Category: Contemporary Fiction

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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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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Apr 28

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Seventeeth

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Time Travel 3

How Now, Bookworms?

Here in Illinois, our stay-at-home order has been extended through the end of May… At least. The upside is that greenhouses and nurseries are going to be allowed to open, which means FLOWERS! One of my book club friends runs a seasonal flower/garden center with her Mom and I’m super stoked to support them with ALL MY FLOWER DOLLARS. I look forward to planting annuals every year and I’m so thrilled that it’s one thing I’ll still be able to do. I’m hoping Sam will be interested enough to join me this year. I mean, we’ll probably have to hose him off, but I think gardening is an excellent toddler activity. (Says the woman who has not yet attempted to garden with said toddler.) I never plant until after Mother’s Day, so we’ve got some time. But I can’t wait!

This week I finished reading yet another Talia Hibbert gem, Untouchable. How are all her books so charming? Hibbert clearly has “a type.” Her heroes are all big, muscled, and tattooed. Often bearded. Perhaps not my “type” IRL, but it makes for a swoony romance novel hero. Especially when they’ve got a big, soft heart underneath all those muscles. Nate Davis is one of those big, muscled, tattooed gents. He’s a widower who has returned to his hometown to help care for cancer stricken mother. Given his unpredictable schedule and the two kiddos, he finds himself in need of a nanny, pronto. Hannah Kabbah (you’ll remember her as Ruth’s sister from A Girl Like Her which I told you all about already) is a phenomenal early childhood caregiver, but has been unable to work in the field since that unfortunate incident with a horrible man, a cricket bat, and a car. Nate hires her on without hesitation and sparks fly. The best part of this whole romance is that he’s super aware of just how icky it can be when employers take advantage of their employees when it comes to dating. He does everything in his power to make that a non-issue and to be as un-creepy as possible. Of course it helps that Hannah is totally into him because, um, hot-muscled-tattooed guy with a soft heart? How could she possibly resist?

What’s this? Did I finish binge reading the Ravenswood Series already? Why, yes, yes I did. That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert was yet another delicious morsel of a book. This time it follows Zach, a swoony blacksmith with all the muscles. (Yes, a second swoony blacksmith in the series. What? He’s the buddy Evan kept cooking for in the first book. Keep up, people!) He’s got a reputation as a ladies man, but that was mostly for show. When mysterious newcomer Rae appears in town, she and Zach strike up a friendship. She’s a fantasy writer, he’s a secret nerd. She has a truly excellent dog and just happens to walk him near where Zach takes his work breaks to cool off from that hot, sweaty forge. When Rae is in need of a fake boyfriend (gosh I love this trope) to accompany her to a conference her awful ex husband will be attending, she turns to Zach for help. Spoiler Alert: There’s only one bed! Romance tropes FOREVER!

I finally finished Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore while scrubbing down a bathroom that sorely needed it. It took me much longer to finish this book than I’d have liked, but it’s because I chose to listen to it as an audio book instead of reading with my eyeballs. Sigh, Quarantine troubles have limited my audio book capacity to nap times and my kid has gotten extremely proficient at avoiding his naps. Oof. Anyway, this book was great. Oona Lockhart is celebrating her birthday/New Year, but just as the clock strikes midnight to turn 1982 into 1983, something weird happens in the space-time continuum and she’s jumped forward in time. It turns out that every year at the stroke of midnight, Oona emerges into a different year in her life and lives, as the title suggests, out of order. This book was an incredibly clever take on time travel, and it just earned a place as one of my favorites. Watching Oona navigate her own life without much context is a fascinating and emotional journey. I love, love, loved it.

Whew! What a whirlwind reading week! I’ve also been reading books to Sam by the truckload, so I’m hoping to put together a list of some of HIS current favorites this week too. We have such a phenomenal children’s library at our disposal (since our family members are overly generous and really, really good at choosing books) it seems a shame to keep it to ourselves. As for what I’m diving into, I decided to wrap up the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan, so I’m reading The Suffragette Scandal with my eyeballs. And, even though it will probably take forever to get through, I decided to start Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai on audio. It’s a continuation of the series that started with The Right Swipe which I absolutely adored. Just give me all the romance. Maybe I’ll read something else one day. Maybe I won’t. But as for right now? GIVE ME ALL THE HAPPILY EVER AFTERS.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links above direct to Amazon, but if you’re able and interested in making a purchase through a local independent bookstore, please consider using the links below:

Untouchable
That Kind of Guy
A Girl Like Her
Oona Out of Order
The Suffragette Scandal
Girl Gone Viral
The Right Swipe

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Apr 07

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Fourteenth

Contemporary Fiction, Weekly Wrap-Up 4

How you holding up, Bookworms?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feb 27

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Romance 1

Greetings Bookworms,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Worst Best Man

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Jan 23

How to Hack a Heartbreak by Kristin Rockaway

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance 1

Hey there Bookworms!

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

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

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

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

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

Alright then. Surprise book review. Check and check.

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

How to Hack a Heartbreak
The Right Swipe

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May 14

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

Contemporary Fiction, Romance 3

Greetings, Bookworms!

As you know, I’ve been blogging sporadically (at best) lately, so I haven’t been accepting review requests or seeking review copies of new books from publishers. If there was any author(s) who could get me to dust off my old NetGalley account and beg for a book, it’s Christina Lauren. I’ve burned through nearly all of their standalone novel back list at this point, and patience is not a virtue I possess in abundance. If it wasn’t obvious, I received a complimentary digital review copy of The Unhoneymooners from the publisher for review consideration. I usually preface my reviews of books I receive for free with an assurance that I will provide a fair and honest review and have not been corrupted, but it seems a bit silly in this case. It was practically a foregone conclusion that I was going to LOVE this book. I wouldn’t have requested it otherwise.Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Olive Torres is chronically unlucky. Her love life, career, and relationship with arcade claw machines have all been tainted by her endlessly bad luck. Her twin sister, on the other hand, wins EVERYTHING. In fact, Ami has funded her entire wedding with the fruits of her winning streak. Dresses, hotel, honeymoon, reception buffet- free, free, free! Unfortunately for Ami, her perfect luck turns on her when food poisoning from tainted seafood fells the ENTIRE wedding party and guest list. Well, the entire wedding party EXCEPT for Olive, whose “unlucky” shellfish allergy required her to steer clear of the seafood buffet. Because Ami and her new husband are down for the count, she pleads with Olive to go on her Honeymoon in her place. The only thing worse than paying for something is getting something for free and then wasting it, I guess. But Olive’s luck wouldn’t just allow her a magical free Maui vacation- she’s got to take the only OTHER guest who didn’t get sick with her- her arch nemesis Ethan.

Ethan, brother of the ill-fated groom, and Olive have never seen eye to eye and have been hostile toward each other throughout the entirety of their siblings’ courtship. Now they have to pretend to be newlyweds in order to take advantage of the free vacation and not drive each other bananas in the process. Things get off to a rocky start when the pair keep running into people they know on Maui while they’re assuming the identities of their siblings. Who knew so many Minnesotans booked the same resort? However, Maui will be Maui. As the trip progresses, Ethan and Olive thaw from outright dislike to grudging tolerance to something approaching fondness…

It’s a rom-com, so I think it’s pretty obvious where this is heading. It’s a heck of a fun ride! I now desperately want to take a Hawaiian vacation (that I don’t have to pay for.) Ethan and Olive’s banter is witty and delightful, and peppered with Harry Potter references. The way to my heart is casually accusing your love interest of hiding his horcruxes in paradise, apparently. I enthusiastically recommend The Unhoneymooners to anyone who enjoys romance, comedy, and joy, as well as those who hate buffets and would like a fictional character to back them up on their anti-buffet stance.

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Text links go to Amazon digital versions, but if you prefer paper books and it’s within your budget, please consider shopping your local indie bookstore through this link, by clicking on the book cover, or in visiting in person.

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Mar 08

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Contemporary Fiction, Plague 7

Greetings Bookworms!

I’m in a weird head space right now, y’all. I’ve had “Copacabana” playing in my head all day and decided that “Oubliette Gazette” would be a great newsletter name for people trapped in secret sunken trap door prisons. Until, that is, I was reminded that people in oubliettes don’t really get the luxury of newsletters, so it’s just a wasted rhyme. I lay the blame in part on the fact that I wasn’t able to read before bed last night. My Kindle’s battery was kaput and the cord isn’t long enough to stretch from the wall to my bed. And YES, I know I could have read a PAPER book instead, but then I’d need a book light (which also necessitates batteries) and I’d be reading an extra book which would throw off my whole mojo. I normally have one eyeball book and one audio book going at any given time, so throwing an additional title in there would just be chaos. Let’s just talk about one of my recent reads, shall we?

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was a near perfect read for me. I was expecting to enjoy this book, because I really liked her first novel, The Age of Miracles (review), but this book was another level. The Dreamers is set in a remote California town. A girl at the local college falls asleep and is unable to be woken by her roommate, the paramedics, or the doctors at the hospital. When other students begin falling into this strange sleep, it sets off a panic in the town. Plague books are VERY much in my wheelhouse, so it’s no surprise that the plot of this book appealed to me. Remember in the 90s when that movie Outbreak came out with the monkey and the yellow suits and Renee Russo being smarter than everyone else? This book had a similar feel, but the writing was so lovely and melodic that while I felt all the dread, it also had a dreamy quality. Which, hello, GENIUS, because the book is literally about a sleep plague.

Here are some things this book did particularly well:

Illustrate dorm life: I think Karen Thompson Walker must have lived in a dorm very much like the ones I lived in, because the vibe was pitch perfect. The descriptions of the communal bathrooms alone- my word- I had the most vivid recollections of the University Hall 4B bathrooms circa 2001. Granted, this book wasn’t set in 2001, but there have got to be dorms somewhere that haven’t upgraded to those swanky suites. That somewhere is apparently the fictional Santa Lora College. And probably lots of other places. I don’t know. I’m, like, medium old. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was a sophomore in college and when I did it only worked outside the dorm because reception was bad . If I wanted to talk indoors I had to use a landline and a calling card. GET OFF MY LAWN.

Illustrate new parenthood: One of the families living in Santa Lora during this plague are the parents of a newborn baby. Walker mentioned in the forward of the book that she’d written the novel during the time her two children were born and I felt every smidgen of that reality. Being a new-ish parent myself, the intensity of those sleepless nights and constant self doubt hit home. There’s a scene where the family tries to leave town only to be met by a quarantine border that just about broke me. The second guessing and the terror of what would become of the baby? I was paranoid as heck about Sammers getting exposed to whooping cough or the flu during the period when he was too young to be vaccinated. A friggin mystery plague with a new baby? INTENSE.

Realistic depiction of disease spread and containment. As much as I dig a zombie apocalypse story, I think it’s pretty unrealistic that the contagion would be able to spread universally unchecked, you know? Especially since the majority of zombie stories involve slow, shuffling zombies. Quarantines would certainly be put in place, and those slowpokes would be rounded up quickly. Plus, it’s a contagion spread primarily by biting, so I have a hard time believing in the plausibility of such rapid spread. It’s probably one of the reasons I can stomach zombie novels and other monster fare whereas I have a hard time with horror stories about, like, evil humans. But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that I found the description of the way this disease spread very believable. Walker wisely chose to liken the spread pattern to that of the measels, which, frankly, has made me extra grateful for SCIENCE because measels is WAY more contagious than I ever realized. YAY VACCINES! Anyway. Quarantines were put into place early. Even when there were gaps in the quarantine (because there’s always going to be someone who sneaks out) exposure was contained. Like, seriously, good job, fictional government. I’m proud of you. There was plenty of chaos WITHIN the cordoned-off town to keep the drama going- no need to devastate the entire planet (which is good, because Walker did THAT in The Age of Miracles and it gave me actual nightmares.) The threat is still kind of there, though, because viruses are tricky bastards. No IMMINENT DOOM, at least.

Have I convinced you to read this book yet? I’m running out of exclamation points! GO FORTH AND READ!

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

 

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May 24

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E Reichert

Contemporary Fiction, Cozy Lady Fiction 9

Greetings Bookworms!

All apologies for my periodic disappearances. Things that have happened since I talked to you last: I passed the glucose tolerance test meaning that I don’t have gestational diabetes! This is particularly excellent news as I’ve several close friends and family members who have found themselves being stuck with needles and counting their carbs during their final trimester of pregnancy. It seemed extremely unpleasant and I consider myself lucky to have dodged that bullet. Also! I became unnecessarily worried at a doctor’s appointment and had them order extra tests, one of which involved me having to collect my own pee in a jug for 24 hours. That’ll teach me to get worked up over nothing. (So gross. BTW, everything was totally fine. I just have a propensity for foot swelling, nothing more sinister. Because I made them check for everything. They keep claiming I’m nowhere near their most neurotic patient, but I have my doubts.)

Also, I’ve been reading books! One of which was Amy E Reichert’s latest offering, The Simplicity of Cider. *I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through the publisher for review consideration. As per usual, I’m still going to tell you what I actually thought, because that’s how I operate. Terrible manners.*

The Simplicity of Cider takes place at an apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. (The Midwest love makes my heart go pitter-pat!) Sanna Lund is single mindedly focused on producing a line of cider from her family’s fifth generation apple orchard. So focused, in fact, that she’s a bit prickly with the rest of the world. Except, perhaps, her elderly father, but that might have something to do with his insistence on having an apple dessert every evening. (It’s hard to be prickly to someone who is willing to make you pie on the regular, you know?) Of course, her father is having a harder and harder time taking care of the orchard, and Sanna’s brother has been pressuring her to consider selling the land.

When Isaac Banks shows up, he is hired to help out with the tasks Sanna’s father finds difficult to do. But, of course, Isaac comes with his own baggage, namely a young son and the specter of the boy’s mother and her troubled past.

I could go on, but this book provided me with everything I wanted. A light read with a little bit of romance and even a tiny dash of Sarah Addison Allen style magical realism. I must admit, I was a little nervous to pick this book up. I loved The Coincidence of Coconut Cake (review) for its light, fun, foodie fiction but wasn’t quite as thrilled with the somewhat more stolid Luck, Love & Lemon Pie (review). I’m so pleased to see that Reichert went in more of a Coconut direction with her latest offering- it was quite the treat. I also ADORED the subtle cameo of a couple of Coconut‘s characters in The Simplicity of Cider. It was the apple dessert to top off this comfort food-esque novel.

Reading this book reminded me of how much I miss hard cider. On the upside, Babysaurus will be here by the fall, so I should be able to sip some cider come apple season. Talk to me, Bookworms. What’s your favorite apple-y treat?

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

 

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