Soooo this blog was originally going to full of mid-year thoughts, but there are a couple reasons that's not happening. Uhhh, for one, it's August and I procrastinated... and two, the article got very long when I started writing down all my thoughts about what I read this year.
So, we're getting a few articles instead. Here to kickstart my review of this year so far are my favorite reads of early 2022. I've got a pretty wide array of books on the top of the list; contemporary romance to historical fiction, with some magic in between.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
The thing about Emily Henry? She writes the same general plot every time (not that I don't love tropes)... but Book Lovers is the best version yet.
This version is about a literally agent and an editor who meet as colleagues when Nora is having a REALLY bad day, and they do not click whatsoever. She's frazzled and over-the-top, he's stoic and disinterested (and belittling). Nora leaves with zero intention of never speaking to the well-respected editor again, even when the industry brings them into the same sphere. She's proud of the cutesy romance novels and authors she represents, while he's obviously looking for what he'd call "real literature."
Nora's entire life revolves around work. She often doesn't have time for other people and really doesn't make too much of an effort outside her small group. Despite this, she's not an overly cold character and as a friend pointed-out, she's not worried about being "not like other girls." She's focused on her own life, often to the point that people say she works too much. When her sister asks her to take a break from work and join her on a little vacation to the famous location in Nora's best-selling book, Nora forces herself to work remotely.
Sunshine Falls is nothing like it was in the book, but Nora's determined to embrace the town for Libby's sake. They make the most of the kitschy little adventure, diving into the sleepy, rough-around-the-edges town.
We all saw it coming, but [enter Charlie stage left]. For details on what happens after that, you can read it and figure out what happens when the two meet up in Sunshine Falls.
It's hard for me to talk about Book Lovers because I can't think of a way to quantify what I liked about the book. I found Nora and Charlie to be refreshingly open in the way they interacted. Despite the fact they didn't get along at the start, there was no drawn out "ugh I hate you." They adapted and could recognize that each of them are really good at what they do. They communicated, which I can't say for a lot of romance books. It led to respect, genuine friendship, and really funny banter.
Prince of the Sorrows by Kellen Graves
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.5)
This fantasy novel was the best surprise this year. I found it during a deep-dive on Barnes and Noble when I was looking for new releases. It's an indie-pub that gets printed on-demand (only when someone wants one), but it's so worth ordering online and the wait while it arrive.
Prince of the Sorrows is a high-fey novel where young changelings are raised in the fey world and must work to secure patronage to stay there as they "age out." They're given few rights and treated like less than people. Our protagonist, Saffron, is desperate to prove his worth and secure patronage so he doesn't have to return to the human realm, where his parents are terrified of him.
Working at a university for the fey, he crosses paths with young Prince Sylvan. Humans are at the mercy of the fey, and Saffron is confronted by this truth when Saffron accidentally learns the Prince's true name and is at risk of being killed to keep the secret.
Prince of the Sorrows is a fun, well-written take on the fairie story. The world is utterly unique despite the general plot, and the power imbalance makes for an interesting relationship between snarky Saffron and the angry prince. The characters are both well-rounded and the relationship builds realistically.
Book two comes out later this year, and I'll drop whatever ever I'm doing to read it. Check out my longer review of Prince of the Sorrows for more info about the writing style, the relationship, and what knocked this a half-step down from a five-star review.
All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody & Christine Herman
It is soooo hard to decide on a favorite book for this year so far. I loved each of them for different reasons. All of Us Villains really stood out because the twists and turns. It's honestly The Hunger Games meets The Addams Family meets Jade City by Fonda Lee. It takes my favorite magical aspects from Jade City and changes them into curses and charms that serve the same purpose as the gifts sent from sponsors in The Hunger Games.
The different magical lineage families bid for the curse and spell makers to sponsor them when they compete in a competition to the death. Whoever becomes the champion earns their family the ability to use High Magick for another 10 years.
I really loved the element of trying to win over spell and curse makers. There are only so many families who have magic, and each member has their own abilities, but the spells and curses elevate their ability to survive in the competition and really showed what each family's reputation is.
There were a lot of twists in this book that I didn't see coming - one in particular that I literally gasped over - which was a big deal for me because I'm rarely surprised. Each of the POV was interesting and their voices were so distinct (something that should often be done well when there are multiple authors but isn't always).
Book two is my most highly anticipated release, and it comes out THIS month. Thrilled. Absolutely cannot wait for All of Our Demise.
The Red Palace by June Hur
The Red Palace is something that I bought originally and then didn't read right away. It sat on my coffee table for a good month as I read more and more of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.
When I finally came back to this novel, I was in love with it (I would've regretted waiting had I not enjoyed the BDB series so much). But this book has been haunting me, and I haven't found anything else (available) to staunch the book hangover.
The Red Palace takes place in 1758 during the Joseon Dynasty in Korea. The novel follows Baek-hyeon, who is an 18-year-old illegitimate daughter shunned by her high-class father (because she wasn't born a boy). Desperate to prove her worth, Hyeon earned a place as a prestigious palace nurse. Soon, however, Hyeon gets dragged into the treachery and deceit of palace life.
When four young women are killed at the town's nursing center where Hyeon was raised and trained, she becomes determined to discover who murdered them and prove the innocence of her mentor and friend. Even when signs begin to point to the crown prince.
Hyeon's investigation soon merges with that of a young, renowned and mystery-shrouded detective. Recognizing Hyeon's intelligence and the fresh insight she can bring to his search for answers (and her unwlllingness to protect herself by quitting the investigation), he asks her to work with him.
Granted I don't know enough to tell how spot on the accuracy was, but I felt that I had a really clear view of the "atmosphere" of the novel. I could visualize the dress style and the societal norms were explained clearly. Related to that, the writing was well-written overall. I could feel the tension Hyeon struggled with. I could understand her motivation for everything she did. Her character grew.
This got a bit long, but if you want to see a more detailed review of The Red Palace, check out my full review!