musings, wrap up

February 2021 Wrap Up and TBR

Hi friends! I can’t believe it’s already the end of February, can you? My, does time fly by quickly! Maybe it’s because this month is a shorter month, but month #2 of 2021 has already just gone by.

I hope this month has been at least a mildly good one for you. Even if you’re cooped up inside like I am, at least we always have different worlds to immerse ourselves in through what we read, hmm?

So today, I am posting what I’ve read this last month, and the ones I hope to be getting to really soon.

What have I read this month?

I would say this is a good month for me in terms of reading numbers. I find it hard to read super fast while juggling full-time work, socializing with people I care about and rest. But I definitely savored and enjoyed a number of these.

Here are the superlatives befitting some of these titles.

Favourite book: Lore by Alexandra Bracken

I never expected to love this book as much as I did. While I like Greek mythologies, they don’t hold any special place in my heart or anything. But the perfect blend of lore (aha, see what I did there?), pacing, characterization and unexpected twists just hit me in all the right places. I could barely put it down (even during my lunch breaks from work)! Review for this will be coming out REALLY soon so stay tuned!

Most surprising book: Influence by Sara Shepard and Lilia Buckingham AND Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

I couldn’t decide on which surprised me more. I thought Influence would be more chick-lit with Sara Shepard style mystery thrown in somewhere, but it’s a story about influencers after all, right? Wrong. It has so much more depth than I gave it initial credit for, with a focus on the dark side of social media fame that oscillate from truth to deception. You can find my review here.

Likewise, I thought Game Changer would be a football story since our protagonist is a football player (not hugely my kind of thing), but Neal Shusterman didn’t disappoint with his usual thought provoking rhetoric asking us to reflect on our own world today and what needs to be changed. If this was his response to 2020, I think he used the lockdown time wisely. For more of my thoughts on this book, you can check it out here.

New author book: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

This is my first Rachel Lynn Solomon book and I really liked it. It had a dynamic duo starring in the enemies-to-lovers trope that made it work, and a fun show (aptly named The Ex Talk) that tied everything else together and added that little element of fun/lightheartedness even when the emotions intensified. I don’t read nearly as much adult romances as I probably could, but I know this is a gem in the genre. You can read my full review here.

Not-so-favourite book: You Have a Match by Emma Lord

I don’t like criticizing books as much – mostly because I understand it’s an author’s hard work and I sympathize with that – but I just didn’t love this as much as Emma Lord’s previous debut novel. It’s not a rom-com as the book mostly focuses on the protagonist’s newfound relationship with a sister she never knew she had. It’s about the families you’re born into and the ones you call family. Maybe with a different mindset I could’ve loved this more, but it just didn’t work for me. My review can be found here.

Current reading list

These are the current titles I have from the library I have started on, and the books sitting on my nightstand I probably should read.

  • Sadie by Courtney Summers
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam
  • A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

These are all big titles, including one that will be our next buddy read here at Down the Rabbit Hole! I have my fingers crossed they will be as good as I hope they will be!

My TBR list

High priority books on my TBR that should hopefully be coming to me in the next few weeks are:

  • The Project by Courtney Summers
  • Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
  • Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
  • A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
  • Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis (I will get to this one, I promise!)

Most of these titles are romantic contemporaries, a slight departure from my heavily-laden fantasy/mystery books. It’s about time I dig into this genre more. I’m also super excited for The Project with its interesting premise written by a fellow Canadian whom I had the pleasure of meeting once in my teen years. It should be exciting next month!


Let me know if you have read or want to read any of these! Or even better, what books have gotten you through this last month while the world is still dealing with a pandemic? Any good recommendations?

musings, wrap up

January 2021 Wrap Up and TBR

Hello friends! It’s been an interesting start to 2021 so far, and as always, my book list demonstrates that. I think it’s been a good start for my reading goal I set this year, and fingers crossed I can keep up a good pace for the rest of the upcoming months!

So I’ll share with you what I’ve read this month, what I’m currently reading, and what are my upcoming TBRs you will (hopefully) see later on the blog!


What have I read this month?

Favourite book: The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Thrillers are either hit or miss for me, I find. Either they’re too predictable or the ending just isn’t satisfying enough (like, would this really happen, let’s be honest). But this wasn’t the case here, even with the hype for it that’s been floating around since its debut. It shares similar formulaic elements as other well-known thrillers but it definitely stands out among the crowd with heart and an explosive ending!

Most surprising: Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

This was by far the most surprising for me because I loved it way more than book 1. That normally isn’t the case for me, but this sequel blew me away with the main male protagonist. I loved seeing his vulnerabilities and a whole different side of him than what book 1 portrayed, and the enemies-to-lovers trope was super well done here! Bravo, Kat, bravo.

New author book: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

I heard about this book through the book vine somewhere, from multiple branches probably, and finally got my hands on a copy. It surprised me too with its long monologues, strange school, and semi anti-social protagonist. But it definitely intrigued me in a good way that just kept me flipping pages. I may look into Naomi’s other books.

Not so favourite book: Fable by Adrienne Young

Whenever someone else really hypes up a book, I subconsciously elevate my expectations a lot, even when I tell myself not to. Being a Reese’s book club pick definitely did that. While this book was better in my opinion than Adrienne’s previous novels, I just felt its pacing really slowed things down. I wanted to get a bigger bite out of this world, the intrigue surrounding Fable’s parents, and a romance that didn’t feel so sudden. I will try to moderate my expectations for the next one.


Current reading list

I used to only read ONE book at a time or else I get so lost and confused, but since I started blogging, I’ve definitely juggled 1+ books more often than not.

Here are the books I’m currently flipping my way through.

  • You Have a Match by Emma Lord
  • Influence by Sara Shepard
  • The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

My TBR List

Let’s be honest. Half the time, what’s in my current reading list gets added to my TBR when:

A) I don’t finish a library book in time and have to renew/re-hold a copy

B) I’m a pure mood reader most of the times and occasionally, when I finally get to a book, I don’t absolutely feel like reading it just yet.

Are any of you like me here? Please don’t be shy in raising your hand.

Without further ado, here are the current books high up on my TBR I hope to get to within the next few weeks.

  • A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Lore by Alexandra Bracken
  • Gamechanger by Neal Shusterman
  • Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Everyone, please hold me accountable for this because knowing me, who knows what my mood will be in for in even a few days?


So, what is currently on your TBR, and do you struggle with emotional reading like I do? Any suggestions I should add to my high-priority TBR? Let me know! And thanks for reading 🙂

musings, wrap up

Best Books of 2020

Hey everyone. I know it’s been a long time and what an interesting hiatus it has been! I am happy to say that I hope to pop back around more often, but let me first say, 2020 has been one heck of a year. I know it has devastated a lot of people around the world, so let us learn to be kind to one another, share love with a stranger, and connect with those around us in whatever way we can over things we mutually love.

Since 2020 kept me home bound, I found myself with more time than usual for reading. And what an excellent year of reading it was for me! I wish I had the time to write out all the reviews for those books, but since I can’t (I’m mostly sorry, but I suppose not really), the best ones that really stuck out to me will have to do.

I will separate each by genre category below. Even if it wasn’t a 5 bottle rating, ending up on this list meant that it left a lasting impact on me long after I turned its final pages. Which is a testament of the author’s skill to do so in my books.

Without further ado!

Historical

Now:
Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.

Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.
Then:
Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.
Rating: 5/5 Drink Me Potions

While it can also be classified as a contemporary, I loved the historical atmosphere and story more than current day events. Unearthing the mystery of Adalyn was beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. I couldn’t stop raving about it! Jordyn Taylor’s debut was gorgeously written and perfect for dragging me to an era where lockdown in Nazi Occupation France was maybe even scarier than it is today (but still an escape from our reality at least!).

Contemporary

A fresh, irresistible rom-com from debut author Emma Lord about the chances we take, the paths life can lead us on, and how love can be found in the opposite place you expected.

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.
Rating: 4/5 Drink Me Potions

What a winner this was! I couldn’t put it down (even during work hours – sorry, not sorry). Pepper and Jack’s (ship name PepperJack omg!) online flirtations and real life battles were messy, cute, and just the thing to take me away from reality. Frankly, this was the kind of reality I wished I was living instead. The sneakiness of both protagonists, especially through Twitter memes, and general life lessons both teens learned in family, love and war were absolute PERFECT escapism. What a wonderful debut by Emma Lord!

Henri “Halti” Haltiwanger can charm just about anyone. He is a star debater and popular student at the prestigious FATE academy, the dutiful first-generation Haitian son, and the trusted dog walker for his wealthy New York City neighbors. But his easy smiles mask a burning ambition to attend his dream college, Columbia University.

There is only one person who seems immune to Henri’s charms: his “intense” classmate and neighbor Corinne Troy. When she uncovers Henri’s less-than-honest dog-walking scheme, she blackmails him into helping her change her image at school. Henri agrees, seeing a potential upside for himself.

Soon what started as a mutual hustle turns into something more surprising than either of them ever bargained for. . . .

This is a sharply funny and insightful novel about the countless hustles we have to keep from doing the hardest thing: being ourselves.
Rating: 4/5 Drink Me Potions

In a year full of divides, particularly racial divides, exploring books with POC and just generally being more open to others’ experiences is not only a must, but a blessing to be able to do. Learning to listen and see how others experience life was definitely found in Ben Philippe’s Charming as a Verb. The first-generation immigrant child experience in a big city with the pressures to succeed for their parents is something I understand, and I love how it was described here! Peep the Canadian reference in there and I was falling in love! Snarky characters plus incredibly real teenage experiences depicted helped me see and be a more empathetic person to everyone around me, especially to my Black brothers and sisters out there.

High school senior Keely Collins takes on firsts, lasts, and everything in between in this sweet, sex-positive rom-com for fans of Meg Cabot and Jenny Han.

It seemed like a good plan at first.

When the only other virgin in her group of friends loses it at Keely’s own eighteenth birthday party, she’s inspired to take things into her own hands. She wants to have that experience too (well, not exactly like that–but with someone she trusts and actually likes), so she’s going to need to find the guy, and fast. Problem is, she’s known all the boys in her small high school forever, and it’s kinda hard to be into a guy when you watched him eat crayons in kindergarten.

So she can’t believe her luck when she meets a ridiculously hot new guy named Dean. Not only does he look like he’s fallen out of a classic movie poster, but he drives a motorcycle, flirts with ease, and might actually be into her.

But Dean’s already in college, and Keely is convinced he’ll drop her if he finds out how inexperienced she is. That’s when she talks herself into a new plan: her lifelong best friend, Andrew, would never hurt or betray her, and he’s clearly been with enough girls that he can show her the ropes before she goes all the way with Dean. Of course, the plan only works if Andrew and Keely stay friends–just friends–so things are about to get complicated.

Cameron Lund’s delightful debut is a hilarious and heartfelt story of first loves, first friends, and first times–and how making them your own is all that really matters.
Rating: 3.5/5 Drink Me Potions

I’m a sucker for friends-to-lovers trope, especially best friends. While there were some things I didn’t love, including the slowness in reaching said angst and trope, this was all the makings of a true guilty pleasure read so I’m proud to say that this book stuck out for me. It’s not super serious but mostly fun. Keely learns more about what she wants, who she is and what she is worth (virgin or not), and I’m all for that.

Fantasy

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Rating: 4.5/5 Drink Me Potions

No introduction is needed here, but this was by far the best YA to adult transition book I’ve read yet (I’m looking at you, SJM). I loved the intrigue around Darlington’s disappearance, and the information never felt like an overwhelming tidal wave hitting me all at once. Pieces came together nicely over time and set a wonderful foundation for this world of dark magic on Yale campus. I almost didn’t want to leave it, and am highly anticipating the sequel!

Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.
Rating: 5/5 Drink Me Potions

A unique world of ladies capturing their men on bridges and honing their skills through the animal bones they kill and keep, this was a different YA fantasy than Kathryn Purdie’s other works and I was surprisingly captured by it. With different POVs from the pair of best friends whose lives were forever altered when they encounter the wrong (or right?) man on the bridge, this fun and heartwarming story definitely drew my imagination into the depths of its pages.

Mystery

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised… and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.
Rating: 4.5/5 Drink Me Potions

One of my last reads of 2020, this latest mystery from Karen M. McManus didn’t disappoint. I loved the 3 Story cousins and their individual crazy home life. They each came to the island for their own reasons (and their own parents’ pressures) and were thrown into the web of secrets they cumulatively brought. The pace was great (in fact, I wish the book was a little longer), and by the end, I wished I could meet these Storys because I felt like I knew them. A different kind of twisty end than I expected from McManus, but it still delighted me with a couple of curveballs.


Contemporaries definitely won the lot in 2020, but maybe because a dose of rom-com felt better than dark fantasies or super intense narratives in a year where people may want to forget themselves and live someone else’s lives for a while.

I don’t know what this year may bring, but what I do know is that we’re still all in this together. Let us not forget that and continue holding onto hope and love.

In the meantime, I will try to update you with more fun reviews or things I’m looking forward to this year. Hope you are having a good 2021 so far!

Until next time, friends!