I don’t read a lot of literary fiction. I tend to stick to the genres I really enjoy, but there are plenty of times that I branch out into what’s really popular. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I picked up Four Winds. I’ve seen Kristen Hannah’s work out there for quite a while, but I’d never read her stuff before.
Set in Texas during the dust bowl and great depression, this is a story of resilience, trauma, and finding your voice.
At first, I wasn’t sure that I was going to like this one. I felt like I was so different from the main character. On the outside, she seemed like a meek woman who only ever sough other people’s approval. On the inside, she was a warrior.
One of the main reasons I don’t read a lot of literary fiction is because they’re either plot driven or so far from the characters that I don’t like it. I enjoy character driven stories. I want to feel the things the character does: their wants, their needs, what they’re going through. I absolutely felt that here in Four Winds. The story switches between the perspectives of Elsa, a young woman raised to believe she wasn’t worth anything, and her daughter, Loreda, who was raised to dream and to dare. Both are women who have been through very difficult things. They have strong voices that make you want to keep turning the page.
Four Winds really is a wonderful book. It’s a tale of two women, two sides of the same coin, and how they persevere through the hardest times. But, they persevere. I even got a little teary-eyed at the end.
I’m still looking for the book that’s going to make me sob. If you’ve got recommendations, toss ’em my way!
So, I loved Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur. It is a sapphic retelling of Pride & Prejudice full of some of the most fun tropes in romance. Enemies to Lovers? Check! Fake dating? Check! Cheekily named characters that are straight from classic literature? Check!
I love Bellefleur’s writing style and how each and every single one of her characters has a unique voice. After I finished Written in the Stars, I learned that she was publishing Hang the Moon, a sort of sequel. It involves the same characters, but it’s actually Darcy’s brother’s love story.
Firstly, I’d love to point out that Bellefleur’s LGBT+ representation is always spot on! Annie is a bisexual woman, and one thing we tend to see in stories where a bisexual (pansexual, etc.) character is in a hetero-passing relationship, so essentially their sexuality is erased. That is not the case in Hang the Moon! Annie is an openly queer woman who just so happens to like a CIS-het white male character.
Secondly, Bellefleur has such a fresh voice and take on typical romance tropes. She basically took the plot of The Taming of the Shrew but made it romantic. Where 10 Things I Hate About You was all about making bets and stuff in order to woo the closed off seemingly-bitter in love character, Hang the Moon frames Brendan’s attempts to convince Annie that love is worth it by actually showing her love and affection. Brendan is a hopeless romantic, and it is so refreshing to see a male character in a romance novel who believes in love and grand gestures and all of that.
By the time I got to the steamy bits, I was madly in love with both of these characters. Yet again, Bellefleur has knocked it out of the park. If you’re looking for a wonderful contemporary romance, this is definitely a must read!
The third novel in this series, Count Your Lucky Stars releases in February of 2022, and stars yet another member of this friend group–Margot! I can’t wait to read it!
One of my favorite things in the entire world is witches. I was raised watching Charmed and being obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials. I think that The Covenant is one of the most underrated films of all time. One of the series I’m working on is centered on witches in New Orleans. So, to no one’s surprise, when These Witches Don’t Burn crossed my social feed, I just had to get my hands on it.
The witches were what got my attention, but the LGBT+ elements were what made me know I had to read it. There are so few LGBT+ YA novels out there that don’t center on coming out. I know that coming out is really important to capture, especially for young adults that don’t quite know where they stand on the LGBT spectrum. However, it’s refreshing when that isn’t the main story.
These Witches Don’t Burn is a refreshing story about Hannah, a young witch fresh out of a breakup with her first girlfriend, on the cusp of adulthood. Mix in mysterious elements like Blood Witches and Witch Hunters, magical powers, new love, and exploring a world in which you have to hide your magic, I was sold.
Because I read so much, the twist didn’t really surprise me, but I was pleasantly surprised by who the true villain was.
I won’t give a lot of plot away, but just know that this story has a lot of heart. It is the first in a series, and I really enjoyed reading it. I haven’t been reading a lot of YA lately, so this was a refreshing read. If you’re looking for something with positive LGBT+ representation and a lot of magic, definitely be sure to check this one out!
I didn’t get to read nearly as much in April as I did in the prior three months, but there’s a good reason! During the month of April, we went on our writer’s retreat and have knocked out almost the entire zero draft of the sequel to Guns & Smoke!
Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
I’ve heard a lot of praise for Holly Black’s Cruel Prince series. For a lot of people, it is the slow burn enemies to lovers story, and I completely see that.
I enjoyed the first two books, but I wasn’t sucked into them wanting to know exactly what was going to happen next. I finally figured out why whenever I started reading Queen of Nothing: Jude had emotions.
In Cruel Prince and Wicked King, Jude was kind of an unlikeable character. She was so intense all of the time, and the only time we saw her break down was when she was around Cardan. Because Cardan made her feel things.
I loved Queen of Nothing. My only complaint is that it was Young Adult. I really wanted to see this story but in the Adult genre, because there’s just something about the tension, the anger, the hatred, the attraction… Yeah. Give me a slow burn, but make me want it so bad by the end of it. Because of the YA constraints, I was slightly disappointed, but it was great as a YA novel.
All in all, if you’re looking for a good story with a really well done world, interesting protagonists (and villians), definitely check out this series! I haven’t read anything from Holly except for this, but I would definitely return to read more.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Seabird by Shawna Barnett
I received an ARC of Seabird through TikTok. This was pitched as the prequel to a sapphic pirate romance story, so I was immediately in!
Given that it’s a prequel novella, I knew that it wouldnt be a super long story but I found myself wanting more! The main character left me with a lot of questions about what’s to come in Windfall later this year.
Seabird was definitely a sweet discovery story for a young woman who is trying to figure out who she is in a world that she doesn’t fit in. There were a lot of details in the story about the main character that hinted at what I believe the bigger series will be about. Liana experienced an unexpected whirlwind romance over a summer when she was free and young. Though the climax of the story and the ending happened very suddenly, I feel as though there is a lot more to the story. I will definitely be checking out Windfall. I need all of the sapphic stories. F/F romance and pirates? Heck. Yes!
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Flames of Chaos by Amelia Hutchins
I heard that Flames of Chaos was the next good read in the Dark Fantasy genre. Folks said it was better than Den of Vipers (as far as all of the consent stuff) and a really well done story.
I DNF’d at 33%.
First. There were tons of rapey consent issues. Secondly, it was all showing and no telling. I want to read about magic and mayhem and the steamy stuff. And yet… “I whispered a spell.” What’s the spell?
The first time she sees the love interest, she itches. You’re not supposed to itch when you meet the love interest. Just my thoughts.
Anyway, I’m tired of reading problematic books. And I’m going to continue writing consent in all of my own. Consent is important. Consent is sexy.
Rating: 0.5 out of 5.
I spent a good part of the month beta reading a manuscript for a friend on TikTok, which is why my number was low this month. But! She really appreciated my feedback and that made not getting to read as much worth it. 🙂