An Heiress to Remember by Maya Rodale ☆☆☆☆

htrAn Heiress to Remember by Maya Rodale ☆☆☆☆

What an amazing book! I just finished it, so forgive me for this scatterbrained review.

Beatrice Goodwin has come back to New York in a scandal. She left 16 years before to marry a duke, and has returned, newly divorced, to revitalize her family’s department store. However she is taking aback by the new, gargantuan department store across the street — run by the man she left to become a duchess.

Wes Dalton has spent the last 16 years becoming a successful department store tycoon, and just as long focused on getting revenge on his first love for leaving him to marry a duke. He has amassed the third largest fortune in New York in the hopes of buying the Goodwins’ department store so he can destroy it.

But of course, once Beatrice takes it over and remakes it into a ladies’ paradise, he begins to see what a shame that would be.

I loved watching these two come back together over their shared love of retail. As someone who once worked retail, I do not personally have a rosy view of it, but this book made me forget the hell that is modern retail. Rodale paints the department store as an experience for women to have outside of the home, a new getaway from the life as a wife, mother, sister, daughter. A place to just be for a while.

This is the third in the Guilded Age Girls Club series, and I love the feminist bent that each one has. The focus seems to be taking something that is uniquely feminine — fashion, cosmetics, shopping — and turning it into acts of empowerment for these characters. This whole series has been so refreshing to read. Out of the three, I think this one is my favorite so far, and I hope they continue to get better and better.

The Wanderlust Book Tag

I found this amazing tag from Alexandra at Reading by Starlight and I thought it was such a cute tag! I wasn’t tagged by anyone, I just felt like doing a book tag today.

Secrets and lies: a book set in a sleepy small town

still

Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache series takes place is a small Canadian town called Twin Pines. It’s a small, sleepy town where everyone has known each other for their entire lives, but their peace is shattered when Jane Neal is found dead. Inspector  Gamache is sent to this idyllic town to find out if it was an accident or something more sinister.

Salt and sand: a book with a beach-side community

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The beach takes on a creepy vibe in The Elementals. Three beach houses stand in an area of beach slowly being swallowed back into the sea. Two prominent Mobile families united in marriage, the Mccrays and the Savages, have visited these houses for years, and two of the houses are still in use. The third is half covered in sand and full of horrors that will come back to haunt those families.

Here there be dragons: a book with a voyage on the high seas

RSURS

The second in the Gentleman Bastard series finds Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen in the middle of a new con job that takes them from the biggest casino in town to the high seas flying under the flag of piracy. There is nothing quite like the absolute insanity of the Gentleman Bastard series, and the leap from con man to pirate is such a wild ride that this book kept me enthralled the whole way through. I recommend listening to this on audio.

Tread lightly: a book set down a murky river or a jungle

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I am drawing such a blank on this one – the only book I can remember involving jungles or rivers is The Lost World which takes place in the Amazon rainforest. Journalist Edward Malone finally gets up the courage to reveal his feeling for Gladys, who turns him down because he is not adventurous enough for her. So he goes to his newspaper and requests a dangerous assignment to impress her, and he is given the job of following an expedition back to the Amazon with the incredibly pompous Professor Challenger. Professor Challenger claims he has found a lost world full of dinosaurs in the Amazon, and has assembled a team to go with him to prove it.

Frozen wastes: a book with a frost-bitten atmosphere

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I have the perfect book for this one!! Whiteout takes place at a remote research station in Antartica, and when a paramilitary force attacks the station in search for samples of a virus, chef Angel Smith and glaciologist Ford Cooper are forced to trek across the frozen wilderness alone and with limited provisions. The icy tension of this book keep me enthralled and I could not put this down.

The boonies: a book with rough or isolated terrain

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If you think I’m not going to shoehorn one of my favorite books of all time into this, you are sadly mistaken, friends!! Captain Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony is sent to survey an uninhabited planet, and becomes embroiled in a plot that leaves her and Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan, the infamous Butcher of Komarr, stranded together in unfamiliar terrain. They will have to put aside their cultural differences to work together to get back to civilization.

Hinterlands and cowboys: a book with a western-esque setting

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One of the most beautifully drawn comic series I have ever read has been Pretty Deadly,  which takes place in the Wild West. The blurb says it best: “Death’s daughter rides the wind on a horse made of smoke and her face bears the skull marks of her father.” The artwork is simply stunning and the story has a dreamy quality that made me want more.

Look lively: a book set across sweeping desert sands

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I have wracked my brain for a book set in a desert, but I just could not think of one. This is the only one I can think of that I have read, and I DNF’d it 160 pages in because I just hated it so much.

Wild and untamed: a book set in the heart of the woods

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On a brighter note, Silver in the Wood is a quiet, sweet book about a mysterious man who has lived in the woods for a very like time and has become a part of it. He befriends a man from the local community who he comes to love. This book is so soothing to read, and the prose just flows so beautifully.

Wildest dreams: a whimsical book shrouded in magic

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The entire Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire probably counts, but my favorite is Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which features twins Jack and Jill. We learn a little about Jack and Jill in Every Heart a Doorway but this look into their backstory is so well-crafted, and is built on such an interesting world.

The rules say I have to tag 5 people, but I will just tag anyone who wants to do this tag. I hope your Sunday goes well, and I will see you all on Tuesday!

Headliners by Lucy Parker

hlHappy Tuesday, readers! I am very excited today because I want to talk about one of my most anticipated books of 2020: Headliners by Lucy Parker.

Every since I binged Pretty Face and Act Like It back to back, I have loved the London Celebrities series and am always very excited when a new installment is published. Headliners takes place a couple months after the end of The Austen Playbook, and deals with the aftermath of several events that took place in the book. I don’t want to spoil the big secret reveal at the end of Austen, so I’ll just say it was big and it put the hero and heroine of Headliners in a bit of a tricky spot.

I was a little worried about this book at first, mainly because I was not a fan of either the hero or heroine in Austen, and the relationship between them was very frosty the whole way through that book. At the beginning of Headliners their relationship has stagnated into a mutual dislike with serious trust issues, and watching them come to form a friendship and eventually a relationship was interesting to watch. I think sometimes the hate-to-friends-to-lovers trope can be forced and unrealistic, but Parker managed to make me believe that the apologies and the resultant building of trust was earned and natural. I feel like she managed to portray characters that experienced real growth, and it made for a satisfying resolution.

I feel like I’m badly navigating around the main conflict, but I don’t want to spoil what it is because it definitely was featured heavily in book 4. Most romance series can be read as standalones, but there’s even a note in the beginning of this book that says maybe you should read book 4 first.

ANYWAY, all this waffling was to say that I loved this book. It’s not my favorite book in this series, but it is definitely of the same high quality as the first 4 books.

I think I saw that Lucy Parker is going to be starting a new series soon, and I am SUPER excited to see what she comes up with next. I also hope we get more of these London Celebrity books, as well. The small world she has built around the London theater scene has been a joy to peek into, and I love seeing the characters from previous books make little cameo appearances. I feel like all of the previous couples popped up at least once in Headliners and it was nice to see them all again.

Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi ☆☆☆☆

rbRiot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

This book has been described as a “gut punch” and people were not lying.

Ella has a power that she calls her Thing. It gives her the ability to see into people’s lives, into the past and the future. It gives her the ability to Travel all over, witnessing the lives of black Americans all over the US. She can move things with her mind and make a shield that keeps her safe from police and other forms of violence.

The narrative starts in the spring of 1992 in Los Angeles and moves to Harlem in the early 00s, then on through the 2010s. Ella and her younger brother Kev grow up around and are shaped by the racial tensions through this time period. Kev was born during the Los Angeles riots, and woven throughout the narrative are the incidents of violence that have peppered the last couple decades, supported by the historical violence that has taken place throughout the whole of US history.

This is tough story to review – a lot of the material is visceral and raw, and the language is harsh yet beautifully written. The fantastical elements are woven into the real world of mass incarceration and racial violence, which puts a unique spin on urban fantasy. I haven’t read anything like this before. For being only 176 pages, it packs a wallop.

The way Ella and Kev’s stories intertwine was done very well. The alternating perspectives gave an in-depth look into where both their heads were at by the end of the book, and it made the ending much more satisfying. For most of the book I thought it was going in one direction, basically using the racial violence and police brutality contrasted with Ella’s Thing to show how society is broken, but then at the end it took a turn for the dystopian that I was not expecting. I really enjoyed how the ending was written, and I like that the ending was left open. It gave it a much more hopeful vibe.

I’m really glad I went out on a limb and requested this one from Netgalley. (I was not expecting to be approved, but it was a nice surprise). I flew through this and while I can’t say it is an enjoyable read – nothing with this level of pain and anger could really fall into the “enjoyable” category – it was an engaging and engrossing read.

Weekend Reads for January 17-20, feat. a mini readathon

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It’s Friday night and I have so much reading planned this weekend!

The #24in48 Readathon was cancelled, but I was smart and didn’t cancel my PTO request for this weekend, so I have Saturday through Monday off work. I plan to use that time to read, read, read.

I am part of a private online book group that has a Slack account, and a group of us are going to have our own little readathon this weekend. It’s a pretty loose one – some folks started today, others are doing just the weekend, still more are incorporating Monday in as well. The objective is just to read and relax as much as you want, which is my main objective in life anyway.

I have a stack of books and a cupboard of snacks all set to go (and 6 Red Bulls, so I’m REALLY ready to go).

I want to read a pretty big chunk of The Burning White by Brent Weeks, which is book 5 in the Lightbringer series. It’s…enormous, so I highly doubt I will read the whole thing this weekend (it’s over 900 pages). I also have A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kimmerer to read, which is a book that I have been looking forward to for a while now.

I might even try to finally finish Fate of the Fallen! You’re right, probably not.

I have several romances I could read as well. I have a copy of the new Rebekah Weatherspoon, A Cowboy to Remember, waiting for me on my kindle. I also could dip into A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year by Jackie Lau – I absolutely love her holiday romances, and I love that she has romances for all kinds of holidays, not just Christmas.

If I go anywhere this weekend, or decide not to be a lazy daisy, I will be listening to the audiobook of Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. I just started it today and I am enjoying it so far. There are 6 books in that series (how do I keep choosing these longer series to start) so I will be kept busy for a little while with those.

If I get time, I want to make some progress on the Vorkosigan saga. I started Diplomatic Immunity back in November and I want to finish it sometime soon. My library does not have it on audio, so I am reading it in print, then I can finish the rest of the series on audio. I have better luck finishing things that are available on audio.

I can’t think of anything else I added to my stack. I’ll let you guys know how I did this weekend sometime next week!

Let me know if the comments what you plan to read this weekend, and if you are going to be having a mini-readathon yourselves.

The Forward Collection from Amazon Original Stories

forward

Back in September, Amazon Original Stories released a series of scifi short stories by 6 different authors called the Forward Collection (It was free for Prime readers, which is my favorite price point). It contains:

For some, it’s the end of the world. For others, it’s just the beginning. With brilliant imagination, today’s most visionary writers point to where the future is headed-whether plotting a high-tech casino heist, exploring the boundaries of a video game, or debating the very definition of identity. From the darkly comic to the chilling, they share common DNA. They all look forward.

The quality of the stories vary wildly, and since the stories are so short I wanted to review them as a set, and give my opinion on which of the stories I liked best (and worst).

The first story I read was Ark by Veronica Roth, which is about a future where the planet is going to be hit by an extinction-level astroid, and the last people on Earth are categorizing and saving as many plants as they can until they have to leave the planet. The main character Elizabeth has plans to stay on the planet and watch the world end, but as she makes friends with a reclusive scientist, she starts to doubt whether she should stay or leave.

I enjoyed this story more than I expected. I have never read anything by Veronica Roth before, and I’ve heard…things…the last book in her Divergent series that made me not want to read it. This story is a quiet exploration of the simpler parts of what makes Earth fascinating, with a focus on botany in particular. I liked the soothing vibe of this story.

The next book I read in this series was Summer Frost by Blake Crouch. This story was one of my favorites from this collection. The main character is a video game coder who accidentally created an advanced AI and becomes obsessed with making the AI independent of the game and eventually making the AI into an android-like creature. I really liked the level of detail and nuance that Crouch managed to pack into 75 pages.

My favorite story from this collection was Emergency Skin by N K Jemisin, by far. The main character is an explorer sent to Earth to find a DNA sample to further the colony they come from. The colony was a group of men who left Earth because they considered the rest of the world inferior, and they have created a highly-stratified society where people don’t even get skin until they have earned it, and of course they get white skin because what’s better than white skin? (Gross.) I really enjoyed how Jemisin has taken the highly problematic neo-nazi, white supremacist faction that has reared its head and turned them into radical separatists that leave the cesspit that is Earth. (I would like them to leave the Earth, kthx.) The rest of the people left behind on Earth thrive in their absence, and have solved a lot of the problems that caused the separatists to leave in the first place.

It’s such a hopeful story.

You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles was…boring. And a little incomprehensible. Nothing really happens? It just ends! I wasn’t a fan.

The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay was also a bit boring and didn’t have much going for it. The premise is more interesting that the Towles story, but it also didn’t have much of a conclusion to it. Paul Tremblay is known for his creepy books, but I’ve never found him all that creepy, and this story fell short on the creep-factor as well.

Randomize by Andy Weir was a bit of a disappointment for me as well. I really enjoyed The Martian, and Artemis was decent, but this story was a bit of a mess. It involves a high-tech casino heist, but it was probably the least-exciting heist ever written.

If I had to rank all 6 of the stories, I think it would be:

  1. Emergency Skin
  2. Summer Frost
  3. Ark
  4. The Last Conversation
  5. Randomize
  6. You Have Arrived at Your Destination

Have any of you guys read these stories? Let me know what you thought about them in the comments!

Weekend Reads for Jan 10-12

weekendreads

Happy Friday, fellow readers! I would say TGIF but I work Saturdays which negates the joy of Fridays as the end of the week :/

But the world turns on the concept of “weekdays” and “weekends” so here we are.

Yesterday I got my copy of A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kimmerer which I only just found out was releasing this week (on my birthday, no less!) and I have been savoring it ever since. I suspect I will be finished with it lickity-split, so I will also be reading Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn Fisher, which is the book club choice for my local SFF book club for February.

I also got a copy of The Sundown Motel by Simone St. James from Book of the Month that I might dip into this weekend.

I just started listening to The Poppy War by R F Kuang on audio, so my trips to and from work bring me ample reading time – just about the only way I read so much while working full time and driving a half hour to and from work each day. Thank goodness for audiobooks.

What has your attention this weekend? Let me know in the comments!

Much Ado About a Widow by Jenna Jaxon ☆☆☆1/2

maawMuch Ado About a Widow by Jenna Jaxon ☆☆☆1/2

Georgie had her epic love story with her deceased husband Isaac, and has now resigned herself to marrying the odious Lord Travers, the man she jilted several years ago. On the way back to her father’s estate, she is kidnapped by a group of men and taken to Portsmouth for some unknown purpose. Georgie uses her wits to escape, running into the arms (literally) of her brother’s best friend.

Rob is in Portsmouth to get supplies for his family’s tin mining operation, and welcomes Georgie, her maid, and her dog onto his ship set to sail back to his family estate in Cornwall. From the beginning, there is tension between Georgia and Rob. They have an attraction to one another, but mostly they get on each other’s nerves at first.

Over the 3 or so days of the voyage, Georgia and Rob become more friendly and develop a relationship. A lot of the tension in their relationship once they have decided to be together has to do with the marriage contract she signed with her father and Lord Travers, but they are determined to get out of it somehow.

I enjoyed seeing the hero and heroine become closer over the voyage, but the chemistry wasn’t always believable. The dialogue felt stilted at times, and the advanced copy had several editing issues that will hopefully be taken care of before publication.

Weekend Reads for Dec 20-22

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Hello, beautiful readers! It’s Star Wars release weekend and I’m super excited to not go see it this weekend because I hate crowds. 🙂

I will, however, finally be reading Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse. It sets up the new Star Wars movie, and as I will be avoiding social media like the plague until I see it this book will be scratching that new Star Wars itch. I’ve been meaning to read it since it came out a in November (October? I don’t remember when it came out whoops).

I will also be reading The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier. It is the January choice for my local SFF book club and I really need to get some of it read. Usually I’m cramming for book club the night before and I super don’t want to do that this time.

I have so many books that I want to finish before the end of the year, and they are the same books that I’ve been saying I want to read these last several months. Fate of the FallenDiplomatic Immunity, Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow, and on and on and on. There are only 10 days left in the year (!!!!) and I am more than a little anxious about finishing the books I started in 2019. I have a couple days off next week, so I might just take those days as lazy, reading all day days and make a push to finish some books.

What are y’all reading this weekend?

The Litha/Yule Tag

repThe Fae: The Fae like to come out and play with humans at this time of year. Share a book about the Fairy folk.

I read The Replacement by Brenda Yovannoff several years ago and loved it. It features the fae in their more terrifying form and I have been wanting to read more books in the same vein for years.

 

Fire: Bonfires are traditional at this time of year. Share a book that lit a fire under you.death

If you want to be a little angry but also well-informed, you can’t go wrong with Michiko Kakutani’s The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump. This is a small book but it packs a punch.

 

 

Nature: Getting back to nature is very important during this season. Share a book celebrating nature.soul

I will admit I floundered a bit on this prompt at first, but then I remembered an amazing memoir about octopuses called The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonders of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. I loved reading about the author’s surprisingly emotional relationship to some octopuses at an aquarium.

Song and Dance: What is a fire without some singing and dancing? A book that celebrates song and/or dance.space

I honestly didn’t super like this book, but it certainly celebrates the weirdness that comes out of Eurovision: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente. I listened to this one on audio and was mostly confused the whole time, so maybe try it in print. A lot happens, but I honestly couldn’t tell you any of the character’s names or even what the ending was. I don’t even remember if the characters won weird space Eurovision.

Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice. The shortest day and longest night.

sbDarkness: Share a book about darkness; be it lack of light or the darkness of human nature.

When it comes to the darkness of human nature, there are few who write it better than Stephen King. I read Sleeping Beauties when it came out, and it definitely falls into that category. All of the women are falling asleep and not waking up again. The world goes absolutely insane – women start taking uppers to stay awake, some men try to take advantage of the women in their vulnerable state, just absolute chaos ensues.

flowersGreenery: Bringing greenery inside is important at this time of year. Share a book with a plant name in the title or a strong plant theme.

Does Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes count as a plant name in the title? I really did love this book. I love any book that can make me cry – does that make me a masochist? I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it at first with the obvious developmental issues the narrator had (this book could have gone so terribly, terribly wrong if done badly) but once I caught on to the framing of the story it had me hooked. By the time we made it to the titular flowers for Algernon I was weeping like a baby.

sohCandles: Bringing light to the darkness is also important. Share a book that brought you light and cheer.

I think the book that made me happiest this year was probably Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. I haven’t reviewed it yet because I’m waiting to review the series in its entirety, but the whole relationship between Aral and Cordelia made me so happy. They are two of the most rational book characters I have ever seen, and their relationship was built on trust and communication. It was such a delight to see such a healthy relationship, and it all took place in the middle of a space opera. Absolutely splendid. PS: this series has some of the ugliest covers I have ever seen in my life, which also brings me joy.

citFeasting: Food is always an important part of any celebration. Share a book celebrating food.

For this prompt, I want to choose a book that cracked me up but also helped me out with some cooking basics. Cooking is Terrible (sadly, you still have to feed yourself) by Misha Fletcher is such an interesting resource. It is written mainly for the people who don’t particularly like cooking but still want to make food for themselves that has a good nutritional balance. It has some very simple, basic recipes with variations. It’s not so much a straightforward recipe book, it’s more of a guide to make food that tastes decent and is good for you, based on the foods that you like. It’s an especially good resource for picky eaters (which I am – I abhor onions and do you know how many recipes have onions in them? Try all of them).

I’m interested in seeing others do this tag! If you’re interested in this book tag, consider yourself tagged.