I’ve been having a fantastic time putting together my Curated Bookshelf every month, but there are some themes where I just can’t find 12 books for it (yet). So I’ve decided to share these shorter lists on Mondays (most Mondays, at least). I hope you enjoy!
Since Halloween is the time to don a mask and dress up as something or someone else, I thought I’d take a look at some books that might have done the same. Sometimes books are marketed as one genre, but end up reading more like another. Other times, the descriptions are just so misleading it’s left me wondering what I just read, because I did not get what I was promised. So let’s take a look at some books that put on a mask!
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.
This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.
When reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
Of course this one immediately springs to mind. Marketed as romance, I think most readers would take issue with that. There certainly is a lovely sapphic romance in these pages, but it takes the backseat to Grace’s personal development. Until the ending, when it just ends like many other romance novels. Anyways, I’d rather call this one women’s fiction because so many readers, including myself, have gone into this thinking it was a romance and were left feeling a little lacking because the romance is so buried under everything else.
The Splendid City by Karen Heuler
A genre-blending story of modern witchcraft, a police state and WTF characters, for fans of Alice Hoffman and Madeline Miller.
In the state of Liberty, water is rationed at alarming prices, free speech is hardly without a cost, and Texas has just declared itself its own country. In this society, paranoia is well-suited because eyes and ears are all around, and they are judging. Always judging. This terrifying (and yet somehow vaguely familiar) terrain is explored via Eleanor – a young woman eagerly learning about the gifts of her magic through the support of her coven.
But being a white witch is not as easy as they portray it in the books, and she’s already been placed under ‘house arrest’ with a letch named Stan, a co-worker who wronged her in the past and now exists in the form of a cat. A talking cat who loves craft beers, picket lines, and duping and ‘shooting’ people.
Eleanor has no time for Stan and his shenanigans, because she finds herself helping another coven locate a missing witch which she thinks is mysteriously linked to the shortage of water in Liberty.
The description makes this sound like it has a cat who loves going around and randomly shooting people and the witch who turned him into a cat and is now stuck with him is trying to find a missing witch. Sadly, the mystery was sorely lacking as most of the story was devoted to the cat’s treasure hunt. And the cat didn’t really shoot many people. Of course, that’s a good thing, but I just felt misled, and that was disappointing.
Soundrise by Lynn Voedisch
IT BEGINS WITH THE SOUND OF A VOICE . . .Derek Nilsson is an elite programmer toiling away at BitJockey.com while he spends all of his available time in pursuit of an enigmatic and possibly world-altering trove of data that has disappeared off the grid. When a message comes through his computer claiming to have all of the answers Derek seeks, he has no choice but to go where the voice leads him. Where it leads him is far beyond the comforts of his console. To a world of ancient goddesses and ageless mysteries he was never aware of. To an encounter with a past that Derek believed was long gone. To a woman who engages his mind and spirit in unprecedented ways. And to a spirit that motivates him, seduces him, and puts everything that matters to him at risk. This spirit that might literally lead him to move mountains – if it doesn’t kill him first. . . . IT ENDS WITH THE SOUND OF THE WORLD CHANGING.Soundrise is a heady blend of awesome technology, dazzling fantasy, gripping adventure, and poignant human interaction. At once epic and deeply personal, it is a sound like no other.
I’m practically a dinosaur when it comes to technology, but I still like an interesting hacker story. Based on the description, I thought it would involve more hacking and more time spent in cyberspace. But it turned out to hold very little hacking and, instead, a lot of Egyptian mythology. Now, I like Egyptian mythology, but I was expecting at least some actual hacking, so, while there were some things I liked, I felt like I didn’t get what I was promised. There really wasn’t as much technology as I had thought.
The Emerald Queen by J.W. Webb
The gods are dead. Their age-old reign destroyed by sorcery and war. A young queen must steer her people through the wreckage left behind.
Queen Ariane trusts her dreams, so listens when a sorceress calls out to her from the void. Ysaren warns the queen must find her missing cousin, Lord Tamersane who vanished after the war. Feared lost in the hostile City of the Clouds. He alone has the strength to wield the legendary bow of Kerasheva against the power-crazed emperor of Ptarni.
Determined, Ariane sends Captain Garland to find her lost kinsman deep in the heart of enemy country. But Garland and his men vanish in a maze of witchcraft, illusion and treachery. Ariane worries she has sent them to their death. Now she must conquer her own demons before she can face this new enemy head-on.
The Emerald Queen is volume seven in the epic fantasy series Legends of Ansu.
This was the first book that I can remember to completely mislead me. The description talks a lot of about the Queen and what she needs to face and overcome, but I had a hard time finding her in this book. The description made it sound like it was her story, but it definitely was not. I’ve never felt so disappointed in a description before, so I failed to enjoy the book, which I found not at all compelling anyways.
Rats in a Maze by Peter Bailey
What does it mean when you start remembering things that never happened and your dreams are haunted by the most beautiful woman in the world?
NYPD Detective Ray Fisher thought it meant he was going mad, but there was enough of the Detective left to see that the weirdness had started after he’d investigated a car that had been driven into the river. It was a trivial case but it opened his eyes to a shadowy elite who used people like pawns.
Ray thought he had all the answers until the NYPD suspended him and he realised that the only thing worse than the elite was the vast government Conspiracy concealing it
Chased by black clad kill teams through the city, Ray has to escape with the most unlikely person in the world on a road trip like no other where he discovers that the only way to be truly free is to leave his humanity behind.
Rats in a maze, a roller coaster thrill ride leading to a shattering conclusion where the fate of the world is literally in the hands of children.
This one sounds like a strange crime novel that involves a government conspiracy, so I went in expecting a twisty mystery. Instead, I got a story that couldn’t seem to decide if it was a mystery or fantasy. Oddly enough, I thought it worked when I took the story as a whole, otherwise it’s a bit baffling, especially when the end hits and seems to change genres again. It felt like it couldn’t decide what to be, but it was a fascinating ride.
Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.
But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.
On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?
But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
The description makes this book sound like a lot of fun, full of revenge, a bit of romance, and a witchy tournament. While all these elements are present and enjoyable, most of the focus was on the romance. Of course, it is listed as a paranormal romance, but there were paragraphs about the tournament and revenge, so I was disappointed this was overwhelmingly a romance. There was not nearly as much revenge as I expected.
The Bright and Breaking Sea by Chloe Neill
Chloe Neill brings her trademark wit and wild sense of adventure to a stunning seafaring fantasy starring a dauntless heroine in a world of magic and treachery.
Kit Brightling, rescued as a foundling and raised in a home for talented girls, has worked hard to rise through the ranks of the Isles’ Crown Command and become one of the few female captains in Queen Charlotte’s fleet. Her ship is small, but she’s fast–in part because of Kit’s magical affinity to the sea. But the waters become perilous when the queen sends Kit on a special mission with a partner she never asked for.
Rian Grant, Viscount Queenscliffe, may be a veteran of the Continental war, but Kit doesn’t know him or his motives–and she’s dealt with one too many members of the Beau Monde. But Kit has her orders, and the queen has commanded they journey to a dangerous pirate quay and rescue a spy who’s been gathering intelligence on the exiled emperor of Gallia.
Kit can lead her ship and clever crew on her own, but with the fate of queen and country at stake, Kit and Rian must learn to trust each other, or else the Isles will fall….
A fantastical version of the Napoleonic wars, I thought this would be an adventurous fantasy with some romance thrown in. I was not expecting a light, fluffy fantasy, especially since it’s set against the backdrop of Napoleon escaping his prison. Nor was I expecting it to go almost full Regency that made me think of Jane Austen. This was such a surprise, but I loved every minute of it. The combination of elements really worked, even though I wasn’t expecting any of it.
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
A time twisting alternative history that asks whether it’s worth changing the past to save the future, even if it costs you everyone you’ve ever loved.
Joe Tournier has a bad case of amnesia. His first memory is of stepping off a train in the nineteenth-century French colony of England. The only clue Joe has about his identity is a century-old postcard of a Scottish lighthouse that arrives in London the same month he does. Written in illegal English—instead of French—the postcard is signed only with the letter “M,” but Joe is certain whoever wrote it knows him far better than he currently knows himself, and he’s determined to find the writer. The search for M, though, will drive Joe from French-ruled London to rebel-owned Scotland and finally onto the battle ships of a lost empire’s Royal Navy. In the process, Joe will remake history, and himself.
Combining things like alternate history and time travel, of course this lives up to being called genre bending. It was almost utterly confusing and I still have no clue how the time travel worked. There’s so much history and alternate history and going back and forth in time that I often felt like I was losing track of what was going on and couldn’t piece it together. It was kind of a wild ride. But I’d say this is actually a love story wrapped up in all the other stuff. At it’s core, it’s about a couple where one of them will do anything to get the other back.
Bad Luck Bridesmaid by Alison Rose Greenberg
It’s official: Zoey Marks is the cursed bridesmaid that no engagement can survive. Ten years, three empire waist dresses, and ZERO brides have walked down the aisle.
After strike three, Zoey is left wondering if her own ambivalence towards marriage has rubbed off on those she loves. And when her building distrust of matrimony culminates in turning down a proposal from her perfect All-American boyfriend, Rylan Harper III, she and Rylan are both left heartbroken, leaving Zoey to wonder: what is it exactly about tying the knot that makes her want to run in the opposite direction?
Enter Hannah Green: Zoey’s best friend, who announces that she’s marrying a guy she just met (cue eye roll). At a castle. In gorgeous, romantic Ireland, where Rylan will be in attendance, and Zoey will be a bridesmaid. It’ll be fine.
Okay, the woman definition of fine (NOT FINE).
Determined to turn her luck around, Zoey accepts her role and vows to get Hannah down the aisle—all the while praying her best friend’s wedded bliss will allow her to embrace marriage and get Rylan back.
But as the weekend goes on, Zoey is plagued with more questions than answers. Can you be a free spirit, yet still want a certain future? Can you have love and be loved on your terms? And how DO you wrangle a bossy falcon into doing your bidding?
Everything about the marketing and description made me think this was a romance. Really, a fun rom com in book form. I mean, the description even talks about the main character getting her ex back. But, the more I read, the less like a romance this felt like. It was fun and funny, but decidedly less a romance and probably more women’s fiction, so I was disappointed, especially since the romance felt like it was the main thing, only for the end to happen, leaving me scratching my head a little.