Category: My Reading Life

Feb 04

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Fifth

Audio Books, My Reading Life 0

Greetings My Dearest Bookworms,

It’s time to tell you all about the books I poured into my brain this week. I’m a little astonished that I’ve been reading so much lately, especially given the toddler running around my house. I *may* be reading to de-stress more than usual since toddlerhood is stressful for both children and parents. But, honestly? Reading as a coping mechanism is an extremely healthy and productive choice. Would exercising while listening to an audio book be an even healthier choice? Yes, probably, but I am a work in progress. On to the books!

I finished up listening to Tessa Dare’s Any Duchess Will Do. It was sort of a Pygmalion/Cinderella mashup with that signature Tessa Dare humor and Regency romance flair. It also had some of the *ahem* steamiest scenes I’ve yet to read from Tessa Dare (and she is no stranger to steam, let me tell you.) So there’s that for you. On the whole? It was delightful. Also I highly recommend the audio version because a lot of the diction scenes wherein Pauline works to overcome her “country” accent wouldn’t have been quite as enjoyable if I’d read rather than listened to them.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWhen I started Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple on audio and immediately recognized the narrator’s voice but couldn’t place it. I had to google to discover it’s the actress who played Luke’s sister Liz in Gilmore Girls. Kind of funny, because as I was hunting for a new audio book, I was sifting through some literary fiction titles and it occurred to me that whatever book Jess wrote (we’re still talking about Gilmore Girls, stay with me) was probably unimaginably pretentious and I would have hated it. I remember really enjoying Maria Semple’s earlier book Where’d You Go, Bernadette (review), but it’s been so long since I read it, I’m not sure current Katie would have liked it as much. I was lukewarm at best on Today Will Be Different. It was a little zany, a la Bernadette, but the whole wealthy, snarky, middle age woman with a formerly brilliant career thing just exhausted me. It had funny parts, but I found myself cringing a lot more than laughing. I do think the narrator was fabulous, though, and she has a stellar singing voice to boot- Kathleen Wilhoite was easily the best part of this whole experience.

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For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig was the last eyeball read I crammed into my brain this week. I loved her books The Girl from Everywhere (review) and The Ship Beyond Time (review) which meant this book had a lot to live up to. And you know what? It totally did. It was also fresh and different and a fascinating new mythology. She didn’t just recycle what had worked before- this was some next-level excellence. While the book’s world is purely fantasy, it’s clearly inspired by European colonialism in Asian cultures. Set against a backdrop of unsettled political machinations and rebellions, a small family of shadow players (think elaborate puppetry in silhouette) is gaining renown. It’s mostly due to the main puppeteer using a potentially dangerous magical power to direct her super cool puppets. A little bit of necromancy never hurt anyone, right? (Hang on, I’m reflecting on how amazing it is that two authors can take the same relatively narrow concept, like, say, necromancy, and produce such wildly different work. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and For a Muse of Fire are based around the same magical idea and are SO DIFFERENT. Also, both super good. Add Gideon the Ninth to the list of books I read and didn’t tell you about.) For a Muse of Fire is the beginning of a planned trilogy- the second book was released in October, but the third isn’t out yet. I look forward to revisiting this world in future installments!

Now that we’ve covered all that ground, what am I reading this week? I was able to snag a copy of Love Lettering on audio from one of my library’s many e-book services (Hoopla this time) so I’m listening to it now. Thus far I’m a little underwhelmed, but it’s early days. One of my book friends Sarah (she used to blog, but is now talking books via social media… I think her accounts are locked/private, but I promise she’s real and extremely awesome) inspired me to finally read some Beverly Jenkins, who is a romance household name. Therefore, I’m currently reading Destiny’s Embrace on my kindle. It’s the start of a trilogy and I bought them all together (I love a sale!) but the first word in each title is “Destiny’s” and FOR THE LIFE OF ME I cannot remember what order they go in. I’ve pulled up Goodreads for reference at least three times just this morning. So, Bookworms- what are you reading this week?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Text links within the copy direct to Amazon, but if you’re interested in purchasing any of the above mentioned books from an independent book store, please see the links below*

For a Muse of Fire
Gideon the Ninth
Today Will Be Different
Any Duchess Will Do
The Girl from Everywhere
The Ship Beyond Time
Destiny’s Embrace
Love Lettering

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Jan 29

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Fourth

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

Hiya Bookworms!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Jan 21

The Third Week of 2020

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

Greetings Bookworms!

January is so freaking melancholy. Something about the early darkness and the cold makes everything feel like a slog. I tried to liven things up by rocking my new Sesame Street Book Club sweatshirt and taking selfies (check out my new pic on the sidebar!) But January gonna January. It’s a darn good thing that books know no season, isn’t it? Of course, one of the books I finished up last week was admittedly rather depressing, but it’s SO GOOD that it doesn’t matter. My book club chose Tell the Wolves I’m Home this month- unfortunately I had to miss the actual Book Club meeting, but the book itself was PERFECTION. Even though I read it back in 2013 and totally knew how it ended, I stayed up until the wee hours re-reading and crying. Now, me crying while reading a book isn’t exactly surprising, but this book doesn’t just hit the sad note. It hits all kinds of complex emotions regarding sibling relationships and anger and betrayal and love and loss and grief. Ooof. It packs a punch. A really, really good punch.
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I also listened to Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid and thought it was great. The premise was innovative- the protagonist is taken to one point in time but makes two different decisions. In one scenario, she decides to go home after a night out with friends. In another, she decides to stay out with her former flame to see where the night takes her. What follows are two diverging stories that hinge on that single decision. It was WONDERFUL. It’s also a testament to the power of friendship. There were plenty of romantic entanglements in this book, but none of them were as compelling as the friendship between Hannah and Gabby. They’ve earned a slot on my Top Ten List of Fictional Besties. Also, you know that thing where you read a book and they talk about a specific food and you suddenly just NEED that food? I definitely bought some cinnamon rolls after reading this.

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

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

 

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

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Jan 14

The Second Week of 2020

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

Hello My Dearest Bookworms,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Jan 07

The First Week of 2020

My Reading Life 11

Heyo Bookworms,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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Jun 02

When Books Collide

My Reading Life 9

Hi Ho, Bookworms,

There’s an bit in Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen (review) where one of the characters is presented with books by some supernatural force. They just sort of appear to her when she needs them. I can’t claim to have ever had anything THAT cool happen, but lately I’ve been a little weirded out by how serendipitously connected my reading has been.

Not long ago, I was reading The Walking Dead: Compendium Two, which is awesome of course, and about zombies. At the same time I was listening to The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (review) which was about PTSD. Shortly afterward, I started reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead (review) which was about both zombies AND PTSD. WHOA, right?!

when books collide

Just this week I finished up the brilliant Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler (more on this fabulous book later, I promise) which was set largely in the San Francisco area. Imagine my surprise when the very next book I plucked from the listening pile was ALSO set in San Francisco (You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore.) What the what? These kind of things happen to me ALL THE TIME and it boggles my mind. I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something through books, but I have absolutely no idea what that is.

Talk to me Bookworms! Do any of you run into this weird synergy thing in your reading, or do you think the universe is trying to reveal its secrets to me through books? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. Maybe the universe is telling me to take a vacation. You could help the universe in its quest!*

 

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