February is here! I had some big reading goals set up for January but sadly, the pandemic reached my house and I had to keep everything on the backburner to focus on my health. Now I’m definitely more enthusiastic for this month, having come back from a long break, ready to tackle my TBR. If you’re curious about my thoughts on what I’ve recently read and what I’m currently reading, this post might be fun!
Recently Read — Only a Monster, A Mystery at Lili Villa, Not Here to be Liked, How to Survive a Modern-Day Fairy Tale
In August 2020, when I first came across the announcement for this debut, I knew I was going to love it. I mean, monsters, rival families, and a paranormal world hidden within London? They clearly sound perfect for a fantasy that promises a certain darkness. And then luckily, I landed an early copy in November of last year, so you can imagine the excitement I held. Sadly, as it happens with every book you anticipate too much, I didn’t prioritize this upcoming release because I was nervous about not liking it. Love how wrong I was! Only a Monster by Vanessa Len blew away my mind; it left me both happy and sad, heartbroken and hopeful, at the end; and I absolutely can’t wait for the sequel. This YA fantasy gave me everything I admire: time travel, unconventional monster-hero narratives, a romance treading enemy soulmates and enemies-to-lovers, and twists that actually surprise. Clearly, it’s now one of my absolute favorites.
I felt a similar emotional rush of cheering for a female main character as I read another debut, this time a YA rom-com. Not Here to be Liked by Michelle Quach wasn’t initially on my radar but when its cover was revealed in February 2021, I was impressed. I mean, look at that gorgeous design by Molly Fehr and dare tell me the art isn’t pulling you in. Then, in September of last year, I came across one of the author’s interviews—Q/A with We Need Diverse Books—and appreciated how Quach said she wanted the story “to be a starting point for some interesting discussions” around feminism, especially in a time where it’s expected to identify as a feminist but often entails a lot of mixed messaging. Funny how that’s exactly what I ended up loving in this fiction. It’s been two days since I finished reading it but I’m still amazed by how wonderfully it targeted institutionalized sexism, girl-on-girl hate, familial pressures, and gender stereotypes.
Surprisingly, I hadn’t read any middle-grade fiction since 2022 started despite always prioritizing them for how they bring a wave of calmness. Understandably, my January had been chaotic af. Anyway, I did pick up my first read of the year from that demographic: A Mystery at Lili Villa by Arathi Menon. Children playing detective is always cute but this mystery set in a small town in Kerala, India was a winner with that nostalgic feel of desi summer vacations and yummy food descriptions.
Unfortunately, my streak of good reads was disrupted by my very first read of February. What I hoped to pick up was a good romantic retelling but what it ended up being was a disappointment. Welcome my first two-star read of the year, How to Survive a Modern-Day Fairy Tale by Elle Cruz. When you say Cinderella is going to be retold with a diverse cast in a contemporary setting, you should know I expect a flirty and fun rom-com that’s definitively refreshing because come on, isn’t Cinderella the most common, overused fairy tale? I initially got interested because of that beautiful, striking cover (sadly, I’m unable to find the artist behind it) and was retaught the lesson: don’t judge a book by its cover. Though, to be honest, I don’t think the writing was a problem and the theme of family or culture making a subtle impact on one’s dreams is always a hit for me, so I might be interested in what Cruz writes next. But *sighs* I think this adult romance simply had too many tropes and clichés that I personally dislike.
Currently Reading — A River Enchanted, Love Times Infinity, Love Marriage, Like a Love Song
I woke up yesterday morning to the wonderful HarperVoyager granting my Netgalley wish for A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross and was surprised because I didn’t even remember wishing for it. Must have been one of those impulsive clicks on the ‘wish for it’ buttons when the cover looks great; something I don’t have to prove, I mean, look at those colors by Ali Al Amine! So I read the synopsis and was promised a fast-paced plot with a compelling world building — now doesn’t that sound like exactly what I want in my fantasy books? If you’re wondering, yeah, characters can always take a backseat for me, I don’t care. Then I saw the author telling how this book got shelved under the adult demographic because she wanted to write “characters in their 20s” as they navigated career, marriage, and losing faith; and I was suddenly very much interested in the characters too. Understandably, I began reading it yesterday night and I’m already *enchanted* by this Scottish fantasy unravelling on magical isles despite the fact that I rarely enjoy SFF set in or around the sea.
What I do confidently enjoy in February is romance and in fact, even save some of the most exciting recent romantic releases for this month because yes, living thematically is a vibe. So it’s no surprise that I’m currently reading three romance novels at the same time. To be fair, they are quite different from each other and that distinction is making my reading experience even more enjoyable.
First up is Love Times Infinity by Lane Clarke and the writing in this one is already inspiring me and cackling me up, both at the same time. You all should know I’m always excited for ambitious girls and soft boys; and you all should know how strongly I cheer when the two find love. So when the blurb hinted at a girl busy with big dreams having a big crush on the new basketball superstar who is a cinnamon roll, you all should know I rushed towards it. Of course, the high school setting is an added delight — probably the only American thing you would find my Global South soul admiring to some degree, but I digress. Basically, I have high hopes and they’re being met at a steady pace, which is even more exciting when an interview with the author is on its way to this blog!
Monica Ali, the author of Brick Lane which was shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. You can’t expect me to not jump at the opportunity of reading her fifth novel early. Said to be “exploring the shifting dynamics of a British Bangladeshi family” by The Scotsman, it’s no surprise that I’m here for everything raw and complex Love Marriage by Monica Ali is promising. I’m almost halfway through and I can see how excellently Ali is navigating identity, family, fidelity, and dismantling the dichotomy of what’s right or wrong. The theme of being immersed in cultures and opening up to new ones is a little too close to my heart so I’m also enjoying reading this novel for that. Plus, I’ve noticed South Asian adult literary fiction set in contemporary Britain often impresses me, as seen with my views on The Family Tree — must be the past of colonization, but again, I digress.
It was September 2020 when I first came across this debut and was excited for its release almost a year later. Thankfully, I even got an early copy around its publication in August 2021, but unfortunately, the biggest reading slump I had ever been in had affected my enthusiasm for picking up this book. Almost six months later, I’ve decided to finally start reading this YA contemporary romance and I will have to credit one of my January reads — If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales & Cale Dietrich — for leaving me with this *need* for some modern tales navigating fame, media, celebrity romances, and the pop industry, because Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins is surely giving me all of that.
And that’s a wrap on my first weekly reading check-in! Let me know if this content is something you’re liking or if you have some more fun ideas. I loved sharing my recent and current reads; tell me in the comments below what you’re reading right now. Any favorites you want me to check out? Feel free to leave them too. As for what I might pick up next, You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao, The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights by Alexandria Rogers, A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth, and The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan are high on the list.