Recent Reads, January 2023

I’m pretty proud of the variety in the books that I read this month – some romances, a (much-hyped!) memoir, a fantasy sequel, and some literary fiction. Sometimes I tend to get obsessed with one genre and go in hard, but I really do enjoy so many different types of books! Here’s everything I read in January.

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo

This is the sequel to Ninth House, where we were introduced to the world of Yale, but a Yale where the secret societies are actually engaged in dark magic, and Ninth House keeps watch over them all. Alex, Darlington, and Dawes are all stewards of Ninth House, but Darlington has been stolen and taken to Hell, and Alex and Dawes are committed to bringing him back. Alex is willing to do whatever it takes, and has to secretly work through a series of complex and ancient books and puzzles, all without any help from Ninth House leadership. The puzzles take them to some very dark places and force them to confront their innermost truths and secrets. I liked this more than Ninth House, but know that it’s not a lighthearted magical story!

Spare by Prince Harry

I don’t feel that this one needs much of an introduction! I know that there are excerpts of this book in so many places, but I will say I think it’s really important to read the whole thing, because context is so important – some of the pieces that seemed so shocking really weren’t salacious at all within the greater context of the story. I felt like I learned the most about the family side of the Royal Family, and how lonely it seemed for Prince Harry – how he spent a lot of his life searching for genuine connections to people. The book felt a little long at times – I was not the hugest fan of the parts about war, but that’s a personal preference – but overall, it did really feel like I was learning about Prince Harry’s story from Prince Harry himself, and there’s real power in that.

Everything for You by Chloe Liese

This book, and the next four, are all part of the Bergman Brothers series – a series of romances about brothers (and sisters!) of the Bergman family. So if they seem slightly similar, that’s why! My favorite part about this series is that they all have different disability representation, written with real care. Also – I’m sharing them in descending order – this is the 5th book in the series. Oliver is a golden boy soccer star, constantly at odds with his older, veteran teammate Gavin… who Oliver actually idolized as a kid because he was the out, gay soccer star that Oliver dreamed of being. Now that they play for the same team, their opposite personalities put them constantly at odds… but we all know that opposites attract. It’s loosely Ted Lasso inspired, and has numerous Hamilton references. I loved!

With You Forever by Chloe Liese

Axel is an artist who lives an almost hermit-like existence in a small cabin on his family’s property in the woods, and Rooney is his sister-in-law’s bubbly, cheerful best friend who has had a (semi-hidden) crush on him for… forever. Axel’s had a case of artist block for a few months, only able to paint the same subject over and over and over, and is desperately in need of money to finish renovations on his family’s property. He finds out he’s named in an uncle’s will, but can only inherit if he’s married. When Rooney comes to stay at the Bergman family property, it seems like too good of a coincidence. Is it just a marriage of convenience, or is there a real connection?

Ever After Always by Chloe Liese

Freya and Aiden have been married for a few years, but lately, Freya feels like she doesn’t know her husband at all anymore… and is losing herself, too. She’s struggling with infertility, and feels like she’s losing her husband and herself at the same time. She kicks Aiden out, but agrees to let him come back home and go to marriage counseling. While they make small steps in their marriage, they’re suddenly thrown together for a week-long vacation to celebrate Freya’s parents’ anniversary. Will their newly-found happiness survive once they leave the vacation bubble?

Always Only You by Chloe Liese

Frankie works the social media for the hockey team that Ren Bergman plays on. Frankie and Ren have always been friendly-ish, but Ren knows that while they’re working and playing for the same team, nothing more can happen. And Frankie is dealing with some emotional baggage around a medical diagnosis that makes her feel like more of a burden than a potential romantic partner. But when a break-in at her place forces Frankie and Ren to become roommates for a few days, they start growing closer and closer. I really related to many of Frankie’s emotional struggles, and appreciated how carefully her character was handled.

Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese

Willa is a soccer star at her university, and when she misses a class because of a game, her professor tells her to get notes from a classmate, Ryder (who is actually his brother-in-law). When she asks him for notes, he basically ignores her, and she immediately starts planning war… only to find out that he actually didn’t hear her because he’s hard-of-hearing. The professor then makes Willa and Ryder partners for a semester-long project, and war escalates with little pranks, one after the other, on both sides. But of course, as the two start to spend more and more time together outside of class, the line between love and war gets blurrier and blurrier.

The Skin and Its Girl by Sarah Cypher

I got an ARC of this book through Netgalley – it will be released on April 25, 2023. This is a beautifully written novel centered around Betty, a queer, Palestinian-American woman who is born with blue skin – a vibrant blue that is the same color of the soap that became the family legacy. The story starts with Betty visiting her aunt’s grave, trying to decide if she should stay in America or follow her lover to another country. From there, to figure out the answer, Betty unravels the many mysteries around her aunt’s life, learning about the many secrets she kept hidden for years. It’s a story about identity and love, and is all woven together in such a beautiful way.

The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev

I really enjoyed this story about three generations of Indian women, all pushing the boundaries and conventions of their lives in some way. Bindu has recently moved into a retirement community, and is shocked to find that she’s been named in the will of another community member and is set to inherit a sizeable sum. But at the same time, a secret from her past – that she’s successfully kept hidden for decades – is threatening to come to light. Bindu’s daughter-in-law, Aly, is on-air talent at a local news station and feels like she might finally have her big break as she’s able to score an exclusive interview with Meryl Streep, who is filming in town – but the station wants someone else (….non-Indian) to cover the story instead. And Cullie, Aly’s daughter, just found out her business partner and ex went behind her back at work, and in a moment of anger, Aly promised a new app. When she decides to create a new kind of dating app, who better to beta test it than her own family? The stories all come together, and it was the kind of thing I could see being turned into a movie really easily.

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