Posts By: Katie Words for Worms

Sep 16

2020 Weekly Wrap Up: The Thirty-Seventh

Fantasy, Romance 4

Oh Hey Bookworms,

Looks like I missed last week. IN MY DEFENSE, Labor Day threw a whole wrench into my mojo and it was rainy and gray ALL WEEK. I was in full survival mode. Plus, we all got our flu shots. Surely that has earned me some grace from the universe at large. Anyway, I have read some things. Shall we discuss?

Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean- It’s official: Whit AKA Beast is my favorite Bareknuckle Bastards hero. He’s big and burly and such a complete and utter marshmallow. Lady Henrietta Sedley hopes to inherit her father’s shipping business, and doesn’t expect to marry, so she has chosen to ring in the big 2-9 with an evening of pleasure… At Covent Garden’s premier brothel catering to ladies of the ton. Her plan is derailed somewhat when she discovers Whit tied up and unconscious in the back of her carriage looking utterly scrumptious. Talk about a meet-cute, am I right?! When Beast wakes up at Hattie’s feet, he is intrigued by the strange woman and her plans. Too bad she unceremoniously tosses him out of the moving carriage. But Beast knows all the ins and outs of the Garden- he’s on his own turf. He decides to seek out Hattie and volunteer his services… In exchange for information. The book is as delicious and scandalous as you might expect. Battles of wits, battles of Whits, bargains, brawls, unexpected passions: it is a very good time, y’all.

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean- Whit may be my favorite Bareknuckle Bastards hero, but Grace is my favorite heroine! She runs a brothel for women so the gently bred ladies of Mayfair can experience freedom and pleasure under the nose of a society that denies them both. Though they’ve risen to near royal status in Covent Garden, Grace and her brothers Devil and Whit share a traumatic and dangerous past- one that continually haunts them, in the form of the Duke of Marwick. Ewan was once part of a quartet of children pitted against each other to illegally inherit a Dukedom. In winning the title, Ewan gave up his greatest love- a love he hopes to win back by any means necessary. Grace and Ewan have an impressive amount of emotional baggage. Like, these two do NOT travel lightly. You know. First love, shared trauma, assumed attempted murder. It’s a whole thing. Do they both need extensive therapy? Certainly. But as they’re living in Victorian London, that’s not much of an option. Instead, they must bumble around figuring things out for themselves. Luckily, this is a romance novel, and thus, love conquers all. But not before hijinks ensue.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl- What a conundrum. I wanted to LOVE this book. Nay, expected to. A fantasy Steampunk alternate history of an African colony? Sounds super great. Only. I wanted more, uh, punk? with my steam? Possibly more metaphorical steam with my actual steam, too. Everfair was very heavy on the history and politics portion of this alternate world (I was unaware just HOW much Leopold II sucked until I read this. Unfortunately, that bit wasn’t “alternate” history. Nasty colonizers exploiting native people and stealing the profits of their natural resources and labor is, alas, a familiar tale.) About halfway through the book, there was a bit of magic I found SUPER INTERESTING, but it was glossed over too quickly. Nearly every character in this book was massively flawed, and not in ways I found I could connect with. For example, there was a character who started out pretty great but then turned out to be something of a eugenics proponent, so that was gross. I don’t know. The elements of a great book were all there, it just didn’t come together for me. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, of course. If you’re into alternate histories and steampunk, Everfair is definitely worth checking out.

So, what am I reading now? Well. I decided it was high time I read The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow- I’m reading this one with my eyeballs. As for my ears, we’re listening to Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. That one is going particularly well- yesterday I was listening during Sam’s nap time and started cackling. I confused my husband (also working from home) terribly, but I didn’t think I’d be able to explain the joke, what with the barrister wigs and all. Anyway. It’s shaping up to be an excellent reading week. How’s your reading going, 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 bookstore. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home!

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Sep 03

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirty Fifth

Audio Books, Romance, Supernatural, Young Adult Fiction 2

Hello, Hello Bookworms,

My brain is too fried to give you charming anecdotes today, BUT I finally finished reading some things, and I have THOUGHTS on them.

Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean- Ah regency romance, I have missed you. I decided to start a new Sarah MacLean series because romance is a bright spot in this gloomy COVID landscape and hers are always so delightfully cheeky. Our titular “wallflower,” Felicity Faircloth, has been through some things at the hands of her fellow aristocrats. She’s been shunned by the cool kids (yup, Mean Girls know no time period, apparently) and is thisclose to being labeled an unmarriagable spinster. Our hero runs a crime syndicate in Covent Garden. He goes by “Devil,” naturally. The two run into each other at a ball. Felicity, hiding out on a balcony, encounters Devil there, who is in attendance to do a bit of blackmail. Paths cross, sparks fly, nefarious deeds are plotted. Honestly though, how is a smuggling crime boss to resist an aristocratic misfit with a penchant for lock picking? This book was an excellent diversion and I will definitely continue reading the series.

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park: Nate is a scholarship student at an elite private school. The son of Korean immigrants, his family has never been particularly wealthy, and Nate’s greatest ambition is to make buckets full of cash so he and his family don’t have to struggle. Kate is a theater enthusiast whose tech CEO father is very well off, but he’s usually absent and completely lacking in boundaries. An after school job at a zombie escape room introduce Nate and Kate (it rhymes, it’s precious) and they team up for a weird zombie survivalist competition to win a pile of cash. The villains in this book were almost cartoonishly evil, and there were kind of a lot of robots for a book that wasn’t sci fi. Still, it super fun and had definite Hunger Games vibes during the zombie challenge. While the villains and the robots didn’t make for the most realistic YA contemporary, the teenage likeage was SPOT ON. Suzanne Park tapped into all the nerves and euphoria I remember from being a teenager in like. I was so invested in this book that I stayed up entirely too late to finish it, which, to my mind, is always a ringing endorsement.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir- I… I don’t even know where to begin here. This book is absolutely bonkers, as was its predecessor. Like, I’m pretty sure that even if I made an attempt at giving a synopsis it wouldn’t make sense to anyone. But what a bizarre, entertaining ride! Your inner goth will love you for reading this book about queer space necromancers. There is a LOT of talk of blood and guts and viscera and bone but it’s in such a detached sort of way that it didn’t bother me nearly as much as I might have expected. (I’m not good with blood. Like, seeing a large-ish quantity of it makes me woozy. I don’t do well with donating blood or having blood draws done at the doctor, either. I mean, I CAN do both of those things, but it is very unpleasant and often leads to me needing emergency juice and cookies.) The audio version of this as well as Gideon the Ninth truly cannot be beat. Moira Quirk’s narration is SO immersive and her character voices SO distinct that it’s almost like listening to a full cast recording. Plus, there is nobody else on earth who could deliver lines like “you ensorcelled my jawbone” with such droll perfection. I still DO NOT UNDERSTAND ANYTHING but I cannot WAIT to read the final installment of this series, whenever that comes out. And by read, I mean listen, OBVIOUSLY.

This may be the strangest handful of books I think I’ve ever put into the same post, and now I’m snort laughing thinking about what would happen if any of the characters in any of these books met each other. Like, Harrow in Regency London. Or Harrow in contemporary Seattle. Really, I’m just going to think of how funny it would be to take Harrow out of context. With her exoskeleton and her necromancy. I realize this is way too obscure to ever become an SNL sketch, but I would watch the heck out of that. I digress. I’m still reading. I just started the audio version of Everfair by Nisi Shawl and eyeball reading Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean. What are you 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 bookstore. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home!

 

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Aug 28

What Is Time, Even? (Ruminations on my Son’s Third Birthday)

Personal 2

Greetings Bookworms!

Guess how many books I read last week. No really, guess. ZERO! That’s right folks, it was a slow reading week. We had a couple of no-nap days AND the good sir turned 3. As a result, my reading was limited. I still read, of course, but I didn’t finish anything. Still plugging away at Harrow the Ninth (so completely banana pants) and Wicked and the Wallflower. Since I don’t really have books to tell you about, I’m just going to post some pictures of my birthday boy and word vomit feelings. Cool?

I have a very vivid memory from when Sam was like 8 days old. I was googling something. Probably baby sleep schedules or the appropriate color of baby poop or baby acne. Anyway. Regardless of the question, the answer according to Dr. Google was that whatever I was concerned about would resolve somewhat by the time he was 6 weeks old. I nearly cried when I read that because my hormone fueled sleep deprived brain thought 6 weeks sounded SO FAR AWAY. I believe the cliche goes something like “the days are long but the years are short.” It’s the sort of phrase I’d cringe to see on a decorative sign: I’m bitter about the truth of it, I guess.

THREE YEARS. What is time, even?! We’ve reached the unofficial end of the baby stage (in my mind, anyway). He’s a whole kid with a personality and complex emotions and an impressive vocabulary. I’ve been working from home with Sammers since the pandemic got rolling in mid-March. Daycare re-opened in June but I haven’t felt safe sending him back yet (that’s not an indictment of the daycare, just the inevitability of infection despite everyone’s best efforts.) Thanks to my job being super supportive, I’m free to keep working from home with him for the time being. Whenever I get down about how hard it all is or how there are no good choices, Sam will do some cool new thing, and I’m reminded that having a front row seat to his milestones is pretty sweet. His imaginative play is SUCH a joy to watch. He’s always been very verbal (aggressively so, if I’m being honest) so it’s hysterical to watch him narrate the games he’s playing.

I’m a huge proponent of people expressing their feelings on motherhood, because it’s not often perfect and Instagram worthy. Everyone’s situation is different and everyone’s experience is different and it’s totally fine to have moments where you’re miserable or think wistfully of your pre-children life. That said, no matter how awful a day we’re having, there isn’t a single one that goes by without my being utterly delighted by this boy. Like, he might have thrown several tantrums throughout the day, yelled at me that I don’t understand him (yeah that happened yesterday), and told me to “stop saying” while I was in the middle of a work meeting (also yesterday), but EGADS I just love this kid so much. His very existence feels like magic and I’m trying so hard to soak up all the snuggles and silliness. It’s been a wild ride, but such a fun one. Happy Birthday, Buddy. I hope you can somehow feel every bit of my delight in you.

You knock me out, I fall apart.

 

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Aug 20

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirty-Third

Fantasy, Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 2

Howdy Bookworms,

I took a little break from the regular updates last week because I wanted to publish a post boosting Black voices in Sci-Fi and Fantasy that I’ve been thinking about for months. Of course it took time to compile, so now I’ve got some catching up to do on the regular reading. Also, it’s occurred to me that I started numbering these posts as like the first week of 2020 or whatever, but I’ve skipped some weeks and now the numbering is all janky and probably incorrect. I tried to tie it to the actual week and not the number of the update, but it’s TWENTY TWENTY for heaven’s sake- EVERYTHING is janky and wrong. I don’t even know what day it is half the time, let alone what week of the year. But I’ve gone too far to stop now, so we’re sticking with my crappy naming convention. ONWARD!

In “I personally find this interesting even though you probably don’t” news, we just transitioned Sammers from his crib to a toddler bed. What can I say? The crib was working for us and he wasn’t climbing out so I saw no reason to change things. He had recently begun starting to swing his leg up like he was going to parkour his way out of that thing, though, and he’s turning 3 on Saturday, so it was time. But, folks, I gotta tell you. This child does NOT do change well. Ask me how long I was up last night rocking, soothing, and attempting to sleep lying on the floor next to the toddler bed holding a tiny hand. Actually, don’t ask me, I’m still really tired. That was only night ONE. Let’s hope this sorts itself out quickly, for everyone’s sanity. Let’s talk about books and not my parenting woes, shall we?

An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole- I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s the third in a series focusing on a Black spy ring working for the Union during the Civil War. We’ve met our hero Daniel briefly in both preceding books, and it was about dang time for this poor tortured soul to be healed with the help of some sweet, sweet loving. But Daniel can’t just pick an uncomplicated partner. Nooooo, he has to go and fall for Janeta, who, though she’s of Afro-Cuban heritage, is spying for the Confederacy. Janeta’s journey is everything. She grew up the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. Her mother, in fact, was once one of her father’s slaves (he later married her after his first wife died.) Her mother was extremely careful to teach Janeta the importance of keeping her distance from the other Black people in and around her home, and she is raised as any white daughter of a plantation owner would be. Talk about cognitive dissonance, right? The few times Janeta points out that she looks just like the folks working in the fields, she’s quickly admonished and assured that she is inherently different somehow. As Janeta attempts to infiltrate the Loyal League, she slowly comes to realize that everything she’s been taught is a big fat lie and that her father is actually a pretty bad dude. Poor Janeta: it’s a tough pill to swallow, but it feels especially timely for this moment. When you’re confronted with these kind of truths, you can either dig your heels in or accept that what you were taught was wrong. Spoiler alert (it’s a romance novel, for heaven’s sake, this is hardly a spoiler) Janeta realizes she’s trying to help the wrong side and changes course. And it’s not only because she’s besotted with Daniel, though, that certainly doesn’t hurt.

 

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown– Holy guacamole this book was a RIDE. It’s been a while since I read such an intensely immersive work of fantasy. Malik is a refugee trying to find safe harbor in the city of Ziran, despite its hatred of his people. When an otherworldly being abducts his little sister, Malik is forced into a terrible bargain. In order to save his sister, he must kill Princess Karina. Karina isn’t interested in the life set before her. She doesn’t want to be a monarch- she wants to travel and play music and pursue a life on her own terms. Forces far beyond her control soon make that an impossibility when her mother, the Sultana, is brutally murdered on the eve of Ziran’s most sacred festival, Solstasia. I don’t know how much more I ought to describe this book without getting really spoilery and/or mentioning world building aspects that are too complicated for this format. It’s a fantastic ride, BUT both Karina and Malik have significant trauma to grapple with. At the outset of the book, the author lists content warnings for readers who may be sensitive to some of the subject matter. I can’t recall all of them, but self harm, suicidal ideation, and the deaths of family members are among them. Remember to be gentle with yourselves, friends. No book, however magical, is worth your mental health. Kudos to Roseanne A Brown for recognizing that and giving readers a head’s up!

 

A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon– Evie Buchanan is an up and coming chef- she’s currently starring on a hot daytime show and has plenty of opportunities at her fingertips. Until, that is, a nasty former reality show co-star decides to push her down a flight of stairs at an industry party leaving Evie with a traumatic brain injury and amnesia. (Seriously, what a bitch.) Zach Pleasant is quick to respond to the distress call his brother Jesse receives regarding Evie. It’s been a decade since she called their little corner of California home, but there’s no better place for her to convalesce than the luxury dude ranch from whence she came. Zach and Evie’s history is messy, but since she has no memory of it, the two are given something of a second chance. Weatherspoon has some serious romance range, I tell you what. This book was surprisingly chaste. I mean, it wasn’t completely chaste by any means but compared to the other two Weatherspoon books I’ve read, it was downright wholesome. I was certainly expecting more of the fast paced courtship and, uh, eye popping love scenes I read in RAFE and XENI. I’ll admit, this wasn’t my favorite- cowboys in general aren’t really my jam, but that won’t stop be from reading more of her work. Heck, I’ll happily read Jesse’s story when his turn comes despite my indifference to cowboys. I find Jesse Pleasant fascinating and I want to know more.

As to what I’m currently reading? Harrow the Ninth! I’m listening to the audio because Gideon the Ninth‘s audio was so great, but that means Mr. No Nap needs to COOPERATE. Sigh. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what is going on with Harrow right now, and I’m a quarter of the way through. Jenny at Reading the End warned me that this would be the case, though, and is responding to my out-of-context commentary with SUCH enthusiasm. I so treasure my internet book friends! I’ve also started Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean because it’s been a while since I went the Regency romance route. So far, so charming. What are you 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 bookstore. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

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Aug 12

Boosting Black Voices: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Dystopian, Fantasy, Science Fiction 4

Greetings Bookworms,

Remember a while back when I did a listicle promoting Black rom-coms? I’ve had this list of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors percolating in the back of my brain since then. Actually, I’ve had the skeleton of this post written since then, but you know, LIFE. I was spurred to finally get this post out in the internet because I’ve had a couple of occasions recently where I’ve found myself recommending these books. It’s time to give them the love they deserve, since I read most of them during that pesky 2 year blog maternity leave I gave myself. Science Fiction and Fantasy circles have been dominated by white men since forever, and they have a long history of excluding women and authors of color. Maybe the white dudes have felt threatened into being obnoxious gatekeepers? I mean, I’ve NEVER been bored when reading Sci-Fi or Fantasy novel written by a Black author, but I’ve found a number of, uh, “foundational” white dude novels in these genres to be complete snooze fests. Just saying. Let’s boost some kick-ass Black voices, shall we?

 

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler- Alright, this one is kind of an unconventional choice when it comes to Octavia E. Butler, first of her name, brilliant pioneering Black woman in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I mean, I could have gone with the intense time travel social commentary of Kindred. Or the wildly original outer space aliens series, Lilith’s Brood (The Xenogenesis Trilogy). Or even the disturbingly prophetic Parable of the Sower Series. Instead, I went with Vampires. What can I say? Fledgling is by far the most innovative take on vampires I’ve ever read and even when it’s really creepy it’s excellent. It begins with a young girl who appears to have lost her memory. As the story progresses, we discover that our protagonist is actually a 53 year old genetically modified vampire. Which, frankly, is kind of a relief because none of what happens up to that point is in any way appropriate for a 10 year old human girl.  Then again, she’s still technically a baby vampire even though she’s 53, but I shan’t judge one species by the standards of another. The point I’m trying to make here is that this book is amazing, Octavia Butler doesn’t get the recognition she deserves, and if you haven’t read her work yet, you should start right now.

 

Akata Witch & Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor- I know, I know I put Okorafor on this list and didn’t choose Binti. EVERYONE loves Binti. And Binti is great (especially if you love Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis Trilogy). But I happen to prefer this middle grade/YA series. 12-year-old Sunny was born in New York, but her family recently relocated to Nigeria, where they were originally from. She is the only member of her family born in the US, and she struggles with her language skills and feelings of not quite belonging. It doesn’t help that Sunny is albino and super sensitive to the sun- a condition about which the local population is superstitious. Sunny soon discovers (with the help of some new friends) that she has magical powers. They embark on a quest to stop the evil Black Hat Otokoto whose twisted magical practices involve kidnapping and maiming children. Something about that coming of age, discovering secret worlds of magic thing will never not intrigue me. Everything about the magical world of the Leopard People is so different than those placed in a Eurocentric magical tradition, and it is incredibly cool to explore magic from an African perspective.

 

The Broken Earth Trilogy: The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, The Stone Sky by NK Jemisin- Jemisin won three consecutive Hugo awards for this series for good reason. It’s. That. Good. The books are set in a world that is no stranger to upheaval. Like, literal upheaval. Earthquakes are always threatening to tear civilization apart. However, certain people are born with the ability to control the shaking. Civilization fears and ostracizes this group while attempting to control their powers for their own gain. It’s a very complex and troubling power structure. I bet you never thought that magical powers rooted in geology would be compelling, but that’s NK Jemisin for you. Her writing is so imaginative and her world building so enthralling that she literally made rocks fascinating. Honestly, I can’t figure out a good way to describe these books other than to demand that you read them.

 

Children of Blood and Bone & Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi- What’s this? Another series of books set in an African mythological tradition? And somehow it manages to be wholly unique from anything else I’ve read? Why yes, yes it is! In this world, Zélie Adebola and people like her once possessed magic. The un-magical ruling classes sought to control their powers, and somehow managed to neutralize all the magic in Orïsha. After the maji are relegated powerless, many are slaughtered, and the remainder are brutally ostracized and subjugated. Zélie dreams of finding a way to bring magic back in order to retaliate against an unjust and cruel monarchy. But, of course, magic is rarely uncomplicated. This is a heart pounding and gut wrenching adventure story and I cannot WAIT to see where it goes next.

 

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon- Who wants to live in a dystopian space society? Yeah, me neither, especially not after reading the haunting tale spun by one Rivers Solomon. The HSS Matilda started its journey through space in an attempt to preserve at least a portion of the human race when the Earth is no longer hospitable. The vessel is traveling in hopes of finding a new planet to colonize. Unfortunately, throughout the voyage, the society within the spacecraft devolves into the ugliest version of society humans on Earth ever managed to conjure. Social stratification is largely race-based, and while those on the upper decks live lives of luxury, those below decks are forced into manual labor. It’s slavery, but there’s not even a hope for escape because they’re stuck on a freaking space ship. The book not only tackles the abhorrent caste system on the ship, but also challenges traditional concepts of gender, explores neuro divergence, and tackles the mental toll institutionalized trauma takes on its victims. It does ALL THE THINGS and it does them VERY WELL. Rivers Solomon is a force to be reckoned with. Read their work. Soak it in.

 

A Blade So Black by LL McKinney- Alice in Wonderland fans, take note! LL McKinney has created a nightmare version of Wonderland starring a Black teenage girl from Atlanta. Wonderland is an alternate realm, a dream reality, if you will. Unfortunately, it’s also plagued by Nightmares, and since it’s a dream realm, you can’t just wake up from these. Nightmares are physical creatures that will 100% try to kill you. After Alice is accidentally introduced to this world, she trains like a bad ass nightmare ninja to fight the Nightmares and keep them from invading the “real” world. Of course, she’s also got to continue going to high school, maintain friendships, and remember to defrost the chicken for dinner. It’s a LOT. And it’s super imaginative and fun. I haven’t yet read the second book in the series, but it’s only a matter of time.

 

Dread Nation & Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland- I really don’t know at what point zombie novels start being horror and not science fiction, but this is my list so I’m defining the categories. MUAHAHAHA. These novels are set during the aftermath of the US Civil War. With the minor complication that the dead started reanimating at the battle of Gettysburg. Formerly enslaved and indigenous people are deemed by white folks to be somehow immune to zombie bites, and therefore involuntarily forced to attend battle schools so they can become bodyguards and soldiers in the war against the dead. They are not actually immune to zombie bites, but a society that thought it was cool to literally OWN humans is loath to give up any more of their power. The books are infuriating and exciting and really freaking cool.

 

Whew, what a list! I could have gone on longer because there is just so much excellent Sci-Fi and Fantasy out there by Black authors, but this post is already super long. If you’re interested in reading any of these novels, I’d highly recommend trying the audio book versions, particularly for those set in Africa. I like to hear the names of things pronounced the way the authors intended. I do that a lot with fantasy novels in general, honestly. It adds a lot to the experience. Go forth and READ, my dear friends!

OK, Bookworms. I know I haven’t even scratched the surface here. Hit me with your recommendations!

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 bookstore. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

 

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Aug 05

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Thirty-First

Weekly Wrap-Up 1

Greetings Bookworms,

As I write this, I’m listening to my child steadfastly refuse to nap. I will probably be crying about it in like 10 minute, but until the tears fall, let’s talk about some books. I need the distraction. And maybe, just maybe, my child will talk himself to sleep. Heaven knows he needs it. He didn’t nap yesterday and had a crappy night of sleep last night. How he managed to not pass out in his lunch is honestly beyond me. NAPS ARE AMAZING, SON. TAKE THEM. In case you’re wondering, yes, our daycare opened. However, since my job has been incredibly supportive of the whole working from home with kids thing, I’m not sending Sam back yet. The COVID cases in our local area are skyrocketing and toddlers are unbelievably gross as a general rule. Sam has started licking our appliances for no apparent reason. My child is the very definition of a super spreader. It’s a public service as much as it is my own paranoia. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. But books. Books are nice. Let’s talk about books.

10 Things I Hate about Pinky by Sandhya Menon: Why is every book in the Dimple-verse so freaking delightful? We met Pinky Kumar and Samir Jha in There’s Something about Sweetie, both of them buddies of Ashish, whose brother Rishi starred in When Dimple Met Rishi. Interconnected books are my jam. Pinky is loud and brash, wearing multiple colors in her hair and her bleeding heart on her sleeve. Social justice? Animal rescue? Questionable choices in the dating department? That’s our Pinky. Samir is the opposite. He’s about as Alex P Keaton as they come (OMG I just dated myself horribly, didn’t I?) Samir is extremely uptight- his planner is his world and he harbors THRILLING dreams of corporate law. No surprise- Pinky and Samir are like oil and water… Until Pinky needs to call in a favor. After yet another fight with her mom, Pinky is fed up. In order to shut her mom’s lectures down, Pinky invites Samir to their summer lake house to pose as her boyfriend. Did I mention Pinky’s mom is a super high powered corporate attorney and therefore can afford things like lake houses in Cape Cod? Anyway. Samir’s Washington DC internship falls through and is faced with another summer at home with his own mother when Pinky proposes the fake boyfriend plan. In exchange for being a fake boyfriend, Pinky promises to talk him up to her mom, who just happens to be in the market for an intern. And so? Let the fake dating games begin! We all know that fake dating always turns into real feelings and even though this book is remarkably chaste, there are plenty of swoony smooches. It’s funny and it’ll hit you in the feels. Also, Drama Queen the opossum might be the greatest sidekick of all time. Read it, read it, read it!

Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi- I’ve read several books by Roshani Chokshi at this point and I never stop being utterly charmed by her insertion of humor into unexpected places. Reading her glossary after finishing this book had me absolutely cackling. Aru Shah and the Song of Death is the second book in the Pandava Quartet which is a Middle Grade series wherein middle school aged kids discover that they’re reincarnated heroes and sent on quests in the Otherworld. (Think Percy Jackson, but with South Asian characters- it’s part of Rick Riordan’s publishing imprint.) These books are not only charming AF they’re also super informative. Between pronunciation guides and explanations in clear middle school friendly vernacular, the reader is never made to feel dumb for not being familiar with something. It’s an awesome way for kids of all backgrounds to learn about Hindu mythology and Indian culture and food. Kids of South Asian descent get to see themselves represented in fiction- kids not of South Asian descent get to learn things. Grown ups who enjoy quirky adventure stories will also learn things, and then crave samosas. Look, my professor in college for Religions of the Eastern World was super passionate and interesting, but Roshani Chokshi’s take on Hindu mythology is WAY MORE FUN. What can I say? She won my heart with that horse demon in The Star-Touched Queen and I’ve never been the same. If you have middle grade readers in your life, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Every time I see a parent on social media asking for book recommendations for their kids people recommend the same stodgy old books- THIS is the kind of stuff that’s going to get your kids into reading. I love Judy Blume as much as the next gal, but there’s a great big exciting world of middle grade and YA literature out there now. At least encourage your kids read something that was published during their lifetimes! Whew. Where’d that soap box come from?

Ahem. I am still reading things! I just started the audio book of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown. It’s probably going to take me forever to finish it because nap times are my only audio book time these days but it will have been worth it, I have no doubt. My eyeballs are finishing up Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series by tackling An Unconditional Freedom. How are you all doing, Bookworms? What little gems of the literary persuasion are keeping you sane these days?

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 bookstore. IndieBound and Bookshop make it easy to do just that without having to leave your home! 

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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 4

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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