Up For Air (Christina Berry)

Up For Air is the first novel in the Lost in Austin series by Christina Berry.
Finished on: 6.5.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give Away.]

Plot:
Ari met Greg and Jake when they were just teenagers. Jake became her best friend, and Greg her husband soon after. Ari has left a very shelterd life that way for 12 years, but a funeral causes her to take stock of her life, and the bottom line is that Ari isn’t happy anymore. She feels limited and suffocated by her lack of experiences. So she asks Greg whether they could open their marriage to try new things. To her surprise, Greg agrees and their decision pushes them both on new paths. But where those paths lead, they could not have foreseen.

Up For Air is a really good read with nice characters and a good understanding of what its story is actually writing about. There were a couple of moments where I wanted to get my own editing pen out, to polish things a little more, but other than that, I really enjoyed it.

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Saints Astray (Jacqueline Carey)

Saints Astray is the second (and last) novel in the Santa Olivia series by Jacqueline Carey.
Finished on: 24.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape culture, misogyny

Plot:
Loup and Pilar made it out of Outpost 12, aka Santa Olivia – but what are a genetically modified girl and her girlfriend supposed to do when they legally don’t exist at all? Well, in Loup’s case, she quickly has a job offer: to work for an international security firm as the world’s first GMO bodyguard. She agrees, but only if Pilar gets to come, too. Meanwhile, Loup’s old friend Miguel Garza also made it out of Outpost 12 and has promised to testify in front of the senate to shed light on the outposts as well as the GMOs. But nothing is ever as easy as that, is it?

I was so excited about Santa Olivia – I didn’t know what to expect and was wonderfully surprised by what the book delivered. With Saints Astray, unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. I was expecting so much more, but this is very much a disappointment.

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Spellman Six (Lisa Lutz)

Spellman Six (aka The Last Word) is the sixth and final novel in the Spellman Series by Lisa Lutz.
Finished on: 18.4.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Plot:
After Izzy Spellman took over the family business in what could be considered a hostile take-over, her parents have started to be hostile right back. Izzy’s management has generally caused a bit of trouble for the business, and it doesn’t help that she is being accused of embezzling a client. With her bookkeeping skills, Izzy might actually have spent some money that she shouldn’t have, but that’s not the point. The question is whether Izzy will actually run the family business into the ground.

Spellman Six gives us a nice ending to the series, albeit not a simple and clean happy end. But then again, when has Izzy ever given us something clean and simple? In any case, it’s sad but also okay that the series has ended now.

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Cherish Hard (Nalini Singh)

Cherish Hard is the first novel in the Hard Play series by Nalini Singh.
Finished on: 11.4.2021
[Here’s my review of Rock Hard that is the last of this series, but also second of her Rock Kiss series.]

Plot:
Ísa dreams of having the kind of stable family she never had growing up. But for that she first needs to find a partner who is just as ready to settle down as she is. The hot gardener working at her school, Sailor, does not fit that bill. Running his own business with ambitious plans for his future and a few years younger than her, he is certainly not the kind of guy she is looking for. And yet, Ísa can’t keep her eyes off him. When fate, or rather Ísa’s CEO mother, forces them to work together, it’s the possibility for Sailor to convince Ísa that he is in it for the long haul – because he is head over heels for her.

Cherish Hard is a fun read, but not one of Singh’s best novels, I’d say. I liked both Ísa and Sailor, but I wasn’t as invested in their story as I would have liked – or even expected to be.

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ReV (Madeline Ashby)

ReV is the third and final novel in the Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 9.4.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other novels in the series.]

Plot:
Amy’s decisions have changed the world and the relationships between humans and vNs forever. Now Amy’s grandmother Portia basically runs free in the world to do whatever she pleases to humans, and what she pleases is rarely something nice. Humanity is therefore gearing up its efforts to get rid of vNs. Meanwhile Amy is in relative safety in Mecha with her family and is trying to come up with a new plan for them all. The question is is whether Portia is actually part of her family, or just a threat.

I’ve been waiting for the conclusion to the trilogy for nearly a decade and now it’s finally here. And while I did enjoy it was more than just a little, I think I was expecting a bit more from the novel, especially considering how long I waited.

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The Story of a New Name (Elena Ferrante)

The Story of a New Name is the second of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. I read the German translation (Die Geschichte eines neuen Namens) by Karin Krieger.
Finished on: 4.4.2021
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Content Note: rape, domestic violence, abuse

Plot:
With Lila’s marriage, she and Elena develop away from each other even more. But at the same time, they cannot let go of each other. Elena watches from a distance as Lila’s abusive marriage to Stefano turns ever more complicated by her husband’s business relations. Meanwhile Elena is dating Antonio more out of a sense of obligation, while still yearning for Nino who seems to be everything she aspires to. After Lila has a miscarriage, she asks Elena to accompany on a holiday to get her strength back. During that holiday, their paths cross with Nino and everything changes.

After reading My Brilliant Friend, I was reluctant but curious to continue, not quite sure what apparently millions of other people saw in the novel. The same thing is still true for The Story of a New Name. I read it, I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either and I am still scratching my head as to why this series has gotten quite this big.

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A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas (Jackie Lau)

A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas is the second novel(la) in the Holiday with the Wongs series by Jackie Lau.
Finished on: 29.3.2021
[Here’s my review of the first book.]

Plot:
When his mother tells Greg that she has arranged everything for Greg to give his ex-girlfriend Tasha a ride back home from Toronto for the holidays, Greg is dismayed. Not just because he likes to have his peace while driving, but also because he knows it’s an attempt from his mother to get them back together. But there is no backing out now. And then, of course, Greg and Tasha have to stop overnight to wait out a snowstorm. Just maybe Greg’s mother was on to something, though.

A Second Chance Road Trip for Christmas is another sweet and fun read that I found very enjoyable, although I didn’t completely love it.

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The Governess Affair (Courtney Milan)

The Governess Affair is a prequel novella of the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 28.3.2021

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Three months ago, Serena Barton was kicked out from her position as a governess in the Duke of Clermont’s household. But she is unwilling to let that dismissal stand. She seeks reparations from the Duke. The Duke asked is right-hand man Hugo Marshall, nicknamed the Wolf of Clermont for his bargaining techniques, to make sure that Serena goes away without a fuss. But Hugo finds that Serena is a tougher opponent than he suspected at first.

The Governess Affair is a sweet story that had me smiling, and also fanning myself. I really enjoyed it and would have liked it to be longer.

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Re-Read: iD (Madeline Ashby)

iD is the second Machine Dynasty novel by Madeline Ashby.
Finished on: 26.3.2021
[Here is my first review.]
[Here is my review of the first Machine Dynasty novel.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Javier should be happy, living on Amy’s island with Amy and his sons. But somehow he is still ill at ease, especially since Amy refuses to disengage his failsafe, leaving him vulnerable to humans still. And then just that is used against him and makes his entire world falls apart, leaving Javier to try and pick up the pieces of their lives.

iD really delves into the consent issues that were already raised in the first novel and considers them from every angle. It’s thoughtful and interesting, but it’s also simply a good read, even if there were a couple of transition issues.

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Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams)

Queenie is the first novel by Candice Carty-Williams.
Finished on: 13.3.2021

Content Note: abuse, sexualized violence, self-harm, mental illness, (critical treatment of) racism and misogynoir

Plot:
Queenie works as a journalist and lives with her boyfriend Tom. Or rather, she lived with Tom – until Tom decided to stay with his parents for a while. When Tom finally asks Queenie to move out of their apartment while they are on a break, Queenie starts to unravel completely. She feels out of place at work and with her family, and generally feels out of sorts. While her friends try to support her, it is unclear whether Queenie can support herself.

Queenie is an unusual book in that it both handles really tough topics and has the tone of a RomCom most of the time. You have to brace yourself for many parts of the novel, and then you find yourself laughing again. It is a mix that is both uncomfortable and works extremely well. I was very impressed by it, especially considering that it’s a debut novel.

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