Courtship Tag

Hello hello hello! Back again with another tag while I get a handle on my reviews. I can’t remember where I first saw this since the draft has been sitting unfinished for the past year (yeah, sorry – at least I’m honest about having been trash?), but credit to whoever came up with it.

Please also appreciate that I spent a good 20 minutes trying to choose the best romance image from medieval manuscripts (this one’s from the love poetry of the fourteenth-century German Codex Manesse) because the history buff in me got way too excited about the word ‘courtship’. Aaaaand now we’re going to move on before I start rambling about medieval romance…

Phase 1: Initial Attraction a book that you bought because of the cover

Okay, to be clear here a lot of the books I’ve read for the cover have not delivered on its gorgeous promise. If you read my review of Tangled Webs by Lee Bross way back when (click here), you could see exactly how heartbroken I was about this—the lacy beauty of the cover sucked me into what would up being a subpar ‘spy’ novel too driven by insta-love to really hit home. Still, it’s one of my favourites to own because of how it looks on my bookshelf.

Content aside, isn’t that just stunning?

Phase 2: First Impressions a book you got because of the summary

Well this is most of the books I own so that’s tough. I’ll go with By Your Side by Kasie West or The Librarian and the Spy by Susan Mann. The descriptions of both drew me in instantly because of a sort of kinship I felt with the characters/dream to be the characters: By Your Side (turned out okay) has a teen trapped in the library with an attractive classmate–basically my Nirvana–and The Librarian and the Spy (turned out surprisingly great!), as it is so aptly named, has a reference librarian caught up in an international 007 affairs. I’ll be honest, it didn’t really matter the ratings or the content for these since I just had to get my hands on them regardless.

Phase 3: Sweet Talk a book with great writing

I read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi ages ago but I finally opened up the sequel the other day and remembered how much I loved reading Mafi’s writing! The way she manipulates words and grammar conventions has an almost poetic quality and adds so much to Juliette’s character, with the pace and tone perfectly matching the MC’s emotion. Love love love.

Phase 4: First Date a first book of a series which made you want to pursue the rest of the series

One of my darkest bookish secrets is that I am HORRIBLE at finishing series. I blame this majorly on an insanely busy schedule that as a general rule seems to weed out anything I love in life, and partially on a huge TBR of first books I feel guilty not reading and have no space to keep. The result: no matter how much I love and am dying to read a series, chances are I won’t have the time to finish it before I forget about it.

I SUCK.

Still, there are a number of books that even forgetting about them doesn’t make me forget them and the top of that list is probably The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Have I read the sequel yet? No. Do I internally sob every time I remember that I haven’t? Yes.

Phase 5: Late Night Phone Call a book that kept you up all night long

I can’t decide whether this is about staying up all night because you can’t put it down or because it has you too freaked out to sleep, so I’m choosing one that was both. I read Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter and was instantly obsessed with the storyline and the romance and the zombies to the point of utterly forgoing sleep–in fact, I think this was one of my first up-till-5am-before-school reads. On top of that, my freshly fifteen-year-old self was so unnerved by the zoms hanging outside Ali’s bedroom windows that about every 20mins I’d pop out of bed, press myself against my door (I had no lock) with my ear to the wood making sure I heard no footsteps, then scurry back into bed as far from my window as possible. Clearly, even moderate horror was never my thing.

Phase 6: Always On My Mind a book you could not stop thinking about

Generally, the books I can’t stop thinking about = relationships I can’t stop swooning over, whether in some saccharine contemporary romance or a fantasy’s forbidden enemies-lovers affair. But instead, for this I’m choosing Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross because the story and the relationship in this are so entwined that thinking about one always means thinking about the other. I’m a sucker for fairytales, particularly of the Grimm variety, and Cross’ unique approach to some of my all-time favourite stories PLUS the couple’s will-it-even-happen slow-burn have had it stuck in my brain on loop since I read it a almost a decade ago.

Phase 7: Getting Physical a book you love the feeling of

Easy: Talon by Julie Kagawa. I may not have enjoyed the book as much as I’d hoped I would–though I may give it another try some time–the embossed dragon scales on the cover gave the whole reading experience extra oomph.

Phase 8: Meet the Parents a book you’d recommend to friends and family

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. This book, alongside Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, were what really turned me into a reader. I think the complexity of City of Bones in terms of the world created with also the simplicity of its fantasy storyline make it both accessible and intriguing enough to pull in my non-reader family while intricate enough to impress any of my reader friends who’ve yet to try them.

Phase 9: Dream About the Futurea series you know you’ll reread many times in the future

I will confess, I am not so much of a rereader. Though I will reread certain favourite parts of favourite books (not going to lie, it’s usually the moment the love interest and MC finally get together), I don’t like to read something when I know exactly what is going to happen, and with my memory, it could be years since I’ve read something and I’ll still recall the details. This is also why spoilers are the literal bane of my existence. Barring that, I would love to at some point get around to re-reading the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, since A) I’m a slut for mythology and could use a refresher and B) it’s been a solid decade or more since my last time reading them so I’ve forgotten enough to make it shiny and new again.

Phase 10: Share the Love – tag people!

Since I myself stumbled upon this without being tagged, I tag anyone else who wants to do it! Wishing you a successful and deeply romantic novel-filled courtship, my bibliophilic friends.

Top 5 Tuesday: UVWXYZ

Well, thank you technology and my utter absence of luck for WIPING MY DRAFT and making me write this whole thing over. I only just got back from Disney last night so the re-writing couldn’t happen until the flight had landed. But hey–here it is.

This Top 5 Tuesday is made possible by a lot of cheating. Turns out I’ve read…no books for a bunch of these letters, which had been my fear and made choosing matching books a whole heck of a lot tougher. A note to authors: please start naming books with poor, neglected letters like XYZ to make our little reader challenge lives easier.

Aaaaanyway, let’s get to this alphabet chaos.

U:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and Undead by Kirsty McKay

Surprisingly, I found multiple good U books for this top pick! In a classic Indecisive Brittney move–and in major part due to the utter failure of my last three letters and sheer excitement at finding ones to match the category rules–I opted not to choose and instead to pick both.

The first one is Unspoken, the first of the Lynburn Legacy trilogy and set in the magic-laden English Cotswolds (an adorable setting, secluded and small enough to make the eerie magic bite believable). With an investigative heroine, delightfully awkward romance, silly jokes and dashes of dark magic, blood ties, murders, corruption, and secrets, the book is a gothic fantasy treasure.

My other pick, Undead, is a playful laugh-out-loud take on a zombie outbreak featuring some freaky veggie juice and a ragtag group of teens stuck on the worst possible school trip. What I liked most about this is that the elements are really well-balanced–the humour and the action, alongside the light romance and friendship themes, complement each other seamlessly. While I was holding my gut laughing, my heart was also pounding in suspense

V:

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

None of my V options were necessarily favourite books but nearly all of them were decent. Vampire Academy gets my pick because I really enjoyed the friendship between Lissa and Rose and it was a very good introduction to Mead’s vampire world and the following books. I haven’t yet finished the series but I have thoroughly enjoyed all the magic dark vamp-y goodness that I’ve read so far!

W:

(The) Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

Flashback to when I reviewed this in a spoiler-y book talk on BookTube (click here to watch) and kept raving about how hot yet deeply confusing Khalid is! I loved this book since I opened it–the setting is beautiful, the writing is beautiful, the story is beautiful, the magic is beautiful. I still haven’t read the second book because I am lame, but I smile every time I see this one on my shelf just waiting for a reread.

X:

(E)Xquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios

Ooookay, here the cheating begins. Turns out, I have read a total of ZERO books that start with X, none that have a word beginning with X, and precious few that have an X in them at all. I’m trying to keep somewhat with the categories still so I’m picking the book with an X earliest in the title! Exquisite Captive follows a jinni (genie of sorts) in her attempts to gain freedom and return to her magical homeland. As if it weren’t enough that it’s inspired by Arabian Nights and filled with Arabic legend and magic–two things I find absolutely fascinating–everything in the book is rich, sensual and utterly captivating.

Y:

(M)Y Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris

Oh look! I also haven’t read any Y books! My Lady’s Choosing is my pick for this a) because it has the earliest Y and the most Ys in the title and b) because it was absolutely hilarious! This is one ridiculous romp of a CYOA romance. You get to ‘play’ as a lusty 19th-century heroine on her hunt for love through a ton of Victorian love story tropes made all the more hilarious the descriptions of her experiences. There are like 8 different possible love interest with multiple different endings and multiple different ways to get there and I am unashamed to confess I read every. single. one!

Z:

(Cra)Zy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

To end this month off, I’m cheating again because there are no Z books I’ve read either! Sidenote: I’m actually super disappointed at this and will now be on the hunt for books starting with XYZ so I can finish off this alphabet thang. Anyway! Crazy Rich Asians at least has a Z (that’s zed to me, btw) in and the fact that it was also a great book made this choice rather easy! The story and setting were just so much fun that it’s impossible not to have this one pop up somewhere in this tops list.

Mid-Year Freak Out

Hello again, my lovely bookworms! Super SUUUUPER long time no post. Very sorry about that – life got crazy and then work got really tough (three jobs at once is NOT good for you) then my last year of university got absolutely ridiculous and a lot of things fell by the wayside. I’m still working through this whole Time Management thing when it comes to hobbies…

Anyway, even though this is late, I figured the best way to jump back in would be little look at what I’ve been reading (and not reading) this year so far. Nothing could be more apt of a description than “Freak Out” because I am most definitely not where I want to be this year. Most of what I’ve been reading are thick history books for my research and some English classics for my other classes, so in the realm of fiction I am most certainly behind. Still, I’ve read some good novels the past few months, so let’s unpack those.

Best Book You’ve Read So Far

To be honest, I haven’t yet been totally wowed with a book this year, so this one is a bit of a cheat. For best book I’m choosing Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell, which is a book I’ve only recently started but am already hooked on. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, and the writing is hilarious but in a surprisingly beautiful and entirely fitting way. I may only be a little bit into it–and I know these things can change with the flip of a page–but just the first few chapters have already instantly hooked me on Kellen’s character and his plight. Soooo, though it may not be the best book I’ve read per se, it’s the book that has gotten me most excited this year while reading.

Favourite Sequel This Year

This one goes to Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren, which was a contender for Best Book until I cracked open Spellslinger. The final book in Christina Lauren’s Wild Seasons series, Wicked Sexy Liar follows the arguably most intriguing couple, Luke and London, who are unique in that both of them are kind of ‘whatever’ on the whole concept of love and dating at the outset. I felt that these two had the easiest chemistry and most natural progression of the series’ four couples. Rather than dealing with one major WOAH moment issue in their relationship, as I feel most of these contemporary romances do, Luke and London struggle their way through and actually talk about their moments of struggle, which made it more real than the hot Vegas drunken wedding one-night-stands of the other books. Oh plus it’s swoon-worthy and definitely hot so, ya know, there’s also THAT.

New Release You Haven’t Read but Really Want to

Wow, this is tough. Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren and I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella (started but unfinished!) are strong contenders, but I’ll have to go with Nocturna by Maya Motayne. I’ve recently been moving a bit from YA into Adult Fantasy and general NA, which is part of the reason I think I haven’t picked this up yet but I’ve been dying to read it since the second I saw it on the Indigo New & Hot table. Not only does the premise of mobsters, magic, face-shifting, and thievery seem immensely cool, the setting of a Latinx-inspired fantasy world is new and exciting, something definitely not done enough. Also, I’m heading into my Masters degree this fall to study culture and literature in medieval Spain, so anything I encounter with that kind of inspiration is an auto-buy.

Most Anticipated Book for the Rest of the Year

My most anticipated read for the remainder of the year has to be Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. Now, unlike most of the screaming GoodReads commenters excited to have another Bardugo book, I STILL have not read any of the Grisha books and have minimal expectations regarding the author aside from the fact that she’s apparently amazing. But you know what I KNOW seems amazing? THE PREMISE. Though mystery and murder aren’t typically my thing, occultism and secret societies most definitely are. Especially with ghosts. I’ll probably have to pass on sleeping, but seriously, give me the ghosts.

Biggest Disappointment

This one made me so upset! I downloaded Summer on the Italian Lakes by Lucy Coleman because an erotica author finding love with a historian on a writing retreat A) sounded adorably fun and B) combines literally all my major passions–history, romance, writing–into a single couple. HOWEVER. The relationship was neither what I was expecting nor particularly romantic. The progression didn’t feel entirely natural and went far too quickly, and the relationship consisted primarily of the hopeless romantic MC giving up on the romance she’s always wanted in favour of her beau’s mindset of practicality. I kept waiting for her to clue in and realize that GOOD RELATIONSHIPS DON’T FORCE THIS MUCH SACRIFICE but alas. Not really my style. Full review to come.

Biggest Surprise

I grabbed Listen to Me by Kristin Proby on sale from Kobo for my vacation, not really expecting anything beyond the standard lusty romance. The novel turned out to be a hidden gem! There was significantly more substance and less random sex than I was expecting, the MCs are real and flawed and had well-developed stories beyond just their relationship, and the plethora of supporting characters are involved enough for you to grow attached to their stories without it eclipsing the main plot. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series!

Favourite Debut or New-to-You Author

Since Spellslinger is my first of Sebastian de Castell’s novels and it already has me hooked, I think I’ll have to give this one to him. Plus, after a brief glance over his author website, I not only want to read his books, I want to BE him. Castell, if you ever read this, bards are indeed the best!

New Fictional Crush

Luke Sutter from Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren. Like I said, Luke and London have quite the different relationship from the others of the series. While I wouldn’t necessarily say my fondness for Luke hits quite Rhysand crush proportions, his charm and humour, relentless pursuit—in an endearing, not overly hunter way—and genuine attempts to work through his issues still had me swooning and rooting for him the whole way. Sex aside, Luke’s one hell of a catch.

New Favourite Character

The concept of Lingerie Wars by Janet Elizabeth Henderson on its own is a little unconventional: two lingerie shop owners–one, a local ex-lingerie supermodel, the other, a newcomer ex-military man–enter a fierce rivalry for the monopoly on knicker sales in a small Scottish town. It’s probably one of the quirkier takes on the competition hate-to-love trope that I’ve read, and with that came some of the quirkiest characters that I’ve read in a while. My favourite this year would have to be Betty, the 90-something resident troublemaker with a mean streak. Though a supporting character, she dives headlong into the lingerie shenanigans, resulting in some of the most ridiculous mishaps possible. The book itself is hilarious, but Betty’s craziness really bring all of it together.

Book that Made You Cry

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young. Not many books this year yet have made me particularly emotional, but reading about orphaned Joss dealing with the loss of her parents made my heart ache for the character. Though the tragedy struck far before the events of the book, Joss moves miles forward on the healing front over the course of the book, but seeing how deeply their absence still affects her and how much grief she still hadn’t dealt with is pretty saddening.

Book that Made You Happy

Definitely My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris! This book was such a light and cute read that I couldn’t help but leave it grinning. There were points when it felt rather young, and definitely parts when the history major in me wanted to scream WELL OBVIOUSLY at the MC, but the love story is so genuinely wholesome that despite some minor quips, I finished it on a high.

Favourite Book-to-Movie Adaptation You’ve Seen This Year

Haven’t seen any this year yet! However, I am excited to start the TV show for A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness when I finally finish the book. I’ve been waiting to see this supernatural side of Oxford for probably my whole life.

Favourite Blog Post You’ve Published This Year

Well… this one? And here I say “Sorry!!” again that this is my only post so far.

Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought or Received This Year

Prettiest book would be City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s not particularly stunning (though the physical copy is nicer than the photo suggests) but there’s something about the cover that feels silky and seductive and makes me want to climb inside and float around in the feathers.

Some Books You Need to Read by the End of the Year

Oh geez. Well, first I definitely want to finish Spellslinger and probably get started on de Castell’s swashbuckling Greatcoats series, starting with Traitor’s Blade. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is a must so I can watch the show. I also figure it’s high time that I read the Grisha books so Smoke and Bone–and hopefully the rest of that trilogy plus the Six of Crows books–is next on the list. I’m also currently reading I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and a friend lent me YOU by Caroline Kepnes and Verity by Colleen Hoover, so I want to get through those too. I could keep this list going endlessly but I’ll stop there for now!

Best of luck to all of you also meeting your reading goals for the next few months, and may those odds be ever in our favour!

My Blind Date with a Book

Hello, all you beautiful humans!

Who here has read a Blind Date book?

For anyone who doesn’t know, blind book dates are usually orchestrated by libraries and bookstores around Valentine’s Day, and essentially consist of a mysterious book wrapped up with a clue on the front.

In case you haven’t already noticed, I did not read this in February when I was supposed to. I also did not post this in February when I meant to.

I’m a queen of library renewals and disappointment.

Aaaaanyway, I’d never done one before, so I figured I’d give it a go this year. I am very much a judge-a-book-by-the-blurb-and-cover girl–AKA the absolute OPPOSITE of the whole going-in-blind thing–so this was very much something I am not at all used to.

The book I turned out to have gotten is The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg. When when I picked it up, it was covered in brown paper packaging (tied up with strings! These are a few of my favourite things!), labelled “It’s a 5-Star fluff with a little protein to make it stick.”

Clearly, that tells me NOTHING except that it’s probably contemporary. I’m still not entirely sure what possessed me to go “yeah! Let’s definitely pick the most ambiguous clue for the first time you’re doing this!”

I wanted to guess things! I had nothing to guess!

I decided, against my usual grain, that I would not look up the title and read the blurb, that instead I would go in totally blind. So in the book about a 40th high school reunion, I first had to piece out oh they’re all seniors, oh they’re from high school, oh it’s a reunion.

It’s an interesting experience to have gone in without any reservations at all, and I found it largely freeing that I didn’t have any expectations, meaning I couldn’t so easily be disappointed. Also, everything was a surprise. Blurbs will often contain or allude to spoilers, presumably as a way of hooking their readers, but then twist ceases to be a twist! The shock isn’t shocking! This time I had ZERO spoilers, and had to piece everything and everyone out as I went. I didn’t know about, as the description states, “Candy Armstrong, the class beauty,” I just knew everyone was jealous of her or wanted her, meaning okay she’s probably the cheerleader.

A downside I found was that I couldn’t get excited about something that was going to happen. I mean, okay, if two characters are gonna end up together, I kinda want to know about it! To anticipate it! Get pumped about it! But I didn’t, so I couldn’t, which didn’t affect me as much as it could have but bugged me more than I, who hates spoilers, might care to admit.

The book itself at the end was pretty good. It definitely took some getting used to the seniors acting like sex-starved teenagers and superficiality of some of the characters, but as the novel progressed it showed more and more depth, offering not only a picture of nostalgia, but also the reality of coping with life coming to an end. I gave it 4/5.

As an experience, the blind date thing was neat. I’m not entirely sure if I’d do it again, and the book wasn’t exactly my usual style, but I found the whole ordeal (yes, ordeal) more fun that I’d anticipated!

Maybe come next Valentine’s Day, it’ll be a solid alternative to my nonexistent love life–who needs a real date when you’ve got a book? 😉