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Weekend reads, or plant-related heartbreak

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My original post was all sweet about how much I'm enjoying Beverly Jenkins' newest romance, Wild Rain . And then I discovered my cat has been using my seedling tray as her bed and I lost my ability to think. I'm going to need this romance novel more than ever. (Which is wonderful. I don't read many Westerns and maybe have never read a Western romance, but I am loving our genuinely fierce heroine and her dreamy love interest.) What are you reading this weekend?

Top 10 Tuesday, March 2: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Today's theme: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had . Top Ten Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had 10)  John Rodríguez (aka "Control") from Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy ): A different me would have to have this job because the shit going on in Area X is too petrifying for current me to handle. But it would be so interesting! Even though I'm a total wimp, I love weird conspiracy X-Files -y type ambiance (in fiction, not real life!) so I imagine there's a fictional me that would enjoy (or "enjoy") working at Southern Reach. All three of the books in this trilogy are gorgeous, and REALLY weird, and very creepy, and worth reading. 9) Millie from Mishell Baker's Arcadia Project trilogy ): This is another one where I wou

Weekend reads, or sugaring season is upon us!

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It's finally gotten warm (or "warm") -- above freezing during the day! In our house, this means it's sugaring season!  My wife started the pan this week to begin boiling sap into syrup. The kids love sugaring season for a variety of reasons: the sugar shack is always warm and steamy and smells good; there are mugs of warm sap to drink (at various levels of sweetness, depending on how much water has been boiled off); everyone stays up late waiting for the pan to finish; and usually, there's a crowd of visitors and friends hanging out in the warm, steamy, sweet-smelling shack (less so this year with the pandemic).  I'm alternating between romance novels and other genres these days; while I haven't started another romance yet, I've just begun Riku Onda's The Aosawa Murders and I'm loving it. I picked it up as it works for a task for both of my reading challenges and I guiltily hope there's a ton of boiling this weekend so I can have a long st

Book Review: The Worst Duke in the World by Lisa Berne

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Now that Anthony was in closer proximity to her, his brain not only failed to return to its usual state of semi-coherence, his body had yet to cool to its normal temperature. He was burning up inside himself, he was more than a little agitated, his mouth had suddenly gone dry, and altogether he felt, in fact, as if he'd come down with the influenza which two years ago had felled Wakefield, but in an extremely nice way. This was a very adorable PG-13 historical romance. My first time reading Berne, I snagged this digital review copy via NetGalley, unaware it was the 5th in a series. However, reading it cold wasn't an issue as the main characters seem to have little connection to characters from earlier books. The Worst Duke in the World by Lisa Berne Avon, 2021 Digital review copy via NetGalley Our hero Anthony is a widower who suffered an unhappy marriage that resulted in a beloved, precocious child, Wakefield. Our heroine Jane is the illegitimate great-granddaughter o

Book Review: Madame President by Helene Cooper

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This book exemplifies why I love my reading challenges; I wouldn't have picked this up without the impetus of my reading challenges and it's launched my deep dive into contemporary Liberia. I am ashamed to admit I was unfamiliar with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf before searching out books for this challenge; and as I started reading, I realized I knew nothing about Liberia aside from some vague tidbits I recalled from popular culture.  (For a great, evenhanded intro into Sirleaf, this video is really helpful.) Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper Simon Schuster, 2017 Copy from public library Read Harder 2021 and Reading Women 2021 Challenges Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Liberia's first female president as well as the first female president in Africa. When elected president in 2006, she inherited a country traumatized from decades of war and violent human rights abuses; a country whose infrastructure and economy was so destroye

Book Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

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"Hitting you was unforgivable." "It doesn't have to be." THAT QUOTE IS MESSED UP, RIGHT?! That's our hero telling his mother that maybe she can forgive her boyfriend who has spent decades engaging in verbal and emotional abuse toward our hero and then mere pages before the novel's end, PUNCHES our hero for backtalk.  That pretty much sealed my dislike of this book, which already was hovering around a C- or so. Book Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams Berkley, 2020 Copy via public library Read Harder 2021 Reading Challenge : Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die I honestly don't even know where to start in terms of reviewing this book. Overall, I found the writing to be meh: the characterization is wicked thin and the plot emotionally draining with terrible morals (aka forgive everyone no matter what terribly shitty thing they do).  I'm also genuinely shocked at all the positive reviews becaus

Book Review: Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi

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I am not fond of memoirs. With novels, when characters behave in a way that makes me bananas, there's at least some reason for it: some artistic flourish, or some plotty setup, or even philosophical what-is-art-and-who-am-I musings. With memoirs, there's no guarantee of payoff at the end, and the inexplicable things people do isn't tempered by, say, my genuine love for them (in the event of best friends who do things I wouldn't do) or the dictates of society that prevent me from demanding "What were you thinking?" when eavesdropping on strangers. Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi HarperAudio, 2016 Digital audiobook via my public library Read Harder 2021 : Read a food memoir by an author of color I read this for this year's Read Harder challenge -- a food memoir by an author of color -- and I was torn between this and Tembi Locke's From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home . (I'm still going to read Locke's

Weekend reads, or surviving a weekend with a windchill of negative numbers

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The last week of January might be my least favorite week in New England. Today is blindingly sunny and bitterly cold (current real feel of -11).  So I'm comforting myself with pouring over my seeds and plotting my sprouting schedule, and cuddling with two good reads: Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad and The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George. What are you planning this weekend? Any good reads on your horizon?

Book Review: Waiting for a Scot Like You by Eva Leigh

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Widowhood is by far the preferable state," she continued with a rueful smile. "For women, in any regard. It is the most freedom we are permitted." Last year, My Fake Rake, the first book in Eva Leigh's The Union of the Rakes trilogy, made my top reads of 2020. I've been on tenterhooks for this one, the final in the series, and it did not disappoint. Waiting for a Scot Like You by Eva Leigh Avon, 2012 Digital review copy via Netgalley All three of Leigh's novels are loosely inspired by films from the 1980s; this one very clearly of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (right down to our heroine Lady Farris).  (Brief aside to confess that the '80s homage in all three books really irked me until I reminded myself that it's the same as all the Pride and Prejudice-inspired novels I so enjoy. Put that way, I was less annoyed by some of the inserted-only-for-genre-and-not-really-for-plot elements that I found jarring in this book.) Major Duncan McCameron, a grumpy

Book Review: In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

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This is how curses are made: someone does something to another, and traps that person in a web with threads so fine they can hardly be seen. There is no escaping that web. I have to walk carefully in the stacks when I'm looking to be scared: I love gothic creepiness and I adore a good ghost story but I can't really tolerate gore or anything that is too realistic. True crime is way too much for me. In this historical novel imagining the life of 19th century serial killer Belle Gunness, Camilla Bruce manages to make a liar out of me. In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce Berkley, 2012 Digital review copy via NetGalley The key to this novel's almost shameful deliciousness is in Bruce's careful humanizing of Belle Gunness. Born Brynhild in a rural village in Norway, her life is marked by violence, lack of care, and cruelty. One atrocious act causes Brynhild to wrest revenge, and for a moment, I was almost with her. But as Brynhild becomes Belle, and then Bella, things gr

Podcast Review: Grimm, Grimmer, Grimmest

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My now six-year-old is a devoted podcast fan; and happily, there is some amazing stuff out there for kids and families.  A new favorite is the Pinna original podcast, Grimm Grimmer Grimmest . Narrated by author Adam Gidwitz, each episode is of one of the Grimm Brothers' classic tales with a full cast and sound effects.  Unabridged Kid is pretty imaginative and hasn't been exposed to much 'scary' stuff, but he's been begging for scary things, so this podcast has been perfect, especially as Gidwitz ranks each story by Grimm (weird), Grimmer (weird, maybe gross), and Grimmest (weird, gross, maybe creepy).  Additionally, interspersed in the retelling is the reaction from a group of child listeners, which cuts through some of the scariness of the stories and gives everyone some breathing room. But it isn't just the fabulous production values and wonderful storytelling that makes this a win for our household; it's also that Gidwitz actually addresses the problema

Best Reads of 2020

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In a year of erratic, inconsistent reading, I was lucky that most of what I read was pretty much awesome. Books had to compete against a great deal of stress, anxiety, and distraction -- and these eight reads really captured me this year.  You'll see most provided deep escapism -- romances were the genre of the year, no question -- but others stretched me and educated me. Some of my Best Reads in 2020 Tessa Dare, The Wallflower Wager I think Tessa Dare might be the author of the year for me: I read thirteen of her books, and three of them at least twice, if not three times this year. This one I probably read about five times, to be honest, because it was sexy and fun and deliciously escapist.  Tessa Dare, A Week to Be Wicked The second book in Dare's Spindle Cove series, this was my very favorite of the five books. I loved both characters, I loved their romance, and I especially loved the resolution to their conflict. It helps that I love the entire Spindle Cove universe, and

January literary "diet" from Claire Armitstead

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Claire Armitstead shares 31-days of literary tidbits in The Guardian , and I'm making a point of engaging with each day.  I'm going to try to share quick reflections on my Insta , and if anything catches you, I'd love to talk about it. I'm excited about the wide range of options: poetry one day, a film another; even music! I doubt I'll watch the films as sitting down to watch an entire movie is almost impossible these days but everything else should be doable. After a year of reading 'catch-as-catch-can', making time to pause and read each day is very welcome!

Reading Challenge: Reading Women 2021

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I've never done the Reading Women challenge although I've been aware of it for years.  Now that I'm doing more free-range reading, challenges like this interest me -- especially as I am trying to broaden my reading horizons.  Here's hoping I can double up some of these reads with Read Harder 2021 as I"m not confident these days that I can do all the requirements of both challenges. I haven't been very good at making myself read in 2020 so this is very much me being ambitious and optimistic!  Will you be participating? 2021 Reading Women Challenge  A Book Longlisted for the JCB Prize A Burning by Megha Majumdar   Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara    An Author from Eastern Europe The Door by Magda Szabó Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk Flights by Olga Tokarczuk Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin  A Book About Incarceration  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi An American Marriage by Tayari Jones  The Mar

Book Review: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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I can't wait to reread this one.  This book was incredible. It has the vibe of I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House meets Lovecraft Country (the book, not the show) with a dash of Grace Kelly-in-a-Hitchcock-thriller.  Our flesh-and-blood heroine Noemí takes on a family errand that turns into something very, very else; and it's this character who completely anchors the story for me and makes it so beautiful, compelling, and moving. Moreno-Garcia is heavy with the capital G Gothic-vibe, and every page is saturated with the elements that made me shiver with delight. It's a creepy, cold, creaky story that thumps with life and stretches the exaggerated elements of the Gothic to encompass more than its roots. Noemí is fighting not only the mist, a malevolent presence, her own doubts, but also racism, and sexism, and colonialism (never named so plainly, because Moreno-Garcia is great, but it's there, unable to be ignored). There's so much real in the growing h