Apr 07

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Fourteenth

Contemporary Fiction, Weekly Wrap-Up 4

How you holding up, Bookworms?

As we head into our fourth week of working from home, I’ve noticed some things. First, Sam has averaged one day per week where he does not take a nap. Second, I have averaged one day per week where I have a crying jag simply because it’s all too much. Often these are the same day, though sometimes not. I’m tired and I’m frightened and I’m angry. But none of that is new. I’m still finding solace in reading, and this week, I FINALLY finished Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. My slow-poke-iness wasn’t necessarily the fault of the narrative, simply that I find myself with much less time for audio books than I used to have (because commute, quiet office, etc.) Anyway.

In a small town in Virginia, a Korean immigrant family open a hyperbaric oxygen tank treatment center. They attract an assortment of clients, from those seeking treatment for autistic children, cerebral palsy, and even infertility. Then, one night, the chamber explodes, killing two people and severely injuring several more. As the dust settles, it becomes clear that the explosion wasn’t an accident. A courtroom driven mystery unfolds as the reader slowly discovers that nearly all the characters are harboring troubling secrets.

This book was… A lot. It was emotionally complex and I’m still processing my feelings. On one hand, I related to the mothers of the special needs kids seeking treatment. Sammers is not special needs, but being a parent is can be emotionally and physically draining under the best of circumstances. The worries and added pressures with finding appropriate treatments, and knowing when to step back has got to be super rough. Not to mention, depending on the level of disability, much of everyday life would be that much harder.

On the other hand, particularly right now, I’m disgusted at the way society treats the disabled. I’ve seen so many Twitter threads by disabled people having to explain that they’re not disposable. Because, really, before COVID-19 really got rolling, the general impression was that it was only going to hit older people and those with complicated health situations. So many people dismissed the virus as not that big a deal because it wouldn’t affect them, just the broken people, and who cares about protecting them? It was REAL gross. Not a good look, humanity. Reading this book while watching all of this unfold made me feel kind of gross for identifying with the mothers at all.

Like I said- COMPLEX EMOTIONS. If you enjoy that sort of thing, definitely read Miracle Creek. If you need to give your brain a break from the actual horror we’re living through, put this one on the shelf with the pandemic books. We can all revisit it in 10 years when this is less raw and horrifying.

As for what I’m reading this week, I’m still enjoying Roshani Chokshi’s A Crown of Wishes. Pure fantasy is such a delicious escape from the here and now. No matter how awful things here get, I’m not being threatened by poisonous mystical beings, so I’ve got that going for me. I keep eyeing the new Christina Lauren book The Honey-Don’t List on Scribd’s audio offerings, but I don’t know when I’m going to be able to start another audio book. A certain small boy is currently fighting his nap in a big way, and no nap means no audio book time. Siiiigh. I even emailed his daycare teacher for help- apparently he takes naps completely unassisted when he’s at school. BECAUSE OF COURSE.

So, Bookworms. What are you reading this week? And does anyone have any magical tips for getting a stubborn 2.5 year old to take the naps they desperately need?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the above text direct to Amazon, but if you are able, please consider making a purchase through a local, independent book store by using the links below. And don’t forget to check out your local library’s digital offerings!

Miracle Creek
A Crown of Wishes
The Honey-Don’t List 

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Apr 01

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirteenth

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Weekly Wrap-Up 6

Howdy Bookworms,

The thirteenth weekly wrap up sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it? Want to know what’s scarier than living through a plague? Having a friggin TORNADO touch down less than a block from your house during a global pandemic. YEAH. Thank heaven it ended up being a weak (EF0-EF1) tornado. We lost some beautiful old trees on the neighboring golf course, but nobody’s home suffered major damage. One house had half a tree on its roof, but the roof wasn’t leaking, at least, so damage? Yes. Major? Well, certainly not catastrophic. We didn’t even realize how close a call we’d had until the next day, it was just one of those “oh heck, better hustle to the basement” moments. Sam was extremely excited to watch the weather maps and to get his bedtime extended. Suffice it to say my nerves are FRAYED. Calm the heck DOWN, Mother Nature, we GET IT.

This is the tornado’s path according to our local news. I added an arrow to point to our approximate location. NOT COOL.

Let’s get past the terror of what could have been for a moment, shall we? I FINISHED A BOOK!!! Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey was so good! Like, once I really got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up past my bedtime to finish it AND forgot for a few minutes after emerging what was actually going on in the real world. It was everything I needed from a book. A non-magical private investigator is tasked with solving a murder at a magical school. The book immediately starts with a Harry Potter reference, so it’s delightfully self aware and just a little bit cheeky. Ivy Gamble has been largely estranged from her twin sister for years- a rift coinciding with the beginning of Tabitha’s magical education and compounded by their mother’s death. It’s a feelings minefield between these two! It’s also an exceptionally good murder mystery, which, admittedly, is not usually my jam. Very twisty, very smart, very magical. I highly recommend it!

So, what am I reading now? I’m still working my way through my audio book of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim and, naps willing, should finish it up soon. I also started A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi- it’s the second in the The Star-Touched Queen series. Admittedly, it’s been quite a long time since I read The Star-Touched Queen, so I was worried I’d be a little lost, but it’s all coming back quite nicely. Roshani Chokshi writes the most delightful demons.

How are things going for you, Bookworms? Stay safe and healthy- the world needs you.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the above text direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop through a local, independent bookstore, please consider using the links below. And, as always, be sure to look into the digital offerings from your public library. 
Magic for Liars
Miracle Creek
The Star-Touched Queen
A Crown of Wishes

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Mar 25

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Twelfth (With Bonus Kid Lit)

Kidlit with my Kidlet, Personal, Weekly Wrap-Up 4

Hey Bookworms,

Life comes at you fast, huh? Two weeks ago coronavirus was scary, but not panic inducing. Today it’s changed just about everything. I used to LOVE reading fictional accounts of plagues and pandemics. Now? Not so much. Two weeks ago I started writing a listicle of some of the great plague books I’d read over the years, but I just don’t have it in me to finish that right now (I assume most of you aren’t interested in plague books right now either, but if I’m wrong on that, I’ll finish up that post because I wouldn’t want you to run out of reading material, even if your tastes are macabre in the current moment.) In case you were wondering, I finished ZERO books this week. I can only listen to audio books in fits and starts, and by the time I get to bed (which is where I normally do the bulk of my reading) I’m so mentally exhausted by the news and our new reality that I make it a chapter or so before I’m out. Sammy’s sleep has been crappy as well, which I assume is due in part to the fact that he can feel our anxiety, even if he doesn’t totally understand what’s going on. He’s been extra clingy and working from home with a toddler is really, really hard. I don’t want to be all gloom and doom, but I don’t necessarily want to put a shiny, happy face on all of this because it sucks. For so many reasons. On so many levels. And I’m really angry. For so many reasons. On so many levels. And yet, literally, the only thing I can do to help anyone is stay home. I can’t even sew so I can’t occupy myself by making masks or anything (but honestly, is anyone else getting SERIOUS wartime vibes? I can’t even count the number of WWII books I’ve read that discuss the women on the home front knitting socks for soldiers. Now we’re making masks for soldiers- because let’s face it- our healthcare workers have become war heroes.)

For my own mental health, I cannot wallow for long. I’ve got stuff to do. I still have a job! One that I can do from home! SAKES ALIVE do I ever miss my childcare, but I’m still going to be able to pay my bills… I just won’t look at my 401K for the foreseeable future. As far as stuff I’m grateful for, I’m glad I live in Illinois right now. I know, it’s a pain in the butt to have a stay-at-home order, but I know it’s saving lives, and I wish the rest of the country would get on board so this won’t drag on as long. I’m finding it extremely comforting to have a competent local government- who would have thought we had it in us? Also, since you can’t actually isolate yourself from a tiny human that you have to take care of (and I wouldn’t want to) I am reveling in all the extra hugs and snuggles. Those little hits of dopamine are doing my anxious brain a world of good. And, since I didn’t finish a grown-up book this week, I thought it might be a good time to look at some of the books on Sammy’s heavy rotation list right now.


Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri: We have such an extensive library that books we haven’t read in a while often feel like brand new. It had been a while since I pulled these off the shelves, but I’m glad I did. Sam demands that we read “the taco book” over and over and over. If you ever want to make friends with a dragon, remember that tacos are key. And ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT on your salsa, because spicy things are a no-go for dragons. Unless you want your house incinerated. (We’ve learned from some of our other books that spicy foods also give penguins hiccups, so if you’re feeding foods to animals and/or mythical creatures, go easy on the spices.)

Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel by Adam Rubin, Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri: For those of us who have dabbled in time travel fiction, this book is even funnier than the first. Also, tacos grow on trees. I wish tacos did grow on trees, particularly because we are currently running low on tortillas so we’re going to have to wait until we really need groceries to procure more. And, IDK what the tortilla situation is- bread products are scarce, but are tortillas? I digress. I put these books on my baby shower registry because I was constantly craving tacos during my pregnancy, and a very wise friend of mine with her own children purchased them for me.


Diggersaurs by Michael Whaite: This book combines two of Sammy’s favorite things: dinosaurs and construction equipment. It’s got a nice rhyme scheme and charming illustrations. We have read this book ELEVENTY BILLION TIMES. It’s actually starting to show some serious wear- anybody have advice on repairing children’s paper backs whose pages are coming loose?

Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault Illustrated by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood: After having several conversations with my MIL about Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and both of us being confused, she realized that the book she thought I’d been talking about wasn’t at all the same book she’d been discussing. Apparently Boom Chicka Rock was a favorite of my husband as a kiddo, so she bought a copy for Sammers. It’s very cute and revolves around a team of sneaky mice trying to abscond with a birthday cake under the nose of the house’s cat. Sam thinks this book is hilarious and fun because it’s chock full of word play. There are a couple of instances within the book that I find a little awkward to try to get the rhythm right, but all in all, it’s a really fun read.


101 Trucks: And Other Mighty Things That Go by April Jones Prince, Illustrated by Bob Kolor: Have you figured out that my kid is a fan of trucks? And construction equipment? This book is a delight for him. Right now, he’s particularly fixated on the page that showcases all the different types of “movers,” buses in particular. Everything is a bus. The Duck Boat is a Duck Boat Bus. The Trolley is a Trolley Bus. The Articulating Bus, impressively, is an Articulating Bus. Big words are also Sam’s jam.

As for what I’m reading, I try to listen to Miracle Creek during Sam’s nap time (when he deigns to nap, oof), and I’m really starting to get into the groove of Magic for Liars– I anticipate to have finished at least one of them by next week’s update.

I’d like to give a shout out to all the folks driving trucks, delivering things, providing takeout orders, stocking grocery shelves, and keeping things running enough so the rest of us can hunker down. And, obviously, healthcare workers. I’ve seen meme after meme about nurses and doctors not wanting to be hailed as heroes and that they just want everyone to stay the heck home, but I don’t see why I can’t do both. Hang in there, friends.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re able, please consider purchasing books for delivery from your local independent book store by clicking the links below:

Dragons Love Tacos
Dragons Love Tacos 2
Diggersaurs
Boom Chicka Rock
101 Trucks
Miracle Creek
Magic for Liars

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Mar 18

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Eleventh

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Brain Dump, Weekly Wrap-Up 3

Hi Bookworms,

Holy. Crap. This week has seemed ONE THOUSAND YEARS LONG. In the span of seven days, the Coronavirus has thrown life in the US (and around much of the world) into absolute chaos. My company did the responsible thing and mandated that we work from home at least for the next 2 weeks, which is convenient because the state of Illinois has since shut down all schools. Technically daycares haven’t been officially shut down, but ours made the right call and closed up shop along with the schools. My husband works in healthcare IT, so we don’t entirely know what his working situation is going to look like. I mean, if there were ever a time for healthcare’s tech to be top notch, it’s RIGHT NOW. I’m sure we’ll know more as the week progresses.

I know we’re outrageously lucky. Jim and I both have jobs that we’re still able to do (well, mostly. TODDLER.) We have paid leave if we were to get sick. We have health insurance. We might go a little stir crazy, but we’re going to be OK. When the enormity of the situation gets to be too much, I focus on that, and the little things that make this less frightening. Like, our community has several resources in place offering lunches to kids who rely on school to provide food. Some of our utilities have announced that they’re ceasing shutting off customers for non-payment. Our small community grocery store is having special morning hours (after the store has been disinfected over night) specifically for those 65+ customers to shop. They’re carding at the door to give the most vulnerable the opportunity to shop in the safest possible environment. Bet you never thought there’d be a bouncer at the grocery store keeping the whipper-snappers out, but hey, life is weird. I mean, I now have a constant companion whose favorite phrase is “Oh my gosh, look at her butt!” (thanks, SING) so I can’t be down for too terribly long.

Now because I lack a commute and have no quiet office space or solo lunch breaks (because toddler) my audio book listening will be extremely limited. Hence, I probably won’t have as many books to talk about. That’s good for the books I DO finish, though- they’ll get extra special attention. So why don’t we get started?

I finished The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty on audio last week when I still had a commute, a quiet office, and a lunch break that didn’t involve bribing a child to eat something other than gold fish crackers. I usually really enjoy Liane Moriarty’s work, but my head wasn’t in it this time. I probably would have found myself enjoying this book more were I not having to pause all the time to get more COVID-19 news. Still, the moral dilemmas and mysteries that have made Moriarty a household name are well represented in The Husband’s SecretOne of the things that made this book unique from some of her others was that it did a little light exploration of what would have become of certain characters were it not for the sequence of events that actually unfolded. In that way, it reminded me a little of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life (though this phenomenon was the entire POINT of Reid’s book (review), whilst it was just a little aside in Moriarty’s.) Bottom line? If you generally like Liane Moriarty’s books, you’ll probably like this one too.

I also finished The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan which is the third novel in The Brothers Sinister series. Again, my concentration has been absolute garbage this week, but I still managed to appreciate Violet and Sebastian’s science-tastic romance. We’ve met Violet and Sebastian in previous Brothers Sinister installments, but this book starts off with the revelation that all Sebastian’s scientific accolades are actually the result of Violet’s work. As usual, Milan hits the historical elements hard- there are a number of women that we know about throughout history (and many who remain un-credited) who made impressive scientific breakthroughs in a time and society where it was considered improper for women to engage in such pursuits. Violet partners with Sebastian because even though she’s attempted to submit her impressive and controversial work to professional publications, she’s summarily dismissed simply on the basis of her sex. The Countess Conspiracy is an excellent addition to The Brothers Sinister series, but I think I’m going to take a break before carrying on. Right now, I DESPERATELY want fluffy, cheeky period romances to get my mind off of things, and Milan’s tend a bit heavier. I’ll circle back around, but I’m pausing the binge read for now.

Instead, I’m going in a completely different direction and tackling Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey. Remember when I read those bonkers hippo cowboy books last year? How could I NOT pick up more Sarah Gailey after that? AND they started Magic for Liars off with a Harry Potter reference on the very first page, so this may just be the escape I need right now. Or not. There was also an extremely gruesome murder in the very little bit I read so far. IDK. I also started an audio book, though I have absolutely no idea when I’m going to finish it with my extremely limited audio time. For what it’s worth, Miracle Creek by Angie Kim is fascinating so far, but it’ll probably be a while before I’m able to tell you all about it.

So, Bookworms. How are you holding up?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the above text direct to Amazon Kindle books, because that’s how I’m personally getting most of my books right now. Please also check out your Public Library’s Digital offerings- they’re a fantastic resource for keeping yourself entertained with zero germ spread. And, it goes without saying that Independent Book Stores are really going to be hurting during this time, so if you’d like to purchase through a local, independent book store, please consider using the links below:

The Husband’s Secret
The Countess Conspiracy
Magic for Liars
Miracle Creek

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Mar 10

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Tenth

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 3

Hey There, Hi There, Ho There, Bookworms,

Last week Jim and I went on a trip. Sammers stayed with his grandparents, and even though it was the first time we’d been away from him overnight (yes reader, I did sob when we left) he did amazing. So we took a road trip to Florida to spend some time with the Mouse. Of course, our trip coincided with the explosion of scariness with Covid-19, and as I was standing in line for It’s a Small World, surrounded by people from all over the globe, my Twitter feed was like “CANCEL ALL THE EVENTS! AVOID CROWDS!” Sooooo that put a bit of a damper on my mood, because it was clearly way too late. But, since we were already there, we made the best of things and washed our hands carefully and ate at nice restaurants and drank some wine and did all the things that we wouldn’t have been able to do with Sam in tow. Also, as far as contagions go, two adults can be fairly meticulous about cleanliness, but a toddler? Yeah he’d definitely have licked something a million people had touched, so it was probably for the best that he only licked everything in Grandma and PopPop’s house. (He had a fantastic week and was spoiled rotten. He came home with a bag of new books, a new Spiderman baseball cap, and a smiley face balloon. And clean laundry! God bless my in-laws forever and ever.)

But what about the BOOKS, Katie?! Right! Well, since we were road tripping, I spent a fair amount of time playing navigator, and trying to re-route us away from traffic in major cities. We got lucky with Nashville traffic both coming and going (though coming back we were a little concerned because a tornado had ripped through a few days earlier, but the highways were clear and safe a few days later, so good job cleanup crews, and best of luck rebuilding, Nashville!) Unfortunately, an unexpected jam in Florida and completely predictable traffic in Atlanta caught us on the way back. Anyway. I did do some reading, though, obviously not as much as usual, because of the merry making, the worrying, the navigating, etc. Before we left I purchased The Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan on my kindle, and I made my way through two full length novels and one novella. Romance novels are pretty much all I can handle mentally right now. The many, many, plague and apocalypse books I’ve read over the years are haunting me enough as it is. Although, every time characters get close to kissing I think to myself, “Well, y’all might as well go ahead and swap spit because you’ve already shared all kinds of droplets with your breathy exhales…” It’s not like I have an underlying anxiety disorder or anything… Oh wait…

I started Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War before we left and finished it up on the trip south. Because I’d read The Governess Affair (review), I was already familiar with the protagonist Robert, Duke of Clermont. He grew up being used as a pawn in his parents’ loveless marriage; his father was the actual worst, and his mother fled without custody of their child. A loveless yet privileged childhood was the plight of our hero. He’s considering matrimony when he meets an enigmatic young woman hiding behind a couch. Turns out, Minnie was trying to avoid her suitor by hiding, but will likely marry the awful man anyway because she has so few options. Her options are limited because of SECRETS and REASONS. So, naturally, the two fall desperately in love and have to deal with the consequences of the secrets, reasons, and childhood emotional baggage. I am enjoying Courtney Milan’s work quite a bit- her historical setting is a bit later than a lot of the Jane Austen era novels I’ve read, and I always learn some new historical tidbits by reading her books.

The next installment in The Brothers Sinister series was the sweet novella, A Kiss for MidwinterIt follows the BFF of The Duchess War‘s heroine. Lydia has a secret that could ruin her, a secret known only to a precious few, including Leicester’s sarcastic young Dr. Jonas Grantham. Dr. Grantham has taken a shine to Lydia, though she avoids him as much as possible, believing his knowledge of her secret to be a weapon. In an attempt to get close to her, Dr. Grantham proposes a wager, which, if he wins, will earn him a kiss. BECAUSE OF COURSE. Oh romance novels, never change. I really enjoyed this novella! So far most of this series has been slow-burn, so the novella rather nicely compresses that tension for the impatient among us. As far as historical tidbits, I can now proudly say that I know quite a bit more about 19th Century prophylactics than I did before. Because Dr. Grantham was a doctor, I also picked up some info on 19th Century medical care, and OOF. Apparently going directly from the autopsy table to tend to child bed WITHOUT WASHING ONE’S HANDS was standard medical practice which led to (shocker) a LOT of infection. Thankfully, our hero was extremely pro-hygiene, the radical, and therefore ranks rather highly in my esteem. There’s something that’s exceptionally sexy about hand washing these days. Whew. Wash those hands, handsome. Wash them good!

I finished up reading The Heiress Effect on our first night home from the trip, during which I stayed up too late and gave out quite a few nighttime snuggles. Normally, late night wake up calls are not my favorite (though, yes, they still happen rather frequently), but I could hardly begrudge my sweet little Sir some extra attention after being away. I daresay the half-sleep we shared in the recliner was therapeutic for us both. Look at me, digressing again. So, The Heiress Effect follows Jane Fairfield. She’s an heiress with a massive dowry, but she’s determined not to marry, at least until her little sister is of an age that she can leave the care of their misguided guardian. She behaves in a ghastly manner in society, managing to keep even the greediest of suitors at bay. Oliver Marshall, however, sees through her ruse, and despite his best efforts, is enchanted. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book were the descriptions of Jane’s fashion abominations. She’s well aware that she’s choosing garish ensembles, but she also secretly loves the bright colors and outlandish patterns. It reminded me a bit of a certain pink haired friend of mine whose fashion sense it more about her own personal delight than any popular trend.

So what am I reading this week? I’ve picked back up with my audio book of Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret (it’s starting to get especially juicy.) I’ve just begun a traditional read of the next installment of The Brothers Sinister, The Countess Conspiracy which is already proving a strong contender to be my favorite in the series. Sebastian + Violet = 4 Ever. What have you been reading, Bookworms? How are your anxiety levels? What are your go-to escapist reads?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the text above direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop your local indie bookstore, click here!

 

 

 

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Mar 04

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Ninth

Audio Books, Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Hiya Bookworms,

Alas, it remains cold and flu season and I have succumbed to illness. Bleh. I spent a whole day sleeping and am currently trying to do all the things that will shorten the duration of an illness. Drinking all the tea! Eating vitamin C drops! Ibuprofen! WASHING AND WASHING AND WASHING MY HANDS! It’s been a slower reading week as a result of my having been felled, but I still have some books to chat about. Let’s chat.

In case you missed it, I wrote a whole solo post dedicated to The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa. I had entirely too much to say about it for it to be smooshed into a weekly post. Check it out here.

I am fond of a number of romance tropes, but sham weddings rank pretty high on the list. XENI: A Marriage of Inconvenience by Rebekah Weatherspoon combines the sham wedding concept with “completely bonkers last will and testament demands” and I am so here for it. Xeni Everly-Wilkins is in charge of settling her dearly-departed aunt’s estate, and leaves her life in LA to handle the affairs in upstate New York. She gets more than she bargained for when the will is read, and soon finds herself married, at her late aunt’s insistence. In order for her and her spouse Mason to collect their inheritances, they need to get married and remain so for at least 30 days. But, as we all know, sham marriages in romance novels have a tendency to become more real than the characters expect… Now that I’ve read two Rebekah Weatherspoon novels I think it’s safe to say that her love scenes can sometimes be a bit more… IDK how to put it… Graphic? Creative? Spicy? Than what I’m used to. I noticed it a little bit in Rafe but Xeni was another level entirely. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy both books, because I absolutely did, but it may be worth noting for those who are more conservative in their love scene tastes. Not much fazes me personally, but there were a few points where I found myself thinking “Oh wow. They really went there. OK.” Consider yourself warned if that is the type of warning you’d appreciate. If you’re the type of person who wants a more specific content warning than that, send me an email or a DM on social media and we can discuss it further.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone probably wasn’t the wisest choice for my illness-addled brain. I think it would have been more enjoyable to read about a science fiction spy operative clandestine love story if I’d been feeling a bit sharper. As it was, the letters between Red and Blue were gorgeous, and often poetic, but keeping tabs on the story wasn’t the easiest. Granted, it does take place between two warring time travelers so expecting something clear and linear in their correspondence was my own mistake. But when one has taken cold medication and tried to figure out how one goes about coding letters into berries and explosions and other obscure means, things get confusing in a hurry. I might try to read this again when I’m fully healthy as it’s gotten rave reviews from others. Check it out if a time traveling Mrs. and Mrs. Smith is something you might be into.

That’s the best I can do for you this week, I’m afraid. I’ve just started The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty via audio, which is always the correct choice for Liane Moriarty books because Australian accents are better listened to than imagined. I’m eyeball reading Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War. I read her prequel novella The Governess Affair a few weeks back and decided to tackle the rest of the Brothers Sinister Series. What have you been reading, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the text above direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop through a local, independent book store, please see the links below:

Indiebound Links:
The Worst Best Man
Xeni: A Marriage of Inconvenience
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny
This is How You Lose the Time War
The Husband’s Secret
The Duchess War

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Feb 27

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Romance 1

Greetings Bookworms,

I just finished the most delightful Rom-Com. As I started writing little notes to myself for my weekly wrap-up, it quickly became clear that I had a lot to say about The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa. Hence, it shall have its own post. You deserve it, you sweet little book, you.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgOur protagonist, Carolina Santos, is a wedding planner who manages to keep doing her job despite having been left at the alter herself (early aughts J-Lo vibes are inevitable, really, but, this is a better story.) Carolina Santos is excellent at her job, and she’s worked very hard to cultivate her no-nonsense persona. After she masterfully saves the eyebrows (you read that right) of the groom one at one memorable event, she’s offered the opportunity to interview for a position to be a swanky hotel’s wedding coordinator. The opportunity sounds almost too good to be true, considering she’s going to be losing her affordable retail space and is OVER the exhausting work of running her own business. The other shoe inevitably drops when she discovers that the marketing team she’s supposed to build her pitch with consists of her ex-fiance Drew and his brother Max, AKA, the WORST BEST MAN EVER (since he apparently encouraged Drew to ditch Lina.) As you might imagine, hijinks ensue.

Let’s get to the good stuff. First, Lina is the daughter of Brazilian immigrants living in the Washington, DC area. I think this is the first book I’ve ever read focusing on Brazilian immigrants, and it was a lot of fun to hear about the family’s dynamic and traditions. And, as an added perk of listening to the audio version, I really enjoyed hearing the little snippets of spoken Portuguese peppered into the dialogue. (That would have been less fun if I’d read it myself, because I don’t speak Portuguese and would certainly have mentally mispronounced all of it.)

This book also hit upon one of my favorite romance tropes, the classic “THERE’S ONLY ONE BED!” But it didn’t stop there! I’d like to see “OOPS WE ACCIDENTALLY LANDED IN A COUPLE’S COUNSELLING RETREAT” become a romance trope in its own rite, because it was hilarious and wonderful. That’s another thing- this book was funny. You know how when you type “LOL” but you really only exhale sharply through your nose and smirk? This was not that type of funny. This was “bystanders are going to wonder what the heck is going on because I’m wearing ear buds and I can’t stop giggling” funny.

The only issue I had with this audio book is that the male narrator’s voice had a quality that kept making me think of Norm Macdonald. And while mid-90s teenage Katie did kind of have a thing for him on SNL, much like my crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas, this one didn’t age well. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, NORM, YOU’RE RUINING THIS FOR ME! (I’ll own that this criticism is 100% on me; I doubt anyone else has a subconscious Norm Macdonald fixation.)

All the humor and fun aside, this book had a lot of heart. Max and Lina made so much progress in dealing with their emotional baggage. I mean, Max and Drew have this awful toxic competitive relationship that needs a lot of unpacking. And Lina keeps such a tight reign on her emotions because the world has penalized her for having feelings. I’m a walking bundle of messy, leaky feelings, and while it can be inconvenient and embarrassing, White ladies are afforded liberties with emotions that Black Latinx women are not. I WANT TO HUG YOUR FICTIONAL FACE OFF, LINA, YOU DESERVE BETTER!

All that is to say, if you’re in the market for a romantic comedy, I cannot recommend The Worst Best Man highly enough. Humor, heart, and a dash of heat make it an all-around fabulous read!

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Text links in the post above direct to amazon, but if you prefer to shop through local, independent bookstores, click on the image or the link below:

The Worst Best Man

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Feb 25

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Eighth

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Hiya Bookworms,

Let’s review the week, shall we? It’s not bookish news, but, we ordered the bridesmaid dresses for my friend’s wedding from eShakti and mine arrived this week. If you’re unfamiliar, eShakti is an online retailer where you can customize your sizing and style details before you order. Like, I wanted a different neckline than the default design and I added sleeves (which my bride-chilla was totally cool with.) I also wanted to order a custom size so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting alterations after the fact. You can order standard sizes, but in a lot of cases, such as mine, the combination hip/bust/waist ratio doesn’t line up perfectly with a standard size anyway so they always fit weird (thus the vicious alterations cycle.) While an eShakti dress might be more expensive than what I’d ordinarily gravitate toward in an off-the-rack dress (I’m notoriously cheap), it’s still the least expensive bridesmaid dress I’ve ever purchased (and I have 6 dresses from traditional bridal stores hanging in my closet, most of which needed alterations in addition to the purchase price.) Even for a less formal occasion, I think I’m to the point where I’d rather have one expensive-ish yet nicely fitting dress than a closet full of cheap dresses that I’m not comfortable in. This one fits like magic and it was SUCH a relief. (I get absolutely no commissions if you decide to go and buy something from eShakti– I’m just excited and wanted to share. Oh yeah. THEIR DRESSES HAVE POCKETS!!!) I know, you’re here for books, not fashion rants. Luckily I’m fashion challenged so those won’t happen often. BOOKS!

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (who also writes as Mira Grant) is the fifth, and latest in the Wayward Children series of novellas. This one’s audio book was even narrated by the author, which is always a fun surprise. We revisit Jack and Jill in The Moors, which we were introduced to (in graphic detail) in Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Yup, our horror movie nightmare parallel world is just about where we left it, except that the newly resurrected Jill has decided to become a body snatcher. It’s wildly creative and fascinating and I love all the myriad of worlds these Wayward Children have stepped into. I must admit though, I REALLY want to go to The Trenches to see Cora get her mermaid on. I mean, I’ve seen a snippet of mermaid lore via the mind of Mira Grant in Rolling in the Deep (review), but I want the alternate universe version. Hopefully that story is in the works!

Because I can’t seem to get enough in the way of audio book novellas, I decided to try Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. I LOVED her books Akata Witch and Akata Warrior (I desperately hope the series continues because I love it so much), and I’d heard a lot of great things about Binti, so I was excited to try it out. Alas, I didn’t love it the way I wanted to. There were some elements that reminded me of Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy (review), and drawing a comparison to Octavia Butler is never a bad thing. It’s just… It’s only 96 pages (or approximately 2 hours listening time), so the story felt rushed and a little Stockholm Syndrome-y. I feel like I’m missing something obvious because EVERYONE loves Binti . Sigh. I’ll probably try the rest of the the series at some point and see if that changes my perspective, but for now I’m still lukewarm on it.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms was okay, but not totally my jam. I don’t know exactly why it didn’t hit the right notes for me, but it felt a bit “meh” from the get-go. Have I been spoiled by plucky romance heroines? Amy is lacking in the feisty fire I’ve come to expect from rom-com protagonists. She’s a librarian and thus committed to trying to get her children to enjoy reading, but she keeps discouraging her daughter from picking up YA titles like Twilight and trying to get her to read stodgy old classics like Lord of the Flies. I’m in my mid 30s and I would honestly rather re-read Twilight (review) than read Lord of the Flies (review) again. Stop shaming your daughter’s reading tastes, Amy! She redeems herself somewhat by recommending Eleanor & Park (review) to her daughter but still. Encouraging any reading is more important than gate keeping for presumed quality. Why yes, my views have evolved over time. This is now a hill I will die on. Sorry, that was an incredibly minor point in the book, but it clearly stuck with me. Mostly, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is about a middle-aged woman whose deadbeat husband suddenly reappears after 3 years. She gets the opportunity to spend some time solo in NYC and embarks on what the book terms a “Momspringa” (a term that I think might be offensive to Amish people, but the Amish being Amish, I can’t exactly check Twitter to confirm that.) Anyway. It was alright, but nothing I’d shout from the rooftops over.

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon was an adorable Beauty and the Beast retelling set at a boarding school in Colorado. A boarding school for the extremely wealthy and potentially scandalous, I should add. Jaya Rao and her sister flee a paparazzi scandal at home in India to seek refuge in the elite St. Rosetta’s. As fate would have it, the school also houses the heir of her family’s arch-nemesis. Grey Emerson is a misanthrope whose aristocratic British family unceremoniously dumped him at an American boarding school as a small child. He’s been living under the shadow of a curse, only to be presented with Jaya, the descendant of the curse-layer. Of Curses and Kisses is a cute story, but I prefer Menon’s Dimple/Rishi-verse (review). The whole filthy rich student body at a fancy boarding school thing was fun but isn’t my favorite style. Also, I’ve never been a rich person, but the lack of concern the characters give to the monetary value of actual rubies is incredibly stressful to me. Like, how are you not scouring every inch of ground to hunt down gems that fell out of your necklace? Nobody even removes a couch cushion! I don’t care if you’re a princess or whatever, you don’t just shrug that kind of thing off, right?

Moving into the coming week, I’m eyeball reading XENI: A Marriage of Inconvenience, which is the second book in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Loose Ends series that kicked off with RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny  (review). I’ve got The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa playing in my audio book app. Is there any better way to start the week than with a pair of rom-coms? What are you reading this week, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Text links in the above post direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop through a local, independent bookstore, check out the links below:

Come Tumbling Down
Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Rolling in the Deep
Binti
Akata Witch
Akata Warrior
Xenogenesis
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
Twilight
Lord of the Flies
Eleanor and Park
Of Curses and Kisses
Xeni: A Marriage of Inconvenience
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny

 

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Feb 20

Top Ten Romance Novel Heroes

Romance, Top Ten Tuesday 3

Howdy Bookworms!

Back when I was blogging all the time I used to put together Top Ten lists weekly. There was a Top Ten Tuesday meme (which I think is probably still a thing?) where a theme would be selected and you’d choose your Top Ten for a given topic. I did so many of those that I got burnt out, especially when the topics started to get repetitive. That said, I’ve read a boatload of delightful romance novels in the past couple of years, most of which I never wrote about, and I’d like to give some of my favorite suitors a bit of credit. Let’s talk about my favorite romance heroes, shall we?

Please note: while I still hold Jamie Fraser in the highest regard, I don’t consider the Outlander books to be “romance” in the strictest sense. They’re a historical/sci fi/steamy/adventure mashup. In my personal narrow definition of “romance” as a genre, I need a guaranteed “happily ever after” at the end of a single book. Series can be linked together, but only insofar as we see happy couples we met earlier continuing to be happy. Not being shipwrecked, presumed dead, having their families ripped apart, etc.

ONE: Theo from The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory- Theo was the impetus for this entire post– I was reading another book recently and thinking about how much better Theo was at the uptight/well-dressed/driven-worker-bee vibe than that book’s hero. Theo is BY FAR my favorite Guillory love interest. He’s smart, he’s stylish, he appears aloof but is a secret marshmallow. When he drunkenly showed off his N’Sync dance moves to Maddie, my heart was forever his. I’d also like to give a special shout out to Maddie, who shares my taste in pizza toppings. Pepperoni + Black Olive is the secondary true love story in this book.

TWO: Cross from One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean- This is easily my favorite book of The Rules of Scoundrels Series thanks in large part to Cross being extremely swoonworthy. He’s got a brilliant mathematical mind and a tortured past full of excesses that he’s given up… But a bookish beauty wins his heart. Obviously. (Phillipa Marbury would be BFF with Minerva Highwood from Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series, by the by. Is a crossover bestie novel too much to hope for? I bet there’s a fandom somewhere shipping these two… I could get on board that ship.)

THREE: Michael from The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang- He’s an escort who falls head over heels for a his client, Stella, who happens to be on the autism spectrum. He’s so patient and intuitive with her and her needs it’s just heart melting- especially considering she’s had some pretty terrible romantic experiences in the past. Plus, I’m a total sucker for the “sex worker getting the HEA” trope. I blame it on my early exposure to Pretty Woman.

FOUR: Logan from When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare- You knew I wasn’t going to have a list like this without at least one dude in a kilt, right? Jamie Fraser is not the only swoony Scotsman in literature. The way Logan cares for his beleaguered troops is enough to endear him to me, but the way he fell in love through letters he was never meant to receive? The swoon is strong with this one.

FIVE: Samson from The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai- I don’t even like sports, but Samson is the most perfect cinnamon roll of a professional football player who has ever existed in fiction (and most likely IRL too.) He gave up his lucrative career to defend the noggin of his teammate (because CTE is no joke.) He’s really good at apologizing and being decent. I love this guy.

SIX & SEVEN: Both Henry and Alex from Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston- When your romance novel stars an actual prince and the adorable son of the US president, you can’t expect me to choose just one. Alex’s saucy banter and Henry’s proper Britishness gone awry make this one of the best books I read in 2019. Also? I totally want to live in this alternate political reality. History, huh? #LoveIsLove

EIGHT: Gus from Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole- I am endlessly smitten with the entire Reluctant Royals series, but Can’t Escape Love is a companion book with zero actual royals involved. Gus is obsessed with puzzles, super smart, and endlessly soothing to Regina. He makes delicious salad dressing. He cannot help but profess his feelings even when he knows it’s too early and might make things weird. He’s a gem and I love him forever.

NINE: Red from Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert- Sensitive artist with a history of being in a crappy, abusive relationship falls for sharp tongued woman with a chronic pain disorder. Much banter, extremely sexy, and there’s a hilarious tree climbing rescue incident. Red is awesome with Chloe and he loves his mom. 10/10 would recommend.

TEN: Rafe from RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon: I had this list mostly completed, and had planned to post for Valentine’s Day, but I didn’t get it finished in time. I realize now that it was clearly the universe telling me that I couldn’t complete the list until I’d read RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny. Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe: the buffest, male-st, nanniest of romance heroes. Looks like a Son of Anarchy, bakes like a son of Betty Crocker. Gentle with your kids, gentle with your heart, and as gentle (or not) as you desire in other aspects of life. Whew. Steamy steamy Rafe.

There we are, Bookworms. My Top Ten Romance Heroes are all present and accounted for. This list is likely to change over time because I’m definitely going to continue reading excellent romances, but my Top Ten Lists mean about as much as my Goodreads star ratings. Who are some of your favorite romance heroes? Or, just, like, favorite characters who aren’t in romance novels (since I know romance isn’t everyone’s jam.) Tell me about it, Bookworms!

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the above post direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop through local, independent book stores, please see the links below:
The Wedding Party
One Good Earl Deserves a Lover
The Kiss Quotient
When a Scot Ties the Knot
Red, White & Royal Blue
Can’t Escape Love
Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny
Outlander

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Feb 18

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Seventh

Bite Size Reviews, Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts 1

Greetings Bookworms!

I’d just like to take a moment to give myself a high five for keeping these weekly posts going longer than I anticipated when I made my New Year’s Resolution. Yes, I know it’s only February, but I expected to make it 3 weeks, tops. As it turns out, I really, really missed shouting about books on the internet. Who knew? So… Shall we shout about some books on the internet? Let’s start with the remainder of this Beverly Jenkins trilogy…

Fabio Who?

So, last week, I was like “Destiny’s Embrace was good but not my favorite.” Which, is still true, but it’s moved up in my esteem by proximity to the rest of the series. I’d have been MISSING OUT if I’d quit after book 1. Destiny’s Surrender follows the middle Yates brother, Andrew Antonio. He’s a lawyer practicing in 1880s San Francisco who isn’t ready to be tied down. At least, not figuratively. (I have no evidence of his bedroom escapades including restraints but he’s an adventurous guy, so I wouldn’t put it past him.) Aaaanyway, this leads to his frequenting a certain plucky prostitute named Billie whom he accidentally impregnates. When the baby arrives with a telltale matching birthmark (life before paternity tests, y’all) Billie knows who the father is. She is desperate to find her child a safe home so she can escape an evil pimp. Such drama! Such intrigue! Such steam! I was well and truly prepared to say that Destiny’s Surrender was my favorite of the series when Ms. Bev pulled out the mother-frickin PIRATES in book 3, Destiny’s Captive. Noah, the youngest Yates brother has turned his traumatic past into a successful shipping business. All is going as well as can be expected when he’s taken captive and his ship is stolen. BY A LADY PIRATE! This series started in Hallmark movie territory (if Hallmark acknowledged sexy times) and graduated to HBO miniseries in a hurry! Not only was Destiny’s Captive a fabulous love story, but it covered a lot of historical content I wasn’t familiar with. I learned all kinds of new things. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS! Pilar + Noah = 4 Ever.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi was, possibly, even more intense than its predecessor, Children of Blood and Bone. It’s one thing to write a magical epic, but a magical epic that rips out the guts of its readers at every turn? That’s QUITE a feat. Bahni Turpin narrated the audio book, and she is unquestionably one of the best narrators ever. She’s a phenomenal actress and can express arrays of emotion that make a book even more compelling. I think my heart broke about 30% more than it would have if I had merely read the words by listening to the rawness and passion she put into the storytelling. And, as I often feel about fantasy novels, I prefer to listen to them so I can hear the names of people and places pronounced as the author intended. I can’t reveal a lot of the plot of this novel without completely spoiling the first book, but I urge you to pick up this series. You will NOT be disappointed.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo was WOW. I read Acevedo’s novel, With the Fire on High, but that was regular prose (another great book to add to your reading list.) The Poet X was this wonderfully imaginative poetry/novel hybrid, and its power was enhanced through the audio book narrated by the author. It follows Xiomara Batista- a teenage girl living in Harlem from a very religious Domincan family. She’s trying to navigate her way through a world that treats her body as a threat to decency while grappling with her faith and familial relationships. Xiomara turns her tumultuous thoughts into verse in a notebook she received from her twin brother. I’m trying to think of an example to compare it with and the only thing I can come up with style-wise is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (which is excellent, too!) This is a quick read with high emotional payoff- go get a copy and feel some things.


I’d been meaning to read some Rebekah Weatherspoon and it seems I chose the CORRECT place to start. Holy hotness, Batman,  RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny was ::fans self:: delightful. Sloan is a single mother, a heart surgeon, and in need of a nanny stat. After her previous live-in leaves her in the lurch, she hires an unconventional nanny who comes highly recommended- Rafe. He’s a buff, tattooed, biker with an unparalleled gentleness with children. AND. HE. COOKS. This one is REAL steamy, but sometimes when I run into super steamy books they’re a bit lacking in, oh, everything else? Not the case here. I’d have adored this book even if Ms. Weatherspoon had gone fade-to-black on the love scenes. It’s just that sweet.

Whew, what a ride! It’s been a busy week for my brain and the books. I’m currently listening to Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire. It’s the latest in the Wayward Children series of novellas, all of which have thus far been fantastic. As for these eyes of mine, they’re working on The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms. I started it because I’d run out of material on my kindle that sounded appealing and started trolling what was available to me in Prime reading. I’m not sure it’s exactly what I’m in the mood for, but I’m willing to give it a shot. At least until the library holds start rolling in. What are you reading this week, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links within the above text direct to Amazon. If you prefer to shop through a local, independent bookstore, please see the links below:

Destiny’s Embrace
Destiny’s Surrender
Destiny’s Captive
Children of Blood and Bone
Children of Virtue and Vengeance
Brown Girl Dreaming
The Poet X
With the Fire on High
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler
Come Tumbling Down

 

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