Tag: Courtney Milan

May 13

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Nineteenth

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

Greetings Bookworms,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 06

Weekly Wrap-Up 2020: The Eighteenth

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

Holy Heck, Bookworms,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mar 18

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Eleventh

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Brain Dump, Weekly Wrap-Up 3

Hi Bookworms,

Holy. Crap. This week has seemed ONE THOUSAND YEARS LONG. In the span of seven days, the Coronavirus has thrown life in the US (and around much of the world) into absolute chaos. My company did the responsible thing and mandated that we work from home at least for the next 2 weeks, which is convenient because the state of Illinois has since shut down all schools. Technically daycares haven’t been officially shut down, but ours made the right call and closed up shop along with the schools. My husband works in healthcare IT, so we don’t entirely know what his working situation is going to look like. I mean, if there were ever a time for healthcare’s tech to be top notch, it’s RIGHT NOW. I’m sure we’ll know more as the week progresses.

I know we’re outrageously lucky. Jim and I both have jobs that we’re still able to do (well, mostly. TODDLER.) We have paid leave if we were to get sick. We have health insurance. We might go a little stir crazy, but we’re going to be OK. When the enormity of the situation gets to be too much, I focus on that, and the little things that make this less frightening. Like, our community has several resources in place offering lunches to kids who rely on school to provide food. Some of our utilities have announced that they’re ceasing shutting off customers for non-payment. Our small community grocery store is having special morning hours (after the store has been disinfected over night) specifically for those 65+ customers to shop. They’re carding at the door to give the most vulnerable the opportunity to shop in the safest possible environment. Bet you never thought there’d be a bouncer at the grocery store keeping the whipper-snappers out, but hey, life is weird. I mean, I now have a constant companion whose favorite phrase is “Oh my gosh, look at her butt!” (thanks, SING) so I can’t be down for too terribly long.

Now because I lack a commute and have no quiet office space or solo lunch breaks (because toddler) my audio book listening will be extremely limited. Hence, I probably won’t have as many books to talk about. That’s good for the books I DO finish, though- they’ll get extra special attention. So why don’t we get started?

I finished The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty on audio last week when I still had a commute, a quiet office, and a lunch break that didn’t involve bribing a child to eat something other than gold fish crackers. I usually really enjoy Liane Moriarty’s work, but my head wasn’t in it this time. I probably would have found myself enjoying this book more were I not having to pause all the time to get more COVID-19 news. Still, the moral dilemmas and mysteries that have made Moriarty a household name are well represented in The Husband’s SecretOne of the things that made this book unique from some of her others was that it did a little light exploration of what would have become of certain characters were it not for the sequence of events that actually unfolded. In that way, it reminded me a little of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life (though this phenomenon was the entire POINT of Reid’s book (review), whilst it was just a little aside in Moriarty’s.) Bottom line? If you generally like Liane Moriarty’s books, you’ll probably like this one too.

I also finished The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan which is the third novel in The Brothers Sinister series. Again, my concentration has been absolute garbage this week, but I still managed to appreciate Violet and Sebastian’s science-tastic romance. We’ve met Violet and Sebastian in previous Brothers Sinister installments, but this book starts off with the revelation that all Sebastian’s scientific accolades are actually the result of Violet’s work. As usual, Milan hits the historical elements hard- there are a number of women that we know about throughout history (and many who remain un-credited) who made impressive scientific breakthroughs in a time and society where it was considered improper for women to engage in such pursuits. Violet partners with Sebastian because even though she’s attempted to submit her impressive and controversial work to professional publications, she’s summarily dismissed simply on the basis of her sex. The Countess Conspiracy is an excellent addition to The Brothers Sinister series, but I think I’m going to take a break before carrying on. Right now, I DESPERATELY want fluffy, cheeky period romances to get my mind off of things, and Milan’s tend a bit heavier. I’ll circle back around, but I’m pausing the binge read for now.

Instead, I’m going in a completely different direction and tackling Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey. Remember when I read those bonkers hippo cowboy books last year? How could I NOT pick up more Sarah Gailey after that? AND they started Magic for Liars off with a Harry Potter reference on the very first page, so this may just be the escape I need right now. Or not. There was also an extremely gruesome murder in the very little bit I read so far. IDK. I also started an audio book, though I have absolutely no idea when I’m going to finish it with my extremely limited audio time. For what it’s worth, Miracle Creek by Angie Kim is fascinating so far, but it’ll probably be a while before I’m able to tell you all about it.

So, Bookworms. How are you holding up?

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 Kindle books, because that’s how I’m personally getting most of my books right now. Please also check out your Public Library’s Digital offerings- they’re a fantastic resource for keeping yourself entertained with zero germ spread. And, it goes without saying that Independent Book Stores are really going to be hurting during this time, so if you’d like to purchase through a local, independent book store, please consider using the links below:

The Husband’s Secret
The Countess Conspiracy
Magic for Liars
Miracle Creek

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Mar 10

2020 Weekly Wrap-Up: The Tenth

Bookish (And Not So Bookish) Thoughts, Romance, Weekly Wrap-Up 3

Hey There, Hi There, Ho There, Bookworms,

Last week Jim and I went on a trip. Sammers stayed with his grandparents, and even though it was the first time we’d been away from him overnight (yes reader, I did sob when we left) he did amazing. So we took a road trip to Florida to spend some time with the Mouse. Of course, our trip coincided with the explosion of scariness with Covid-19, and as I was standing in line for It’s a Small World, surrounded by people from all over the globe, my Twitter feed was like “CANCEL ALL THE EVENTS! AVOID CROWDS!” Sooooo that put a bit of a damper on my mood, because it was clearly way too late. But, since we were already there, we made the best of things and washed our hands carefully and ate at nice restaurants and drank some wine and did all the things that we wouldn’t have been able to do with Sam in tow. Also, as far as contagions go, two adults can be fairly meticulous about cleanliness, but a toddler? Yeah he’d definitely have licked something a million people had touched, so it was probably for the best that he only licked everything in Grandma and PopPop’s house. (He had a fantastic week and was spoiled rotten. He came home with a bag of new books, a new Spiderman baseball cap, and a smiley face balloon. And clean laundry! God bless my in-laws forever and ever.)

But what about the BOOKS, Katie?! Right! Well, since we were road tripping, I spent a fair amount of time playing navigator, and trying to re-route us away from traffic in major cities. We got lucky with Nashville traffic both coming and going (though coming back we were a little concerned because a tornado had ripped through a few days earlier, but the highways were clear and safe a few days later, so good job cleanup crews, and best of luck rebuilding, Nashville!) Unfortunately, an unexpected jam in Florida and completely predictable traffic in Atlanta caught us on the way back. Anyway. I did do some reading, though, obviously not as much as usual, because of the merry making, the worrying, the navigating, etc. Before we left I purchased The Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan on my kindle, and I made my way through two full length novels and one novella. Romance novels are pretty much all I can handle mentally right now. The many, many, plague and apocalypse books I’ve read over the years are haunting me enough as it is. Although, every time characters get close to kissing I think to myself, “Well, y’all might as well go ahead and swap spit because you’ve already shared all kinds of droplets with your breathy exhales…” It’s not like I have an underlying anxiety disorder or anything… Oh wait…

I started Courtney Milan’s The Duchess War before we left and finished it up on the trip south. Because I’d read The Governess Affair (review), I was already familiar with the protagonist Robert, Duke of Clermont. He grew up being used as a pawn in his parents’ loveless marriage; his father was the actual worst, and his mother fled without custody of their child. A loveless yet privileged childhood was the plight of our hero. He’s considering matrimony when he meets an enigmatic young woman hiding behind a couch. Turns out, Minnie was trying to avoid her suitor by hiding, but will likely marry the awful man anyway because she has so few options. Her options are limited because of SECRETS and REASONS. So, naturally, the two fall desperately in love and have to deal with the consequences of the secrets, reasons, and childhood emotional baggage. I am enjoying Courtney Milan’s work quite a bit- her historical setting is a bit later than a lot of the Jane Austen era novels I’ve read, and I always learn some new historical tidbits by reading her books.

The next installment in The Brothers Sinister series was the sweet novella, A Kiss for MidwinterIt follows the BFF of The Duchess War‘s heroine. Lydia has a secret that could ruin her, a secret known only to a precious few, including Leicester’s sarcastic young Dr. Jonas Grantham. Dr. Grantham has taken a shine to Lydia, though she avoids him as much as possible, believing his knowledge of her secret to be a weapon. In an attempt to get close to her, Dr. Grantham proposes a wager, which, if he wins, will earn him a kiss. BECAUSE OF COURSE. Oh romance novels, never change. I really enjoyed this novella! So far most of this series has been slow-burn, so the novella rather nicely compresses that tension for the impatient among us. As far as historical tidbits, I can now proudly say that I know quite a bit more about 19th Century prophylactics than I did before. Because Dr. Grantham was a doctor, I also picked up some info on 19th Century medical care, and OOF. Apparently going directly from the autopsy table to tend to child bed WITHOUT WASHING ONE’S HANDS was standard medical practice which led to (shocker) a LOT of infection. Thankfully, our hero was extremely pro-hygiene, the radical, and therefore ranks rather highly in my esteem. There’s something that’s exceptionally sexy about hand washing these days. Whew. Wash those hands, handsome. Wash them good!

I finished up reading The Heiress Effect on our first night home from the trip, during which I stayed up too late and gave out quite a few nighttime snuggles. Normally, late night wake up calls are not my favorite (though, yes, they still happen rather frequently), but I could hardly begrudge my sweet little Sir some extra attention after being away. I daresay the half-sleep we shared in the recliner was therapeutic for us both. Look at me, digressing again. So, The Heiress Effect follows Jane Fairfield. She’s an heiress with a massive dowry, but she’s determined not to marry, at least until her little sister is of an age that she can leave the care of their misguided guardian. She behaves in a ghastly manner in society, managing to keep even the greediest of suitors at bay. Oliver Marshall, however, sees through her ruse, and despite his best efforts, is enchanted. One of the things I enjoyed most about this book were the descriptions of Jane’s fashion abominations. She’s well aware that she’s choosing garish ensembles, but she also secretly loves the bright colors and outlandish patterns. It reminded me a bit of a certain pink haired friend of mine whose fashion sense it more about her own personal delight than any popular trend.

So what am I reading this week? I’ve picked back up with my audio book of Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret (it’s starting to get especially juicy.) I’ve just begun a traditional read of the next installment of The Brothers Sinister, The Countess Conspiracy which is already proving a strong contender to be my favorite in the series. Sebastian + Violet = 4 Ever. What have you been reading, Bookworms? How are your anxiety levels? What are your go-to escapist reads?

If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The links in the text above direct to Amazon, but if you prefer to shop your local indie bookstore, click here!

 

 

 

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