Pages of January || I read 22 books?!

Going into January, I did not expect that my reading would shoot up. I got out of a slump only a couple of months back. In fact, I was happy that I managed to read 10 books in December because that’s a lot. And now, here I am, with 22 books and a long reading wrap-up post.

sidebarred by emma chase

sidebarred by emma chase book cover

I highly enjoyed Sustained by Emma Chase. In fact, I reread my favourite parts of it as my first read of the year. When Riza mentioned that the novella Sidebarred was a good read for more Jake and the kids’ scenes, I picked it up immediately.

Sidebarred is a fluff novella in the best way. We get specific scenes of Jake with every other main character. It takes place a while after Sustained so we get to see how they live as a family. Jake was a playboy with no plans of a family but he is a part of it now.

The chaos makes him happy, his relationship with each kid is precious, and he gets to have the love of his life as a partner through everything. This book was a great addition to their story.

feels like love by jenna hartley

feels like love jenna hartley book cover

And here starts my KU romance reading. I found this book through Anna Reads Here‘s recommendations. Feels Like Love is a cute single mom, brother’s best friend romance book.

Bennett has been in love with Wren and Wren has been crushing on Bennett. When Bennett’s house gets flooded due to an issue, he ends up moving into Wren’s guest bedroom temporarily. As the forced proximity sets off sparks between them, Wren asks Bennett to be her dating coach.

As they spend more time together, things obviously take a turn to romance. I loved the pining on both ends, Wren and Bennett’s individual relationship with the super cute River, and the tension. Wren and Bennett’s chemistry was written really well. I could not picture them with anyone else. It was a great read.

beg you to trust me by b. celeste

beg you to trust me by b celeste book cover

Beg You to Trust Me is a college romance book following Skylar who moves far away from home to “reinvent herself”. Her journey starts off on a bad note when she gets sexually assaulted while drunk. As she tries to find the assaulter and recover, and deal with a toxic friendship, she meets Daniel. She’s the grumpy “leave me alone” girl and he’s the upbeat “let’s be best friends” guy.

I really liked the slow relationship development between the two of them. We see Skylar dealing with her circumstances, trying to find herself, and becoming best friends with a guy. Daniel was very charming too. Through him, the book also talks about how our bodies can work against our dreams.

The story is more than just a romance. I recommend it if you want a book set in college with a romance but is more about life and is not light-hearted.

Content warnings: sexual assault, bullying, harassment, toxic friendship

how to be perfect: the correct answer to every moral question by michael schur

how to be perfect by michael schur book cover

After I read and loved Maybe You Should Talk to Somone, I decided to read one non-fiction book every month. When How to Be Perfect dropped on libro.fm, I started it almost immediately.

The book is about ethics and philosophy. Through casual, funny narration—and quotes narrated by The Good Place cast—the author explains a lot of ethical concepts in the audiobook. He puts in an easy-to-understand manner by bringing up common situations that we face in our lives.

The book was interesting because the author explains each theory, praises it, and also speaks against it. He brings up the good and the bad points. As the book goes on, he uses examples to prove a theory and also uses previously mentioned theories to go against it. It was fun to see him argue for multiple sides based on one problem. I finally understand RF Kuang’s tweets about her boyfriend’s philosophical tendencies.

I do think the book should be read instead of only listened to. Reading allows us to adjust pace and reread sentences to remember them better. Sometime in the future, I’d love to get the physical copy and annotate it.

the reading list by sara nisha adams

the reading list by sara nisha adams

I saw The Reading List being praised by quite a few people last year and I put it on my “have to read in 2023” book list. Instead of procrastinating, I picked up this book early into the month and I’m glad to have taken that decision.

This book follows a bunch of characters each of whose lives are touched by a book list. No one knows who wrote the list but it finds them in different ways right when they need it. We see how each person connects with the books in the lists. Sometimes, people pass on the list to others once they’re done. I loved how the list brought people together and formed a community.

My favourite character was Mukesh, a widowed Indian man still grieving over his wife. He takes one of her leftover books to the library and—in order to stay connected to her—starts reading books. At times, I felt so much for him and wanted to give him a hug. He is precious.

The book came full circle at the end in a way that I didn’t expect and it gave me ALL. THE. FEELS. After finishing it, I immediately went to Goodreads and rated it 5 stars. It is going to be on my best books of 2023 list.

an emotion of great delight by tahereh mafi

an emotion of great delight by tahereh mafi book cover

I should have DNFed this book. I don’t know why I pushed myself to finish reading it. I’ll summarize my thoughts in points because I’ll end up ranting for 1000 words otherwise:

  • The writing is the same as every other Mafi book. That writing was bearable when I was a high schooler—more open to new types of books and had lower standards—but it is ANNOYING now. Throughout the book there were just different variations of the same things like “im drowning in my feelings” and “my heart is breaking” but in more elaborate words. 
  • The plot had no substance. It is more of a slice-of-life story. It is mainly focused on grief, guilt, and BOY OBSESSION. We’d have monologues about the author feeling sad and struggling in life and 2 minutes later, we’d see her obsess over her crush. There was also a new guy introduced for no reason! He had no role except for “oh maybe he’ll be her new love interest”. 10/10 annoying. 0/10 substance.
  • On some level, there’s no difference between this book and A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I actually loved AVLEOS when I read it but that was back when I could still bear Mafi’s writing. From what I remember, it was very much like this book. Even the title structure is similar!
  • This book had no character arc, growth, direction, progress, or resolution. The entire book could be one chapter rephrased in different ways. It ends at a random cliffhanger for no reason especially considering this book doesn’t have a sequel.
  • The book failed it’s main goal. The author wanted to write about a teenage Muslim girl after 9/11. But the book never actually dealt with the event or direct repercussions.

For thoughts on the representation in the book, check out Dana and S‘s own voices reviews.

If this book is on your radar, delete it.

the vampire stayed for breakfast by juna ratnam

the vampire stayed for breakfast by juna ratnam book cover

When the author sent me a review request email for this book with the synopsis, I was immediately excited. The Vampire Stayed for Breakfast is a short gay romance featuring a bored vampire and a human (?) accountant.

When Aserad is locked out of his basement apartment by his ex 20 minutes before sunrise, he needs to do something. When he spots Selan passing by and flirting, he takes the chance and seduces him so that he can stay at Selan’s place for a while. But of course, nothing is as simple as hooking up and leaving.

I liked reading a supernatural romance book with Tamizh protagonists. The characters were really nice. I loved seeing parts of my culture being shared by a vampire. The book also doesn’t make a big deal of the supernatural aspects. It is almost a slice-of-life book in the way the story flowed.

My only complaints are about the clunky writing and how the story doesn’t fully match the synopsis. Aserad didn’t have to specifically seduce Selan because Selan was coming onto him anyway.

Overall, it was a good quick read.

his accidental princess by kyra seth

his accidental princess by kyra seth book cover

I’m back to my romance reading binge from here. His Accidental Princess is an Indian royal bodyguard romance. Considering I always find English bodyguard romances, I snatched this up.

Sona Singh, an orphan, comes face to face with an older woman whose face is almost exactly like hers while waitressing at a royal event. Turns out, she’s the lost princess of Nagaur. Samar is tasked with protecting her and sparks fly between them.

The book reads like a quick and not-so-polished Bollywood romance. The story is too quick in some parts and dragged out in other parts. There’s a bunch of yelling from Sona and Samar for no reason. The author has tried to make the book dramatic but it’s not the good kind. I guessed the twist pretty quickly because it’s almost a Bollywood movie. The ending was a little lacklustre.

Overall, the book was good in some ways and not good in other ways. I wouldn’t specifically recommend it.

act like it by lucy parker

act like it by lucy parker book cover

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker was one of my best books of 2023. When I heard that this book has similar vibes, I immediately went for it.

Act Like It is a hate-to-love fake dating romance set in theatre. Elaine’s reputation has just recovered from her previous relationship with a current co-star when she is roped into fake dating another co-star to help his reputation. But of course, as they spend time together and actually get to know one another, things change and they fit perfectly.

The book was really cute. I almost squealed at multiple parts. The vibes of the two characters were very similar to Battle Royal. Lucy Parker knows how to write good grumpy x sunshine romance books. But in many parts, this book was not that great. I enjoyed it but I liked Battle Royal better.

the belle and the beard by kate canterbary

the belle and the beard by kate canterbary

This was my first Kate Caterbary book and what a book it was! Sil highly recommended it on Twitter and her recommendations don’t disappoint.

Jasper-Anne Cleary has always given her 100% to her job so when it burns down, all parts of her life burn down with it. She runs away to her late aunt’s place to wait out the scandal. Grumpy Linden Santillian prefers solitude and talking as less as possible but cannot help involving Jasper in his life right from the start.

This is an opposites attract romance with really nice relationship development and great banter. The romance is almost perfect. It has great characters, A+ romance, and good focus on individual growth. Through Jasper, the points “it’s never too late to start over” and “you should have different friends to reflects your multi-faceted life” were driven in. I loved that.

Overall, The Belle and The Beard was great. A strong contender for my best books of 2023 list.

ignite by melanie harlow

ignite by melanie harlow book cover

Ignite is a single dad, grumpy x sunshine, age gap romance. I’m never a fan of age gap romances but it wasn’t too bad here. The book follows Winnie—who has a habit of falling in love too quickly and swears off love for six months—and her new firefighter neighbour Dex.

Pros: The highlight of the book was Winnie bonding with Dex’s daughters. The kids were very cute. The romance was pretty good once I managed to forget about the age gap. The scene where they get back together after the third act breakup was funny and cringey and I did not want to like it but it entertained me.

Cons: A bunch of the dialogues and tension points were repetitive. The characters keep thinking “oh I shouldn’t do this but I’m attracted to him/her”. It was a little annoying. I also couldn’t care about Winnie’s individual arc. The way her arc ended when they got together after the third act breakup? I do NOT support it.

Overall, a good enough read.

put me in detention by meghan quinn

put me in detention by meghan quinn book cover

Put Me in Detention follows two characters who got married while drunk in Vegas. Cora was on her divorce-cation so she was not looking to stay married. Pike wasn’t either but he accidentally got caught by his dad (whom he hates) so he decides to keep the charade on kind of as a bet.

Pros: The book had lots of banter, prank wars, and comedic scenes. I laughed a bunch. It was also endearing to see Pike become close friends with Kieko. Cora and her two friends also became better friends with Kieko, which was nice to see. The sexual tension between Pike and Cora was done well, especially with the only one bed trope.

Cons: I didn’t like most of the characters. I only liked Pike and Kieko. In fact, I wished Cora was not friends with Kieko because of the way she treated her. The romance itself was alright, nothing great. I could see the third act breakup coming from almost the beginning of the book. It was too predictable.

Overall, it was okay. Not a fan. Might not pick up Meghan Quinn books again soon.

the worst guy by kate canterbary

the worst guy by kate canterbary book cover

Since I enjoyed The Belle and the Beard, Nick rating this book five stars was enough for me to pick it up. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it that much.

Pros: The banter, the romance and relationship growth, and the friend group were nice. I really liked the conversations everyone had. It was funny. The grumpy x sunshine trope here was nice too. Really liked how they grew closer and Sebastian turned out to be a simp. The focus on chronic illness and eating disorders was nice.

Cons: I didn’t care for the characters themselves. In some places, the writing was weird. We’d suddenly get short dark monologues from the characters. I did not like Sebastian’s character arc as “the worst guy who finally got chosen.” The sexual tension was weird too. Either it was non-existent or too much suddenly.

Overall, it was a disappointing read for me.

the tea dragon society trilogy by kay o’niell

the tea dragon society by kay o'niell book cover

These graphic novels have been on my TBR for a long time. When I noticed that they were on KU, I immediately got them. Since my last few books were mediocre and I didn’t want to read another meh romance book, I read these books.

The Tea Dragon Society trilogy books are middle grade books about tea dragons and the people who care for them with very beautiful illustrations. I’m a very amateur digital artist and barely draw well enough for this blog’s graphics. Seeing this book with its beautiful illustrations, I was wowed.

Instead of an adventure-filled story with dragons, this is a cute almost-slice-of-life set of stories with lovely diverse characters. We read about people living their daily lives, building a community, and taking care of cute tea dragons. I highly recommend these books!

single dad seeks juliet by max monroe

single dad seeks juliet by max monroe book cover

Single Dad Seeks Juliet is a really cute single dad The Bachelor-ish romance. Jake has only focused on being best dad ever to his daughter and his business. Now Chloe, in her teen years, has decided that he needs to start dating so she enters him in a Bachelor Anonymous contest. Through it, he meets Holley—a clumsy and spunky woman journalist—who is going to cover his story for the newspaper.

The book is funny, interesting, and entertaining. Jake and Holley hit it off right from the start. Their personalities match really well, the chemistry between them was highly evident, and they’re perfect for each other. Like any couple, they had their ups and downs during their romance but it was great.

The only parts I didn’t like were the third act breakup and the makeup. We could have done without that mess.

best laid plans by l. k. farlow

best laid plans by l. k. farlow book cover

Going into this book, I did not know that it was a secret baby romance. Once I realized it, I was more interested in seeing how the story goes. Unfortunately, the book went downhill from there.

Quick cons:

  • The way Natalie got pregnant did not sit well with me. I’m simply not okay with underage drunken sex which leads to impregnation. Alden was so out of it that he doesn’t remember it at all.
  • The way Alden reacted when he found out that Natalie’s kid is his kid was a wrecking ball for my opinions. I hated it. What a hypocrite.
  • The book was dramatic and made a mess out of everything. That does not work for me at all.
  • I could not care less about the characters in this book, even the kid. I generally like the kids! But the parents were just too much here.
  • I did not care for the romance too.

Pros: none. I do not recommend Best Laid Plans.

fresh meet by jasmin miller

fresh meet by jasmine miller book cover

I have to admit, I one-clicked this because of the title. Although I enjoyed the book, I am sad to report that there is no specific reason or link to this punny title.

Fresh Meet is a single dad and nanny romance. Jace is handed his toddler son out of nowhere and has to learn to be a father. Since he is a busy Olympic swimmer, he hires Millie as a nanny for help.

I liked how slow their relationship development was. They go from professionals to acquaintances to friends and then something more. We also get a ton of touching bonding scenes between Jace and his son which I loved. I wasn’t fond of the last part of the book though.

Overall, a good read. Would recommend.

when the time is right by m. mabie and aly martinez

when the time is right by m. mabie and ally martinez book cover

This is a best-friends-to-lovers romance where they fall in love after fifteen years of being close. This book captures the essence of falling in love with someone who knows you better than yourself.

Hudson has always been there for everybody and has gone above and beyond to support Alexis through her bad times. Now, years later, they’re best friends and the only single ones in their group. They decide to set each other up but things start taking a different turn than expected.

Alexis and Hudson’s banter and comfort level in each other was lovely to see. They both have big personalities which clash in the best way. When they finally get together, everything clicks. This book also has a valid third act breakup which I appreciated.

Overall, I did not expect to like When The Time is Right much but I really liked it.

this is how you lose the time war by amal el-mohtar and max gladstone

this is how you lose the time war book cover

I’ve heard about this book for a while and finally read it in January with my book club. Because I was reading with them on call, I read the book over three Saturdays. Otherwise, I might have finished it in one day because of how gripping it is.

This is How You Lose the Time War is a sci-fi sapphic romance featuring robotic creatures (?) who fall in love via ingenious letters. It took a while for me to get used to the writing style and understand what was happening but I was never bored. The book kept me on the edge with every chapter.

The story progression was amazing. The budding romance was done very well. The letters full of PINING and LOVE were ripping my heart out. The time travel twist at the end was highly satisfying and clever. And all of it in about 200 pages! It is a confusing book but it’s great and I definitely recommend it.

cups of you by karmen lee

cups of you by karmen lee book cover

After a month of varied reading experiences, I managed to end on a good note with Cups of You. This is a grumpy girlboss gf x sunshine barista bf slow burn romance that deserves all the love.

Amber moves back home to take care of her aunt after an injury and ends up having a turning point journey in her life. She meets Benjamin, a charming and sunny coffee shop owner who crushes on her on first sight. They slowly become friends and then good friends and then something more.

The slow relationship development here has my heart. I liked reading about Amber’s epiphany, flaws and growth, especially as a Black woman. The book also discusses manipulative romantic partners through Amber. There was lesser focus on Benjamin’s individual arc but it was still good.

Overall, a cute romance that I highly enjoyed.

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