Tuesday, September 21, 2021

I finished ... The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

I finished ... The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

I also finished a dress! So satisfying. (You can see the dress under the book, in fact!)

Sebastian's newest is a romance between nobleman-in-need-of-vengeance Percy and reformed-highwayman Kit. The heist was really secondary to the story, as it was about the two of them figuring out their futures -- individually, eventually together -- found family, loyalty, all that.

In reading this I discovered that I'm not deeply fond of 1760s fashion (or 1780s, I forget precisely). Sebastian does a wonderful job of describing Percy's flamboyant au courant styling -- wigs, face powder, facial patches, fancy hose and jackets and whatever -- and I loved how much Kit responded to that, even though I had to keep googling to remind myself that Percy was fashionable, not a clown.

A good, solid read but this wasn't a favorite. I can't precisely put my finger on what made this a 'fine' read versus an amazing one because it has everything there. But it took a while for sexytimes and then, I don't know, it felt oddly rushed. And both main characters take a while to open up with their secrets so we're waiting a long time for that. And Sebastian is such a stellar writer that the great books are SO GOOD.

Monday, September 13, 2021

I finished: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

I've gotten myself all stressed about writing 'perfect' reviews (even though my earlier reviews are hardly perfect) so now I'm just going to share my kneejerk thoughts when I finish something. 

So...

I finished ... Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

What a lovely and fun read -- although as my first HFN (happy for now), I found the end a little unsatisfying (this book made me discover I'm 1000% a Happily Ever After girl).

Our POV character is a total hot mess; he begs a grumpy and buttoned up lawyer to be his fake date to rehab his reputation. Their relationship shifts from vaguely adversarial to friendly to romantic, with inevitable (but captivating to read) bumps along the way. 

I got my wife to start reading this one by describing as a bit of David-and-Patrick from Schitt's Creek, although obviously huge differences in terms of plot and setting and all that. Hall's writing is very funny; the POV character Luc is snarky and sad, surrounded by a wonderful cast of friends and family and coworkers). The love interest, Oliver, is such a doll I can't even, but both Luc and Oliver have to wrestle with some serious stuff in their lives, and that journey was just as compelling as the romantic one. (Heat rating is about PG, by the way, if that matters to you.)
 
There's a sequel (coming out next year, agony!) which made me realize that I've never read a multi-part romance. Will it be boring going through the same romance beats in hopes of an HEA? Or maybe that's the deal -- it's HFN going into an HEA? 

Anyway, super fun and super cute and more of that is always needed in my life!

Monday, August 30, 2021

Love at First by Kate Clayborn

I first learned of this book via the Fated Mates podcast, and one of the hosts admitted that Clayborn was a friend of theirs. I took their enthusiasm with a grain of salt, but reader, every word of their gushing praise was true. In addition to being a sweet romance, it's a beautifully written book that had me hanging on every word.


Love at First by Kate Clayborn
Kensington, 2021
Copy via public library

It's a romance of two kind people who have felt unwanted, possibly even unworthy of love. They're lonely, and respond in different ways: Nora, by making the neighbors in her building her family; and Will, by filling every moment of his time with work.

Loosely inspired by Romeo and Juliet, Clayborn takes the familiar elements of Shakespeare's story and uses them to hang a wonderfully romantic relationship with no tragedy or stupid decisions. But it's stuffed full of emotion, and lots that's unsaid, and the only conflict is the internal stuff Nora and Will have to deal with so they can get out of their own way.

Plus, it includes one of my fav romance tropes: one-person-is-ill-and-the-other-cares-for-them. So much cute.

Also, I teared up SO MUCH during this book because the walls and blocks and wounds were so real and tenderly realized and articulated by Clayborn so beautifully.

 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Late to this gorgeous, gutting novel and can't really offer anything that hasn't already been said about it. My reflections will be merely admiration and awe: mood, language, storytelling technique.

I requested this read as part of batch of books that could help me hit some reading challenge goals; I opened it up not recalling what it was about. Sheep, it turned out, and the steady tick of choices that push us further and further along.

The novel alternates between moving forward, as Jake tries to keep her sheep alive as something slowly kills them off; and moving backwards, taking us back through the (mis)steps that led Jake to this moment. The technique brings a kind of thriller-ish tension and intensity to the story, which maybe would seem mundane otherwise (solitude, labor, terrible choices, youthful stupidity).

Thomas Hardy first educated me on the many ways sheep are basically impossible to keep alive; and then real life observation confirmed it. Still, I prefer sheep to goats although I'm not the one who has to work with them. (My wife is Team Goat.)

All this is to say, Wyld writes about sheep, and everything involved with them, in a way that is horrifying while being ordinary. She's accurate, but she's also poetical about shearing and slaughtering. It's disquieting and pretty. In this book, sheep and their senseless inability to keep themselves out of trouble is a parallel, perhaps, to the actions of our main character, Jake. Unlike her sheep, however, Jake is brave and resourceful and cautious. She's learned from her injuries and her mistakes.

I can't stop thinking about this book, and I'm talking about it to everyone who makes eye contact with me. I've no doubt it'll make my top 10 for this year.


All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Vintage, 2015
Copy via my public library
Reading Women Challenge - Task 18, Rural Setting


Thursday, July 29, 2021

Review: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

The moment she released his hand -- a hand she'd clutched like a lifeline all the way from the church to the room on the third floor -- their romance had ended. Their friendship, too, by the look of it.

I love me a good retelling and Matthews' gender bent imagining of Jane Eyre is a wonderfully fun, Gothic-y  read that takes some of the expected, beloved moments of the classic novel and mixes in new, surprising ones.


John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow by Mimi Matthews
Perfectly Proper Press, 2021
Review copy via NetGalley for blog tour

Our eponymous hero, John Eyre, has a background very similar to Brontë's Jane, including a dead Helen and a teaching job for some mysteriously acquired wards. He arrives at Thornfield rattled by the ghosts of his past, disturbed by the heavy mists that surround everything, and edgy from his increasing laudanum use. But when he meets the mistress of Thornfield, Bertha Mason Rochester, he's mesmerised by her fierce impatience, boldness, and worldly curiosity.

Normally shoving a male-identity into something that was female-identified would irritate me, but I found Matthews handling of it to be interesting, especially as she didn't water down any of Bertha's power. John felt very much a kind of Jane, and Bertha had the bold, brash temperament of Rochester. 

Matthews' Bertha was the highlight of this book: while I'm a devoted fan of Bertha by way of Wide Sargasso Sea, I'll also take this iteration of her. Here, Bertha's life is such that she could easily be accused of being mad; instead of racism and patriarchy being the impetus, Matthews imagines something more supernatural as provoking her decisions and behavior.

I confess that I've never "gotten" the romance of Rochester in Jane Eyre (seriously, what is romantic about that man?!) but Matthews convinced me of the intensity felt by Bertha and John -- and even more, she convinced that I should want a HEA for them. Both ultimately wanted a happy partnership with someone, built on trust and respect, and it was easy to see how each could give that to the other, if they could just figure their way around all the completely freaky stuff happening at Thornfield. 

Reader, they eventually do and I loved every page of the journey.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Weekend reads, or it's all garden all the time...

It's been more than a month since the car accident and we're all healing well. Gardening has been a welcome respite from screens -- which is good because we doubled the number of raised beds! Clearly expansion is a theme here because we've also picked up 25 chicks of different ages for our flock. (My Instagram will usually include the cutest animal pics and videos, for those interested in our microfarm.)

I've finally able to get back to reading -- time combined with physical therapy, acupuncture, and muscular therapies does wonders! -- but I'm still struggling with concentration and short-term memory. So I'm still moving slowly through my non-fiction reads --  Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc and Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad. Fiction has been a bit easier to manage, so I've started Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. 

What are you reading this weekend? Any other weekend plans?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

#RomBkLove 2021: Inclusive Historical Romance

Image of #RombkLove2021 themes for the month
I uh-dore historical romance. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre, and I love historicals that offer a point-of-view that isn't cisgendered and white.

Historical romance is rich with diversity that reminds us that many people want love and partnerships that affirm them. I'm so excited to read stories with romantic protagonists who aren't cisgendered, or white in Regency England, or straight in 19th-century United States. 

So when Ana Coqui of Immersed in Books put out the call for people to help with this year's #RomBkLove, I jumped at the chance to participate.

Assembling this list was fun and I'm thrilled many of the books I'm recommending have already been recommended (sometimes, more than once!) during #RomBkLove 2021. And of course, other bloggers have been writing longer about diversity in romance for years and years and I owe all of them a debt for cluing me into many of the reads here.

Inclusive Historical Romances

 An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is an astounding romance novelist who could convince me that anything can be turned into a compelling romance. Example: this book, which is set during the US Civil War and features an interracial couple in the US South. Cole manages to write an evocative thriller and sexy romance without ignoring the realities of setting and era and is also hopeful and warm. Fluffy this is not; deeply satisfying it is.

Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

One can't assemble a list on this topic without starting with a nod to Beverly Jenkins who has long been writing historical romances featuring people of color. I had a chance to read her newest release, Wild Rain, earlier this year. Among the many things going for this book is the cover (heroine in pants!), the main characters (sunshine-and-grump), best confession of love I've ever read, and a strong sense of place and family that reminds me of 'classic' romance.

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

It's hard not to fangirl madly over Milan and her books. This book is the first in a series, featuring two main characters of Chinese descent in Regency England, with all the trappings of a romance of that ilk: titled families, misunderstandings, manners, and mischief. I haven't read it yet and I can't wait to do so.

The Longest Night by E.E. Ottoman

This brief novella is a set in the early 1900s featuring two transmen, penned by a trans author. Longtime correspondents, the two main characters finally have an opportunity to be together in person. This is another book I haven't yet read but plan to this year; I'm absolutely here for 'cozy', 'sweet', 'warm'.

A Delicate Deception by Cat Sebastian

A historical romance in which both leads are bisexual, and the secondary couple of the story is aromantic/asexual (it's not named). There is Queer found family in abundance. This read is a delight.

And I am definitely pushing the definition of historical with this next one, but whatever, it's my list and more people need to read...

 Letters for Lucardo, Vol. 1 by Otava Heikkilä

This is a m/m erotic romantic fantasy graphic novel penned by a trans artist/author featuring a 61-year-old lead who falls in love with a 400 year old vampire. I'm handwaving it into this list by the fact it's not a contemporary setting. I fell hard for this book (as well as its sequel) and I can't forget the two romantic leads. It's a graphic novel that focuses on the sex in addition to the romantic relationship, so there are graphic sexual illustrations.

And that is my brief and biased list of recommendations! For more, be sure to check out the other themed posts in #RomBkLove!

Do you have a favorite historical romance era or setting you can't get enough of? What era should start getting the historical romance treatment? And of course, what inclusive historical romance should be added to this list?

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Top 10 Tuesday, May 4

Thank goddess for an easy task this week for Top 10 Tuesday: my 10 most recent reads! (Although, as per usual, I'm tweaking slightly to note it's reads I haven't reviewed yet!)

It's probably weird (?) to post about recent reads when I previous asked about quitting my blog, but much of the advice was a reminder to focus on what I enjoy about blogging (and to take a break to refresh). Just giving myself the space to wonder was a nice break, and I found I wasn't ready to cut and run. I want to talk books but I want to do it ... better? Different? I'm not sure precisely yet -- can I blame concussion brain?? Anyway, here's me dipping my toe back in with ...

My 10 Most Recent Reads (That I Haven't Reviewed)*

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. Read this in one night. Quiet, atmospheric, immensely stressful

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey This was as good as the buzz promised. Somehow both soap opera splashy and moral ethics deeps.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole This romance was an absolute delight and is based on a classic email spam, being told you're a royal descendant. Only...what if it were true???

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda This was such a wonderfully creepy read, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore This was so great and I regret I haven't reviewed it yet. Apparently the working title was 'Medieval Queers' and it really is. It is a wonderful re-imagining of 'The Red Shoes' fairy tale with a medieval love story and I inhaled this one.

Revenge by Yōko Ogawa One of the creepiest things I've read in forever, this collection of short stories is MESSED UP. All are slightly interconnected and I'm getting goosebumps just recalling them. 

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade Another book I regret I haven't reviewed yet. This romance was adorable and sexy and revealed to me some crap I still hold about being a fat woman. So a fluff with substance!

The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George Gilded Age romance that really stumped me in terms of how the HEA would happen, as our business-minded heroine didn't want to marry someone who just needed her cash. The author pulled it off. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

The Edna Lewis Cookbook by Edna Lewis My first read of 2021, I actually read every recipe in this book, partially because there was so much information to be gleaned from the brief introductions. Lewis is called the Julia Child of Southern cuisine, but there's also the start of the farm-to-table and slow food movement in her cooking, and I loved this cookbook. I'm working through her longer one now!

* Once more, I counted wrong, and there's only 9 reads here. Womp womp.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

When is it time to quit blogging?

The other night I had the sudden urge to just scrap the blog and everything with it -- all my socials, my GoodReads page, this actual website -- and think about just reading (and reflecting) privately.

I'm not sure if this urge is real or a result of my concussion; but I keep flip-flopping between wanting to hit 'delete' on a lot of accounts and feeling small pangs of worry that I'll regret moving on.

This is my 12th year blogging but I feel like I'm getting worse at it rather than better. I find my reviews lacking; I feel very aware of how little I interact with other bloggers. I don't think I have a fresh viewpoint or perception. And I'm less interested in the book publicity machine these days so I'm not sure what value there is in me trying to talk about books rather blandly. (This isn't me fishing for compliments, btw!)

This might be the second or third time I've considered moving on, so maybe that's hint enough. If you've kept on, what keeps going? Any tips? Or any questions I should ask myself before deciding to move on? I don't want to keep doing something out of inertia or a fear of missing out and I don't want to quit something because I'm feeling moody from my accident or insecure or whatever. I'm not sure I've got anyone reading here who was a blogger and no longer isn't, but if you've any advice, I'd love to hear it.

Do you know when you might quit? 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Weekend reads, or being kind of overwhelmed

I don't have a book to talk about for today's #weekendreads post, although I do hope I'll get time to read.

We've had a rough few weeks: my wife's farm suffered a terrible fire earlier in March that destroyed the barn and killed 16 animals. It was demolished this week. Last weekend, we were in a serious car collision that totaled our car and has had us in-and-out of doctors offices and on the phone, it feels, nonstop.

Like so many of us, we've had lots of stresses during the pandemic that feel like they're coming to a head, and I'm just overwhelmed.

How are you doing?