Since the pandemic started, my reading habits (ability? attention span?) have been all over the place. I sometimes can't get into books at all or have trouble focusing on a particular format. It's incredibly frustrating for someone used to reading multiple books at a time and reading for escape and comfort. For the past month, audiobooks have been my savior again because I've had a hard time focusing on print books. I've had to put a few aside, but I know I'll get back to them once this spell passes. In the meantime, I did read some books I really enjoyed in May.
For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten: I so enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast-esque fantasy romance. For centuries, the tradition has been that the first daughter of the monarch is for the throne and the second is sent to the Wolf of the Wilderwood as a sacrifice to bring back the old gods (of course, we find out that none of this is as straightforward as is believed). Second daughter Red is resigned to her fate (mostly because she wants to protect her sister from her magic), though her sister Neve is not. When Red arrives in the Wood, she finds things are very different than she believed. The fantasy aspects are engrossing as are the themes of sisterhood and sacrifice. And the slow burn romance between Red and the Wolf is wonderful. I'm looking forward to the second book, which just came out this week.
The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley: This was an absolutely delightful queer Regency romance—really charming and fun. We have a slow burn romance that's marketed as f/f (but Tommy—Thomasina—comes across from the way the character presents herself as more nonbinary, maybe, and the cover, though gorgeous, doesn't really show us Tommy as she's described) alongside a fun caper in which Tommy's family and Philippa and friends are trying to keep a friend's uncle from stealing her work and calling it his own. Meanwhile, bluestocking Philippa's parents are trying to marry her off to a titled man for family advancement. I loved Philippa especially and thought Philippa and Tommy together were charming. I don't feel like I know Tommy or the background on Tommy's family as well as I know Philippa, but that could be because this is the second book in the series. Overall, I felt like it could stand alone fine, but I'm going to go back and read the first.
A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P. Djeli Clark: I read one of these novellas in ebook and the other in audio and enjoyed both immensely. There's a novel in this series as well, which I'm grateful for because I want more of the world these shorts gave me a taste of. The world is an early 20th century Cairo filled with magic and supernatural creatures and some steampunk elements. The emergence of djinn into the world has made Egypt a major global power, and the main characters of both novellas are detectives with a supernatural police force solving problems and potentially saving the world.
Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik: I won an ARC of this sci-fi romance, um, a while ago, and I definitely feel bad it's taken me so long to get to it. But it was so good! I got pulled right the story. Tavi is a bounty hunter who takes a job from her sworn enemy because she and her crew desperately need the money. Since the stakes are high (and we find out just how high as the story progresses), he and his team insist on joining the hunt with Tavi and her crew. Tavi and Torran are enemies because there was a massive war between the humans and Torran's alien people. The romance aspect is well done, as trust is slowly built and feelings develop. If you like enemies to lovers, forced proximity, competence porn, and found family, there's a lot to love here. The plot is also fabulously twisty. I can't wait for the second book.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik: A Deadly Education is set at the Scholomance, a somewhat sentient magical school filled with monsters (but no teachers) where magical kids are sent to learn and hopefully survive their adolescence. Relationships in the school are less about friendship and more about strategic alliances for survival inside and the hope for better after. The narrator is El, a prickly, snarky outcast who, when she was a child, was predicted to destroy everything with her massive dark power. She is incredibly powerful, but she doesn't want to bring destruction—even though the school keeps giving her spells for just that. Her voice (and the narrator's performance of it) were wonderfully sarcastic and amusing. It's also delightful to watch her utter confusion as she makes actual friends and builds bonds and ends up with a love interest. There's also an excellent thread about wealth and privilege running through the book. I'm going to be annoyed when I listen the second book in the series and then have to wait for the third!
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl: I had heard good things about this YA mystery/fantasy, so I grabbed it from the library. It took me a while to get through, but I think that was more my lack of reading attention span than anything about the book. The book starts in the aftermath of the death of a girl at an elite boarding school. The police rule it a suicide, but her three best friends don't agree. They, along with their new roommate who has her own agenda, decide to find out what really happened. What they discover is something twisty and magical that has been happening at the school for years and that involves students being the subject of the worst outcomes of fairy tales. By the end of the book, they discover what happened to their friend, but they have a ways to go in what to do about the curse (the second book is out later this year, so I assume all will be resolved there). Picking out the different fairy tales for each character was interesting, and I loved all the queer rep in this book: just among the main characters, two are lesbians, one is biromantic demisexual, and the other is aromantic asexual.
What have you read and loved lately?