February 2022 Wrap Up | the best reading month I’ve had in a long time

I don’t think I have ever been this excited to write a wrap up, but after almost a year of a reading slump and not feeling like I loved reading as much as I used to, I’m finally back in a reading mood and it’s all thanks to a little challenge where I tried to read 100 pages every day for a week. After that challenge, I read so much and I loved most of the books immensely.

So, despite the fact that this blog post is late and my posting schedule went out of the window this week because work was wild and I had so much to do, I’m still really happy to share my thoughts on the 17 books I read in February!

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood (5 stars): This was such a fun and quick read. It has forced proximity and “enemies” who are attracted to each other, slowly become friends, and then become so much more. This book makes the evolution of their relationship so believable and it manages to actually show them becoming more and more important to each other. Also, as a bonus, this is really steamy.

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper (5 stars): I loved the witchy small town, the magic tournament, the humor, the captivating characters, the lovely sapphic romance, the banter between the two main characters, and the personal journey the main character went through. (Full review)

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (3.5 stars): I really liked the characters and their chemistry but the lack of communication got really annoying and the conflict was boring. (Full review)

Bending the Rules by Christina C. Jones (3.5 stars): This was a quick, entertaining read with lots of steam. It’s a good friends-to-lovers story, but the one big issue is that there’s quite a bit of miscommunication.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (3 stars): Relatable main character, great friendships, and an interesting exploration of mental illness, but the writing wasn’t for me and the romance felt forced and awkward. (Full review)

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente (5 stars): This was so unexpectedly good! I thought it was gonna be a completely different story, but it’s so smart and quietly disturbing. (Full review)

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (5 stars): This was a very slow, atmospheric book, it was strange and captivating. I was intrigued the entire time while reading and the ending had me at the edge of my seat. (Full review)

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews (4 stars): Ilona Andrews did it again, once I started reading this I didn’t want to stop. Their books are always compulsively readble and fun. They also come up with the most interesting concept, this is a mix of fantasy and sci-fi full of vampires, werewolves, different types of aliens, magical inns, advanced technology and so much more. The main characters are easy to root for and captivating, and the little hints of the romance were enough to make me want more.

Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews (3.5 stars): While this was interesting, I was having trouble being fully invested in the story for the first 60% because the main character had no real personal stakes in the plot, so I felt a little detached. I also missed the love interest who doesn’t show up for most of the book. Nonetheless, the last part of the book was SO GOOD, the way everything came together and the main character acting like a badass were things I really enjoyed.

One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews (4 stars): I really enjoyed this, it was action-packed and so fun to read. The main characters were great as always, it had an amazing cast of side characters (both old and new), the plot was really interesting and I enjoyed the twist that happened at the end. While I really like the main couple and we got some intense, emotional moments between them, I wish there were a few more quiet, nice moments of them connecting and falling in love outside of life-threatening situations. Also, while I liked the side couple, I think the build-up was missing, it’s almost like they went from 0 to 100.

Angel of Khan el-Khalili and The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djelí Clark (3.5 stars): Just like the first novella in the Dead Djinn Universe, both this short story and this novella showed glimpses of a fascinating and unique world and magic system and they had interesting characters. Nonetheless, the short format is simply not working for me with this series, still, I’m looking forward to reading the full-length novel.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (4 stars): this had an interesting concept, great main characters, good humor, a surprising change in direction, but it dragged so much at certain points. (Full review)

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (4 stars): Didn’t love the main character and found the beginning a bit boring but I liked the concept, the casual queerness, and the message about not tying your value to your job and productivity. (Full review)

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto (4.5 stars): This is over the top, melodramatic and so fun. It’s not exactly a murder mystery, it’s more a story of how to get away with murder where things keep going wrong but in a really funny way. This has incredible main characters, the relationship between Meddy and the aunts is heartwarming but their bickering and rivalries are really funny at points too. There’s a second chance romance that’s a big part of the story, and while it was good, I think Nathan forgave Meddy way too easily and she should have groveled more.

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown (4 star): This was a really good collection of essays, it was an interesting, quick read. There weren’t many new ideas in it, but what made it special was the way the author addressed race and religion and the reluctance of some Christians to recognize their racism and put in the work to change. I’m not a religious person but I still found what Brown had to say really captivating and thought-provoking.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw (4 stars): This short story collection is captivating, messy, and realistic. It talks mainly about queerness, womanhood, complicated mother/daughter relationships, and the intersections of these things with religion and faith. The writing is fantastic and, with the exception of one, I enjoyed every single story in this collection which almost never happens. My favorite stories were Eula, Peach Cobbler, Snowfall and How to Make Love to a Physics Professor.

What is your favorite and least favorite book of February? Was February a good reading month for you?

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Reviewing Sapphic Romances: Count Your Lucky Stars + Payback’s a Witch + Honey Girl

I noticed recently that I had been posting just mini “reviews” in my wrap-ups and not really fully reviewing books, so I have been trying to review more books on the blog lately. Today I’m posting reviews of books that include sapphic romances. I hope you find them useful!

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Margot Cooper doesn’t do relationships. She tried and it blew up in her face, so she’ll stick with casual hookups, thank you very much. But now her entire crew has found “the one” and she’s beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. And then fate (the heartless bitch) intervenes. While touring a wedding venue with her engaged friends, Margot comes face-to-face with Olivia Grant—her childhood friend, her first love, her first… well, everything. It’s been ten years, but the moment they lock eyes, Margot’s cold, dead heart thumps in her chest.

Olivia must be hallucinating. In the decade since she last saw Margot, her life hasn’t gone exactly as planned. At almost thirty, she’s been married… and divorced. However, a wedding planner job in Seattle means a fresh start and a chance to follow her dreams. Never in a million years did she expect her important new client’s Best Woman would be the one that got away.

When a series of unfortunate events leaves Olivia without a place to stay, Margot offers up her spare room because she’s a Very Good Person. Obviously. It has nothing to do with the fact that Olivia is as beautiful as ever and the sparks between them still make Margot tingle. As they spend time in close quarters, Margot starts to question her no-strings stance. Olivia is everything she’s ever wanted, but Margot let her in once and it ended in disaster. Will history repeat itself or should she count her lucky stars that she gets a second chance with her first love?

I’ve discovered that second chance romances are hit or miss for me, but they are mostly misses. While I had other issues with Count Your Lucky Stars, I can say that the second chance romance element of the story is actually well done, it strikes that hard balance of telling/ showing just the right amount of the past relationship between the main characters, while not relying entirely on their past connection as the reason why they get back together.

Actually, I really enjoyed the first part of Count Your Lucky Stars, the characters are likable and relatable, and seeing them reconnect and slowly rebuild their relationship while also navigating the amount of chemistry and sexual tension between them was very entertaining. And, things get steamy pretty quick and the book is very steamy throughout.

But after a while, the lack of communication annoyed me so much, and it’s funny because the author was aware that the lack of communication was frustrating and she even mentioned it in the book, but it still affected my enjoyment of the story. Also, I found the conflict at the end to be a bit boring, the author was trying to explore the fears and flaws of the two main characters, but the way it was executed was lackluster and I lost interest in that final part of the book. Still, the ending was cute and I was rooting for the couple the entire time.

RATING: 3.5 STARS

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in? But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?

I went into Payback’s a Witch knowing almost nothing about it and I ended up LOVING it. I was completely engrossed while reading it and I finished it in one sitting, it was a quick and really fun read. This book is a 5 stars read for me based, in big part, on how enjoyable my reading experience was and on reading it at the perfect time when I was looking exactly for a low angst, cheeky and captivating story.

There’s so much to love about this book, it mixed the contemporary and fantastical elements perfectly, it managed to have interesting worldbuilding around this magical witchy small town in the middle of the modern world and a fun plot around revenge, old family rivalries, and a magic tournament, while also focusing on the romance, friendships, and character development. This book is funny, it has captivating and complex characters, a really sweet sapphic romance full of banter and chemistry, a lovely friendship between women, and it tells a story of personal growth and the journey the main character goes through to realize that maybe she had been making her decisions based on the wrong things and punishing herself for something that wasn’t her fault.

Objectively, I know this is not a perfect book, the conflict felt really forced and unnecessary, and the ending was a bit juvenile. But, subjectively, this is still a 5 stars read for me.

RATING: 5 STARS

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

When reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

While I overall didn’t have a great reading experience with this book, Honey Girl has a lot of elements I enjoyed. The main character and her feelings of being lost and not knowing what path to follow were relatable; her friendships were wonderful and complicated and I enjoyed reading about so many characters that felt like real people; I love complex family dynamics so I really appreciated that aspect of the book and the way it was handled, and I think the way it addressed mental health was really good. The final 40% of this story which shows Grace actually making decisions for herself, getting treatment, being honest with the people around her and finding ways to heal and grow was my favorite part of the book.

Nonetheless, I had some big issues with this, especially with the writing, which wasn’t necessarily bad but it definitely wasn’t for me. To me, it felt like the author was trying SO HARD to be deep and poetic and it felt forced and most of the time it was really maudlin. This is the reason I can’t give this book more than 3 stars, I really disliked the writing and that ruined my reading experience. My other issue is Yuki, the love interest, everything she said was supposed to be so profound and most of the time it really wasn’t. I didn’t feel the connection between Grace and Yuki, and their relationship felt forced and awkward at times. So I wasn’t really a fan of the romance, which is why I ended up enjoying the last 40% so much more than the rest of the book, since it was focused on other aspects of the story

RATING: 3 STARS

Have you read any of these books? What are your favorite sapphic romances?

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I tried to read 100 pages every day for a week

I feel like I mention this in all of my posts for one reason or another, but I was in a reading slump for most of 2021, and because of that I fell out of the habit of reading every day. I have been trying to get back to it but it’s been hard, so I decided to try to read 100 pages every day for a week to see if it helped. Spoiler alert: I actually failed the challenge, but it still had very positive results even if I didn’t manage to read 100 pages every day.

In this post, I tell you about my experience doing this reading challenge with updates of how much and what did I read every day of the week. I also decided to include a peek into what I did every day of the week besides reading. I’m someone who really enjoys reading updates about the life of people I follow, so I thought it would be fun to share a little a bit about my life.

Now that all that is out of the way, here’s how the reading challenge went:

February 7

Page count: 110 pages

The first day of this challenge, I read the last 40 pages of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw, which was on my tbr for Black History Month. I really liked all the stories except for one which is really difficult to accomplish for a short story collection. The way it addressed queerness, womanhood, complicated mother/daughter relationships, and the intersections of these things with religion and faith was really interesting.

I also read 70 pages of The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, which I enjoyed but it wasn’t what I was in the mood for so I’ve put it down for now.

Now, here’s a little peek into the other things I did that day:

Low-stakes series set in small towns really work for me when I’m anxious, so I had a lot of fun watching season 2 of Sweet Magnolias. I also watched an episode of Blackpink House, as a new-ish Blackpink fan I’m having fun getting caught up with all the content. Lastly, the blog post I finished this day was Ranking all the kdramas I watched in January 2022 .

February 8

Page count: 51 pages

On day 2, I started Bending the Rules by Christina C. Jones and read 51 pages. I got hooked right away, but unfortunately, I didn’t hit the 100 pages mark because I started reading at like 11:00 pm. In this book, the main characters used to be best friends but got into a fight 7 years prior and haven’t talked since, but once they reunite and clear up the misunderstanding, sparks begin to fly. Christina C Jones really knows how to write great chemistry between her main characters.

A little peek into the other things I did that day:

I started a new kdrama and it wasn’t the best decision for my reading. I started watching kdramas last year and they are the main reason I have been reading so much less the last few months. Still, I’m having a lot of fun watching dramas, so I don’t think this is gonna change anytime soon.

February 9

Page count: 35 pages

Things went even worst on day 3, since I only read 35 pages of Bending the Rules this day. While I was enjoying the book, I was too invested in the kdrama I was watching and didn’t make that much time to read. Nonetheless, if it wasn’t for this challenge, I wouldn’t have read anything this day or the day before. I’ll take that as a small win.

A little peek into the other things I did that day:

I finished my kdrama, which was Just Between Lovers (aka Rain or Shine) and I really enjoyed it. It was really angsty and it had a really slow-burn romance, but it was also touching and sweet and it had some really complex and interesting side characters. I became so engrossed in this that I needed to finish it and that’s why I ended up reading so little this day.

February 10

Page count: 312 pages

On day 4, I made up for not reading that much during days 2 and 3. I read the final 133 pages of Bending the Rules and while I ended up liking the book, there was a lot of miscommunication which frustrated me a bit. I also read the last 159 pages of Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers and I enjoyed the final part of the book more than the rest because it was more focused on the main character healing and learning to take care of her mental health. The writing and the romance in this didn’t work for me (full review to come!). Lastly, I read 20 pages of The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djelí Clark and these first pages were ok, but I wasn’t too invested in the beginning.

A little peek into what other things I did that day:

I have been enjoying blog hopping a lot lately, I’m participating in the 2022 Support Book Bloggers challenge this year and I’m trying to visit other blogs and take the time to comment as a way to show people that I value their content.

February 11

Page count: 180 pages

<Another good day for reading. I read the last 93 pages of The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djelí Clark, which is steampunk fantasy with a mystery element. While it showed glimpses of a complex and unique world with so many different kinds of supernatural creatures, the short format didn’t completely work for me, still I’m looking forward to reading the full-length novel. I also read the last 87 pages of A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, which was good, but I was expecting a little more. My main issue is that I didn’t love the main character, I found them boring, but I did like the casual queerness, the concept of a world, the hopeful tone of the story, the wholesome second main character and the interesting commentary on productivity.

A little peek into the other things I did that day:

My anxiety has been really bad lately which means I have a hard time doing the same activity for more than 20 minutes. This was a particularly bad day in terms of anxiety, so that’s why I did so many things throughout the day. I was constantly jumping from one activity to another.

February 12

Page Count: 0 pages

I completely forgot to read this day, I unexpectedly had to work on a Saturday and I was so anxious the whole day, so it was not fun. Nonetheless, I had a friend’s birthday party that night and seeing my friends helped me feel better and I ended up having a great time.

February 13

Page count: 223 pages

The last day was also a very good day in terms of reading, I finished two books and I gave both of them 5 stars! I read 120 pages of Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood and I LOVED this novella. This has forced proximity and “enemies” who are attracted to each other, slowly become friends and then become so much more. This book makes the evolution of their relationship so believable. Also, this is really steamy. Lastly, I read 103 pages of Comfort Me with Apples by Catherynne M. Valente and the story in this book was so unexpected but so good! It’s better to go into this knowing as little as possible. I thought it was gonna be a completely different story, but it’s so smart and quietly disturbing and I loved it.

A little peek into the other things I did that day:

Another day when I was really anxious which is why I did so many things. A new drama that I was highly anticipating started airing, I watched the first 2 episodes of Forecasting Love and Weather and I LOVED them. I’ve got a good feeling that this is going to be a new favorite kdrama. Also, the blog post I finished writing was 5 perfect book-song pairings.

I tried to be more active by taking a walk, going grocery shipping and decluttering my closet, to see if it would help with my anxiety and it actually did. So that was really good.

RESULTS

TOTAL OF PAGES READ: 911 pages

I feel like this challenge ended up having really positive outcomes, some that I expected and some that I didn’t:

This challenge helped me read even on days when I wasn’t particularly motivated to do it. Even if I didn’t read 100 pages every day, knowing that I was participating in this challenge made me try. Since I was in a reading slump for most of last year and I’m just coming out of it, this helped me get back to my habit of reading at least a little every day.

An unexpected outcome is that this challenge put me in a reading mood. While I was out of the reading slump for a while and I could read, I didn’t feel that passionate desire to read that I used to have, but thanks to this challenge, I got that feeling back. I want to read all the time and I feel so invested in all the books I have been reading, which is something that wasn’t feeling lately.

Overall, I’m really glad that I decided to do this challenge! now I know that if I’m ever feeling unmotivated when it comes to reading, this is something I can try.

Have you ever tried to read 100 pages every day? if you have, how did it go? What strategies do you use to get back the motivation to read when you feel like you’re losing it?

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5 Perfect Book-Song Pairings

Hi everyone! Today’s post was so fun to put together since it meant listening to a bunch of my favorite songs to try to pair them with books. In the end, I found 5 songs which perfectly fit with 5 of my recent reads. I would love to know if you agree with my pairing!

Note: Throughout the post, you can find this: (song/book). If you click on song, it will take you to youtube so you can listen to the song and if you click on book, it will take to the Goodreads page for that book.

Without further ado, here are the 5 pairings I came up with:

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano / One Way or Another by Blondie

This song perfectly captures the “fun, cheeky and a bit absurd” vibe of the book (song/book). Also, I couldn’t stop laughing once I imagined Finlay saying to the police:

“One way, or another, I’m gonna lose ya
I’m gonna give you the slip
A slip of the hip or another, I’m gonna lose ya
I’ll trick ya, I’ll trick ya”

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong / Dynasty by MIIA

This song fits so well with the angsty romance, the betrayal, and the war between families at the core of this book. It’s the perfect song for a Romeo and Juliet retelling, and particularly this one. (song/ book)

And all I gave you is gone
Tumbled like it was stone
Thought we built a dynasty that heaven couldn’t shake
Thought we built a dynasty, like nothing ever made
Thought we built a dynasty forever couldn’t break up

While We Were Sleeping by Jasmine Guillory / I Drink Wine by Adele

This song perfectly encompasses the internal struggle of the main character, who is a famous actress wanting to become a household name and hiding a lot about herself to get there, until she falls in love with the hero and things change. (song/ book)

So I hope I learn to get over myself
Stop trying to be somebody else
So we can love each other for free
Everybody wants something
You just want me

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers / Carry You by Ruelle and Fleurie

This song captures the melancholic tone of the book and the themes of lonliness and feeling lost that are prevalent in the story. Also, the question “are you listening?” plays an important role in the book and the sentiment behind it is similar to the “is anybody out there?” in the song. (song/book)

“I know it hurts
It’s hard to breathe sometimes
These nights are long
You’ve lost the will to fight. Is anybody out there?
Tell me it’ll all be alright”

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle / At My Worst by Pink Sweats

This is such a sweet song and I feel like it captures the way both protagonists share with each other their struggles and some of the most vulnerable parts of themselves, and the way both of them are so understanding with each other. (song/book)

“I need somebody who can love me at my worst
No, I’m not perfect, but I hope you see my worth
‘Cause it’s only you, nobody new, I put you first
And for you, girl, I swear I’ll do the worst”

Have you ever listened to a song and felt it perfectly fit a book? Have you read any of these books and do you think the songs I chose are a good fit?

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February TBR: books I want to read for Black History Month

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to share my tbr for Black History Month because I included a lot of books that sound really good. Since I’m not completely over my reading slump from last year, I chose mostly novellas, shorter books and romances to make sure I actually read them.

These are the books I’m planning to read:

The Year of the Witching: This book was on my February 2021 tbr and I didn’t end up reading it, but since then I have heard great things about it and I’m excited to give it a chance. I love witchy stories and I know this has a cult element as well and that sounds like a great combination.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas: Despite reading some mixed reviews, I’m still intrigued since a slow gothic story with dark academia elements sounds like something I would enjoy.

The Angel of Khan el-Khalili by P. Djelí Clark: I read the first novella in this series in January and I don’t want to let a lot of time pass before continuing on with the series because then I won’t read the rest. This series is steampunk fantasy, which is a subgenre that I haven’t read that much, and there are angels and djinnis and it’s set in Cairo, so I’m excited.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djelí Clark: As I said, don’t want to let too much time pass without continuing with this series, so I will read this in February as well.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers: Started this before but I wasn’t really in the mood, so I put it down and now it’s time to picking it back up. I want to read more sapphic stories with POCs as main characters and I have heard great things about this book, so it’s a good place to start.

Bending the Rules by Christina C. Jones: I need to finish this trilogy. The Wright Brothers series is the second trilogy I read by Christina C. Jones and I have really enjoyed all of her books so I’m confident I’ll like this, especially since it’s best friends to strangers to lovers and I have heard that it’s really steamy.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: honestly this title and cover were the reason I first became interested in this book, but the good reviews helped cement it as part of my tbr. Also, when a book addresses the church’s double standards and shows Black women following their own needs and desires I have to read it.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown: I wanted a short non-fiction book to read for Black History Month and this one sounds interesting and has amazing reviews from all my friends on goodreads.

What are you planning to read for Black History Month? What are some of your favorite books by Black authors?

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