romance

January Recap

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I basically kicked January’s ass. I read 9 books and 34 comics. Whaaaat??? I know, crazy. My goal for the year is 60 books, so I mean… that’s a pretty big dent.

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Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole – I bought this at BRL and Alyssa Cole signed it for me! This was my first read of the year –  two black protagonists who are on opposing sides of the Revolutionary War fall in love. Some serious topics packed into this short little romance and it’s great.

All Our Wrong Todays

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai – This comes out tomorrow, and if you like interesting time travel mishaps this will be right up your alley.

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Battle Hill Bolero by Daniel Jose Older – Conclusion to the Bone Street Rumba series! Except I kind of refuse to acknowledge it’s the end because I don’t want to leave these characters.

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The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles – So this is a m/m romance, but reads more like a dark, gritty regency fantasy novel. And I’m pretty sure the author is a straight woman, so even though the story was good, the sexy bits felt a bit off. I re-read a couple paragraphs trying to figure out the sexual logistics of what she was describing. I’m not going to count this for “LBGTQ romance” for the Read Harder challenge, I’m going to find something #ownvoices instead.

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Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis – I’m not sure a collection of speeches and essays was the best intro to Davis. But basically we need to connect with movements on an international level, G4S is evil, and she’s very pro-Palestine (which I don’t know nearly enough about to have my own opinion on yet).

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Breasts by Florence Williams – This was both terrifying, funny, and informative. Definitely highly recommend, even if it now has me second-guessing myself every time I put lotion on or use scented body wash or basically do anything that could affect my ladies in the slightest.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – One of those really hyped up books that sounded like basic chick lit and I let it sit on my Kindle for 2 years, but it turns out it was kind of worth the hype. I was surprised as how much I got into it.

Sweet to the Taste by Alyssa Cole – Listen, you basically need to read ALL the Alyssa Cole, okay? Especially if you find diversity sexy (and if you don’t I’m not sure you’re in the right place).

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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – CNA is a bombshell. This focuses on four people, all connected in some way, as they make their way through the Biafran War, AKA the Nigerian Civil War. I was totally sucked into the minutiae of their lives. This is definitely my second fave CNA novel (first being Americanah).

STATS – BOOKS

Books read: 9

Female authors: 7 (78%)

Non-white authors: 5 (56%)

Format breakdown: 5 print, 4 e-book

STATS – COMICS

Issues read: 34

Female authors/illustrators: 8

Non-white author/illustrators: 10

Format breakdown: 33 print, 1 digital

So yeah, off to a pretty strong start for 2017! I need to read more comics on Marvel Unlimited, I have it for a year and I’m totally not using it enough. I also need to write more actual reviews… I’ve been writing review blurbs on Litsy but that’s basically it. On the other hand, I wrote hardly any reviews and read a bunch of books… so maybe that’s where my time is better spent. We’ll see.

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Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

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Post-apocalyptic romance! That’s a thing! What a world we live in.

Arden and her BFF and roommate John are trekking through the snow in NY to reach his family’s cabin – somewhere to hide out and be safe until this crisis seems to be over. The power and electricity are gone, and after a few weeks people are starting to lose their shit – it got too dangerous to stay in their dorm. They finally make it to the cabin, where Arden meets John’s overbearing older brother Gabriel and his younger sister, Maggie. Arden is finding it awkward staying in the cabin with John and his siblings, who are all worried that their parents have been missing for days. But she’s also finding it awkward because Gabriel, while being a bit uptight, stressed, and controlling, is also hot and she’s having trouble ignoring that fact. It’s really not the time and the place for romance… or is it? DUN DUN DUNNNN.

So you know, as far as the romance goes it’s fine. Girl meets guy, they’re hot for each other but then get to know each other a bit and it turns into true love, etc. etc. The sexy times were well done. I’m not so much for the commanding guy presence in romance novels that tells the girl what to do in bed and she just goes nuts for it, but besides that it was pretty good. 

What I REALLY enjoyed about this are the things that made it feel so different. I sometimes feel like historical romance dominates the romance genre, so it was awesome to have something set in present day, in my little area of the world, with a science fiction-ish element to it. (Actually, you never find out why the power goes out in this novel, but it turns out this is a series so I think that’ll come up in the next books.) Anyways, the other fantastic thing is the make-up of the characters – Arden is black, Gabriel and his family are Asian-American, her roommate John is gay, and Maggie is in an online relationship. So all of the things that make this romance novel feel different from the genre are the things that actually make it feel like the world we truly live in – where people are diverse, bad things happen, and technology plays such an important role in our lives.  

I’m already looking forward to reading more from Alyssa Cole.  

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn

The Sum of All Kisses

Ahhhh, romance. (Imagine that I’m saying that in a French accent. It helps.)
 
The Sum of All Kisses is the third book in Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith quartet, which are full of lords and ladies falling in love. This one focuses on Hugh Prentice, who is good at math and has a Dr. House-like injury to his leg after a drunken duel with his best friend. Lady Sarah Pleinsworth hates Hugh, since that duel was against her cousin and the resulting scandal forced her to miss out on one of the most promising seasons of eligible husbands.
 
I liked that Hugh was kind of surly, and that he has this chronic, debilitating pain that he’s constantly having to put up with – it made him original, and it also made him strive to prove his worth in so many situations. Sarah was less likable – she was really emotional and irrational, and that irked me. But I did like that she had a fondness for reading novels 🙂
 
There was one particularly swoon-worthy, fairy-tale moment in the book, but I think that overall this isn’t one of Quinn’s better books. The “obstacle to be overcome” (standard in most romances) was kind of silly, and everyone just seemed to be overreacting. It was hard to really sympathize.
 
SO, a cute romance and a relatively quick read, but I know Julia Quinn’s capable of much better. I have high hopes for the 4th Smythe-Smith book!
 
Sarah Says: 3 stars

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

BEE RIDGWAY

 

Sadly, I didn’t love The River of No Return the way I was hoping to.

So, Nick is an English dude from the 1800’s who is about to die in a nasty battle when suddenly he transports roughly 200 years into the future to 2003. Cool. An organization called the Guild picks him up, makes him spend a year learning about the modern day along with some other accidental time travellers, and then sends him off with a buttload of money to quiety live the rest of his years in the northeast of America. A decade goes by and Nick is quite accustomed to the fun things of our age – easy women, jeans, cars, watches and all that – but then he suddenly gets a summons from the Guild. They’re sending him on a mission back to his past.

Julia is a young lady in the 1800’s mourning the death of her grandfather. Her giant douche of a cousin shows up to inherit the estate, and he constantly quizzes and berates Julia while he searches for some special object that he thinks gave her grandfather his ability to manipulate time. And then Julia finds out that SHE can manipulate time as well, and must struggle to hide this from her cousin and try to escape his clutches.

So obviously when Nick goes back, he and Julia cross paths (easy enough, since they lived next door) and fall in love, yada yada yada.

Let’s start with the things I really liked about the book, kay? I liked the whole idea of time travel via feelings. Apparently you use emotions to travel along the river of time. Interesting concept. I liked the idea of a secret society (the Guild) and the idea of time travelling, being taught about the time you’re in, and then being sent on your way to just chill. I liked Nick well enough, as well as Julia. They both had spunk, which I enjoyed. I also liked Arkady, who was a grumbly Russian guy who said things like this:

“You are a man. We will save her. Why? Because it’s beautiful and romantic to do so. We will fight this maniac like the men we are – with fists. Why? Because it’s beautiful and romantic to do so.”

How can you not love that?

But now on to the things that made me not love this book…

The thing between Nick and Julia had a hint of insta-love about it. I mean really, it’s very love-at-first-sight.

My biggest complaint: It was so slooooowww. By page 160 (out of 450), the main characters hadn’t even really met yet. By page 300 I was glad that the romance factor was finally picking up but I STILL felt like I was waiting for the story to start. There was so much build-up and mystery to the secret society conspiracies that it seemed to take forever to get anywhere, and I felt just as confused and frustrated as Nick did. And I felt like the end is where things really finally started to happen, which means it ended with some unresolved issues. I’m assuming there might be a sequel, but it’s not confirmed on the Bee Ridgway’s website as far as I can tell.

Sooo yeah. The writing was enjoyable, but the storyline was just way too drawn-out for me. Even if I knew a sequel was coming, I’m not sure I’ll want to read it because it took SO LONG to be set up in this book. I’ll have to wait and see.

I am pretty sure I’m in the minority here – plenty of fellow bloggers read and loved this book, so don’t be discouraged. Give it a try. Maybe The River of No Return just wasn’t my jam.

 

Sarah Says: 2.5 stars

 

 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Awwww. Patroclus & Achilles.

I’m feeling a bit lazy today, partly because I’m watching my almost 2 year-old nephew L, and I’m already a bit worn out! So here’s the description from the dust jacket:

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Why don’t I read more books about ancient Greece? There’s so much passion and tragedy and brutality. Troy was my favorite movie for ages. And yeah I know it’s not exactly faithful to the story or legend of whatever, but it was still an awesome movie that made me cry in the theater.

So, yeah, this was a really well-written book. Obviously it was big on the love and romance and it wouldn’t be Greek without the tragedy part of it. Patroclus & Achilles were SO SWEET, and so perfect for each other. Patroclus is a good kid, even if he’s a bit timid at times. And I really liked Achilles in this book, for the most part – he’s shown mostly as a normal boy growing up, but with a self-assurance and grace that the other boys don’t have. He always speaks simply and honestly. And he didn’t take a particular joy in fighting or violence – instead he took pride in his abilities, as an athlete.

Also, I really liked the pace of this book. I’m glad that most of the 10 years of the Trojan War are kind of glazed over, but the book never got dull. I read it pretty rapidly.

This book was really sweet and a bit sad and I enjoyed it lots. It also made me realize… maybe I should attempt reading The Illiad and The Odyssey eventually. I had to read parts of The Odyssey in college and it bored me to tears, but I think that with some Sparknotes or something I could probably appreciate it a lot more now. I always assumed that there’s just no way I’m ever going to even try to read them in their entirety because they’re so intimidating, but maybe I could do it! Maybe.

Anyways, so yes! The Song of Achilles is good book, especially if you like Greek stories.

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars

Classics Club March Question

Hi there!

Finally, a question I can answer that isn’t based on my sad little list of books read off of my Classics Club list! I’m sure I’ll eventually love those questions after I’ve made more of a dent, but I don’t want to talk about the same couple of books over and over again, you know?

Anyways, here’s the Classics Club question for March:

“Do you love Jane Austen or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”? (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).

  1. Why? (for either answer)?
  2. Favorite and/or least favorite Austen novel?”

 

 

I totally love Jane Austen. Screw you Mark Twain (cause I’ve only attempted to read The Prince and The Pauper by you and found it super boring and tedious, but I’ll try something else by you later).

Anyways, Austen. Yes. The only book of hers I haven’t read yet is Mansfield Park, which I’m hoping to read later this year. I love her because she’s the master of witty insults masked in politeness, and she includes a lot of social commentary in her books about love. Her books aren’t the MOST romantic – characters rarely ever express their love or kiss or anything until near the end – but the parts that are romantic are EPICLY romantic. There’s a reason Darcy’s proposals to Elizabeth Bennett, Wentworth’s letter to Anne, and so on are so well known.

I also like that her novels are all so different from each other, in content and style. Northanger Abbey is so ridiculously different from Pride and Prejudice.

I haven’t been able to pick a favorite Austen. I love Emma because Emma is snotty and rich, I love Northanger Abbey because it’s dark and goofy, and I love Persusasion because it’s full of social criticisms and romance. I of course love Pride and Prejudice because come on… I just have to. It was the first Austen I ever read or saw, so it has a special place.

My least favorite Austen is definitely Sense and Sensibility. Edward is a lousy Austen hero – he’s boring and awkward and you have no clue why Elinor is so attached to him. Colonel Brandon is super awesome, but he doesn’t get nearly enough time on page. He’s the most romantic and his love for Marianne is the best, but all that gets glazed over. LAME.

So what do ya’ll think? Love it or leave it when it comes to Austen? Favorite Austen novel? Austen novel you can’t stand?

~Sarah

 

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean

I admit, I’m not really up for reviewing this right now. I just want to review it so I can put it away. I finished it over the weekend, and I don’t really have anything else to review right now, so here we are.

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (what a lame title) is a historical romance, good for a quick read with some sexy bits. It’s brain candy, which is exactly what I needed at the end of last week.

Pippa is the heroine – she’s a girl in glasses who loves science, and she’s engaged to be married in two weeks to Lord Castleton, and she looks forward to living out her days with her dogs and scientific experiments. But before she gets married, she needs to know exactly how to go about being a wife and no one seems willing to tell her about the more intimate details. So she seeks out Cross, a co-owner for a famous London gaming club with a devilish reputation. Just by asking him for his help in answering her questions about what happens in the marriage bed, she threatens to ruin everything he’s worked for.

And so on and so forth. I’m feeling lazy, so let’s bullet-point this. Things I liked:

  • That Pippa was a nerdy girl. You don’t see that a whole lot in historical romance, but she liked reading and anatomy and horticulture and all that fun stuff. It might have been a bit overdone in spots, but still.
  • There were a couple steamy scenes, for those of you that really care only about those parts.
  • She’s not a jerk to Lord Castleton, the guy she’s engaged to but who she obviously does not end up with.
  • It was overall entertaining, and Pippa has a few really great stand-out moments.
  • I really like the cover… the colors and the wallpaper and just really pretty.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Cross had a bunch of different co-owners of his gaming hell and I could barely keep them all straight. And the whole drama surrounding his past was a bit silly.
  • Well, overall this whole plot was a bit silly…
  • The romance between them didn’t really feel genuine.
  • There was a lot of redundancy. The characters kind of repeated the same lines and sentiments over and over. A little more plot or action would have been nice.

This was a cute fluffy romance, but definitely not the best. Good for a quick mindless read.

Sarah Says: 3 stars

Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie

 

Isn’t that cover just hilarious? Oh the early 90’s.

Jennifer Crusie is one of my go-to romance authors, cause she’s fun and hilarious and she wrote Bet Me, which is the Best Romance Ever. Back around the time I first discovered her I went out and hunted down a bunch of her books, even the older ones, which means I still have a couple books of hers that I haven’t read yet. (And thank goodness, because she is taking forever to come out with a new book.) Sooooo, I was in the mood for some romance, and Manhunting it was!

Kate is an attractive, successful businesswoman in her mid-thirties who realizes she’s kind of miserable because she’s not with anybody, and she’s lonely at night. Plans are what she does best, so she comes up with one to get married – go to a Kentucky resort, meet a successful businessman that she can build a business with, and marry him. But when she shows up to The Cabins resort, all of the businessmen are jerks, boring, or boring jerks. The only man there she feels like she can talk to is Jake, the easy-going handyman that just wants to sleep on the lake and some peace and quiet.

Soooooo… not my favorite Crusie. Kate wasn’t quite as annoying as I expected her to be, especially after she stopped being so frigid and stuck-up. In fact at point she stabs a guy with a fork, which is totally my style. But her desire to find a “man to build a business with” was kind of annoying, perhaps because I lack that kind of ambition. Jake was a really fun male lead, though he had some chauvanistic moments. But overall he was laid-back and funny, and him and Kate did have really good chemistry together. I liked that they started off as friends and then slowly fell for each other.

Jake’s main letdown was that he had a mustache. Mustaches are not for romance novels, they’re for porn. (Especially white guys with mustaches, it almost never looks good, unless you’re Burt Reynolds. Otherwise it just makes you look a little creepy.) So yeah, eww. I kind of had to ignore it whenever his mustache was mentioned.

I also feel like you can kind of see Jennifer Crusie sorting through her own feelings on sexism, successful women, etc, and that was interesting. Not something you’d expect to see in a romance novel, but it was fun to see Kate criticize a woman who just wants to be a stay-at-home mom, and then Jake showing her she’s being sexist by judging a woman for that. This stuff was probably more of a hot topic in the 1990’s, but still interesting.

 

The more modern cover, this is what’s in the bookstores now since it got re-released.

Anyways, not the best and not the funniest, but still a good fluffy read overall.

 

Sarah Says: 3 stars

 

An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

 

This is the third book in Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons series. I read the first two a while back, but then never got around to requesting the next ones from the library. Luckily I have an awesome friend named Jenn who is sending me the books in this series as she reads them, so I finally get to go on with them!

Oh and don’t worry – I read them in order because I’m picky like that, but you don’t really have to worry about reading these in order. Each book focuses on one of the eight Bridgerton siblings finding true love 🙂

So, An Offer From a Gentleman! It’s about Sophie, who was the unacknowledged bastard of the Earl of Penwood. He took care of her and everyone knew she was his, but she got pushed aside when he got remarried to Araminta, and her and her two daughters move in. When the Earl dies, Sophie is left with nothing – she grows up as a servant to her stepmother and two stepsisters.  But Sophie is able to sneak out in disguise for one wonderful night, attending Lady Bridgerton’s masquerade ball and meets the man of her dreams when she dances with Benedict Bridgerton.

He is one of the older Bridgerton sons, and he’s never shown much interest in romance or getting married – until he meets a beautiful mystery woman at his mother’s masquerade. She disappears at midnight and he’s left pining for her – until he ends up rescuing a beautiful housemaid that seems so familiar…

See the Cinderella element here? I loved that – it was so fun. Poor Sophie – she’s SO mistreated by her stepfamily and ends up working so hard just to survive. And then when she runs into Benedict again, it seems her dreams have come true – until she realizes that he doesn’t recognize her from that one magical night. But he saves her, and they get all romantic and sweet and awwwww.

This book wasn’t as funny as some of Julia Quinn’s newer books – and I really like funny romance. So that was a bit disappointing. And even though Sophie and Benedict were so cute together and of course I cheered for their happy ending, Benedict isn’t my favorite romantic hero. He was definitely a knight in shining armor at one point in the story, but in another later part he kind of demands that she be his mistress and refuses to consider that he could marry a housemaid, and that was a little weak. Of course this is romance so it all works out in the end, but that irked me about him. Oh and for those that really like the sexy bits – there was only one real sex scene in this book. That was actually preferable for me, but if that’s what you mainly look for in romance you might want to skip this one.

Overall though, this was a fun read and I really like the Bridgerton family. Especially the mama 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading the next one, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, because I think I’ll like Colin Bridgerton more than Benedict.

 

Sarah Says: 3.5 stars

 

 

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss

Marie and Pierre Curie, Lauren Redniss

I forget where I heard about this book, but I knew that I was keeping an eye out for it because it sounded good. And then lo and behold, I saw it on the library shelves last week! So of course I grabbed it up, and I’m glad I did.

Marie Curie was a famous scientist, known for her groundbreaking work on radioactivity and for discovering polonium and radium. This book is mainly a story of her life, including her marriage to Pierre Curie. (I know the book cover says it’s a tale of love and fallout, making it seem like it’s about them as a couple, but it’s really more about her by the end.)

I didn’t know anything about Marie Curie before reading this book, but it was a pretty beautiful introduction. And I say beautiful because the book is artistically gorgeous, as well as the writing. I loved that the story was sprinkled with direct quotes from Marie and Pierre, I’m assuming from their journals. It was interesting and lovely and I read it in about an hour or so. I’m probably going to buy my own copy because I enjoyed it so much, but it’s also made me want to read a more extensive biography about the Curies someday. The attention to detail in this book is quite impressive – even the style of the font was selected because it was somehow related to Marie Curie.

And now, some pretty pictures from the book.

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So cool, right? Throughout the story of the Curies, there are little stories here and there about scientific or historical events that occurred after their deaths, but that their work partly influenced. It was interesting, but I wish there had been a little less of the current event-type stuff and more details about their own lives. It was still really fascinating, and I’m glad I got the chance to read it!

 

Sarah Says: 4 stars