Month: January 2020

Jan 29

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Fourth

Bite Size Reviews, Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, My Reading Life 4

Hiya Bookworms!

In case you missed it, I published a (gasp) stand-alone review of How to Hack a Heartbreak last week (read it here). I also put together a post on the excellent pair of mermaid novellas I recently finished via audio: The Deep by Rivers Solomon and Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant (read it here). WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING? Who is this prolific blogger?! Shhhh, don’t scare her away!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgLet’s see, what else did I read last week? The good thing about novellas is that they’re short, so you can plow through a whole bunch of them fairly quickly. Like how I plowed through Tessa Dare’s Beauty and the Blacksmith. It was another Spindle Cove story, a nice bite-size one, and I’m a sucker for a regency romance. I will say that Diana might be my least favorite of the Highwood sisters at this point, but Aaron Dawes is my favorite Highwood suitor. Something about a burly blacksmith who likes to spend his spare time creating delicate jewelry pieces is especially dreamy. Then again, I RELATE VERY INTENSELY to a scene where Diana attempts to prepare a meal and is attacked by a rogue eel. Perhaps it’s just that Diana didn’t get a whole book to display her personality that I’m pinning her as least-fave. I really shouldn’t be ranking the Highwood sisters anyway, they’re all wonderful in their own ways. Why is Tessa Dare so great? Honestly.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

I also finished up The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Whew, what a ride! Old Hollywood, the pressures of fame, the elaborate cover ups, and manipulation of the tabloids: this book had it all. When the elderly yet beautiful Evelyn Hugo decides to share her life story with a somewhat obscure magazine writer, everything is a bit shadowy and mysterious. Monique Grant isn’t sure why exactly she’s been personally chosen to be the aging star’s biographer, but it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Over the course of Evelyn’s recollections, we meet a complex and driven woman, willing to go to great lengths to protect those she loves… Even when it means employing morally ambiguous (or straight up terrible) behavior. Sometimes she feels guilt and she often feels sorrow, but Evelyn flat out says that she’d make the same decisions over again. It had a very City of Girls feel, so if you enjoyed that, definitely give this a read. (City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is another book that I read and enjoyed and never told you about. Sorry ’bout that. But add it to your reading list because it’s a good one!)

Moving into next week I’m listening to what I believe to be the last remaining Spindle Cove installment I’ve yet to read: Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare. My eyeballs are currently feasting upon Heidi Heilig’s novel For a Muse of Fire. What have you been reading this week, Bookworms?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links within the text go to Amazon, but if you’d prefer to make a purchase through an independent bookstore, click on the images*

 

Divider

Jan 27

Nightmarish Mermaid Novellas

Audio Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction 5

Howdy Howdy Bookworms!

How’s about that title? Those are words I wouldn’t have expected to put together, but here we are. I spent a chunk of last week listening to some nightmarish mermaid novellas. It was wild and I’m going to tell you all about it. Prepare yourselves, Ariel stans: this is going to get ugly.
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Deep by Rivers Solomon had been on my radar for a while. I thought their book An Unkindness of Ghosts was PHENOMENAL so I was looking forward to diving into their take on mermaid lore. These aren’t like, Lisa Frank style mermaids though. This is a dark, devastating, intense mermaid situation:

Yetu is the historian for a community of water-dwelling descendants of the pregnant African women tossed from slave ships (yes, this is a real thing that happened because the slave trade is endlessly horrifying.) Yetu doesn’t simply keep the records, though: they’re the only one who actively remembers the group’s history. And they remember constantly. Every single painful, traumatic incident in the community’s past is stored within Yetu’s overburdened mind to be doled out annually to community. In this way, the community is not overcome with sorrow, but Yetu, as the keeper of the memories, being destroyed by the knowledge.

Daveed Diggs (of Hamilton fame- he’s Lafayette/Jefferson from the original cast and generally awesome) narrates the book because the novella was inspired by a song his rap group (why do I sound like a Grandma?) produced. His group’s song was inspired by another musical work: it’s kind of a game of extremely intelligent and artistic Telephone, which is a metaphor I’m borrowing from the end notes of the audio book. It was really amazing, but also, I feel like I’m not really smart enough to appreciate all its nuance. Rivers Solomon is a genius. Daveed Diggs was the perfect narrator. My brain is going to be digesting this one for a long time.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Since I was already on a mermaid kick, I thought, “What the heck? Let’s go listen to that Mira Grant novella about mermaids. I’ve seen it a few times, it makes me get Adele songs stuck in my head. Sounds like fun.” And with that in mind, I decided to put Rolling in the Deep into my earholes.

This was a straight up horror story about mermaids. A crew of scientists, TV producers, and mermaid impersonators set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to create a documentary about mermaids. The TV network commissioning the voyage is not above sensationalism (hence the troupe of human women who make their living as “professional mermaids” they hired in case their search came to naught.) The scientists are real, though, and have taken this rare opportunity to gather data on their varying fields of study. As you might guess, the crew finds more than they bargained for. (Dun dun dun!)

I love Mira Grant (AKA Seanan McGuire) and Rolling in the Deep had a tone similar to that of the Newsflesh novels (Feed, Deadline, Blackout). But, you know. Instead of zombies, it was mermaids. Bioluminescent mermaids who devour humans. Nobody on the crew was actually expecting to find anything, but some harbored hopes of discovering something along the lines of Ariel. Instead, they got Jaws. It’s definitely worth a read/listen, but if you want a meatier, more literary mermaid novella, stick with Rivers Solomon.

Now that I’m in a mer-mood (hi, I’m a walking Dad-Joke) do any of you bookworms have recommendations? I’m open to happier mermaid tales, too!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Text links go to Amazon, but clicking the images will take you to IndieBound which will allow you to purchase through a local, independent book store.*

Divider

Jan 23

How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance 1

Hey there Bookworms!

I was totally going to stick with my weekly updates, but I thought I’d make things easier on myself and jot down some notes before writing up the wrap-up post… And then a whole book review came out? So yeah. Apparently this is a thing I’m doing again, I guess. Please enjoy my disjointed thoughts on How to Hack a Heartbreak

I recently finished listening to the audio version of Kristin Rockaway’s How to How to Hack a Heartbreak. I should note that when I mentioned the book last week, I initially typed “Kristin” in the post, then changed it to “Kirstin” because Scribd has a big old typo in their system. I’m fairly confident I’ve got it correct now, thanks to the book’s cover image.

How to Hack a Heartbreak is about a woman named Mel Strickland. She works for a tech startup incubator. She’s been stuck at the help desk forever and the work environment is beyond toxic (seriously SO INFURIATING.) So many of the protagonist’s interactions with men have been crappy (her dad, her co-workers, internet dating, randos on the Subway) that she creates her own little website in a fit of catharsis. It’s designed to expose the type of jerks who spam women with dick pics on dating apps. One day she and a co-worker (Alex) discover they have a bit of a spark, and he appears to be a decent dude- but Mel’s got some serious trust issues (for obvious reasons.) She has a super cool friend group, though, and thank goodness for that, because Mel’s little JerkAlert website goes viral. Between her new website, her horrendous job, and her budding romance, things get complicated in a hurry.

If love scenes make you uncomfortable, this is the book for you! It takes the fade-to-black route rather than going into detail. Personally, I rather enjoy a bit of steam in my novels (particularly those categorized as romance), so that was something of a disappointment for me. Also, the narrator of How to Hack a Heartbreak sounded aggressively Midwestern to me which I found distracting, since the book was set in NYC. I know Mel wasn’t originally from NYC, but since they didn’t mention a Midwestern hometown (or if they did, it was glossed over quickly), it threw me for a loop. The actual text did all the right NYC things, from what I understand. I mean, they said “standing on line” instead of “standing in line” which I’ve heard is what New Yorkers say. I myself am aggressively Midwestern so I can’t say I’ve ever actually heard anyone use that phrase, but Twitter tells me that it’s a thing. That’s not to say the narrator isn’t great- she is! She just sounds… Midwestern. At least to my admittedly in-expert ears.

All in all, I liked How to Hack a Heartbreak but I didn’t LOVE it. I think that’s partially because I read a similar novel by Alisha Rai a few months ago and it was SUPERB. It’s hard not to compare two novels that revolve around women in tech that deal extensively with dating apps, and it’s hard not to suffer by comparison to The Right Swipe.  So, How to Hack a Heartbreak is a decent book, but not my super fave. If you like the premise and don’t mind steamy scenes, definitely check out The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai. (I’m now feeling guilty about falling off the blogging wagon despite having read SO MANY EXCELLENT BOOKS. These books deserved better, but the backlog is too overwhelming. I’ll keep giving them shout-outs as I move forward though!)

Alright then. Surprise book review. Check and check.

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Text links in the body of this post direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to order through an independent book store, check out the links below.*

How to Hack a Heartbreak
The Right Swipe

Divider

Jan 21

The Third Week of 2020

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Brain Dump, My Reading Life 3

Greetings Bookworms!

January is so freaking melancholy. Something about the early darkness and the cold makes everything feel like a slog. I tried to liven things up by rocking my new Sesame Street Book Club sweatshirt and taking selfies (check out my new pic on the sidebar!) But January gonna January. It’s a darn good thing that books know no season, isn’t it? Of course, one of the books I finished up last week was admittedly rather depressing, but it’s SO GOOD that it doesn’t matter. My book club chose Tell the Wolves I’m Home this month- unfortunately I had to miss the actual Book Club meeting, but the book itself was PERFECTION. Even though I read it back in 2013 and totally knew how it ended, I stayed up until the wee hours re-reading and crying. Now, me crying while reading a book isn’t exactly surprising, but this book doesn’t just hit the sad note. It hits all kinds of complex emotions regarding sibling relationships and anger and betrayal and love and loss and grief. Ooof. It packs a punch. A really, really good punch.
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

I also listened to Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid and thought it was great. The premise was innovative- the protagonist is taken to one point in time but makes two different decisions. In one scenario, she decides to go home after a night out with friends. In another, she decides to stay out with her former flame to see where the night takes her. What follows are two diverging stories that hinge on that single decision. It was WONDERFUL. It’s also a testament to the power of friendship. There were plenty of romantic entanglements in this book, but none of them were as compelling as the friendship between Hannah and Gabby. They’ve earned a slot on my Top Ten List of Fictional Besties. Also, you know that thing where you read a book and they talk about a specific food and you suddenly just NEED that food? I definitely bought some cinnamon rolls after reading this.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

To round out my week, I finished eyeball reading a novella by Courtney Milan. I love a nice novella, especially after finishing a giant CHONK of a book like last week’s The Priory of the Orange Tree. I hadn’t read any Courtney Milan before so when I saw a deal on The Governess Affair I snapped it up. It’s a regency era romance, but goes a little bit outside of the privileged world that I generally read about in these type of novels. There were Dukes and stuff, but they’re not the main characters (they’re also THE WORST). But also it’s not about, like, scullery maids either. It’s sort of… privilege adjacent. I will never cease to be amazed at just how FAST weddings sometimes happened back in the day. I mean, I get it. A lot of social structures required hasty weddings because being “ruined” by choice, by force, or by suspicion was genuinely horrible for women. Thanks, patriarchy. Anyway. This was a great book, and I fully intend to explore more of Courtney Milan’s work.

Now, let’s talk about what I’m reading heading into the fourth week of the year! I just started How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway in audio format and I’m tackling The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (yes, another Taylor Jenkins Reid. What? I’m a fan!) in a traditional format (albeit a digital one- even my eyeball reading takes place on a Kindle.) What have y’all been reading during these January doldrums?

 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Divider

Jan 14

The Second Week of 2020

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, My Reading Life 9

Hello My Dearest Bookworms,

It’s been a wild week. I was not expecting to be potty training my child right now, but here we are. I figured I’d kick the can down the road a little bit and use up the last jumbo pack of diapers before we gave it a go, but Sammers had other ideas. His little daycare buddy was getting candy as a reward for using the potty and Sam wanted in. Listen, I’ve heard horror stories about how hard potty training can be, I wasn’t about to miss the window of opportunity. Am I ready? Not really. Is Sam? It would appear so. I’m terrified of jinxing myself here, so I’ll just say that I’m cautiously optimistic about the way things have been going. I have now read The Underwear Book by Todd Parr so many times that I can recite it in my sleep. Not that I’ve been getting much sleep because Sammy’s developmental milestones always seem to come with a side of “Sleep is for CHUMPS!” But. This is what he currently likes to have read to him whilst he sits on said potty.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

This really isn’t even a potty training book, and it offers some questionable advice regarding underwear and swimming, but it may get your toddler jazzed about wearing undies.

In “books I read of my own volition with my eyeballs” news, I finally finished The Priory of the Orange Tree Tree by Samantha Shannon. This book is pure high fantasy of the vague-Medieval-setting/Magic/Dragons variety, but unlike most of the high fantasy I’ve read, it stars heroic women and POC. Epic chunky fantasy novels aren’t generally my first choice of reading material, but I like to change it up from time to time. I liked the book a lot, but I did have to put a little more effort into it than what I usually pick up. Then again, that’s true for me regarding most high fantasy- it’s a lot of names and places and magical phenomena to mentally juggle. Look- any book that offers maps and appendices with lists of characters and world-specific terminology is a lot to take on. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. If you dig fantasy, I highly recommend you give The Priory of the Orange Tree a whirl.

In “books I put into my earholes” news, I finished Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. I might be a little obsessed. I loved so much about it, I hardly know where to start. First, our protagonist Chloe Brown is a freaking delight, even when she’s not. She has fibromyalgia and suffers from chronic pain but loves buttons so much that she has faux buttons sewn onto her sweaters. I liked that both the main characters had a lot of emotional baggage, both romantic and otherwise. Sure, the handsome man with the tortured past is a tried and true romance trope, but Red was a one-of-a-kind dude and dealt with his trauma with a fair amount of self awareness. Chloe had her own stuff to deal with, so she wasn’t just there to magically “fix” Red. NEITHER OF THEIR ISSUES WERE SOLVED SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY FOUND “THE ONE.” I mean, yeah, they were super compatible and very well suited to handle each other’s emotional needs, but they each also did a lot of heavy lifting to sort out their own internal messes. And sometimes they even got professional help! It was just superb and I loved it. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be scouring Talia Hibbert’s back list.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Because one audio book a week simply is not enough, I ought to mention that I managed to put yet another Tessa Dare novel into my brain.  I finished up A Lady by Midnight this morning, and it was charming as usual. I have several thoughts about this book- one being that I’m fairly certain its major plot point is where Diana Gabaldon is heading with Fergus’s story line in the Outlander Series (at this point it only has a couple of throwaway hints, so it’s not canon). That’s apropos of nothing, really, I just enjoy finding commonalities between books. It’s fun to see where different authors go with similar ideas. From a romance-specific perspective, I kind of love that Tessa Dare is willing to tackle topics like PTSD. I mean, the world has been at war since forever, but people act like war-related trauma is some kind of new phenomenon. If you think the dashing officers in Jane Austen’s novels didn’t come home from campaign with emotional scars, think again. Anyway, I’ve seen Tessa Dare do this twice now, and I like it.

So where does that leave us heading into this week? And why do I feel that I can arbitrarily start reading weeks on Tuesdays or Wednesdays? Well. I’m re-reading (with my eyes) Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and I’m enjoying it every bit as much as I did the first time. Although, several years have given me even more rage regarding the way Finn had to compartmentalize his life because people were jerks. Ugh. As far as my ears go, I just started Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Daisy Jones & The Six was one of my absolute favorite reads last year (get thee to the full cast audio recording, stat!) so I wanted to dive into some of her other work. I’ve literally barely started it, though, so it’s too early even for preliminary opinions. I will say, however, that having listened to The Offspring’s Ixnay On The Hombre album on repeat throughout most of 1997, I cannot read the title of this book without hearing Dexter Holland angstily belting out the first line of “Gone Away.” Teenage Katie was something else.

Good chat, Bookworms. Let’s do this again next week.

 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission*

Divider

Jan 07

The First Week of 2020

My Reading Life 11

Heyo Bookworms,

New year, new you? I’m crap at New Year’s Resolutions- any time I make a lasting life change it tends to happen on a nondescript Tuesday. That said, I’m not immune to the hype- I’m highly susceptible to suggestion, as a general rule. So I figured I’d try my hand at committing to weekly blog posts. We’re exactly one week into 2020 at this point, so let’s give it a go! (And let’s not be smug when I fall off the wagon after a couple of weeks, mkay?)

I spent the last couple months of 2019 binge reading Regency romance novels (think Jane Austen, with spice), so it’s hardly a shock to find that the first book I finished within the bounds of 2020 was A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare. Romance novels guarantee a “Happily Ever After” but they come in all different flavors. Heck, even Regency romances (which are all set in the same time, place, and with the same strictures, etc) are available in endless variety. Tessa Dare’s books hit just the right note for me- there’s always a scene or some dialogue that results in me cackling. Embarrassing situations abound. And yes, there are plenty of swoony bits. They’re DELIGHTFUL. A great way to kick things off.

I probably should have mentioned that I technically listened to A Week to Be Wicked. I keep a bullet journal now because it makes me feel like I have a shred of control over my life. Anywho. In the back, I have a pretty little picture of a bookshelf that I fill in as I’m reading. In this journal, (which I actually started in late November because that’s when I ran out of pages in the last one) I decided to separate my “bookshelves” into those I read with my eyeballs and those I read with my ears. AUDIO BOOKS COUNT AS BOOKS READ. Doesn’t matter how you get the story into your brain, folks. Just get it in there. But because my brain doesn’t differentiate between eyeball reading and listening, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to track them. I promise I have a point here. The POINT is that my shelves look rather uneven at the moment and it’s bugging me. This is partially due to my second read of the year…

I’m short on artistic talent, but big on enthusiasm.

I started The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon around Christmas. It’s a phenomenal work of fantasy and I’m very invested, but it’s also a little more work to read than a Regency romance novel where I’m already familiar with the setting and customs and social mores. The Priory of the Orange Tree features a whole different world with elaborate political structures and factions and mythical beasts- it’s a lot for my bedtime brain to chew on. (I do the majority of my eyeball reading before I go to sleep at night). Aaaaaaaand it clocks in at 848 pages. I’m hoping to finish it up this week with enough time to spare so I can re-read Tell the Wolves I’m Home (review) before book club next Friday, but we’ll see how things shape up.

I managed to get through a second audio book this week as well, which is technically the first book I both started and finished in 2020. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite was a departure for me. I don’t read much in the way of crime novels, but this was less a crime novel than a twisty-complex-familial-relationship novel. I mean, there was crime. Hooo buddy was there crime! It just wasn’t a procedural style crime novel is what I’m at getting here. Distinct lack of Law & Order vibe. IT WAS VERY GOOD. Also disturbing, but when you decide to read a book called My Sister, the Serial Killer, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into. I should probably just write a whole post on the virtues of audio books, but one of my favorite things about them is that it gives me the opportunity to LEARN THE CORRECT PRONUNCIATION of unfamiliar names and places. Names are a big deal. Sure, we’re talking about fictional characters here, but if I ever meet a Korede or Ayoola IRL, I’ll be prepared.

Finally, I just started a new audio book, Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. I’m loving it so far, but I’ll reserve any shouty capitalization or effusive punctuation for after I finish it. Let’s chat next week, intrepid Bookworms!

 

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links within the content of the post direct to Amazon. If you prefer to make a purchase through an Independent Bookstore, please see the links below:

The Priory of the Orange Tree, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, A Week to be Wicked, My Sister, the Serial Killer

 

 

Divider