Month: July 2020

Jul 30

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirtieth

Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Howdy Bookworms,

How’s that Pandemic life treating you? Fun new development- I’m now having COVID related anxiety dreams. Specifically, last night I dreamt I was going to someplace crowded (Disney maybe?) and I realized I didn’t have a mask on. Except NOBODY had masks on. I was aghast, and tried to put on my own mask only to have it consistently dip below my nose (the horrors). AND thanks to weirdos running around looking for attention wearing nothing but masks over their unmentionables, my dream also included me trying to figure out how exactly to construct underwear out of masks, and, weirdly, tulle. These are troubling times, people. Troubling times. You know what has yet to fail me during these times, though? BOOKS. Obviously. So let’s talk about what I read this week.

A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole- I liked this book even better than An Extraordinary Union(review)! At the very end of An Extraordinary Union, we’re introduced to Malcom McCall’s little brother, Ewan. Well, we’re not introduced exactly, it’s more that they receive word that Ewan has been captured and placed in a Confederate prison. Marlie Lynch has spent her years during the war in a unique position- she is acknowledged by her father’s privileged family despite being born to one of the family’s former slaves. Since Marlie was born free (her mother was granted her freedom while pregnant) and eventually (however complicatedly) accepted into the Lynch family, she is able to assist the Loyal League in abolitionist work. She also spends much of her time bringing aid to Union soldiers in the Confederate prison camp near her home, a prison camp that just so happens to house Ewan McCall. Ewan’s got his own set of deep darkness thanks to his role in the army, and Marlie is haunted by her mother’s past. Once the absolutely monstrous Lynch relatives decide to darken Marlie’s doorstep, she and Ewan (who may or may not have been hiding in her laboratory) are left with little choice but to run. Secret hidey holes and shocking family secrets ABOUND. Escape and adventure and stomach churning historical accuracy are a lot to handle, but well worth the effort. I definitely have a soft spot for historical female healers and herbalists, and will be reading the final installment of this series as soon as I finish my current eyeball read.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev- I love love love Sonali Dev, but something about her take on Jane Austen retellings is just *chef kiss* perfection. I read the first installment of the Raje series, Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors during a quiet blogging period, but I absolutely adored it. The second installment, Recipe for Persuasion, stars Ashna Raje, who is trying to save her failing restaurant. It’s one of her last remaining links to her father, whose loss was incredibly painful and traumatizing to Ashna. When her estranged mother suddenly wants to wriggle back into Ashna’s life, Ashna impulsively accepts a new job in order to avoid her mother. The new job is a reality cooking show, which would be great PR for her struggling restaurant, if only she didn’t have a panic attack any time she tried to cook anything that wasn’t one of her father’s original recipes. Rico Silva has just retired from playing professional soccer. One night while he’s feeling a bit maudlin at a friend’s bachelor party, he decides to google his former high school flame- the one who dumped him because her father didn’t approve. Seeing that Ashna is about to star on a reality show pairing celebrities with professional chefs, he throws his celebrity hat into the ring. He’s a big time celebrity soccer star now. Eat your heart out, Ashna Raje. And, well, a Wentworth is gonna Wentworth, I guess. (I wouldn’t have been able to make that joke a week ago because most of Jane Austen’s heroes have glooped together in my brain. I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that it’s been so long since I read most of the books or that I’m a truly horrific human being. I should hope it’s the former, but if I’m murdered in my sleep by the vengeful ghost of Jane Austen we’ll have to reevaluate.) The point I’m trying to make here is that Sonali Dev’s Recipe for Persuasion was absolutely delightful. I so hope Dev gets to do all six Austens because I’m extremely attached to these people.

Whew, what a ride! I’m currently listening to Sandhya Menon’s latest, 10 Things I Hate about Pinky and loving it. I’m eyeball reading the second Aru Shah book by Roshani Chokshi, Aru Shah and the Song of DeathSo, aside from my ever evolving anxiety dreams, life is… As good as can be expected under the circumstances. How are you doing, Bookworms?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

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Jul 23

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Twenty Ninth

Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Howdy Bookworms,

How is everyone holding up? We’ve had a rocky week with nap avoidance. Sammy is almost 3, a fact that I can barely wrap my head around. I revel in his daily naps, but I know that all good things end eventually… I just hope that he’s not giving up his nap forever right now because I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be doing the work from home thing. We try to keep things fresh by rotating toys around and such. After seeing several tea party scenes on TV (I’d be ashamed of the amount of screen time Sam is getting if it weren’t for the actual global emergency we’re living through) Sam started offering me cups of tea in his pretend play. I did the only logical thing- I bought the kid a toy tea set. He loves it, and his rotating roster of tea party guests seem to be enjoying it as well. I never really promote Sammy’s toys, but I’m kind of in love with this Green Toys Tea Set. It’s made by Green Toys which means it’s made from 100% recycled plastic (awesome) and is BPA free… And free of whatever other initials are bad for you. I can’t remember them all. The point is, I could have found a cheaper tea set, but this one came in multiple color options and it doesn’t have any lead paint hiding in it (because we all know he’s eventually going to demand I put liquid in that tea pot.) It has the added benefit of having kept him entertained and it’s really funny to watch him converse with his tea party guests.

Sammy’s tea party with esteemed guests Pete the Cat and Phillip the decorative penguin.

I did manage to finish reading some books during this bonkers week. Well, OK, so technically, I finished one of them last week as I was finishing my post but WHATEVER I am an imperfect being. Let’s talk books.

SLAY by Brittney Morris- For whatever reason, despite the fact that I don’t play video games (mostly because I’m abysmal at them and my hand-eye coordination is complete garbage) I cannot pass up a book about video games. So, if The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith were put into a blender, the resulting smoothie might come close to describing SLAY. Kiera Johnson is a Black teenager growing up in the midst of the Seattle tech scene. She attends private school and is one of three Black kids in the entire student body. After dealing with some extremely douchey gamers while playing popular online video games games, Kiera decides to build her own damn game. A space for Black gamers to play without the overt racism or micro aggressions they’d face in other online communities. And the entire game is based on Black history, culture, and excellence. Kiera keeps her creation a secret from everyone. Her family, her friends, even her online confidants don’t know that she is both Kiera Johnson and Emerald, the elusive game developer. Unfortunately, Kiera’s utopia begins to unravel after a boy is murdered in real life over a conflict in her game. The game is suddenly all over the headlines, its players and creators labeled as thugs and online gang members. Kiera’s haven for Black folks is labeled as racist, of all things, for its exclusion of white players. Kiera must grapple with the game, its meaning in a larger context, and her own identity in both the real world and online. I think it’s just the old lady in me, but I keep being flabbergasted by teenagers in books creating apps and social media platforms and whole-ass video games. I know it happens, I’m just stuck in a 1997 mentality of teenager-dom. Which is to say, I’m definitely not this book’s target audience. It’s clearly written for a young, tech savvy, Black audience eager to see themselves represented in fiction. Just because you’re not the target audience doesn’t mean you can’t learn things by reading someone else’s perspective, though. I think this is a great choice for white readers who enjoy YA fiction and are open to the whole “shut up and listen” aspect of battling racism. Like, just shut up and read this book. Soak it in. Sit with it. Do some thinking.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune- Linus Baker is a case worker specializing in inspecting orphanages that cater to magical children. RULES AND REGULATIONS require that such beings are monitored, registered, and tracked, of course. Linus is meticulous in his work, and is content to remain in his low-level position. Which is why being summoned for a top secret project by Extremely Upper Management is unexpected, to say the least. Linus is sent to inspect an island that houses six magical children deemed too dangerous to live in standard housing. He has to make sure the kiddos aren’t going to bring about Armageddon or what have you. Extremely Upper Management would not approve of an apocalypse, naturally. How very messy and un-regulated! This was such a weird and wonderful book! If you enjoyed Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and/or The Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, this book is right up your alley. It’s cheeky and heartfelt and just absurd enough to make it the perfect escape read. You know. If you want to escape to an island that also happens to house the child Antichrist.

What a week. Keep sending those toddler nap vibes, folks, because I am in desperate need.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

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Jul 16

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Twenty Eighth

Personal, Romance 2

Greetings Bookworms,

Who wants some Sammy stories? Last week I made the decision to watch the new Hamilton movie after Sam went to bed, which meant that I was up entirely too late watching it. Totally worth it, but I was dragging the following day. As I was reheating leftovers for lunch, I was singing bits and pieces of the musical to myself. Sammers came in and was all, “Mommy what are you singing?” and I was like “Well, buddy, I’m singing songs from Hamilton.” He then demanded to listen to Hamilton. Now, I’m not particularly squeamish about profanity, but my not-quite-three-year-old can best be described as “aggressively verbal.” I was not in the mood to have to either explain what exactly a “bastard orphan son of a whore” is, or to have my toddler repeating it. So I settled on having him listen to “Dear Theodosia” with me, the loveliest of lullabies. I used to sing it to Sammy as a baby, taking some liberties with the lyrics, of course.

ME: Dear Sammysaurus, what to say to you? You have my eyes, you have your father’s name, when you came into the world you cried, and it broke my heart…

SAM: Oh no! My heart! YOU BROKED IT! I need that!

ME: Oh, Sammy when you smile I am undone, my son.

SAM: I do not smile! Look! I make a mad face!

Yeah, we’re still struggling to ditch the pacifier. It’s a process.

In other Sam news, he’s befriended a decorative penguin doorstop thingie that I got for Christmas (see left). He’s obsessed, carries it around, has conversations with it: the works. The penguin’s name is Phillip. He’s even decided that my penguin butler Alfred is Phillip’s dad. The imaginative play is so much fun. Now, Phillip was named because Sam asks the names of everyone and everything, and I’ve been naming all our penguins with alliterative names so I can remember them (clearly Alfred predates this policy.) I did not intentionally name this penguin for Eliza and Alexander Hamilton’s son- it just happened. Sometimes I’ll do young Phillip’s rap for Sam, mostly because I like shouting numbers in French and it doesn’t include any difficult to explain language. He LOVES it and will demand that I “sing Phillip!” regularly. It’s only recently occurred to me that Sam thinks his penguin doorstop is responsible for the rap, which is the most delightful thing I can imagine. When everything looks bleak, you’ve got to grasp at charm and whimsy when it presents itself. Sam is contrary and energetic and LOUD but he’s also my favorite person on the planet. “You knock me out, I fall apart- and I thought I was so smart.” Indeed.

Anyway, I’ve been a big reading slowpoke the last week or two, but I do have a couple of gems to share with you, so let’s talk books.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert- Talia Hibbert just continues to be perfect and wonderful with her latest novel, Take a Hint, Dani Brown. I raved about how much I adored Get a Life, Chloe Brown a few months ago, and I was excited to see where the Brown sisters went next. Danika Brown (Chloe’s younger sister) is a brilliant scholar. She’s driven and focused on completing her PhD and not at all interested in romance. The stress relief and distraction provided by amorous encounters? Sure. But a relationship? That’ll be a hard pass from Dani Brown, thank you very much. That doesn’t mean that she won’t flirt with the impossibly handsome former rugby player working security at her university, though. Zafir Ansari spends his spare time reading romance novels and coaching young rugby players on how to channel their emotions in positive ways. I mean, I’m already swooning, but then, he goes and rescues Dani from an elevator with his bare hands and carries her out of the building during an emergency drill. WHERE IS MY FAINTING COUCH?! The two end up in a viral video, because of course they do. Then they fake date, because why wouldn’t they? Then they catch feelings, OBVIOUSLY. Look, this book is wonderful and charming and self aware because Zaf is such a romance novel buff. I’m also giving Talia Hibbert extra brownie points for writing a male lead with an anxiety disorder who handles it like a freaking grown up. It’s so lovely. Read this book, folks.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole- When it comes to romance novels, I almost invariably choose romantic comedies because that’s what fills the void in my dark, sad soul. (That was melodramatic, but bare with me.) I ADORED Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series but I was nervous to take on her historical romance selections because I knew it wouldn’t be all fun and fluffy. It would be romantic, sure, but also challenging, because slavery is a hideous uncomfortable beast to grapple with. But then there was a sale, and I was like, “take the plunge, trust Alyssa Cole” which turned out to be excellent advice. An Extraordinary Union is set during the Civil War. Elle Burns is a formerly enslaved person with an eidetic memory. In order to help the Union, Elle agrees to go undercover, and, essentially, back into slavery so that she can gather intelligence for the military. Malcom McCall is another secret agent- one who adopts the guise of a Confederate soldier. He uses his charm and acting ability to infiltrate a rebel enclave in Virginia, which is where he runs into Elle. The unlikely duo discover their shared connection and fall hard. But the stakes are impossibly high. And, even if the fate of the nation weren’t on their minds, there wasn’t exactly a clear path to “happily ever after” for a biracial couple in this time period. But, like I said. Trust Alyssa Cole. The ending was most satisfying and I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

That brings us to right now. What am I reading? I’m working my way through The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune with my eyes, and I just started Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev via audio. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to tell you about next week- both books are very promising thus far. Tell me Bookworms, what have you been up to?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

 

 

 

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Jul 07

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Contemporary Fiction, Family 2

Greetings Bookworms,

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan was one of my favorite reads of 2016 (it was published in 2015 but I was late to the party, as per usual.) It was, more or less, Prince William and Kate Middleton fan fiction. I mean, YES, it was DIFFERENT in a lot of ways, but when you’re reading about even a fictionalized British royal family, it’s hard not to focus on the parallels. But, as I said, I read The Royal We in 2016 and loved it, so I was extremely excited to find out that Cocks and Morgan were working on a sequel. Then, I broke my own rules and asked for an advanced copy from the publisher via Netgalley because it was the beginning of quarantine and I was very concerned about lacking reading material. I also naively thought that I’d somehow have more time? Apparently I have juuuuuuuust enough remaining blogging clout to get approved for the occasional ARC and I was stoked to find out I had permission to read The Heir Affair early. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear, I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for advance review. You still get my honest opinion on the book because it would cost a lot more than a digital book for me to besmirch the dignity of this publication. LOL I know, I can’t keep a straight face either. Still though, I have no real skin in the game with publishers, you’ll get an unfiltered opinion from me regardless of the occasional freebie.

The Heir Affair starts with the aftermath of Nick and Bex’s wedding. I don’t want to be super spoilery for the first book, but Nick and Bex are threatened with a tabloid scandal on the eve of their wedding. They decide to call the blackmailer’s bluff and it turns out he wasn’t bluffing. The news dropped mid Royal Wedding, and all the spectators in the crowd had smartphones full of gossip on the state of Nick and Bex’s relationship before they exited the church. So, Nick and Bex do the obvious- they skip town and run off to Scotland where they traipse around small towns in disguises for a few weeks. I mean, who really needs a honeymoon in the Seychelles anyway?

Of course, their escape couldn’t last forever, and Nick and Bex are called back home by a crisis in the family and forced to deal with their mess. Y’all, this book had me SUPER STRESSED. The tension between Nick and Bex and Freddie was just GAH. It was truly painful to read about. And then the emotional punches just kept coming. And the secrets! And the scandals! And the heartbreaks! It’s A LOT.

But there were some bright spots amidst the chaos. Imagining the Queen of England becoming a Cubs fan delights me to a level I’d never have expected. The Queen Mother trolling Twitter under a pseudonym was delightfully cheeky. And there’s always Gaz, bless him, the only consistent comic relief. Also,

I can’t say I liked The Heir Affair quite as much as The Royal We but that’s likely a function of my personal preference. I always enjoy stories about falling in love, but I’m much less inclined to pick up books that hash out the uglier bits of marriage. Still, I liked the book, even if it was a bit heavier than I expected. If you want to know what happens after Nick and Bex said “I do” pick up a copy of The Heir Affair and prepare for an emotional ride.

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do you like reading novels about the messy years of relationships, or do you prefer tidy Happily Ever Afters?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

 

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Jul 02

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Twenty Sixth

Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up, Zombies 6

Hey Bookworms,

It’s July now. Because time no longer means anything. On the upside, my child is contentedly watching some outer space educational cartoon set to a hip hop soundtrack. There are also robots. I’m not sure what’s going on, TBH, but it’s one of the better things we’ve stumbled across on YouTube. Anyway. I have two books to tell you about. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon- Samiah Brooks is a brilliant software developer with a great job. Since she had the career goals portion of her life nailed down pretty well, she’s decided to tackle her next goal- finding a nice romantic partner. Unfortunately, all online dating gets her is a complete con artist douche canoe whose bad date with someone else reveals him to be a three-timing garbage fire. Although, it turns out not the be the worst twist of fate, because the other two women he was stringing along are pretty awesome, and Samiah, London, and Taylor become fast friends. Total squad goals. The new friends set a standing date to keep each other supported and motivated in all aspects of life, and collectively agree that internet dating can take several seats. It’s all going well until Daniel, a certified hottie and literal secret agent, starts working at Samiah’s tech firm. There are a zillion reasons Daniel and Samiah shouldn’t explore their chemistry, but arbitrary rules are made to be broken. Of course, the path to finding love is never simple, so expect a few bumps (or boulders) in the road. This was an absolutely delightful rom-com! The opening chapter featuring the viral confrontation with Creepmaster 3000 was completely divine. There’s something that’s just so dang SATISFYING about women realizing the guy they’ve been dating is awful and deciding to get drunk and have sushi together. I am very much here for that kind of camaraderie. And, yes, this is the start of the series. And, yes, I absolutely want to read about Taylor and London’s eventual Happily Ever Afters.

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland- I read Dread Nation during a quiet blogging period, but it was fabulous in a historical fiction meets zombies meets racial injustice sort of way. The premise is that the dead started walking during the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War ended as a result, at least on paper, but that didn’t magically make life fair for formerly enslaved people. Instead, some nonsense is bandied about claiming that Black and Indigenous people were immune to zombie bites (patently untrue) and were forcibly removed from their homes to train in combat schools to fight the dead. Our protagonist Jane McKeene is one such girl, trained along side other Black women and girls at Miss Preston’s… A school for etiquette and brutal hand-to-hand combat. Because wealthy white ladies needed genteel attendants as well as security guards. I know, right? As this is the sequel, I don’t want to get all spoilery for book one, BUT book two finds Jane and her unlikely pal Katherine on the road again searching for a safe harbor. But the restless dead are nothing if not restless. These books are really, really freaking good. I know that as of now, the books are meant to be a simple duology, but I am hopeful there may be a third installment down the line. I, for one, very much want to see vigilante zombie fighters tackle the frontier.

If I want to get a post published this week, I’d better stop there. Hope everyone out there has a safe holiday weekend. Drink plenty of water, wear your mask, wash your hands, and wear your seat belt. Auntie Katie loves you.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Links in the post above direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested and in a position to do so, please consider making a purchase from a local independent book store. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

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