that the world and characters are fantastic, the short format wasn’t working for me. But this full-length novel was SO GOOD. I got to see more of the two elements that I liked from the novellas: the complex and fascinating world and the flawed but easy to root for characters, while getting a longer mystery plot that I could get invested in with more characters involved and with more moving pieces. Even if the reveal wasn’t that surprising, it was still fun to read.

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree (3,5 stars): This was good, but I had heard so many amazing things about it that I went into it expecting too much. I loved the characters and the found family, there was interesting world-building, and I appreciated that it was a cozy fantasy book, but I think I needed a bit more plot-wise. Still, I would read more books set in this world and I will check out other books by this author.

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (3 stars): I have so many conflicting feelings when it comes to this book. I still think this series is a fun, entertaining and easy-to-read series set in an interesting and complex world. At this point, I’m invested in the characters, so I like seeing how the different characters and relationships evolve. But after the way the last book ended, I thought we would see more of this world and Harry would be more involved with the bigger picture of what’s going on, but it didn’t really happen, there were again only glimpses of that. Because of that, this book feels at points formulaic and repetitive. Honestly, all the plots of the books in this series are starting to feel very similar to me. Lastly, I know these books have a lot of sexism passing for chivalry and hypersexualization of female characters. Nonetheless, this book took it to another level that made me really uncomfortable because there’s hypersexualization of a 17-year-old.

Everything for you by Chloe Liese (4 stars): This is a great grump/ sunshine romance between two professional soccer players who don’t like each other all that much but are forced to be co-captains of their team. I loved the pent-up sexual tension, the amazing chemistry between them and how slowly they started to open up to each other. They shared some very vulnerable moments and they were there for one another, which made their romance believable and realistic. Beyond the main couple, I loved the glimpses we got of the rest of the Bergman family.

I had two minor issues with this: It dragged a tiny little bit in some parts and the love declarations got a bit too cheesy for me at end. but nothing that was a big deal.

To Marry and To Meddle by Martha Waters (4 stars): This book cemented me as a big Martha Waters fan. I have enjoyed all three books in this series so much. This book is a funny, entertaining, and quick read. Both of the main characters were easy to root for, the romance was sweet, without unnecessary conflicts or miscommunication, and there were some good steamy scenes.

How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder (3,5 stars): Honestly, for the first 60%, I actually really enjoyed this and thought it was really entertaining. Nonetheless, this ended up being a lot darker and sadder than I thought it was going to be and the ending was so rushed, they resolved a big issue that was the source of conflict throughout the entire book off the page and that didn’t work for me. (full review)

Just Folking Around by Penny Reid (3,5 stars): This was a quick, fun, steamy read that worked perfectly as my palate cleanser after three long SFF books. I really liked both of the main characters and their dynamic and I can’t wait to read the full-length novel about them.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (4,5 stars): This book is not going to be for everyone, but it worked perfectly for me. It was a charming, quirky and quick read. Seeing a group of old people in a retirement home trying to solve a murder was fun, I liked all the characters, and I was interested in the mystery the entire time. Yes, a lot of convenient things happened but I didn’t care, I still enjoyed the story. The only reason it didn’t get 5 stars is that I didn’t love the ending, but I didn’t hate it either. Out of the three big reveals right at the end, I only liked one, the other two were kind of random and felt forced.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (4 stars): This was a quick and entertaining book. I continued with the series mostly to see the characters again, they are quirky, funny, sweet and clever and I have so much fun reading about their adventures. I didn’t find the mystery in this book nearly as interesting as the mystery in book 1, because the scope of the mystery was so big (spies, mafia, drug dealers, stolen diamonds) that the story, and especially the ending, felt incredibly unrealistic. But as I mentioned before, I read this for the characters, so I didn’t really mind that much.

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn (3,5 stars): This was better than book 5 but still not as good as the first 4 books in the series. The mystery plot was ok, the problem was that in the first 50% not a lot happened, Veronica and Stoker didn’t uncover too much, everything was left for the last half of the book, and particularly to the last 20%. So the pacing felt weird and the first half dragged a little. Also, I didn’t really guess who the villain was but that may have been because I wasn’t completely invested in the mystery plot. I still enjoyed this because I love Veronica and Stoker and there were some good moments between them. 

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie (3,5 stars): The mystery in this was entertaining, and there were so many likely culprits which is always fun. Nonetheless, this is my third Miss Marple book and I was left with the same feeling that I had when I read the other two, I wish Miss Marple showed up more and not only occasionally and at the end when she appears with all the answers to everything, which she pulled out of thin air.

Goddess of Filth by V. Castro (4 stars): This wasn’t scary but it had creepy and gross moments and it was a very different take on possession. I appreciated how it discussed the stereotypes around and the dangers of being a young Latina, as well as the roles that religion, sexuality and female friendships play in the lives of young Latinas. My one issue with this book is that some of the dialogue involving the Goddess was kind of corny and that took me out of the story at times.

What are the best and worst books you read in July? Was July a good reading month for you?

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Book review: How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder

Title: How to Fake it in Hollywood

Authors: Ava Wilder

Publishing date:    June 14th 2022

Publisher:  Dell

Genre: Romance

Pages: 368

Link: Goodreads

Grey Brooks is on a mission to keep her career afloat now that the end of her long-running teen soap has her (unsuccessfully) pounding the pavement again. With a life-changing role on the line, she’s finally desperate enough to agree to her publicist’s scheme… faking a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity, but for very different reasons.

Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. Between his high-profile divorce, his struggles with drinking, and his grief over the death of his longtime creative partner and best friend, he’s slowly let himself fade into the background. But if he ever wants to produce the last movie he and his partner wrote together, Ethan needs to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. A gossip-inducing affair with a gorgeous actress might be just the ticket, even if it’s the last thing he wants to do.

Though their juicy public relationship is less than perfect behind the scenes, it doesn’t take long before Grey and Ethan’s sizzling chemistry starts to feel like more than just an act. But after decades in a ruthless industry that requires bulletproof emotional armor to survive, are they too used to faking it to open themselves up to the real thing?

How to Fake it in Hollywood is a book that hooked me right from the first line, mainly because the book’s writing and tone were very engaging and the characters were complex and captivating. This book was full of great tropes including fake dating and forced proximity. There was a push and pull in the first part of the book and a tension that was building between the characters that were so fun to read about. The main couple had great chemistry, there were some really steamy scenes and, beyond the sexual aspect, the author showed the main characters forming a deep emotional connection.

Also, the depiction of being an actress in Hollywood felt very realistic, seeing the main character struggle to find work after doing a tv show that was relatively popular for a long time, seeing how people in the industry expected her to lose weight, the discussion about how limited meaningful roles for women are, ageism in Hollywood, and so much more. All of that was really interesting to read about. Honestly, for the first 60%, I was enjoying this book a lot and thought it was really entertaining.

Nonetheless, this ended up being a lot darker and sadder than I thought it was going to be based on: 1) the cover, 2) the first half of the book, which was messy and sad but not to the level it got in the second half, and 3) the synopsis because, while the synopsis mentions struggles with alcohol and grief briefly, they end up being a very, very big part of the second half of the book, and especially alcoholism is a big part of the conflict in the story. While that isn’t bad, it’s not what I was expecting, and also, the fact that the hero in the book was an alcoholic did make me weary of rooting for the couple.

One thing I appreciated about this book is that the author didn’t shy away from showing alcoholism in a very realistic way. While Ethan was a functioning alcoholic for most of the book, he was a mess, he had extreme mood swings, and he made so many mistakes throughout this book. And while I appreciated that, at the same time, I can’t deny that while I was reading I kept thinking that if Grey was one of my friends I would hope she gets out of that relationship. So, while I loved many things about the romantic relationship in this book, I had my moments where I wasn’t completely sold on it, especially towards the end.

Lastly, I didn’t love the ending, because there was this slow conflict building throughout the entire book, and then at the end, everything was resolved so quickly and easily, or at least it seemed that way because a big part of the resolution of that conflict took place off page. So the way the book ended was very jarring and felt rushed.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Have you read or are you planning to read this book? If you have read it, were you expecting it to be as dark and sad as it was or did it catch you by surprise? 

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July 2022 TBR: fantasy, romance, sci-fi and more

Hi everyone! Before starting with this post, I wanted to mention that I posted my june wrap up on Sunday, which from my experience it’s not exactly the best day to post. So in case you missed it, check it out here.

Now, let’s talk about my July tbr. I know I don’t usually have tbrs since I’m a mood reader, but the last couple of months I have put together tbrs and I have managed to read most of the books on them and I feel like that’s helping a little to pull me out of the weird reading slump I’m in, so I will keep putting together tbrs for the time being and see if it works.

These are the books I’m planning to read in July:

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel: I read Station Eleven at the end of 2020 and I have been meaning to pick another book by this author since then and it’s finally time.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine: I just finished the first book in this series, A Memory Called Empire, on June 30th and I loved it, so I can’t wait to continue with the sequel.

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher: It’s been a while since I read a book in this series and lately, I have been feeling curious about where the story goes after what happened in the last book, so I think it’s the perfect time to continue on with the next installment.

The Tower of the Shallows by Andrzej Sapkowski: I read the previous book in this series right before season 2 of the tv show came out and I really enjoyed it and I don’t want to let too much time pass before reading the two final books in the series.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: I watched The Hours as part of the film club I participate in, which made me really curious about this book, and I have owned it for a while, so I want to read it before I lose interest again.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley: I enjoyed The Guest List when I read it at the end of last year and I want to read more from this author.

How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder: I added this recently to my tbr because it sounds exactly like the kind of romance I would enjoy. I hope this is as fun as the cover makes it look.

To Marry and to Meddle by Martha Waters: I have really enjoyed the previous 2 books in this series and I’m excited to continue reading more since I really enjoy Martha Waters’s writing.

What books are on your July tbr? What book are you most excited to read?
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