Posts By: Katie Words for Worms

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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Jun 24

What’s Sammy Reading? Kid Lit with my Kidlet!

Kidlit with my Kidlet 4

Howdy Bookworms,

I only finished one book this week (The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon- it’s super cute!) so I thought instead of a normal weekly update I’d talk about that book in next week’s roundup and focus on some of Sammy’s current favorites this week.

 

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima- My friend Jenny from Reading the End turned me on to this one! I think it was Christmas time and I was flooding her DMs with book recommendations for her toddler godson. Suddenly she was like “KATIE! Someone sent me this rec and it’s the Katiest kid book EVER!” She was, as usual, 100% correct. Harriet is a little girl living in NYC who looooooooves costumes. One day while prepping for her birthday party (a costume party, naturally), she wears her penguin costume to the store with her parents and runs into a flock of REAL penguins buying ice. She gets, as they say, carried away, and ends up hopping a hot air balloon to head home with the penguins. It’s so cute! It’s so full of imagination and fun. The other night Jim was reading it to Sam and did a quick double take- “wait does she have two dads?” And I was like “yup.” And he shrugged and carried on reading. I love when representation is so casual like that. It’s not a book about having two dads. It’s a book about a kid being a kid and the parents are in the background like they are in every other book ever. They just happen to both be men. Also one of the dads is Black and one is white. Harriet herself is either Black or biracial, but again, it’s just… There. Being normal. Issue books are super important, but so are Black kids having adventures with penguins with their two dads in the background. Normalize the joy!

You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman, Illustrated by Liz Climo- Remember when my friends threw me that excellent baby shower? This book was a gift from the co-hostess behind the color coordinated photo op. Angie is one of my favorite people in the history of the universe and she happens to love unicorns, hence this book. It’s only been in the last few months that Sam has REALLY gotten into the more complex story books, and he loves this one. A kid tosses a coin in a fountain, and despite the advice of a benevolent voice begging him to reconsider, he wishes for a unicorn. (Yeah, the protagonist is a little boy. In a unicorn book! BOYS CAN LIKE UNICORNS. Take several seats, toxic masculinity.) Then he suffers the consequences. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s occasionally kind of gross, all of which mean that my kid LOVES it. There’s also a unicorn with what has to be an intentional Rainbow Brite vibe, which my 80s born self very much appreciates.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T Higgins- This one is HILARIOUS. Penelope Rex starts school only to discover that her classmates are NOT other dinosaurs like she expected, but tasty, tasty children. Penelope’s learning to control her impulse to eat the kids in her class is an excellent lesson in impulse control for little kids. Plus it’s really funny AND it’s got the added gross-out factor of the kids being covered in drool after Penelope spits them out. The real villain is Walter, the nefarious goldfish. I for one have never trusted fish. I will wade in the ocean near the shore, but otherwise will pass on swimming in any body of water containing fish. Give me chlorine or give me dry land. Since I’ve been pointing it out in the other books, Penelope’s classmates are a very diverse group of kids, which, even in characters who are continually getting eaten, is nice to see.

Sunny’s Tow Truck Saves the Day! by Anne Marie Pace, Illustrated by Christopher Lee- A family of four sets out for a picnic at the park, only to have their plans derailed by a flat tire… And a flat spare. They need to call a tow truck for help, and Sunny’s Tow Truck eventually comes to the rescue. Sunny, the titular tow truck driver is a woman, and she gets the family (that happens to be biracial) and their car troubles all squared away. The rhyme scheme is on point, and even though the family ate their entire picnic while they waited for roadside assistance, Sunny helps out by pointing them to an ice cream stand so they can still have their picnic experience in the park. It’s my personal “fan” theory that Sunny is getting kickbacks from the ice cream stand… Gotta respect that hustle though.

Trucks Galore by Peter Stein, Illustrated by Bob Staake- Reading this one over and over will get you to that giddy stayed-up-too-late point of having a word start to lose all meaning feeling. You know that middle school sleepover 3 am moment where everything is hilarious and weird? It’s like that, but with the word “Truck.” This is a really fun rhyming book, and for kiddos who are extraordinarily fond of things with wheels (like a certain Samuel I know) it’s a big hit.

Reading with my kiddo is pretty much my favorite thing ever! Classic kids books are all well and good (well, usually, anyway), but there’s SO MUCH EXCELLENCE out there in kid-lit now. Branch out. Give yourself a break from Dr. Seuss for a minute and try something new. You and your kids (or students, nieces, nephews, niblings, friends, neighbors, pets, or plants) will benefit from new, fun stories. Yes, I did just recommend reading to your pets and plants. Why not?

Alright, Bookworms, I’d love to hear about your adventures in kid lit. What are some of your favorites?

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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Jun 18

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Twenty Fourth

Weekly Wrap-Up 0

Hey There Bookworms,

How are things? This weekend, my best friend got married. She and her fiance had planned a big wedding, and then COVID-19 went and ruined it. The party has been rescheduled to next March, but the date they’d originally chosen held a lot of significance for them. They opted for a low key backyard vow exchange to make things official on their original wedding date. Since travelling wasn’t in the cards for me, I offered to be a “hologram” Maid of Honor. And by “offered” I mean I demanded that I be there, even if I had to be broadcast on a literal iPad via FaceTime. So, I got to watch my BFF say “totally” to her partner of 11 years. It was a great moment.

See the cute kid holding up the iPad? That’s my Godson making sure I didn’t miss anything. I had a stellar view.

Life during the pandemic remains what it is. Making the best of a crap situation and trying really hard to stay healthy. As I’ve been wont to do, in order to keep my spirits up, I’ve been continuing to read romance novels and rom-coms. I’ve been making a concerted effort the last couple of years to seek out books written by Black women and other authors of color. We’ve all got our part to play in dismantling systemic racism, and if doing my part involves reading and promoting excellent and entertaining books? Sign me up. Speaking of excellent and entertaining books, who is ready for more Alexa Martin? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is me, because I decided to binge read the remainder of the currently published Playbook series. (Another installment is due out in October. Eeep!)

Fumbled by Alexa Martin: After devouring Intercepted last week, there was no way I wasn’t going to continue with the Playbook series. Finding herself pregnant at 16, Poppy Patterson moved to Denver to begin a new life. Or, more specifically, her jerkface parents tossed her out when they found out she was pregnant and her aunt took her in. Still, she’s managed to build a life she loves and raise her son to be a fine, upstanding 9-year-old. Who cares if she has to wait tables in a corset to fund her son’s soccer expenses? Her hours work with his schedule and she makes good money. Things are going well, until the one person she doesn’t want to see walks into her nightclub and sits at her VIP table. TK Moore, renowned playboy of the Denver Mustangs is known for his sense of humor and refusal to take things seriously. His high school sweetheart is just about the last person he expects to run into on a night out with his teammates. TK and Poppy have undeniable chemistry, but their past holds a lot of secrets. Like, a LOT of secrets. One big, giant, 9 year old who loves soccer kind of secrets. Gaaaah this book was so good! I looooove Poppy and TK together. And I love that Poppy has boundaries and sticks to them. Like, even though her kid is clearly a super talented athlete, she puts the kabosh on tackle football. Because head injuries. I am ONE THOUSAND PERCENT in support of that kind of Momming. Speaking of head injuries, this book tackles some of the uglier parts of the NFL, namely, CTE and the horrific injuries that result from sustaining concussions and, you know, being tackled all the time. TK and Poppy turned me into a literal heart-eye-emoji.

Blitzed by Alexa Martin- In for a penny, in for a pound, amiright? Everyone loves a good binge read. Brynn, whose bar HERS featured prominently in both Intercepted and Fumbled, gets her chance at love in Blitzed. While Brynn Larson didn’t set out to be a WAGS groupie or anything, her bar is set up specifically to appeal to women. Reality TV, tasty cocktails, and an extremely low tolerance for creepers make it a safe, fun place to hang out. After hiring an on-the-rebound-from-awful-boyfriend Marlee in Intercepted , the WAGS made HERS their unofficial club house. And, because their wives and girlfriends are always at Brynn’s bar, the Mustangs players themselves often make appearances. Maxwell Lewis, the soft spoken, secretly-wants-to-work-for-NASA defensive superstar and Brynn have been eyeing each other from a distance for several years. Light flirting, longing looks, and the like. Until one day Maxwell loses his cool (for reasons unbeknownst to Brynn) and ends up flinging a glass at her bar… Which ends up smashing a whole bunch of stuff. Not the best way to move from buddies to romantic partners, but it turns out Maxwell is REALLY good at apologizing. Plus, the two work out some of their own baggage and family drama before the HEA which is great. Personal growth! I love to see it! The romances and steamy scenes in these books are great, but the female friendships are just delicious. Yes, there are some nasty, catty WAGS (wives and girlfriends of the fictional Denver Mustangs), but the good ones find each other and stick together. Is it October yet?

This week I’m reading The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon, which is, thus far, pretty darn wonderful. As for what’s in my earbuds, I’m listening to Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland- it’s the sequel to Dread Nation, which is a kickass historical fiction/zombie mashup. I read Dread Nation during a quiet blogging phase, but it was awesome, obviously. Deathless Divide is narrated (in part, at least) by Bahni Turpin, whose voice I will never, ever tire of. 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 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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Jun 11

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Twenty-Third

Weekly Wrap-Up 2

Hey There Bookworms,

I took a break from my regular updates last week because I wanted to highlight some awesome romantic comedies authored by Black women that feature Black people in the starring roles. If you’re a rom-com reader, I highly encourage you to check them out! But, because of that break, I have extra books to talk about this week. BLM protests are still going strong, Coronavirus is still out there, and JK Rowling continues to besmirch the joy her fans once found in her work (transphobia is not a good look.) I’m still working from home, trying to wrangle an extremely strong willed toddler, and I have been cooking more than I have in my entire life. (I do not enjoy cooking. I am not good at it. If I did not have a child whose health and well-being I care about more than my own, I’d be living on cold cereal and microwave popcorn. But I can’t even make microwave popcorn while Sam is awake because it’s a major choking hazard for kids under the age of 4 so HERE WE ARE.) I’m also feeling guilty for wallowing in self pity because I’m basically swimming in good fortune. Because, you know. Stable job, supportive bosses, super great kid, loving family, a safe place to live, and so on, etc. So while I pull myself together, let’s talk about some of the books I’ve been reading, shall we? We’re going in chronological order, otherwise my head might explode.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez- I have so many feelings about this book, which kind of makes sense because the book is an all-over-the-place feelings fest. Julia is NOT her parents’ perfect Mexican daughter. That role belonged to her older sister Olga, until she was killed in a tragic accident. Julia and her parents are understandably shattered by the loss. Grief manifests in all sorts of different ways in different people, and it’s painful to read about from anyone’s perspective. Julia and her parents make all kinds of mistakes while trying to work their way toward a new normal. The grief and loss are complicated by Julia’s family history, so all of this raw emotion is laid against the backdrop of the plight of undocumented immigrants living in Chicago. When Julia is sent back to Mexico for a time to stay with family, she begins to see her parents in a new light. It’s uncomfortable and sad, but ultimately kind of hopeful. Anyone who has ever navigated a complicated sibling or parent relationship, please be warned that this book will probably poke you in tender places.

Intercepted by Alexa Martin- I’ve seen this series floating around in the romance and rom-com world for a while now, but I always avoided it because my disinterest in sports truly cannot be quantified. I’m one of those awful dismissive people who has used the term “sportsball” in actual conversation. Luckily, I got over myself because it’s delightful. Intercepted kicks off a series about NFL players and their love interests. Or, more specifically, the awesome women who happen to end up with NFL players in spite of themselves. Marlee Harper is in a long term relationship with her high school sweetheart, who just happened to wind up in the NFL. She somehow manages to navigate the catty world of NFL WAGs (wives and girlfriends) only to discover she’s dating a big dumb cheater face. As she works on rebuilding her life, she finds herself drawn to yet another NFL player- her ex’s team’s new quarterback. But it’s not like she’s intentionally chasing pro athletes! She and Gavin (AKA Hottie McQuarterback) had a fling once when she and her cheating ex were on a break- and she was fully under the impression that he was an investment banker. Now Gavin is trying to prove to Marlee that he’s nothing like her ex while the gossipy WAGs absolutely go wild. You don’t have to love sports to love this series. I’ve already got the next two downloaded to enjoy via audio.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord- It must suck to have a debut novel coming out in the age of EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE 2020, so I’m trying to incorporate some debuts into my reading. Pepper is an extreme overachiever, pushed to excellence after she’s relocated from Nashville to an extremely competitive NYC prep school. She’s the heiress to a fast food chain, but until recently, that chain had been a single hometown burger joint. Pepper’s family isn’t faring quite as well as Big League Burger, but that doesn’t stop Pepper from pitching in as the resident Twitter genius behind their corporate account. Jack is the heir apparent to a much more modest family food empire, one with which he has a love/hate relationship. But his complex relationship with the family business doesn’t mar his desire to defend its honor when Big League Burger attempts to steal its iconic signature grilled cheese recipe. Jack is the mastermind behind the underdog restaurant’s Twitter account, and the gloves come off. Of course, when this all starts, neither Jack nor Pepper realize that they’re Twitter-feuding with a classmate. Look, if you don’t see the rivals to lovers trope and the #PepperJack from a mile away, you haven’t been paying attention. There is one of the aspect of this book kind of took me aback. Jack is secretly the creator of a social media app that has taken his high school by storm. I’d assume this was just an odd case of “look at this secret genius kid” if the very next book I read didn’t have a similar story line. I am, admittedly, medium old, and was about to graduate college before Facebook was even available to me (back in 2005 you had to have an email address at a participating university to get an account, so, yeah.) But I’m just like… Who are these kids and why are they so smart and have I actually fossilized yet? Sorry. I got ahead of myself. Tweet Cute is a very cute little story, and gets deep into its feelings about all the identity crisis type stuff teenagers go through. It was an entertaining read as an adult, but I can see it meaning a lot to the teenage crowd for whom it was written.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson- I have never mentally “Awwwwwww!”ed as hard has I did when I finished this book. It was just that sweet. This is another 2020 debut, and it’s by a Black author, starring a Black girl. Liz Lighty is not the type of girl you’d expect to see running for Prom Queen in Campbell, Indiana. The overwhelmingly white and wealthy small town just outside of Indianapolis is certifiably prom OBSESSED. Liz is poor, black, and awkward. She’s got a core group of friends, but she’s not exactly popular. Intense musicianship of the clarinet variety doesn’t quite carry the same cache as being the captain of the Pom squad. Unfortunately, the scholarship Liz was counting on to attend her dream school didn’t come through. She thinks all her hopes for the future are dashed until she remembers that the Prom King and Queen are awarded substantial scholarships- enough to make up for the one that fell through. So Liz throws herself into the lion’s den of Prom Court chaos, and in the process meets the impossibly cool and impossibly cute new girl… Who also happens to be running for Prom Queen. Will she fall for her competition? Will she pull off the most impressive underdog Prom campaign Campbell has ever seen? This book is super charming and fun, and, yes, features a school specific social media platform. Seriously, kids these days. I don’t get it. You should absolutely read this and revel in the joy of a Black girl getting a happy ending. Uh, spoiler alert, I guess. Whatever, I didn’t give you the details. Just go read the book, it’s delightful.

I’m currently working my way through Fumbled and Blitzed by Alexa Martin because apparently I cannot get enough NFL WAGs in my life. I’ve also just started The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon, which has one of the greatest opening chapters I’ve ever read. This week’s reading is looking mighty promising. Oh! I almost forgot. Side Note for anyone invested in the Sammy-Chaos Bromance. My incredibly fun neighbor had the idea that Chaos should visit Sammy at our house. She packed that cantankerous kitty into his carrier and walked two houses down so that Chaos and Sammers could visit through our glass front door. For a change of venue, naturally. It was ridiculous and fun, even if Sam did have a bit of a meltdown when I wouldn’t let him open the door to pet the cat. One day they shall meet face to face, and Chaos will wise up and RUN from my handsy toddler. But until that day, the two shall remain the best of friends.

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 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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Jun 05

Boosting Black Voices: Rom-Com Edition

Romance 2

Hi Bookworms,

It’s been a week, hasn’t it? I’m going to take a pass on a regular weekly update. It hardly seems appropriate given the circumstances. Today, I want to take the opportunity to highlight some books by excellent Black authors that aren’t going to land on any social justice reading lists. Most of what I’ve been reading of late has been light, romantic, and fun. That’s my lane, and there are a ton of fabulous Black authors writing these stories. If I can give some of those voices even the tiniest boost? It’s not much, but it’s not nothing. Black people deserve happy endings too, dangit.

Before I start, though, I want to make it clear that I fully understand the gravity of this moment. George Floyd was murdered by police, on camera, in an absolutely horrific and brutal manner. It has sparked a massive uprising of protests across the country, protests which are just and necessary. If this atrocity hadn’t been filmed, if the video hadn’t been disseminated, if people hadn’t started to protest? The man who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck until he suffocated would still be out there with a gun and a badge able to do anything he pleased. At the moment I’m writing this post, the other three officers involved STILL aren’t in custody. (*UPDATE* They’re in custody now. Finally. I’ve been working on this post all week.) And, it’s not JUST about George Floyd. It’s happened over and over and over again and the perpetrators are almost never held accountable. Police are always given the benefit of the doubt in conflict situations. Black people rarely are. It’s wrong on a basic human level. It was wrong centuries ago. It’s wrong now. It’s endlessly wrong that it’s been allowed to continue in varying degrees for so freaking long. What can I, as a white lady who avoids conflict like it’s her job, POSSIBLY add to a conversation about racial injustice? Nothing, really. And my personal feelings are not important. This isn’t about ME and I don’t want to center myself in the conversation. There are a lot of resources out there right now discussing the hard topics, and I encourage you to seek them out. I know I will be. (I’ll link some at the end of this post.)

But back to my little mission statement: there are so many wonderful stories starring Black people about love and joy. Fiction and non fiction exposing the systemic mistreatment of Black people is incredibly important, but stories of Black joy are enduring and vital. Hollywood nearly always depicts Black people in romantic comedies as sidekicks and comic relief- this list of books puts Black people in at least one of the starring roles, and every last one of them is authored by a Black woman. Let’s take a gander at some of my recent favorites, shall we?

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole- This book is laugh-out-loud funny. It starts off with a Black woman completing grad school who keeps receiving what she assumes to be catfishing emails from a African prince. Because, yes, OF COURSE she’s betrothed to an African prince. Naledi Smith- former foster kid, worker of multiple jobs, struggling student, and Princess to be? Sure, Jan. Spoiler alert- it’s not a catfishing scam. Prince Thabiso of Thesolo is legitimately attempting to track down the woman he was betrothed to as a child, out of duty and curiosity. He’s immediately drawn to Naledi, but he’s not exactly forthright about who he is. Nobody ever claimed romance heroes have the best judgment. Anyway, the book is really fun and it kicks of a series, which is perfection, and you should read every single installment.

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory- this book is the third in the series, but it’s my favorite. of the bunch. Every single book in this series so far features a Black girl getting a happy ending, so you really can’t go wrong no matter where you start. The Wedding Party follows Maddie and Theo as they prepare to stand up in their best friend Alexa’s wedding. Unfortunately, the two have always not-so-secretly hated each other so things are bound to be kind of tense. Except that they “accidentally” hook up… And then can’t stop hooking up. What? Enemies to lovers is a tried and true romance trope for good reason! But Theo. Oh Theo. He’s one of my all-time favorite romantic heroes. He’s all buttoned up and proper and smart, but then he busts out with his sweet sweet N’Sync dance moves. It’s a recipe for fun, I tell you what.

RAFE: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon- I have talked about this book A LOT. Actually, I think I’ve discussed all the books on this list in other places on my blog, but the swoony factor on this one is a stand-out. Dr. Sloane Copeland is a Black heart surgeon. The former child prodigy has super cute twin little girls and her nanny flaked out. Finding quality, reliable childcare is tough under the best of circumstances, but Sloane has unpredictable hours. She’s a single mother who needs live-in help, and she’s been left in the lurch. Enter Rafe, unlikely but incredibly capable childcare professional. The sparks immediately fly and the two must navigate the murky waters of professionalism and attraction. Nanny-employer relationships are usually pretty creepy, but Weatherspoon flips the script. Our heroine is super aware of the power imbalance; she and Rafe actually discuss the power dynamics of their involvement. This book is the exact opposite of the gross Dad leaving his wife for the babysitter. I highly recommend it.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa- The protagonist in this novel is of Afro-Brazilian decent, which was awesome as I know know that pao de quiejo exists and I’ve never wanted to eat something so badly. I mean, Brazilian cheese bread?! YUM! Lina Santos is a sought-after wedding planner whose own wedding took a disastrous turn when her garbage fire of a fiance jilted her at the altar. Apparently a heart-to-heart with his brother and Best Man the night before the wedding convinced him walking out would be the best thing to do. Fast forward to a while after the dust settles. Lina has an incredible job opportunity, only to find out it would involve her working with both her ex and his brother- the WEDDING RUINING BEST MAN. Look, if “we accidentally landed in a couples counseling retreat” doesn’t sound like the perfect recipe for hilarity and heart in a rom-com to you, then perhaps you’ll be interested in “woman of color gets revenge on smug white guy by ordering him extremely spicy food he totally thinks he can handle.” Enemies to lovers, you know you love it.

Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins- This is the third installment of a series following the Yates brothers, and my favorite of the bunch. It’s a historical novel, set in the barely post-Civil War American West. Noah Yates is the youngest member of a well-to-do bi-racial Northern California ranching family (his dad was Black, his mom is Spanish.) While he has plenty to go home to, his traumatic past has led him to spend his life at sea. Pilar is a Cuban political activist from a family of forgers, pirates, and general malcontents. Noah has a ship. Pilar needs one. So she steals the boat and kidnaps Noah. As one does. Overall, this one is more serious in tone than most of the other books on the list, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for humor or hijinks. I mean, the lead couple end up in a literal sword fight at one point! (Not a “I want to actually hurt you” sword fight, mind. More of a “let us compete for the title of best swashbuckler in an attempt to ignore our incredible sexual tension” sort of sword fight.) It’s an excellent (and steamy) read!

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert: Talia Hibbert is British, and I imagine that the experience of being Black in England is different than being Black in the US. But, racism is garbage and literally everywhere. In this book, Chloe comes from a wealthy Black family- she suffers from chronic pain and as a result she does not suffer fools. Her curtness leads to a prickly acquaintance with the superintendent at her apartment building, Red. He hails from a much humbler set of circumstances, and is put off by Chloe’s snobbishness. If only he could get past the fact that he’s inexplicably drawn to her. And then Chloe goes and attempts to rescue a cat from a tree and Red then has to rescue Chloe. Adorable, hilarious, cheeky banter- it’s everything I love in a rom-com. The second book in this series was just released, and I’m super stoked. Take a Hint, Dani Brown, here I come!

I’m going to stop there because I will never finish writing this post otherwise. I have discussed most (if not all) of these books on my blog at some point, but compiling this list felt important. Seeing Black people live “happily ever after” is wonderful. It’s critical to recognize the trauma Black people experience, but let’s normalize that Black joy too, shall we?

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! 

Here are a few resources for those of you interested in a more serious reading list and some thoughtful commentary:

12 Anti-Racist Books Recommended by Educators and Activists

16 Books about Race Every White Person Should Read

What is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?

The Anti-Racist Reading List

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May 26

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Twenty-First

Weekly Wrap-Up 4

Hiya Bookworms,

This is the twenty first weekly update I’ve written this year so far. And, fun fact- my baby cousin turned 21 last week. I know that doesn’t seem super interesting, except that my whole life all my cousins on both sides of the family were relatively close age-wise. I was a teenager and living under the assumption that all the cousins I would ever have were already in existence when this particular kiddo arrived on the scene. And, while 16 seems impossibly young now, at the time, I felt mostly adult. So the idea that a human being born when I was practically grown is now old enough to drink? Well. I feel like my bones shall flake away into dust any second now. But it’s FINE, OKAY? It’s not like that baby cousin’s even babier sibling just graduated high school or anything. Oh wait. Damn. Please excuse me while I mourn my lost youth…

You still here? Good good. Glad to have gotten that existential crisis out of the way early today. I have been READING, y’all. Let’s talk about these books!

In for a Penny by Rose Lerner- A young rogue of a gentleman, Lord Nevinstoke spends most of his time partying. This is a regency novel, so “partying” isn’t the appropriate verbiage for the time, but my brain is fried. After the unexpected death of his father, Nev finds himself in charge of a bankrupt estate with few options. In a quest to right his balance sheet, Nev proposes marriage to a wealthy heiress. He’s completely upfront about his motives, but also thinks that they may have a bit of a spark. Penny accepts, despite her better judgement, because she appreciates Nev’s honesty and is drawn to him in spite of herself. Plus, being of “common” birth, this marriage allows Penny to opportunity to finally be accepted as a part of the upper crust. But, as we all know, marriages of convenience in romance often turn into marriages of heart-eye-emojis with a side of steam. This book was such a wonderful surprise! I had read one of Rose Lerner’s novellas a while back (All or Nothing, if you’re interested, I don’t believe I ever reviewed it), so I really thought I knew what to expect. But, reader, a novella is not necessarily indicative of what an author’s full length work will hold. I thought In for a Penny was beautifully crafted. The characters were flawed and showed real growth. The narrative was compelling beyond the surface love story. I wasn’t simply waiting for the characters to hook up, there were so many other things going on that I cared about. If you like regency romances at all, you really really need to give this book a read. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith- Divya Sharma is a Stream Queen- that is, she streams her video game play online and has an impressive following. Her following is so impressive that she receives sponsorships that help her support Divya and her mother. She’s often plagued by trolls, unfortunately, because there are a lot of garbage white dudes floating around on the internet who don’t think brown girls should be taking up space in what they think is their domain. But Divya carries on, because she doesn’t want to let them win… And she needs to help her mother finish grad school. Aaron Jericho is also an avid gamer, but streaming isn’t his bread and butter. He’s a writer with aspirations to craft brilliant stories to accompany new games. Then one day, he randomly runs into the famous D1V while gaming and the two strike up a friendship. But, you know, the trolls are still there and they both have their own specific life problems and they live in different cities so it’s not all smooth sailing. Still. It’s a lovely ride. Now, I don’t play video games. I haven’t since the original Nintendo we had when I was a kid. My hand eye coordination is garbage and I was never particularly good at it. Once things progressed past very simple two dimensional movement, my spatial awareness completely spaced out. Trying to play Goldeneye on N64 (which is a 20 year old game, yes, I’m THAT out of touch) usually finds me aimlessly circling because I just CANNOT with the depth perception. All of that is to say, I don’t know jack about online gaming, but I happen to know quite a bit about online friendships and how awesome they can be. If you like YA novels and appreciate the power of online friendships? Definitely give Don’t Read the Comments a read!

Once Upon a Winters Eve by Tessa Dare- This novella was the last remaining Spindle Cove installment I hadn’t read. Violet Winterbottom is a polyglot- her gift for languages allows her to speak 6 of them fluently, not that it does her much good in the limited sphere of gently born women. She is expected to marry well, though she only has eyes for the one that got away. That is, until a mysterious stranger literally crashes (like with broken glass and everything) the Spindle Cove Christmas Ball. Turns out the “one that got away” was more of a “if I told you where I went, I’d have to kill you” kind of situation. What? Aren’t all the best love interests spies in the Napoleonic wars? This novella was cute, but not my favorite of the series by any stretch. It’s always good to read a Tessa Dare, though. Minimal angst, maximal joy.

An excellent reading week, all in all. Right now I’m reading I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez with my eyes. So far, it’s excellent. I’m also listening to Tweet Cute by Emma Lord- it’s too early to even give a preliminary commentary on this one, but I have high hopes.

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 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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May 19

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Twentieth

Weekly Wrap-Up 4

Hoo Boy, Bookworms,

TWENTY weeks into TWENTY TWENTY and I’m SO ready for a re-do. Dumb year. But I’m blogging again, so I guess that’s not the worst thing? Whatever. We’re still doing our best hanging out at home, attempting to work full time and keep a toddler from self destructing. It’s hard, but what isn’t right now? I finally finished The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali, because enough napping happened for me to listen to the audio book. It’s the only book I wrapped up this week, so let’s talk about it.

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali was a good book, but definitely not the sort of lighthearted romance I’ve been gravitating toward lately. Set against the backdrop of 1953 Tehran, it tells the love story of a young idealistic couple. “Happily Ever After” doesn’t come to fruition for them, and with the chaos of a military coup rocking the country, the two part ways, both heartbroken. They reunite 60 years later in the US and discover the answers to their lingering questions about what exactly came between them. This was a beautifully written book, and a compelling story, but it was a real downer. Reading about the political unrest in 1950s Iran was fascinating, but given all the political unrest we’re currently living through, the descriptions only served to freak me out. This is a very, very good book, BUT. If you need something happy and escapist to deal with the here and now? Maybe wait a while to read this.

I’m currently reading In for a Penny by Rose Lerner, which is, thus far, a fantastic romance novel. I’ve also got Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith in my headphones (literally, I’ve got the ear buds in right now) which is also proving to be wonderful. But ugh, I really hope these trolls get what’s coming to them because I cannot even with them right now. I’ve hit the angsty bit hard and I’m VERY INVESTED. I wonder if that douchey developer guy is involved… BUT I DIGRESS.

Sammers and Chaos: The Socially Distant Hangout

I’d like to end this blog on a pleasant note, because so much sucks. Since we’ve been staying at home, my son has struck up a friendship with our neighbor’s cat. You will likely have seen lots of these pictures and videos if you follow me on social media, but Sammy’s current BFF is a cat named Chaos. My neighbor is super cool, and is one of the few people I’ve met outside of the bookternet who reads as much (if not more) than I do. She’d initially wanted to name her cat Mr. Darcy but he proved to be too feral to pull off the dignified moniker. She finally gave up and named him Chaos. He and Sammers have the same energy, apparently, and recognize their kindred spirits. Every time we go outside to play or go for a walk, Sam will stop by the neighbor’s front window to visit the cat… And if the cat isn’t already in the window, Sam will shout a bit until the cat shows up (I have sent SO MANY text apologies, but, as I mentioned, my neighbor is awesome and finds the whole thing hilarious.) Chaos pretty much hates everyone except my neighbor, so it’s rather remarkable that he makes himself available for these little play dates. This toddler/cat bromance is my favorite quarantine development to date. Anything good happening with you these days, 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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May 13

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Nineteenth

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance 2

Greetings Bookworms,

Yet another week of staying home has passed by. I think I’ve adjusted to the point where this situation feels almost normal, but that means my brain keeps thinking about normal things. Like, it’ll pop into my head that I should run to the store to pick something up. But running to the store isn’t just a spur of the moment thing anymore. We try to get our groceries via curbside pickup and Jim is our designated “going out in public” person. Sam and I take a lot of walks through the neighborhood, but since it’s easy to keep our distance outdoors in our little neighborhood, we have little reason to don masks, so that, at least, doesn’t feel different. I still miss daycare, I miss my office, I miss book club, I miss taking Sam to the zoo and the pool and the children’s museum. I keep telling myself that this won’t be forever, but sometimes little things weigh on me. Like the fact that staying away from our extended family means that Sammy’s grandparents are missing out on the last bit of his being 2. Why does 2 still kind of feel like baby territory but 3 seems like full on kid? I love that I get to soak up all the snuggles and silliness of his remaining babyhood, but hate that other people who love him are missing out. I know my struggles are very, very low on the scale of awfulness with regard to COVID-19, but this dang virus has wiggled its way into every single facet of life and it sucks. I’ve never actively wanted to murder a micro-organism before, but if there were a magic sword that could defeat it? I’d be on a QUEST to find that magical hunk of metal and slay the beast! (Forgive me, Sam has watched Onward a lot in the past month.)

But guess what? I’ve been reading still!!! Want to hear about this week’s reads? Of course you do, why else would you be here? Let’s begin, shall we?

Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan: This was a sweet little novella starring a mathematics prodigy. She is sorely under utilized professionally by virtue of being both female and Black in the 19th Century. A rakish writer falls for her and is particularly drawn to her brilliant mind. He finds her enthusiasm for mathematics and astronomy intoxicating, because who wouldn’t? The hero in question is Stephen Shaughnessy, who was a side character with an important role in The The Suffragette Scandal (review) I loved Rose as a character, I just didn’t see her with Stephen. I don’t know why, exactly. There were a lot of great things about this novella, I just wasn’t as invested in the pairing as I wanted to be. Dare I say it? Rose could do better. Please, do not pelt me with tomatoes.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin:  What a fun rom-com! Part Shakespearean comedy, part Pride and Prejudice, and still wholly creative. Set in modern-day Toronto, Ayesha Shamsi is part of a large extended Indian Muslim family. While her flighty younger cousin Hamsa is preparing for an arranged marriage to a handsome, wealthy suitor, at 27, Ayesha is still holding out hope for a love match. She never expects to fall for an uptight, conservative man, but there’s just something about Khalid… Extremely chaste sparks fly amid mistaken identities, rumors, and familial scandals. I stayed up WAY TOO LATE reading this one because I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend!

So where does that leave us for the coming week? I’m still trying to get through The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali. I’m nearly done, but Mr. Inconsistent Naps has continued to put a damper on my audio book mojo. As for eyeball reads, well, I don’t know yet. I finished Ayesha At Last super late last night and didn’t start anything new yet. I’ve got some delightful things waiting for me, so we’ll see what strikes my fancy. How are y’all holding up, Bookworms? What have you been reading?

*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 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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May 06

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Eighteenth

Audio Books, Brain Dump, Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Holy Heck, Bookworms,

This Quarantine business is a roller coaster ride. We’ll have several nice and uneventful days in parenting and working-from-home land, and then BAM. No sleep for half the night, and the kid skips his nap, oof. This post is definitely not going to be going live “on schedule” (as though I’m rigorous about keeping a schedule, LOL.) Anyway. Yeah. This is really hard. And I miss daycare and my quiet office. I have no idea when anything even approaching “normal” will be occurring, and that’s probably the worst part. Or maybe not. I can think of many instances in which I’d simply rather not know that something awful was about to befall me. Wow. Tired Katie is getting philosophical.

Another blow from last week? My BFF’s wedding had to be postponed. I mean, we all knew it was coming, but it still really sucks. This virus is horrible on so many levels. There are the obvious super bad ones like, you know, the painful and tragic deaths of thousands upon thousands of people, then there’s whatever is left of the economy (which I don’t want to think about), then the endless cancellations of events and things that make life good. My youngest cousin is a senior in high school. She got no prom, no graduation, no closure. I was a bitter mess in high school and I’d even have been upset by everything being unceremoniously cancelled. This is all so awful. I AM FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH TOO MUCH AWFUL. Which is why I’m going to carry on reading romance novels. It’s the healthiest coping mechanism I have at my disposal. So now, let me tell you about what I read last week. *Please note that I wrote this intro when I was super sleep deprived. All of these things are still true, but I had an excellent night of sleep and things don’t seem QUITE as gloomy now. No need to worry about me. Onto the books!*

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai: This book was an absolute delight! I wasn’t surprised, given that it was the followup to The Right Swipe, of course. I was, however, surprised that I managed to get through an audio book so quickly. Sam had several days of good naps last week (like I said, it goes in waves) and I was super into the story. Katrina King is a former model living an intensely private life out of the spotlight. She suffers from a panic disorder and has a history of trauma. She’s also very wealthy so she has the means AND good reasons to keep a security detail. Just as she’s gotten comfortable enough to occasionally venture out in public, some random bystander takes it upon themselves to detail what they perceive to be a “meet cute” between Katrina and a stranger who chats her up in a cafe. Once the eavesdropper’s tweets go viral, Katrina is flabbergasted that her uneventful turning down of a dude who asked her out has put her safe haven in jeopardy. Oh, and she’s secretly in love with her bodyguard, Jas Singh, who is OBVIOUSLY also secretly in love with her, and let me tell you- the real love story doesn’t play out on the internet. This book was wonderful, but it also made me feel low-key creepy about ever having found amusement in one of those bystander Twitter stories. People’s breakups or hookups or whatever shouldn’t be broadcast all over the internet. It’s a a weird invasion of privacy even if you don’t have a panic disorder/are a former celebrity/are extremely wealthy.

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan: When it comes to historical romance, I cannot express enough just how much I love story lines that are completely bonkers. Faked deaths, secret titles, imaginary correspondence about puppy cannons? Yes, please! Edward Clark has been living in France for years and has absolutely no intention of returning to England to reclaim his title. In fact, he’s relieved that the time limit for him to be declared legally dead has nearly elapsed so that his brother can take over and he can wash his hands of the whole debacle. That is, of course, until he discovers that his awful brother is plotting nefarious deeds. Frederica “Free” Marshall is an outspoken Suffragette who operates a feminist newspaper, and just happens to be the intended target of Awful Aristocrat’s aforementioned nefarious deeds. Edward offers her his assistance under the guise of being a scoundrel, only to accidentally fall in love. As one does. Fans of brooding strangers and fiery protagonists take note!

So, what am I reading right now? Well, my MIL recommended The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali, so I’ve got that going as an audio book. I also decided to finish off the Brothers Sinister series once and for all, so I’m eyeball reading the final novella, Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan. What have you been reading, Bookworms? And how are you all holding up?

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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