WWW Wednesday (30) – November 30, 2022

Hello, everyone! It’s Wednesday! That means it is time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. I’ll be answering the following questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?
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Most Anticipated December 2022 Book Releases

This is a pretty dull month… I was only able to find three books I’m adding to my TBR from December’s anticipated releases. So, they are all listed here. I had to dig deep to even come up with three. One book is being re-published with a new edition in December, and the other two are sequels (and series conclusions) to books I haven’t even read yet. I’m sure my wallet and my stuffed bookshelves will appreciate the brief reprieve. lol.

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Top 5 Tuesday – Top 5 Books with Swords

Hello, everyone! I’m really horrible at keeping up with this meme even though I always love participating. This week’s prompt was a freebie. So, I chose to dig through the topics I missed and do one of those. I never did any of the scavenger hunt prompts, and it seemed like fun. Therefore, this week’s topic is top 5 books with swords. I chose this particular scavenger hunt because it seemed doable given how much fantasy I read, but it was actually harder than I thought because many of the books that first came to mind didn’t actually have a sword on the cover. I got to five in the end, though, and they were all 4 or 5 star reads for me. Top 5 Tuesday was created by Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm, and is now being hosted at Meeghan Reads!

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ARC Review – The Gentleman’s Book of Vices

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Gentleman’s Book of Vices by Jess Everlee. I was so excited to be approved for this ARC because it sounded like it would be a great read. If the synopsis or my review piques your interest, you can pick the book up starting tomorrow, November 29, 2022.

Is their real-life love story doomed to be a tragedy, or can they rewrite the ending?

London, 1883

Finely dressed and finely drunk, Charlie Price is a man dedicated to his vices. Chief among them is his explicit novel collection, though his impending marriage to a woman he can’t love will force his carefully curated collection into hiding.

Before it does, Charlie is determined to have one last hurrah: meeting his favorite author in person.

Miles Montague is more gifted as a smut writer than a shopkeep and uses his royalties to keep his flagging bookstore afloat. So when a cheerful dandy appears out of the mist with Miles’s highly secret pen name on his pretty lips, Miles assumes the worst. But Charlie Price is no blackmailer; he’s Miles’s biggest fan.

A scribbled signature on a worn book page sets off an affair as scorching as anything Miles has ever written. But Miles is clinging to a troubled past, while Charlie’s future has spun entirely out of his control…

***Thank you to Carina Adores for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I’m not quite sure where to start with this one. I had so much fun while reading it that I finished it in a day. The story was easy to sink into, and I loved the historical setting even though there were a few anachronisms. I’m not an expert on this period of British history (late 1800’s), and I didn’t even notice them until I saw other reviews point them out. I fell in love with the characters almost immediately, and the story did a wonderful job of peeling back their layers and making them feel real.

The premise of this book was just so much fun. A man, Charlie Price, loves his smut and wants to get the autograph of his favorite writer to add to his illicit collection. The only problem is the writer is anonymous. After using his friend to investigate, Charlie discovers the writer’s identity and decides to ambush him to get his signature. The writer, Miles, freaks out about his identity being revealed, and hilarity ensues along with the beginning of their steamy romance. To make matters even more complicated, Charlie is due to be married in a few weeks to a woman he admires but does not love.

I loved the dynamic between Charlie and Miles. Charlie was a certified rake who spent most of his free time in underground gay sex clubs. He was an eternal optimist. Although, that optimism hid a deeper and more complex person with understandable fears beneath its shiny veneer. Whereas, Miles wore his fear and paranoia on his sleeve. After his former lover was persecuted for being gay, Miles mostly stuck to himself, his anonymous writing, and the failing bookstore that his dead lover left him, which is why it was such a shock to the system when Charlie waltzed into his life knowing the secret of his smut writing gig. They had a delicious sunshine/grumpy thing going for them, as well as a light sub/dom dynamic. The chemistry was great, if a little quick, and their illicit affair really felt tense, as if the shoe could drop for either of them at a moments notice. Even though I assumed they’d get their HEA or HFN by the end, there were moments where I really questioned if that would be the case, which I really liked.

I loved the found family of the gay club, as well. It had such a fun and wholesome vibe considering it was a sex club. lol. The workers and regular patrons truly had each other’s backs, and I was excited to see that the bar owner will be the topic of the second book in this series. Charlie’s bride-to-be was also a great character. When I first read the synopsis, I was worried that she would get completely shafted by Charlie’s selfishness, but she was treated much differently than I expected and was a major character in her own right rather than a victim of the circumstance.

There was only one thing that keeps this from being a five star read for me: one specific fade to black scene. The moment had been built up for so long, and the importance of the emotional intimacy attached to it was heavily underscored leading up to the interaction. Then the scene just ended and skipped to the next morning. It was SO frustrating because it felt like such an integral moment for their relationship that the reader didn’t get to experience firsthand. There was plenty of other spicy content in the book, and I just don’t understand why that scene wasn’t also included.

Overall, this was a hilarious, heartfelt, and slightly raunchy romance filled with big personalities, tons of bookish goodness, and plenty of drama. I don’t know how anyone could not laugh, or at least smile, while reading it. If you enjoy MM romance, I definitely think you should give this one a chance. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Thanksgiving Book Tag

Gobble, gobble! 🦃 Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the United States (and anywhere else you may be celebrating)! I’ve been wanting to do another book tag and thought a holiday themed tag would be fun. So, I scoured the inter-webs to find one. Luckily, Anna’s Book Nook created one a few years ago.

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Give credit to the author (Annasbooknook)
  • Answer the prompts
  • Tag others if you desire!

The Questions

1) Friends and Family: A Book with Characters that Feel Like Family

I don’t know what it was about the Green Bone Saga, but I fell in love with the Kaul family almost immediately. I laughed and cried so much as their family went through its ups and downs, and it felt as if I was a part of their family experiencing everything alongside them.

2) Fallen Leaves: A Book that Fell Flat (didn’t meet your expectations)

I had really high hopes for this duology, but it just did not work for me. It had so much potential, but the annoying protagonist coupled with the focus on the love triangle just squandered it. Don’t get me started on the ending. It was awful. Needless to say, these definitely fell flat.

3) Thanksgiving Dinner: A Book You Want to Read Every Year During This Season

I don’t really do a ton of re-reading and have no books that I read every year during this season. However, these three books are at the top of my re-read TBR right now. One day I’ll get back to them again…

4) Turkey: A Book With a Bird in It

A Restless Truth

This book had a parrot and its cage at the center of a bunch of mayhem on a boat. There was also murder, mystery, magic, and lots of sapphic goodness. 🙂

5) Ham: A Book that Made Your Eyes Glaze Over (Boring)

The Stars Undying

I don’t often DNF books, but I could not make it through this one. The writing was tedious and confusing to read, and I didn’t find the characters interesting at all.

6) Dinner Rolls: A Book that Melted Your Heart and Made You Feel Warm

Jack's on Fire

This YA romcom was so sweet it completely melted my heart. I loved its focus on queer joy and just had a wonderful time reading the types of interactions I wish I had when I was a teen.

7) Mashed Potatoes: A Book With a White Cover

These are two of my fantasy faves from this year so far. Both of them were thrilling adventures and should be on the TBR of every fantasy fan.

8) Gravy: A Book You’re not Totally Sure Why You Love, but You Do

Rosebud

This short book was SO weird, and I didn’t have a clue what was going on for a significant portion of the story. lol. The weirdness gave it a charm that I cannot really put into words, though, and it ended up being a 5-star read for me.

9) Pumpkin Pie: A Dessert Book That You Love

The House in the Cerulean Sea

I’d not heard of the term ‘dessert book’ before this tag. I’m taking it to mean a sickeningly sweet book, and I can think of no better book than The House in the Cerulean Sea. I adore this book so much and love its genuine found family vibes.

Bonus: Black Friday: The Top 5 Books on Your “I want to buy them” List

I’m about to shock all of you with my answer to this one. At the moment, I don’t have any books on my ‘want to buy them’ list. Why? I’ve already bought them. lol. I’m very impulsive and buy whatever books I want to read mostly on a whim. I also utilize the library a lot and ARCs, of course. Will this keep me from perusing Black Friday sales. Nope. 😂 But at least I won’t be going in with a list. Although, maybe that’s even worse…

I Tag

Anyone who wants to participate. I recognize that today is Thanksgiving. So, if you’re bored, feel free to have some fun and consider yourself tagged. Otherwise, bookmark it until next year!

ARC Review – Heart of the Sun Warrior

Hello, everyone! It has been a couple weeks since I’ve gotten a review posted. I seem to be finding my groove again, though, and have staved off a long-term slump (hopefully). Today I’m reviewing a book I’ve been waiting to read for almost a year, Heart of the Sun Warrior by Sue Lynn Tan. I enjoyed the first book of this duology quite a bit, and you can find my thoughts on it here. So, I was excited to return back to this world to see what Xingyin gets up to next.

After her perilous quest to free her mother, Xingyin thrives once more in the tranquility of her home. But her fragile peace is threatened by the discovery of a strange magic on the moon and the unsettling changes in the Celestial Kingdom as the emperor tightens his grip on power. While Xingyin is determined to keep clear of the rising danger, the discovery of a shocking truth spurs her into a treacherous confrontation.

Forced to flee her home once more, Xingyin and her companions venture to unexplored lands of the Immortal Realm, encountering legendary creatures and shrewd monarchs, beloved friends and bitter adversaries. With alliances shifting quicker than the tides, Xingyin has to overcome past grudges and enmities to forge a new path forward, seeking aid where she never imagined she would. As an unspeakable terror sweeps across the realm, Xingyin must uncover the truth of her heart and claw her way through devastation–to rise against this evil before it destroys everything she holds dear, and the worlds she has grown to love… even if doing so demands the greatest price of all.

The stunning sequel to Daughter of the Moon Goddess delves deeper into beloved Chinese mythology, concluding the epic story of Xingyin–the daughter of Chang’e and the mortal archer, Houyi–as she battles a grave new threat to the realm, in this powerful tale of love, sacrifice, and hope.

***Thank you to Harper Voyager for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

NOTE: There are some spoilers in this review! Turn back now if you haven’t read the book yet… unless you don’t care about stuff being spoiled.

I was very excited to finally get to this sequel, and I’m happy to say that the things I loved about the first book were present in this one too. The writing was exquisite. Reading the descriptions felt like stepping into a vibrant painting. The quality of the writing seemed to have even improved since the first book, which also displayed beautiful craftsmanship with its words. After this duology, there’s no doubt that Tan can craft otherworldly prose that easily transports the reader into her imagined worlds.

The world-building was just as stunning here as in the first book. There were a couple new places that I enjoyed visiting, and the narrative returned to many of the wondrous set pieces previously introduced, including the moon, Celestial Palace, and Cloud Wall. New and old creatures played a part in the story, and it was all just so fascinating. I loved the mythology and the way the author used it to tell a gripping story of loss, love, and forgiveness that felt very intimately human despite the divine nature of the participants.

I liked the plot in this book a bit more than the first. It felt less disjointed and the pace was more even. Where the first book felt like several distinct stories mashed together because of all its side quests, this one seemed more cohesive with a single major story thread and clear villain from start to finish. Speaking of the villain, I really enjoyed Wugang and thought his motivations were believable. I even felt a bit sympathetic to his cause given how horrible the Celestial court treated him and literally everyone else. I wish there had been more of the court intrigue in this one, though. I would have loved to read how the coup happened from the emperor’s or Wugang’s POV. I’m sure the emperor’s reaction was priceless.

Now to the part I think some people won’t really like: the love triangle. That’s right. It’s back again. lol. I didn’t hate it in the first book because I found the two men worked well as avatars of the warring parts of Xingyin’s psyche. I was REALLY ready for the story to move past that, though, and it didn’t. Xingyin went through a lot in this book and had to come to terms with some major, gut-wrenching losses. I loved her journey, and she was no less persistent here in her convictions despite the enormous scale of the opposition she faced. The whole time I was loving her strength and fortitude and wondering why she was putting up with these two whiny guys constantly trying to get her to love them while all this terrible stuff was going down. One of them, Wenzhi, started out with serious stalker vibes and had some major making up to do for the brutal betrayal in the first book. Although, he grew on me again as the story progressed, and I liked his redemption arc and Xingyin’s journey to forgiveness. Liwei still had as much personality as a piece of stale bread, and it just felt like he was sort of there only as a foil to keep Xingyin from falling right back into Wenzhi’s arms. I’m sure some people will love this dynamic, but I just found it distracting.

Just some final notes… I loved getting to see more of Xingyin’s family dynamic. I honestly wanted much more of it than I got. There was so much focus on the love triangle that her relationship with family, which was her driving force in the first book, was relegated to only a few scenes and seemed like somewhat of an afterthought. I also was a bit annoyed at first that most of what Xingyin worked so hard to obtain was stripped away again fairly quickly. Although, this is a problem I often have with duologies when the first book ends on a mostly settled note. Things kind of have to blow up again for there to be a reason for another story. I got over that nit-picky annoyance pretty quickly with this one, though, because the plot was different enough that it didn’t feel like a pointless retread.

I know this review probably sounded fairly negative, but I really did enjoy reading this book. I have pretty strong opinions about the characters and the story because I’ve come to care about them, especially Xingyin. This was a good conclusion to her story. If you enjoyed the first book, definitely be sure to pick this one up too. Even if you didn’t, this one may surprise you because the storytelling definitely improved as the author gained more experience. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

End of the Year Book Tag

How is it already this close to the end of the year? It seems like just yesterday I was setting my annual reading/blogging goals, and now we are rapidly approaching December. I was tagged by Jordyn @ Birdie’s Book Nook to complete this tag, and I’m excited to participate. Be sure to check out her answers on her blog, as well!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Other than my current read, Heart of the Sun Warrior, I don’t have any books that I haven’t finished and plan to pick back up this year. I’ve DNFd a few books this year, including The Stars Undying, Silk Fire, and The Starless Crown, but I don’t plan on picking them back up. I did start Empire of the Vampire, as well, but I wasn’t in the mood to finish it. I doubt I’ll return to it before the end of the year, but I plan to finish it eventually because the bit I read was really good.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

No. I’m not much of a seasonal reader, in general. I’m mostly just scrambling to finish up all my 2022 ARCs and BBNYA reads at this point. 🙂

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

There are still a few releases this year that I’m looking forward to. The first adult novel of the second phase of The High Republic, Convergence, is released later this month. Never Ever Getting Back Together and The Gentleman’s Book of Vices are two others releasing at the end of November. I’ve also got my eye on The Ivory Tomb by Melissa Caruso, which is the last book in a trilogy. I plan to read the trilogy once this last book is out. So, I’m looking forward to it releasing in December.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Only three? LOL. I’ve got so many books I’m hoping to get through before the end of December. I doubt I’ll get through them all, though. Here’s three that will likely make it onto my December TBR.

Is there a book you think that could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

Honestly, probably not. I think Babel by R.F. Kuang will be clenching the top spot. It would take something truly spectacular to knock it off the top.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2023?

Of course! I’ve got a great line-up of ARCs coming out in the first half of next year and have been mulling over what I want my annual goals to be for 2023. Here’s a sneak peek of the ARCs I’m looking forward to the most.

I Tag