I Used the Same Book Recommendation Service as My Favorite Youtuber (TBR Round 1)
HOW I WAS INTRODUCED/WHY I TRIED IT
My favorite booktber (Youtube creator who makes content about books and reading) is BooksandLala (or Kayla). Something I really admire about her is how her content is never stagnant. She's always coming up with video ideas I don't see from other booktubers. I took inspiration from her in a previous blog (talking about things I love in books). This time I decided to use the same book recommendation service as her. I was intrigued after her first video about the service and finally bit the bullet and signed up myself. Essentially, you fill out a survey about your favorite books and what you like/look for in books, etc. They then match you with a bibliologist (mine is Sarah) who recommends you three books to read. The service is called Tailored Book Recommendations (a play on TBR or to-be-read). This blog summarizes the books chosen, discusses my bibliologist's reasons to choosing them for me, and reviews them. At the end of the blog I decide whether I found the service worth the price tag ($16 every quarter. There is a more expensive option where they send you hardcover copies of the books. I opted to get mine from the library) and if I'll continue. I will link Kayla's videos using the service at the bottom of the blog. I will also link the site (I have no affiliation with them and don't profit from this even if you yourself sign up for the service. I am just a paying customer like everyone else).
FIRST RECOMMENDATION: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis (YA Fantasy)
What it's About: In the dust filled land of Arketta there are girls (known as Good Luck girls) who are sold to welcome houses and expected to pleasure men. When one girl (Clementine) kills a man she and her sister (Aster) and three others flee in the dead of night.
WHY IT WAS CHOSEN: According to my bibliologist she picked this book because I requested own voices fantasy and like books with plenty of adventure and books with magical forests in them.
MY REVIEW The world of Arketta seems to be Wild West/western inspired and is one of the most unique I've read to date. As a fantasy lover I'm a sucker for a world that feels like nothing I've read before and it's so rare I come across books like this. As a feminist I also love books that feature badass, strong women who support other women. The girls in this novel are clearly traumatized by what they've been through. Despite this they fight like hell for their survival and take care of each other. This novel is a fast paced and action packed adventure. There are bad guys to outrun, slimy men to con and rob, the looming threat of unseen spirits, and even underground rebels. Some of my favorite books are ones that keep me on the edge of my seat like this one. My bibliologist hit the nail on the head with this one. This is one of the best YA fantasies I've read in recent times. Trigger warnings: sexual assault, suicidal ideation.
FINAL RATING: 4.5 ⭐️
SECOND RECOMMENDATION: Serpentine by Cindy Pon (YA Fantasy)
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Skybright is a maid to the daughter of a wealthy family. Her world turns upside down when she learns she's the daughter of a serpent demon.
WHY IT WAS CHOSEN: The only thing my bibliologist mentioned in her letter was that she thought I would like the forbidden love romance trope in the novel. I suspect she chose this one also because I requested own voices fantasies. I also think it was because two of my highest rated YA fantasies are Asian inspired, with one having the same country of origin for its inspirations (China).
MY REVIEW: This book had a lot going for it. The story itself felt reminiscent of another Asian inspired fantasy that is one of my favorites (Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan). The world and mythology were right up my alley, I love when books include strong female friendships (this one had one between Skybright and her mistress Zhen Ni). Skybright had tantalizing chemistry with her love interest Kai Sen. The only thing that dragged this story down was the pacing. Now, I like fast paced books, but this one simply felt too fast. The story, romances, and world had this sense of being rushed. There was so much more I wanted to be explored more deeply. I think the book could have benefited from another 50-75 pages being added on. I think this was a successful recommendation because she gave me a book that had everything I asked for/told her I liked. This is the first book in a duology but I don't think I'm going to pick up the second one simply because the ending, while open, was satisfying.
FINAL RATING: 4 ⭐️
THIRD RECOMMENDATION: A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (Adult Romance)
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A hard working woman in grad school (Naledi) is contacted by an African prince (Thabiso). She doesn't believe he's really a prince and Thabiso takes the opportunity to experience love without the burden of the crown. Can their love survive when the truth is revealed?
WHY IT WAS CHOSEN: My biblioloigst said she wanted to start me with this one because it plays with fantasy and fairy tale tropes and there is no insta-love (which I specified in my survey that I hate). I listed adult romance as one of my favorite genres in my survey as well.
MY REVIEW: This one was the wildcard for me. I didn't know if I would love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in the middle. It ended up being the last one. Ledi and Thabiso were well matched. In some ways they were an opposites attract situation as she grew up in foster care and is poor and he grew up a prince in a palace. At the same time they are similar in that both want to change the world for the better. While I found the subplot about an epidemic to be triggering given the current state of the world, I did appreciate the author trying to add something original. Most of this novel, unfortunately, felt wholly unoriginal. Granted, the romance genre is often filled with the same types of tropes, but this just felt like a story I'd heard before with only slight variation. I liked how Thabiso grew as a character. Upon being introduced he was rude but he became a better man after getting together with Ledi. Speaking of Ledi, I liked her from the very beginning. She was independent and intelligent but throughout the novel she learned to open up to and lean on others for support. This was the, shall we say, spiciest adult romance I've read to date and those kinds of scenes can go either way for me. In this case I quite enjoyed them.
FINAL RATING: 3.5 ⭐️
BONUS RECOMMENDATION: Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera (Middle Grade Fantasy)
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Cece Rios's older sister is kidnapped by a dark and powerful criatura (spirit) and she sets out to save her by allying with a legendary criatura named Coyote.
WHY IT WAS CHOSEN: This technically wasn't one of my recommendations but my bibliologist mentioned it at the end of my letter and said she thought I would like it since it's fantasy and spooky as well as own voices. She said it wasn't an official recommendation because I didn't say I wanted middle grade. I decided to go ahead and pick it up as well since I have only read one latinx fantasy (two, really, but they're part of the same series) and I've been wanting to read more.
MY REVIEW: I don't generally read much middle grade but I think I might have to open myself up to reading more as this novel was stellar. Cece was a wonderful protagonist for young readers. She is brave and kind and teaches accepting others even when they are different from you. There is also an emphasis on teamwork and friendship within the novel as Cece must ally herself with several criaturas to save her sister and in the process they learn more about each other and bond. The novel's world is heavily inspired by Northern Mexican culture (from which Rivera descends) but also takes aspects from other Lantinx cultures and (seemingly) Rivera's own brain. It is a combination that works surprisingly well. My favorite part was how the relationship between Cece and the criaturas worked where her emotions powered them and she could sense theirs. The novel does touch on some heavy topics including: a father who is implied to be alcoholic, parents with a seemingly unhappy marriage, the enslavement of sentient beings, kidnapping, and the mentioning of physical abuse as well as a brief depiction of a parent physically abusing their child.
FINAL RATING: 5 ⭐️
AVG. RATING: 4.25 ⭐️
FINAL THOUGHTS/WILL I CONTINUE WITH THE SERVICE?
I will most definitely be using this service again. I feel like this was very successful. One of the books (Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls) ended up being in my current top books of the year. Another (The Good Luck Girls) currently holds the position of my favorite YA fantasy this year. One I solidly enjoyed just wished was a little longer (Serpentine), and the other while not a love was enjoyable enough (A Princess in Theory. I most definitely feel like my bibliologist listened to me and my preferences. The experience of waiting for my recommendations kind of felt like the anticipation of Christmas when you're a kid and it gives me something to look forward to. I justify the price by considering that $16 is less than the price of a new hardcover book and for that I'm getting three (or more) recommendations specifically personalized to me. Of course price is subjective, but I think it's more than reasonable. My next batch of recommendations comes in July (this past one came in April) so keep a lookout in August for my thoughts. If you want my reviews sooner you can always follow my goodreads which is linked down below.
CREDITS/ RELATED LINKS
BooksandLala's First Video on the Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUN1Zx2N86M&t=1094s
BooksandLala's Second Video on the Service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUeIHULoMQ8&t=35s
The Service (TBR): https://mytbr.co/dashboard/tbr-profile/
Support Black Owned Businesses: https://www.websiteplanet.com/blog/support-black-owned-businesses/
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (Available 24/7)/https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free (Available 24/7)/https://www.crisistextline.org/