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Halfway through my reading year: a few thoughts

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I've had to increase my yearly reading goal three times already.

I'm just flabbergasted at that; pretty much since I was pregnant, so the last five years, trying to get in the reading I wanted has been a struggle.

Exhaustion when Unabridged Kid was a babe, and then the struggle to balance parenting and working. Slush-brain and mush-brain. Then, I don't know, disinterest. But unbelievably, this year, something switched.

Maybe it's just that the kid is a kid now, and I'm sleeping a little better; work is brisk and interesting and I've time to read and an interest in reading.

I've read 54 books so far, which I can't even believe.

I've done 16 of the 24 tasks for Read Harder 2019. (And, accidentally, accomplished 12 of the 26 Reading Women challenge).

I'm very, very behind on my historical fiction challenge, but I feel okay with that, because I feel like I can cram those reads in very easily. (I mean, along with romance, hist fic is my catnip.)

Unbe…

Wordless Wednesday, June 5

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Wordless Wednesday today is my working from home tableau. Yes, I use three lipsticks during the day so ensure anytime I'm on a web call, it looks like I have a mouth.

Weekend reads, or it's sunny, sunny, sunny!

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Hoping to finish this New Adult romance, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. First Son Alex thinks he loathes British prince Henry but it turns out they maybe have the hots for each other. It's pretty cute and very escapist.

After something like 28 days of rain, we're finally promised a sunny weekend so I'll be doing yard work for infinity. (My front yard is such a jungle that a landscaper actually jackknifed in the road to give me their card so if that's not a sign from the universe, I don't know what is.)

What are you reading this weekend? Or, what else will you be doing?

Karen Russell's Orange World and Other Stories

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Her heart is breaking not to be with her daughter, just as Rae's is breaking not to be with her mother and her grandmother. The breaking is continuous - in the ouroboros of caretaking, guilt and love and fear and love continuously swallow one another.

Unbelievably, my first time reading Karen Russell. I see why she's so popular, though: dramatic, movie-like plots with narrative stylings reminiscent of Byatt, Waters, and Kingsolver.

Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell
Knopf, 2019
Digital arc by publisher/library copy

There are 8 stories in this volume. Only one I was truly meh about ("Black Corfu"); the rest were interesting to captivating. "The Prospectors" was like The Shining meets Carnivale -- it was creepy and moody and atmospheric, a historical horror that I could have easily inhaled as a full length novel. Two of Russell's stories take place in a world touched by extreme weather: "The Tornado Auction", in which tornadoes are …

Helen Hoang's The Bride Test

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What was he thinking about so intently? What was his story? Why didn't he smile for real?

This was my first Helen Hoang novel and you all: I. Am. Hooked. The Bride Test is such a delightfully cute, sweet, romantic read -- absolutely perfect for kicking off the summer reading season.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Berkley, 2019
Digital ARC from the publisher
Read Harder challenge

Hoang has been on my radar since her debut of  The Kiss Quotient: I'd been given a copy right at release and my book club ended up reading it (although I missed club that month and didn't get to read it!). My plan was to read it for this year's Read Harder challenge task 13 (a book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse) but I was granted an ARC of The Bride Test and the rest is history.

I honestly didn't know how Hoang would make this novel work. The hero, Khai, believes himself to be utterly incapable of feeling love toward anyone and has resigned himself to life without compa…

Melissa Broder's The Pisces

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...I was not about to learn to love myself here. It was as though they were each in competition with the other to see who could be grossest while simultaneously loving themselves the most. Is that what it meant to love yourself? To be repellent?

I've wanted to read this book since its release and it was just as delightful and as weird as I anticipated.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Hogarth Press, 2018
Copy from the library

It feels like the press about this book centers on the merperson sex and grossout earthiness which is not actually at the center of this read. (And there was far less gross body stuff than I feared; I was thinking it'd be Otessa Moshfegh level.)

I read this in about three hours so I was surprised with the depth Broder evoked: duality, absence, the stories we tell ourselves when the narrative thread of our lives is unclear, obsession, imagination.

Our heroine Lucy should be unlikable -- she doesn't do herself any favors -- but I found her endearing in he…

Sally Thorne's 99 Percent Mine

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You guys. You guys! Sally Thorne's The Hating Game was a favorite of 2017. I've already reread three, four times? I love it enough to say that I was wicked impatient for Thorne's next offering and to my utter dismay, it really, really didn't land with me.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
William Morrow Paperbacks, 2019
Copy via the library

Everything about this one just disappointed, from the characters to the plot. Our heroine's obstacle to her HEA? Her own twin brother (who we're actually supposed to like, I think).

Let me go back. Characters: super flat. Premise: kind of not there, and also, dreary. Sexual tension: really, nonexistent. I mean, we're told our hero and heroine are super into each other but since the characters are just these flimsy frames, whether they figure it out or not just didn't have emotional resonance for me.

And the whole Alpha Male thing with our hero -- who is otherwise a lovely human but turns into A Savage Animal for our he…

Susan Tan's Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire

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Me on the Inside: Art is dead.

Me on the Outside: [in a very small, quiet voice] Okay. She got a cookie, and then because she was very full and tired, she took a nap.

Can't wait for my niblings to be old enough to start longer books because this will be one of the first I'll shove into their hands.

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
Copy from public library
Read Harder challenge

One of the Read Harder challenges this year is to read "A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009" -- not typically something I'd read so I'm grateful for being nudged outside my usual lanes.

Tan's novel is charming, amusing, sobering, and fun. Our heroine, Cilla, wants very much to be a bestselling author and she's living her best life to do so. But life conspires to challenge her -- there's a new sibling on the way, and her classmates and teacher don't quite have the imaginati…

Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams

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...he had the sense of viewing a man's life reduced to words. Black ink on white paper. Sentence after sentence. The grey minutia of daily routine flashed with occasional color...

This Gothic historical novel was a nearly perfect read: it held a snaky plot and thorny characters nestled in compelling narrative and deeply resonant themes. All love stories are ghost stories, we'll read more than once in this book, but this novel is more than a love story, more than a ghost story.

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr
Touchstone, 2019
Review copy provided by publisher
Historical Fiction challenge

At the center of the novel is an imagining of the life of a Byron-like literary genius (and in those parts, I was reminded of Possession) touched with the unabashed, insistent naming of the woman behind such a figure. But surrounding that outward story is tortured emotions stretched taut to the point of madness (I was reminded of Sarah Waters and the way she writes about grief, ghosts…

Weekend reads, or I bet I'll be cleaning

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Two short reads on the docket for the weekend as I actually plan to do a great deal of cleaning. This coming week my brother, niblings, and mother will be visiting so needless to say, I'll be desperate to get things in order.

I don't know about you all, but the handful of truly gorgeous days have meant we've been outside and not spring cleaning, and whoo, does the house reflect that!

What are you reading this weekend?

Wordless Wednesday, April 10

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Rainy and chilly. Perfect for reading. My Wordless Wednesday features Kris Waldherr's new novel, The Lost History of Dreams. It's delicious. I can't wait to squee when I'm finished.

Alyssa Cole's A Prince on Paper

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Love was for brave fools and Johan was entirely too clever and too cowardly to succumb to it.

Take one international playboy and one wallflower determined to change the story people tell of her and you get this wickedly charming romance.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
Avon, 2019
Digital ARC provided by publisher

This was my second Cole book, but the first contemporary romance of hers I've read. As with the first book of hers I read, An Extraordinary Union, I was immediately smitten.

This is technically the third book in her Reluctant Royals series so I was a tiiiiiiny bit lost at the start when the characters from the earlier books were crowding for reader reunion time. But enough backstory is provided that I wasn't lost when it came to Nya and Johan, and their super cute, super sexy romance won me over immediately.

I loved this modern take on the romancing royalty trope -- I haven't read any modern royal romances, actually so I didn't know what to expect -- and now C…

Caitlin Starling's The Luminous Dead

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Words flashed up on her cracked screen.

DON'T SPEAK

Gyre choked down the faint, nascent sound that threatened to leak from her throat.

The words on her screen disappeared, and were replaced with:

IT HEARD THE SINGING. IT DOESN'T LIKE HUMAN VOICES


I won this book via GoodReads' First Reads and I really had no idea what it was about; but I loved the title and the cover so dove right in. What I landed in was a creepy, claustrophobic thriller pitting/partnering two damaged people in a place determined to kill them.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
Harper Voyager, 2019
Review copy from publisher

Starling doesn't waste time plunging us (literally) into her world, an alien place where mining dominates but some kind of alien known as Tunnelers make it dangerous. Cavers identify lodes -- if they survive the Tunnelers -- and a good caver can make lucrative money surviving one or two expeditions. Surviving being the operative word.

Gyre is desperate to leave her home planet…

Sangu Mandanna's A Spark of White Fire

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"Your arrow was a spark," she replies," A spark of fire so hot and white that no one will be able to put it out. And even a spark of fire can consume an entire forest if it can jump from tree to tree. Watch, Esmae. Watch as one act leads to another and then to another after that. Watch the trees pass white flames on. Watch the forest burn."

OH.MY.GOD.  This book. This book!!!

My local library had a display of fairy tales and myths retold and I snagged this one solely because it was based on the Mahābhārata (a myth I'm totally unfamiliar with). Mandanna sets her retelling in space, merging the high drama of gods and royalty and intrigue with the sparkle, danger, and excitement of interstellar conflict.

I loved every page. (This will be a top read of 2019 for sure.)

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
Sky Pony, 2018
Copy from library
Read Harder challenge

One of Book Riot's Read Harder 2019 challenges is to read a book of mythology or folklore, and I was e…

Weekend reads and glutting myself...

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I've been on a serious romance novel binge the last week (clocking in seven romances so far!) and I'm not sure it's abating as I'm rereading Lauren Layne's Walk of Shame (bubbly, charming debutante and prickly, grumpy divorce lawyer, mmmmm).

I have started Leonie Swann's Three Bags Full, which is a book club read AND ticks one of my reading challenge requirements. It's a cozy-ish murder mystery narrated by sheep. I'm loving it so far.

What are you reading this weekend?