Whatcha Reading? May 2022, Part One

Bath tub with flower petals and lemon slices. Book, candles and beauty product on a tray. Organic spa relaxation in luxury Bali outdoor bathroom.It’s about that time! Time to tell us what you’re reading!

Claudia: I just finished The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews, ( A | BN | K | AB ) coming out in October, and I enjoyed it. It’s a bit Beauty and the Beast meets The Blue Castle. It even kept me up way past my bedtime, which hadn’t happened in a long time, LOL. I was on a long reading slump in which I re-read a ton of my favorites and mourned that some of their authors haven’t had a new romance in a long time.

Shana: I’ve been burning my way through Olivia Dade’s and Sherry Thomas’s backlist lately. I just finished 40-Love, ( A | BN | K | AB ) which was fabulous, and now I’m reading Not Quite a Husband. ( A | K | G | AB | Au ) I have been forewarned about the dubcon issue in the book, so we’ll see.

Sneezy: I’ve just started Fierce Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.

Fierce Self-Compassion
A | BN | K | AB
The title really resonates with me, because I’ve found a lot of times showing myself compassion requires a very high level of proactive energy. It is combative in that I’m fighting off old programming, but I’m needing to pull from much deeper within myself and actually put effort in instead of just reacting. I’m hoping the book affirms my feelings and expands my understanding

Carrie: I’m slogging through Flirting With Fifty ( A | BN | K | AB ) and Dopesick, two books that are failing to compel me for different reasons. And I just finished Comeuppance Served Cold by Marion Deeds, ( A | BN | K | AB ) a heist novel that was MUCH more satisfying!

Maya: I’m listening to The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod Weinstein. It’s like listening to my brilliant friend tell me all about her impressive and complex work in ways that make it accessible and engaging. She also is sitting honestly with the reality of how hard it is to work in a field (astrophysics!) that rigidly adheres to the mythos of the singular, brilliant white man being who advances the field. I also love that the author is struggling out loud with an issue I’m always thinking about as I am often one of the few (or only) in majority white spaces in my field — since I’ve managed to be fairly successful in those spaces, is my success rooting in me being compliant or am I here because I have been successfully resistant to the norms of my field? Have I succeeded because I have followed and appropriately navigated the rules of white supremacy and the patriarchy or am I here despite all those rules? Have I been coopted? Despite my intentions, does my work actually uphold and maintain the very systems of oppression that I actually want to dismantle? Anyway, read the book, it’s way more fun than watching me spiral! And there are quarks!!

The Disordered Cosmos
A | BN | K | AB
Tara: I think I might finally be getting back on the reading train after a month of being joined at the hip with my Nintendo. I’m reading The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, which is exactly as lovely as everyone has been saying. Given the current, multi-pronged trashfire that is the world, it feels like the perfect story to hide in.

Elyse: I’m debating what to start next, romantic comedy or a thriller?

Maya: Romcom!!!! I think we all need a giggle right now.

What are you reading? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Wench says:

    I’m working on The Secret History of Home Economics by Danielle Dreilinger. It’s fascinating and yet enraging – it does not shy away from the ugly stuff.

  2. Heather M says:

    Nalini Singh – Quiet in Her Bones

    I’ve never read Singh before (I’m not a fan of paranormal romance) but she’s an author I’ve long wanted to try out, and I enjoyed this mystery. An interestingly unreliable narrator and the New Zealand setting- a place that’s new to me in terms of fiction settings- both made this an interesting book. I didn’t guess the murderer, so it succeeded on that front too. I’ll definitely check out her other mystery, eventually.

    E.J. Koh – The Magical Language of Others

    This is a memoir by a first-generation Korean American poet, centered around letters from her mother, who, along with her father, took a job back in Korea when the author was 16, leaving her behind in America. One of the reasons I wanted to read it is that the letters (in Korean) where reproduced in the text, accompanied by the author’s translations of them – I still have difficulty reading Hangul in handwriting, but it was an interesting experience seeing a mother’s words and her child’s interpretation of those words side by side. This is not a light read. There’s themes of abandonment, misogyny, parental pressure, eating disorders, a graphic animal death. It’s not something I would usually read. But it was well-written and a good push out of my reading comfort zone.

    Harper Fox – Brothers of the Wild North Sea

    Somehow I thought that I could read this while visiting my father in a nursing home as he recovered from surgery. I thought wrong – with two grumpy old men stuffed in a single room with two competing tvs at astronomical volume levels on different channels…let’s say I did not give this book the attention it deserved. I finished it, somehow. But I definitely need to give it a reread at some better time.

    Jordy Rosenberg – Confessions of the Fox

    I don’t read enough books by trans authors, but I’m glad I picked this one to start rectifying that. It’s the story of an 18th century thief, while also being the story (in footnotes) of the harried professor who discovers the manuscript hidden in his college’s library. It’s wry, witty, and speculative. There are magical elements, and a sense of how history is fluid and in the eye of the beholder. I knew I was going to enjoy this book when, early on, there were six or seven consecutive footnotes that were just “pussy.” It was a very clever and fun book.

  3. Empress of Blandings says:

    Just got a new Kindle, and working that free month of Prime. However, using the Kindle store has reminded me how tiresome I find the Kindle store.

    I’ve been spoilt by Kobo, where typing an author name gets me a list of books by that person. The Kindle store search brings me two thirds of a page of the author I want, followed by several more of random authors sort of like that one but not really. (And who is Ivy Smoak? I’ve been plugged her books so many times by Amazon’s algorithm I’m now not reading them out of spite, and oh god now its recommending Nadine Dorries, a bad writer, wilfully ignorant, spiteful and, gawd help us, our minister for culture). Then the right author again, but in Finnish, Aramaic and Klingon. Then, at the end of a long, weary trudge, three more of the books I was looking for. It’s so wonky and unintuitive. *hissing sounds*

    I suppose I should mention some actual books I read.

    I went through several Kate Canterbary books (once I found them), and mostly enjoyed them very much. The ones I’ve read tended to smush the h&H together early, and have them admitting they have deep feelings for each other. I wondered how she’d keep the tension going, but I shouldn’t have worried because there’s a wonderful exploration how they’re getting in the way of their own happiness, and what they have to work through to get that HEA.

    THE TYRANT ALPHA’S REJECTED MATE, werewolf romance by Cate C Wells. Liked it so much I read THE HEIR APPARENT’S REJECTED MATE immediately after (also werewolves). I loved the first one a tiny bit more, as the characters felt a bit more developed, but both excellent reads. Followed up with AGAINST A WALL and HITTING THE WALL which are small town romances. In both sets of books, Wells’s heroes are people who think of themselves as good men, and they do have a strong core of decency and duty. Unfortunately it’s buried under complacency, unexamined privilege and misplaced loyalty. But they do look at themselves and realise that they could do and be much better. I liked her heroines too. They weren’t especially in-your-face, more quietly determined to follow their own path, and so their development was less drastic. But they emerge from the constrictions of being low in the hierarchy (whether because of sex, class or race) and realise their own power.
    Another theme is looking at who makes the rules for a society and who can transgress without penalty. And where the lines are drawn between the ‘worthy’ and the ‘unworthy’ and how those lines are enforced. They sounds a bit heavy-going, but they’re really not: the writing is excellent, pacy and funny with strongly drawn characters.
    Last thing: in ‘Tyrant’, I bookmarked this paragraph: ‘This whole plot is about taking us back to a time where the males are the only ones with a say… They look around at happy females and think: There’s something wrong with that’.

    Also read Wells’s RUN POSY RUN and though mafia romances aren’t my thing (& the bratva titles make me think of sausages) I did really enjoy this. It’s not unlike the ‘Rejected’ books, as the H throws the h out after a sex-tape from one of a depressingly long run of arsehole ex-boyfriends resurfaces. Although the h is bright, she’s needy and tends to put up with anything, and do anything, for any scrap of affection and security. This doesn’t work well as her circle doesn’t value her intelligence, and takes horrible advantage of her vulnerability.
    Run Posy Run is violent in places, and chock-full of black-hearted humour such as when the H finds her, having realised he’s made a mistake, and he’s angry because walking alone at night wasn’t safe for her. This just after he’s hunted her down and has a gun pressed to her back. Then when he gets her home he utterly sucks at taking care of her – can’t figure out that she’s upset after spending hours tied up in a car, or how hot bath water should be, or not to scrub sore skin. He’s cos-playing as a human and it’s simultaneously scary, funny and sad to watch him trying to figure out what these weird ‘feelings’ things are.

    Also motored through the ICE PLANET BARBARIAN series by Ruby Dixon expecting cheesy fun from the title, and found them much better than I’d expected.
    Even though the heroes are blue, bossy, overbearing seven-foot-tall horned warriors with junk that looks like one of the more complicated offerings from an adult toy website, the scary wrapper hides an utter cinnamon roll whose main aim in life is to ensure his mate’s happiness and pleasure.
    The dramatic bits aren’t too tense, acting more as a frame within which the H&h of each installment work out how to be work and live and be happy together. It’s also a little more thoughtful about the whole ‘fated mates’ bit. It’s not especially in-depth, and they work it out by saying ‘well, I would have chosen you anyway’ but I like that it’s at least addressed, and it’s not all ‘me your mate, you submit’ *cough*rebeccazanetti*cough*.
    I liked that she’d put some thought into the mechanics of their survival (on a planet where the two seasons are, bitterly cold, and really, extremely super cold) – having to hunt and forage, how time consuming everything is. Also, I know some readers had trouble with a sexual assault that happens early in the first book, but I’m quite squeamish and didn’t find it too upsetting (obviously my very personal reaction). It’s not explicit, and the emphasis is more on the aftereffects, and how it continues to resonate through lives and relationships. A run of warm-hearted and forgiving stories. Perhaps a little too optimistic, but I need the book equivalent of warm blankets sometimes. However, if you’re not into stories that involve people trying for babies, perhaps steer clear.

    A couple by Meghan Quinn, SEE ME AFTER CLASS and PUT ME IN DETENTION. There was nothing wrong with them, but they just didn’t connect with me enough to read any more of her. I found the protagonists, immature (a bit rich coming from someone who’s still waiting for my emotional age to match my actual age) and two-dimensional, particularly noticeable after reading Cate C Wells. Also, one character is meant to be socially awkward and nerdy and apparently this means she talks like someone ran a dictionary through google translate a couple of times, and makes loud comments on her sex life in inappropriate circumstances. I did not find this hilarious.
    Once I got through the first half, this did ease off, and there was some reasonable growth on both sides.

    THE LAST ELIGIBLE BILLIONAIRE by Pippa Grant. Motormouthed manic pixie dream girl melts heart of grumpy rich guy. Grant’s an author that’s all over the place for me – I enjoyed Flirting with the Frenemy, swore off her after Mister McHottie, but picked up this one on Kindle Unlimited. This one is middling – some thoughtful comments and its heart’s in the right place, but as with Quinn, the humour can feel forced. I think my tolerance for Grant depends on how many wacky hijinx she crams in there, although Marshmallow the deranged ex-service dog was entertaining. Annika Martin does this trope better for me.

    WINTERFAIR GIFTS by Lois McMaster Bujold, read by Grover Gardner. A shorter story about the events around the wedding of Miles Vorkosigan to Ekaterin Vorsoisson. Not my favourite of hers, and I would have liked to see the mystery bit of the plot tied up, but still much enjoyed. Gardner’s reading was fine, although he pronounced ‘buoyed’ as ‘boo-yed’.

    THE BARBARIAN’S MAIL ORDER BRIDE by Katee Roberts. A bit disappointed. Didn’t hold my attention as I didn’t find the characters or plot very well developed.

  4. The only book I can remember recently is WHEEL OF THE INFINITE by Martha Wells, one of her pre-Murderbot fantasy novels. Priestess is called out of her self-imposed exile to take a look at a corruption on a ceremonial map that threatens to reshape the real world. Not a Romance, but there’s a romance in it that’s refreshingly healthy.

  5. Kris says:

    I finished Hench and damn that was good. Not my usual read but it got a good review here and I thought why not. I hear that the author is planning on a book 2

    I also read Seven Vampires in the Judge Dee series by Lavie Tidhar. It was free on Tor.

    I’m currently reading the Business of Blood by Kerrigan Byrne and so far it’s an A read for me.

    I was in a huge reading slump but it seems to be over now.

  6. FashionablyEvil says:

    I actually re-read a book (WHERE SERPENTS SLEEP by CS Harris) which is really unusual for me—I was trying to backfill on some of the character/plot development between Hero and Sebastian. Fortunately, I didn’t really remember the plot, so that was helpful with a mystery!

    Nothing really knocked my socks off recently. I read SCALES AND SENSIBILITY by Stephanie Burgis (who I normally ADORE), but this one didn’t quite work for me. The heroine, Elinor, is basically in peril the entire time and no one that you think might help her out or lend a hand comes through until the very end.

    THE SIREN OF SUSSEX by Mimi Matthews and A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER were both in solid B territory. SIREN features a country gentlewoman and a bi-racial Indian dressmaker; it has lots of horses, beautiful clothes, and figuring out where you belong. LADY’S GUIDE is a fluffy mystery, although I did find the beginning a bit stressful because it’s first person and the heroine is initially accused of murdering her husband (he died a year ago.)

    BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry is one of those books that ended up being ruined for me by the smaller details. Nora and her sister, Libby, take a vacation to a small town in North Carolina where the hero, Charlie, also happens to be. The main plot (obviously) is Nora and Charlie and that works fine (great banter!), but Nora and Libby are obviously a bit estranged and the longer that plot dragged out, the more frustrated and distracted I got from the romance.

    Currently reading Katee Robert’s ELECTRIC IDOL, her retelling of Eros and Psyche. I’m going to finish it, but I don’t love Robert’s writing style—so many short, declarative sentences. I suppose this is an odd complaint, but it feels like it’s not at a high enough reading level? Something like that? Need to figure out what’s next after that.

  7. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Rachel Reid’s THE LONG GAME is the long-awaited sequel to HEATED RIVALRY. It is the sixth and final book of Reid’s Game Changers series of m/m hockey romances, and it brings the secret relationship of Shane & Ilya to a satisfying HEA. Before I say any more about the book, I must caution that THE LONG GAME is not a stand-alone book: it must be read after HEATED RIVALRY and, for the best experience, after ROLE MODEL because Ilya is an important supporting character in that book and much of two books’ time-lines run parallel. THE LONG GAME is a smoothly-written story that follows Shane & Ilya as they determine how to move their relationship from the secret one it’s been for over a decade to a public one. Meanwhile, other situations must be addressed: Ilya’s on-going depression and his feeling that Shane is oblivious to the sacrifices Ilya’s made for the two of them to be together, along with Shane’s laser-like focus on playing hockey which often makes him marginalize other things in his life (including Ilya). I really liked how Reid made the relationship between Shane & Ilya rather messy emotionally—they both have work to do to make it successful. The book does have more content & trigger warnings then previous books in the series: depression, references to Ilya’s mother’s suicide, a near plane crash, an inadvertent outing, and the entrenched homophobia in the professional hockey world. However, all that being said, THE LONG GAME is still a story full of hope, found-family, joy, and love. A wonderful book: my favorite of 2022 so far. Highly recommended.

    I liked, but did not love, Cate C. Wells’s THE HEIR APPARENT’S REJECTED MATE, the next in her Five Pack series of shifter romances. Like Wells’s earlier THE TYRANT ALPHA’S REJECTED MATE (one of my favorite books of 2021), the world-building, characterizations, and delineation of social classes in HEIR APPARENT are brilliantly done, but I really didn’t feel connected to the h&h because of their ages (the MCs and their friends are all around 19, either high school seniors or in a sort of post-secondary business school), making the book N/A, which is not a favorite genre of mine. However, I did like the heroine, Rosie. She’s a member of the scavenger class, known through the pack as being thieves and drunkards (the pack’s witch/wise woman assures Rosie that scavengers aren’t born thieves, but their natural tendency to hunt and forage has been perverted by modern pack society). Scavengers are treated badly (in every way—particularly the females who often have to “present for money” to males from the higher echelons of the pack); Rosie sees the flaws in the pack system, but realizes her best bet is to keep her head down and continue practicing her horticulture skills. But when her first heat arrives, she discovers her bonded mate is the heir to the pack. He feels conflicted, but to avoid making her a target, he has to publicly reject her, but the mating bond is not so easily discarded and, voila, before you know it, Rosie is pregnant with the heir’s heir. This makes her even more of a target. Key quote: “Walls mess with your perspective. You get used to everything being right in front of you. You forget to look around, see what’s in the distance, what’s coming at you.” (As I believe Deborah pointed out in the previous WAYR, THE HEIR APPARENT’S REJECTED MATE has more in common with Wells’s HITTING THE WALL, especially in terms of the class differences, than with THE TYRANT ALPHA’S REJECTED MATE.) Recommended—especially for the world-building.

    If you read as many Harlequin Presents romances as I do, you have to acknowledge that the premises require massive suspension of disbelief. If you cannot accept that the queen of a small Mediterranean principality and the wife of a Kansas farmer would both give birth to daughters on the same day in the same hospital and that those daughters would be inadvertently switched at birth, Caitlin Crews’s latest HP, CROWNING HIS LOST PRINCESS, will not be for you. However, if you can hand-wave the craziness of the setup, you’ll find a solid story using the Cinderella trope featuring a woman who is whisked away from the farm life she has always known when a DNA test proves she is actually a princess (Crews’s next book will focus on the princess who discovers she’s a farmer’s daughter). Naturally, the “warlord” of one half of the kingdom has marital plans for the newly-discovered princess (as an aside, this is the first romance I can remember where the MCs are very distantly related many generations in the past and it’s nbd) so that they can unite the warring factions of the realm. The hero is the standard Crews hero who has been raised to focus only on his goal to the detriment of his emotional development; the heroine, despite her much more humble upbringing, has far more emotional intelligence. There will be angst, heartache, and (euphemistic) sexy-times before the eventual HEA. Key quote, heroine to hero: “Is it that your feelings don’t matter or that you don’t know how to identify them?” A question that could easily be asked of any number of Crews’s HP heroes. Recommended for the HP cognoscenti.

    It’s hard to discuss Beth O’Leary’s THE NO-SHOW without spoilers, but I recommend going into it assuming you’re NOT about to read the rom-com that the cover seems to promise. (THE NO-SHOW has possibly the most misleading illustrated cover since the cute Brady Bunch-esque cover of Lexi Blake’s bdsm-heavy TAGGART FAMILY VALUES.) THE NO-SHOW is a well-written piece of women’s fiction (with a couple of surprising twists) trying to pass itself off as a romantic-comedy–which it most definitely is not. Joseph Carter is involved with three women: Siobhan, a glamorous, driven life coach; Miranda, a no-nonsense tree surgeon; and Jane, a quiet women obviously suffering the after-effects of a past trauma. We learn about each of these women, their lives, their families and friends, and their individual relationships with Joseph. When Joseph manages to stand up all three women for Valentine’s Day dates, events move into high gear. We see Joseph through the women’s eyes, each of whom want something from him: a commitment, a promise, a friend, a date, honesty, time, words, sex, love. I’m putting the rest of my comments in a spoiler box. Please only read them if you’ve already read the book or if you don’t care about spoilers.

    Show Spoiler
    The big twist of THE NO-SHOW is that the stories of the three women are happening at three different times: Siobhan in 2015/16, Miranda in 2018/19, and Jane in 2020/21, so there is no actual cheating and there are explanations for why Joseph couldn’t make the Valentine’s dates with each of them during different years. THE NO-SHOW is the second book I’ve read this year (I hope this isn’t a spoiler-within-a-spoiler, but Alex Michaelides’s THE SILENT PATIENT was the first) where the story’s timeline appears to be straightforward and chronological until late in the book when the story reveals itself to have been moving back-and-forth in time. (The story’s second twist is, sadly, the death of one of the heroines. That certainly came out of left field.) I wish I knew more about O’Leary’s decision-making process as she wrote the book. Was she deliberately making us dislike Joseph for appearing to cheat on his various girlfriends, only to have a ta-da moment when all was revealed? Was she aiming to have us start the book again once we knew about the multiple timelines? (I must admit, I went back and reread a number of passages in light of knowing that.) What would the story be without the timeline twist? In an odd way, THE NO-SHOW reminded me of the movie “The Crying Game”: take away the twist and what’s left?
  8. Jill Q. says:

    I had a very busy week, then a very quiet week and I’ve been hitting a streak of mostly ‘middling to pleasant’ reads. Nothing earth-shattering, but nothing terrible and I’m just happy to have enough focus to read, period (or full stop, as some would say).

    THE CHRISTMAS GIFT by Jeanne Savery – This was a traditional regency I found by chance in a little free library. It was midway through a series and there were a lot of side characters, which was a bit confusing but overall this was an enjoyable, old-fashioned ‘restful’ sort of read. Neither character is the first blush of youth. The hero had his leg injured during the Napoleonic Wars and one his best friends is blind. I would not swear that either of them are an accurate or fair portrayal of what those experiences are like, just as a heads-up if that is a dealbreaker. I didn’t find them egregious, but I also went in the mentality of “okay, this book is at least 20 years old.” I enjoyed it enough that I might seek out the rest of the series in second hand paperback (they don’t seem to be available as ebooks at all), but I’m not in a hurry.

    THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER by Jenny Colgan – I feel like Jenny Colgan’s Scottish books are overly predictable and probably a bit twee and yet damn it, sometimes they work for me. If they were set in small town US (or probably even small town Italy or Spain) I would be rolling my eyes so hard. My only experience with Scotland is a few days in Edinburgh about 30 years ago, so I can suspend my disbelief. Look, I’m owning my lack of consistency here. 🙂 I don’t even read them so much for the story as I do for the cozy descriptions of nature and interiors and food. It all worked for me this time and I didn’t even mind how (slight spoiler alert) the inevitable red herring love interest was handled. Also, I read this for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (read a book set in a bookstore) and it felt good to knock another one out for that list.

    THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME by Julia Quinn – Bridgerton season 2 made me do something I thought I would never do, actually give a damn about Anthony Bridgerton who I always thought of as a complete ass. My tolerance for highhanded aristocratic characters is low at this point. But I think even with all the flaws of the show they got the one thing you’ve got to get right for that type of character. His love interest has absolutely got to knock him down off his high horse and humble him completely. And they did that so well in the show, it won me over. At one point, I was juggling between watching the show, listening to the audiobook (purely for napping purposes) and reading the book. It was a bit surreal but weirdly enjoyable. I liked some things about the show better, some things about the book better, but I think now they will always exist as a weird amalgam in my head. And I say that as someone who rarely watches the movie if I’ve read the book and vice versa.

    AN OFFER FROM A GENTLEMAN by Julia Quinn – Well, my library copy was a three book volume, so I went ahead and started on Benedict’s story. I enjoyed it well enough, which is high praise for me when it comes to a Cinderella story. I often just find them too emotionally manipulative and upsetting and this one definitely had some of that and quite a bit of questionable “hero” behavior. I read it, I still enjoyed it, but I was definitely thinking the whole time “hmm, how are they going to change this for the series?”

    I’m going on vacation in a week (I’m so not ready!) and have my fingers and toes crossed for a restful, full of books trip.

  9. Pear says:

    Happy Saturday! Had a little more reading time recently, which has been great.

    Romance:

    AFTER THE WEDDING by Courtney Milan: Courtney Milan hitting me in the feels again!!!! Camilla’s been through the wringer and I appreciated that she and Adrian had a slower burn and their resolution was based on establishing free choice/equal volition despite how circumstances forced them together initially.

    PALADIN’S GRACE by T. Kingfisher: I’d put this on my TBR back in 2020 after it was reviewed at SBTB, and finally got around to reading it. I liked it a great deal, but I didn’t quite love it as I’d hoped–nothing in particular, I’m not sure if I was in the ideal mindset while reading to fully lean into it. I did like Grace and Stephen together very much, and I’ll get to the rest of the series sooner or later. The worldbuilding was very intriguing, although I realize the author has maybe fleshed that out in connected books?

    Non-romance:

    JUST GET ON THE PILL 4 by Krystale E. Littlejohn: sociological qualitative approach to understanding how gender is performed with respect to birth control and how it tends to disadvantage women; I read this before the SCOTUS leak which made it feel VERY timely

    INTIMACIES by Katie Kitamura: I absolutely loved this, and the way she wove together so many topics while also having a suspenseful enough plot to keep things moving.

    Up next:
    Just started THE CARE AND FEEDING OF WASPISH WIDOWS by Olivia Waite. I liked the other books in the Feminine Pursuits series, and I love the level of detail she has for the occupations & hobbies of the heroines in the series.

  10. Sarah says:

    READ

    I just finished HOW TO BE A WALLFLOWER BY ELOISA JAMES and it was one of the worst books I read all year. Absolutely boring and the hero was a jerk.

    IN THE WEEDS by BK BORISON had me for most of the book but I was frustrated by their inability to, you know, have a conversation like adults.

    CHEF’S KISS by TJ ALEXANDER was very good but I wish the racial and ethnic diversity had been more than an afterthought.

    I picked up a rec here for the VERONICA SPEEDWELL mysteries by DEANNA RAYBOURN and am enjoying them. Solid C+ material.

    CURRENTLY READING

    PRAYING TO THE WEST: HOW MUSLIMS SHAPED THE AMERICANS by OMAR MOUALLEM which is a very readable account of Islam in the Americans that also provides a lot of information.

    THE FORTUNE OF THE ROUGONS by ÉMILE ZOLA which, for a classic is a very quick read. I will say if you dislike descriptive text this is not the book for you. It is the first book of a twenty book series written as satire of Napoleon III’s 2nd Empire. I have already decided to buy the second book which is about the Hausmann and how his vision of Paris affected the people. And now I am done rambling.

    I want to pick up UNDELIVERED about speeches that were written but not delivered that could have changed the course of history.

  11. FashionablyEvil says:

    @Empress of Blandings—I also get lots of recommendations for Ivy Smoak, but when a book called OF OCTOPUSES AND MEN (apparently a workplace romance?) showed up as an ad, my husband said, “You know, paying the $15 to avoid the ads on your kindle would be totally worth it.”

  12. I’m reading my way through the Murderbot series by Martha Wells. Up next is Network Effect.

    I also want to check out THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson. I don’t read a lot literary fiction (I got burned out on that back in college), but I’ve seen so many good reviews for this book. Plus, I’m interested to see how it depicts the Appalachian region.

    I’m also hoping to watching THE LOST CITY on Paramount+ this weekend. I’m in the mood for a funny rom-com. 🙂

  13. Quinn Wilde says:

    Highly recommended is The Lady by Anne McCaffery. I’m not a fantasy fan, but this is a wonderful, sprawling saga about a horsey family in Ireland. I write horse books under my real name Mary Pagones, so I held her to a high standard.

    I also read my first Nora Roberts book–her first. Again, because it was a horse book (Irish Thoroughbred). It was very 80s category romance. She did her job, but it’s not my favorite style. I prefer more angst and character-driven romance.

    Also reading Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer and rereading North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

  14. Jess says:

    I’m currently reading “The Appeal” by Janice Hallet, which is so good I could hardly put it down last night. A mystery novel told in the form of emails, text messages and other materials presented to two law students trying to find out what happened amid a community theater group, starting when a member launched a fundraising campaign to pay for his granddaughter’s experimental cancer treatment and ending in murder.

    Read the first two books in K.J. Charles’ Society of Gentleman series, “A Fashionable Indulgence” and “A Seditious Affair”*. I always enjoy KJC and there were delightful. A lot of historical romances don’t deeply engage with class or the politics of the time, which I certainly understand, but this series being so grounded in real-world politics and the characters’ navigation of the class system makes them and their relationships feel so much more real. Looking forward to the third in the series. (*Content warning in the second novel for consensual non-consent roleplay in many of the sex scenes. Not something I enjoy reading and I did skim, but I think Charles handles it better than many authors would.)

    “Under Your Spell” by Imogen Markwell-Tweed: Moira Stone is pretty content with her life, even though she’s resigned herself to being in unrequited love with her best friend Cecily. Things change when both Moira and Cecily’s four-year-old daughter suddenly manifest magical powers. A novella, sweet but not terrible substantive. It was cute!

    “D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding” by Chencia Higgins: Guessing everyone who’d be interested in this already knows the premise, lol. I thought it was just fine. The characters are fun and the author has a gift for dialogue writing. It surprised me how much it bothered me that everything about reality TV in this book is glaringly wrong. It’s not like I need the details to be exactly correct, but if I’m going to read a reality TV romance, it at least should feel like the TV show is part of the plot and the characters’ lives. Instead the leads are sometimes followed by exactly one camera, which their families seem to barely notice (and even though the families are supposed to be a big part of the show, they’re never asked to sign a release or told why they’re being filmed). I remember the days of reading fanfiction where the characters had to fake date to blend in on an alien planet or to investigate a ghost — would love to see more of that in publishing instead of flimsy premises like this for fake relationship books.

    “Wherever Is Your Heart” by Anita Kelly: F/f novella; long-haul trucker June never thought she’d be the type to settle down, but after years of late-night conversatio opens with bartender Mal, June is determined to tell Mal she wants to be more than her favorite customer. Charming and sweet, but the two POVs are written so similarly that I sometimes lost track of which I was reading.

    Non-romance of interest:

    “When No One is Watching” by Alyssa Cole: I finished this a while ago and I’m still not sure how I felt about it! Cole’s “gentrification thriller” has two POV characters. Sydney is a Black woman who moved back to her childhood neighborhood after a divorce, and watching the area she knows so well change is only adding to the feeling that her life is out of control. Theo is a white man from a working-class background who just moved in across the street from Sydney with his wealthy girlfriend, Kim, but their relationship is falling apart. This book suffers a little from pacing problems — it unfolds extremely slowly for the first 80+ percent, rapidly accelerates to an action-packed confrontation, and then comes to a stop that feels abrupt. I also thought it would have been better if Theo wasn’t a POV character. Sydney spends most of the novel unsure if she can trust him, but there’s no suspense for the reader since we know what he’s thinking. Theo’s chapters also suffer from the implausibility of his relationship with Kim (she sucks, Theo knows she sucks, and they both act with nothing but contempt for each other even at the beginning of the book) and the feeling that Cole is using him a vehicle to address readers who don’t understand concepts like gentrification and white privilege. On the bright side, I enjoyed Sydney, and there’s some genuinely chilling stuff here.

    “Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin: Hadn’t seen the movie version of this and didn’t know what to expect, so I definitely thought there was a good chance the gender politics would be intolerable. I actually ended up loving it. The writing of Rosemary’s character really worked for me and I thought it was perfect slow-burn horror.

    “The Memory Police” by Yoko Owaga: Haunting, magical realist novel set on an island that suffers from mysterious “disappearances” in which the residents lose their memories of and emotional associations with an object, followed by ritually disposing of the object itself. Those who don’t forget are tracked down by the militant Memory Police. The unnamed narrator, a novelist, learns that her longtime editor isn’t losing his memories and decides to help him hide from the Memory Police. The characters in this book are being asked to accept the unacceptable, but have only the smallest acts of resistance available to them against an uncaring system. Gorgeous writing, probably my favorite book of the year so far.

  15. Big K says:

    Hello, Smart Bitches! So glad to see WAYR this morning!
    Really enjoyed THE HALF-ORC’S MAIDEN BRIDE, though THE KING’S SPINSTER BRIDE was just OK. Both by Ruby Dixon – looking forward to reading more in this series. In the meantime, read and re-read some of her alien abduction books. I like some of them a lot, though in some the characters are a little less vivid, but regardless, a nice way to while away an evening. Check for content warnings, as there is past trauma in many of them.
    Cordelia Kingsbridge’s series SEVEN OF SPADES series really sucked me in. They are dark, M/M romance, with a serial killer on the loose that the heroes are trying to capture. They are not realistic books (Would anyone want to read a really realistic book about conducting an investigation and all that procedural drudgery?) but both main characters feel very real to me. One of the characters is addicted to gambling, and the blurb for book 3 says he falls off the wagon. I find that idea really depressing, so I may skip book three and jump to book four. AND NO ONE CAN STOP ME, BECAUSE I AM THE BOSS OF ME.
    Half-way through BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry, and it is EXCELLENT. Clever, relatable, smart, sweet – and while the romance is front and center it is just as much about her love for her sister. I am lucky enough to have a sister I love SO MUCH, so this is hitting me right in the feels. I also love the way the book talks about tropes and books in general. I should read the rest bit by bit and make it last, but I think I am going to gobble the rest of it up tonight in one sitting. And then read the whole thing over again. BECAUSE I CAN READ WHATEVER I WANT. (Clearly I am feeling judged and oppressed lately, who’s with me?)
    Hope you are all staying safe and sane! Thank you for all the recommendations!

  16. Qualisign says:

    Why have I never heard of Estelle Ryan’s Genevieve Lenard series before? I have only read the first book, THE GAUGIN CONNECTION, (finished late last night), but the main character is autistic, multilingual, has a PhD in something related to communications but not quite linguistics, is third in her field (and in the world) at being able to read body language, and inadvertently becomes part of uncovering an enormously complex international art, arms, and security ring (??? terrorist mayhem punctuated by much money laundering, art forgeries, and murder). The secondary characters, including the potential ‘romantic’ interest were wonderful, all of them nudging (and sometimes shoving) the MC out of her comfort zone and becoming an exceptionally reluctant “team”. There was only one clanger in the book (not simply a typo) that made me rail (sadly aloud) at the author; I know too much about Genevieve Lenard’s supposed areas of expertise to allow that one a pass. Also, Genevieve’s inability to process contemporary cultural references became more marked through the book, which was somewhat annoying but possibly understandable given the wider range of people with whom she was interacting. Anyway, I’ve already queued up the next book hoping that one will continue in the same manner: smart, well-paced, and populated with good, caring, smart, people with varying relationships with international legal systems, who are sensitive to, or at least increasingly conversant with, the MCs autism.

  17. KatiM says:

    Somehow I have 19 books showing as started on Goodreads and it is really making me anxious that the number is that high.

    This month I browsed through Tiktok and Instagram for KU titles as I have to keep the subscription for my husband to slowly plow his way through LOTR on his tablet.

    Gild by Raven Kennedy is the first book of The Plated Prisoner series which is a King Midas retelling. It’s fine? I guess? I read it in 3 days, but despite the buzz, I just didn’t feel like reading book 2.

    Zodiac Academy was the next indie buzz book that I tried. Made it 30 pages and thought this is dumb. I don’t care enough about these sisters to even finish the first, let alone read the next 7.

    A Court of Honey and Ash was next and the title is obviously a SJM rip off. Surprisingly I enjoyed the story about the fae courts set in the modern world. It helps that the heroine had a best friend that loves baking. I have book 2 queued up.

    Fire Heart by Emma Hamm is my current KU read. It’s a dragon fantasy romance and I am enjoying it immensely. An evil king, a dragon in servitude, and the plucky half Elf who is 300, but says she’s 30 during the win the king’s hand in marriage so she can kill him contest.

    Finished Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco. Bitchery, this book took me 5 months to finish and I have no idea why. It has a murder mystery, food, hot demons, witches, etc. Should have been an all nighter, not a 5 monther.

    And last I come to Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson. I don’t care if you don’t read YA, go read this book. A neurodivergent main character with Venom in her head. Oh and she’s a nun who can see the dead spirits. A really, really hot priest that might be evil. The potential throuple that might develop. Right now it is listed as a standalone, but it’s my understanding that it was sold as a trilogy.

    And I won’t talk about the other 17 books listed as currently reading.

  18. LisaM says:

    I’ve been reading and re-reading lately, and it’s a relief to get lost in books (and will be this weekend, as we wait to see if the Texas electric grid will hold). I read Nalini Singh’s latest in her Hard Play series (AKA Danny’s book, with Catie), which sent me back to re-read Rock Hard (Gabriel & Charlotte) and Cherish Hard (Sailor & Isa), because I didn’t really remember Danny and Catie. I enjoyed Gabriel’s ultra-alpha dominance less this time, but I still like Charlotte and her story.

    I finally read Jackie Lau’s Donut Fall in Love. I had DNF’d it when Ryan started to annoy me. The relationship felt too unequal and he flexed his biceps once too often. But some discussion here at SBTB inspired me to try it again. My favorite of her is still Man vs. Durian, but this is a keeper as well.

    I just finished When Women Were Dragons last night and enjoyed it so very much. I have definitely had moments when I wished I could dragon myself, and a few targets in mind if I could.

    One non-fiction book, Sargent’s Women, by Donna M. Lucey, biographies of four women painted by John Singer Sargent in the 1880s and 1890s. A really interesting look at privileged lives in the Gilded Ages. I found the section on Isabella Stewart Gardiner the most interesting, and now I am kicking myself for never visiting her museum, even when I lived in Massachusetts.

    Possibly from a SBTB rec (or a bookstore impulse-buy), I’m currently reading The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. I keep having to google characters, because apparently I don’t know Gothic literature as well as I thought I did. I’ve put the next one on reserve at the library, despite several GR reviews warning that 700+ pages is a but much.

    As always, I’m sure I’ll be adding to my reading list from this WAYR!

  19. Crystal F. says:

    I’ll have to look up The Belle of Belgrave Square.

    Currently reading Do You Want to Start a Scandal. Which I do really enjoy, but IRL stuff keeps interrupting me, and I suddenly became sick as a dog yesterday afternoon.

  20. wingednike says:

    The Long Game….loved it but also had to be an adult (stupid work and responsibilities) and read it over several days instead of in one sitting. I think doing so helped out because the issues are heavy.

    Books 13 (Barbarian’s Lady) and 14 (Barbarian’s Rescue) in the Ice Planet Barbarian series. This series is my work commute candy. Easy to listen to and mostly low angst but not fluffy. The entire series has triggers (assault, human trafficking, child loss, kidnapping as a love language, loss of home) but usually contained in a book. I like how the characters find a way to survive. That said, I did not like Book 13 too much. The world building is great and this book doesn’t feel like it moved the series plot further. I highly recommend this series but beware the triggers.

    The Heir Apparant’s Rejected Mate…enjoyed it but do agree that the first book was slightly better. The characters were young, yes, but I liked how responsible and aware they were. I like the smackdown scene but felt it was overdue (I am vengeful and there are many terrible people in this story). It also makes more sense why the witch was so understanding of Uma’s position in the first book.

    A Most Unusual Duke…DNFed.

    2nd First Impressions…DNFed

    Single Malt…another commute book. A bit boring as a listen but I liked the characters. I’ll borrow book 2 sometime.

    Scales and Sensibility…finished in one sitting.

  21. kkw says:

    The best thing I read recently is not a romance, it’s called How to Behave in a Crowd and it’s superlative. It’s like a cross between Sedaris and Salinger: hilarious, intelligent, well-written, and devastating.
    @Sarah talk about best reading/not a romance! When I want a punch in the feels, I turn to Zola (and the Russians, and the Icelanders, oh and Hardy…I should really work out a definitive ranking of best most depressing books…) anyway I adore Zola and am always here for discussion/thoughts/feelings on the Rougon-Macquart!
    Started The Raven Boys series because somehow I can’t stop hate reading YA, I might have actually liked it? Will have to read more to determine. I was also more or less fine with The Love Experiment by Anslie Patton, a contemporary romance I side eyed heavily and found quite readable. I liked the first Rath and Ruin more than most Jordan L Hawk – they always sound like exactly what I want but kinda bore me. Like, how can there be a queer tentacle love story that’s boring? Still, queer tentacle love story, I’m here for it.
    I liked The Long Game less than I expected to, and Nettle and Bone more. I couldn’t imagine not loving more Shane and Ilya but…it felt more like a rambling succession of non-events than a book, with a plot and story arcs. And I was worried Nettle and Bone would be scary but it wasn’t, so it was just another utterly delightful T Kingfisher book which was a very welcome development indeed.
    Nothing else worse mentioning, except I continue to compulsively reread KJ Charles and have yet to tire of it.

  22. Escapeologist says:

    Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger – enjoying the worldbuilding, likeable teen protagonist and stories of her six-great grandmother. And ghost doggo.

    Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – there are dragon puppies, y’all, and upended fantasy tropes, and a low key romantic subplot with two mature adults.

    reread – Cafe La Femme cozy mysteries by Livia Day, for the slice of life bits about yummy food and cute outfits and having fun with friends.

    Got a kindle unlimited trial so I borrowed a few titles I’ve been wanting to try.
    That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming is fun so far, snarky and the plot is zipping right along.
    Miss Percy’s Guide to British Dragons by Quenby Olson is well written and observant but a bit too melancholy for my current mood.

  23. DonnaMarie says:

    @Empress of Blandings, thank you for the Kindle rant I’ve never said out loud. Also have learned to read the two and three star reviews before clicking. I see comments like misspellings, incorrect word usage, punctuation errors, and back away slowly.

    THE BOOK OF COLD CASES, finally made it to the top of my reserve list. I didn’t find it as eerie/spooky as previous books, not to say it didn’t have its moments. It is a ghost story, after all. It’s probably because there wasn’t much surprise about the denouement. Both female protagonists are haunted by their pasts in ways that have isolated them, and one is haunted by a literal ghost. Beth’s story made me very sad and Shea’s was hopeful. The little romantic element in Shea’s story was sweet.

    SLOW BURN, book 2 of Kristen Ashley’s Moonlight & Oil duology was next. The romance is sweet and mostly angst free. I like a story with a guy who steps up to the plate and helps with the everyday crap of life because he’s that guy, not because he thinks she can’t do it for herself. There’s a lot of dealing with old baggage, and no spoiler, something gut wrenchingly awful happens. I get it real life, all that stuff, but I need “do not read without box of kleenex” type warning labels. I’m not the person who can stop reading, go in the other room, and come back with the box person. I just keep reading on gasping, snot running, vision blurred. It’s not pretty.

    Today’s book rant brought to you by Jillian Stone.

    I was scrolling my Kindle for a bedtime read and clicked on Jillian Stone’s THE DO IT LIST (Book One), which I loved the first time, and loved the second time. You want competence porn? Julie James & Nora Roberts level competence porn? Stone started out in advertising and the fact that she was very, very good at her job is all over this book. Plus dirty good sexy times. The problem with this book is the (Book One) part. I read it when it was first published in 2015. I reread it in part because I thought, “It’s been seven years. I should reread this before I get (Book 2).” The blurb at the end of (Book One) says “DO IT AGAIN Coming soon!” Seven years later, no (Book Two). Not even a whiff of a sample chapter of (Book Two). It’s like her Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. There was clearly another sequel bait character, the absinthe drinking Flynn, but the series just stopped. She’s moved on to Zombie Apocalypse and werewolves, but I’m reluctant to start either series for fear that she’ll grab the next bright shiny idea and leave me hanging. Which mostly pisses me off because I LOVE her writing. I want to read all the books, I really want to, but I also want Flynn and DO IT AGAIN first.

  24. Jcp says:

    I only have one book to recommend:
    Dax by Sawyer Bennett a contemporary marriage of convenience set in the hockey world (part of a series).
    Rant: when I checked to see if my state’s digital library had the first book in the series,(the license had expired…

  25. Lace says:

    Heather Rose Jones The Language of Roses is a F/F novella retelling of Beauty & the Beast, with more originality than most retellings.

    Brianne Moore’s A Bright Young Thing is kind of 1930s chick-lit more than romance, about a young woman who’s lost her parents and is in financial straits. I reference chick-lit because some of the solutions are very glib, but it’s a fun journey.

    I just finished T. Kingfisher’s Nettle & Bone. It’s excellent T. Kingfisher with some great ideas, nuff said.

  26. Vicki says:

    @Shana I loved Not Quite a Husband, especially for the history. Have re-read several times.

    I have been continuing my deep dive into vintage romance with Lucilla Andrews. I am enjoying the vintage medicine, things I’d almost forgotten – the panic when measles hits the ward, how serious scarlet fever was, polio. And the political stuff. Also, as someone who married a fellow house officer (in the early 80s), I am processing my marriage, which really needs processing.

    I am not sure people realize how therapeutic reading romance can be. Reading romance got me through some extremely dark days by reminding me that there could be hope. Now it is letting me look at interactions, how back story affects the present and future, how important communication is. It is allowing me to grieve in a way I previously could not. The gentleness of Ms. Andrew’s books lets me bring out that grief and loss. And my ongoing deep dive into damaged billionaires courtesy of HP is really letting me get my anger out and also my forgiveness as I can see the damage of backstory. (Late spouse grew up in foster care despite having two living parents.)

    Also, I was thrilled to have a heroine say, at the end, I love you, too, but I am not giving up my job for you. Hero replies, I know marriage and children will damage your career. Their HEA is not an engagement but a decision to figure out if they can make it work. Progressive, Ms Andrews! This was In Storm and In Calm, set in the Shetlands at the start of the oil boom. I enjoyed it.

    I found a Mary Burchell in KU – remember her from the 60s? Loyal in All, set during the Hungarian revolution in the 50s, seemed sadly timely today. Visiting British nurse working with Hungarian doctor and trying to help him escape. Would recommend.

    I got all the way through The Unknown Beloved by Amy Harmon before realizing it was based on an actual case that Elliot Ness dealt with in Cleveland. This is murder with some romance. TW for gory murders (all of which apparently did happen). The love interest and mild paranormal stuff is added.I enjoyed it.

    Also got into Kelly Hunter’s Australian books, thanks to DiscoDollyDeb in previous WAYR. Really liking them. Especially liked Matilda Next Door, a heroine who is socially awkward and talks too much, she thinks, with a hero who really does not share his feelings with anyone. Cute couple and the baby is not really a plot moppet. Also liked Maggie’s Run by Ms Hunter, though CW for fertility issues and loss of parents in a traumatic way.

  27. footiepjs says:

    I’m in between books at the moment. I’ve been avidly looking at sales posts, hoping something is irresistible, but nothing is grabbing me.

    This week I read the conclusion to Caroline Linden’s Desperately Seeking Duke series All the Duke I Need. It was cute enough; I think I liked the first the best.

    I picked up How To Do Nothing yesterday off my list “NF books I plan to get around to eventually”. I’ll probably start it at some point today.

  28. Bel says:

    I’m excited about the new Mimi Matthews–hard to imagine anything more up my alley than “Beauty and the Beast meets The Blue Castle.”

  29. Kareni says:

    Since last time ~

    — enjoyed The Firstborn: A Regency Romance by Quenby Olson, but I preferred her newer book. Unlike Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide (to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons) this book had no dragons.
    — reread with pleasure Blood Money: An Alice Worth Novella by Lisa Edmonds. This is a prequel to a series I enjoy.
    — enjoyed The Wizard’s Butler by Nathan Lowell; as you might surmise from the title, this was fantasy and specifically slice of life fantasy. It was a fun mellow read.
    — also reread with pleasure Half Share and Full Share both by Nathan Lowell. These were by the same author as the above but were slice of life space opera.
    — enjoyed rereading Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid which is a contemporary male/male romance featuring rival hockey players. I did this in anticipation of reading The Long Game.
    — enjoyed Dark Class (Class 5 Series) by Michelle Diener which is a new book in a favorite science fiction romance series. This series is best read in order.
    — enjoyed the male/male fantasy The Necromancer’s Light (Radiance Book 1) by Tavia Lark.

    — A Feather To Fly With (Regency Charades Book 1) by Joyce Harmon was an entertaining regency romance featuring a con-woman heroine. I would happily read more by this author.
    — enjoyed a young adult science fiction novel, Telepath (Hive Mind Book 1) by Janet Edwards, though I admit that I preferred the author’s Earth Girl series. Were the follow on books present themselves, I’d happily read on.
    — reread Double Share, Captain’s Share, and Owner’s Share by Nathan Lowell.
    These are books 4 to 6 in a science fiction slice of life series. You’ve got to admire an author who can start book one with the same line that he uses to end book six!
    — Run by Ann Patchett for my book group. I enjoyed the book (even though aspects strained credulity) and found it a quick read.
    — Earth and Air: An Earth Girl Novella by Janet Edwards which is a prequel to a young adult series I recently read.

    — read In Ashes Born, To Fire Called, and By Darkness Forged all by Nathan Lowell. These are a follow on to the Solar Clipper series I was rereading last week. These were new to me, and I enjoyed them.
    — read with pleasure Milk Run (Smuggler’s Tales From The Golden Age Of The Solar Clipper Book 1) also by Nathan Lowell. While this is related to the above series, it is the start of a separate trilogy.
    — read The Long Game by Rachel Reid. Overall I enjoyed this much anticipated sequel; however, I did put it aside half read for a week to read several other books. So, it wasn’t as compelling as I had hoped.

  30. RoseRead says:

    Like Vicki, I read and really enjoyed several of Kelly Hunter’s Australian books, thanks to DiscoDollyDeb in previous WAYR. And also thanks to DDD I have now read all of Annika Martin’s Billionaire series (I listened to the final one, Just Not that Into Billionaires) and all of Kate Canterbary and a bunch of Cate C. Wells. All of which I truly enjoyed.

    I listened to Ilona Andrews Fated Blades (available through KU) and found it entertaining. And then I found myself completely dragged down the Jessie Mihalik SFF rabbit hole — I enjoy her stories and particularly how the women are all competent at their own thing (captain, spy, etc).

    I am not a historicals reader, but I did find myself enjoying Tessa Dare’s When a Scott Ties the Knot.

    I was very excited when Dating Dr. Dil came up on my library holds list. And it was a very well written book, but I just didn’t enjoy certain parts of it, mainly the H’s behavior and the way the and the h’s family treated her like she was an idiot for holding out for love and like she was less than for not being married – that’s pretty much a vibe killer for me, even though there was a cultural context in which that is likely true.

    I enjoyed Emily Henry’s Book Lovers quite a bit, and I really enjoyed the new release from Chloe Liese, Everything for You. It made me want to go back and read the prior books, which I very rarely do.

    I had just finished Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series and then she released Cherish Hard, the latest in the parallel Hard Play series, and I immediately dove into that – they are all good and I enjoyed myself in New Zealand.

    I have been listening to Yasmin Angoe’s Her Name is Knight (on KU), about a girl stolen from her village who grows up to be an assassin for a shadowy syndicate that it turns out might not be pursuing the ends that she thought they were. Tons of TW/CW around the violence when her village in Ghana was burned down and she was captured (so much so that I fast forwarded through chunks of it), but if you can stomach that the story is pretty fascinating. And the narrator is wonderful. I have interspersed some other lighter fare in between because it is intense.

    Turning away from romance, I was late to the Emily St John Mandel party and started with her new book Sea of Tranquility. I liked that so much that I’m now reading Station Eleven and it’s great. Somewhere I read a description along the lines of “it makes you nostalgic for what you currently have”. That’s spot on.

  31. Neile says:

    @Heather M, I also really enjoyed Jordy Rosenberg’s CONFESSIONS OF A FOX when I read it a few years ago–you described its flavour really well. Such a delightful, quirky read.

    @Empress of Blandings, I love how you describe how so many of Kate Canterbary’s books work. She’s an autobuy author for me since I first ran across THE SPACE BETWEEN in one of those kindle book bundles indie authors sometime put out, and I’ve never quite been able to articulate why her works stands out for me so much. The characters, for sure, but it’s also how they figure themselves out in an authentic-feeling, not mechanical-feeling, way. I’ve liked everything I’ve read of hers and eagerly await each new release.

    @DiscoDollyDeb, I’d heard there was a twist in THE NO-SHOW and I think I mentioned last WAYR that I deliberately poked around until I found out what it was before I read it, and I’m glad I did. For me, that was definitely the only way to read the novel, and knowing what was behind it made the characterizations fascinating to me. I know I’m a weirdo, but I love spoilers because I don’t read for plot, I read for character and when I know what’s making a character act the way they do I appreciate their journey more. At least, that was definitely the case with Joseph in this book.

    Other recent reads:

    My favourite recent read is definitely BOOK LOVERS. I listened to it on audio and felt in such good hands from the very start. I bought a paper copy–something I rarely do these days–because I want to hold that book in _my_ hands.

    I enjoyed Susannah Nix’s MY CONE AND ONLY and CREAM AND PUNISHMENT much much more than I expected. Neither match the pun-ny titles or the frothy covers. Not as much of a mis-match as THE NO-SHOW, but they’re deeper than the covers/titles indicate. I’d kind of lost interest in Susannah Nix after liking previous novels but not feeling compelled to read more, but I’m definitely going to follow this series of fun, sexy, slightly angsty stories. The characters really came into focus for me, and made me interested in more. The overall family and town dynamics are interesting, too.

    Also enjoyed Caroline Linden’s ALL THE DUKE I NEED. Liked but not loved.

    Really enjoyed Sarah Smith’s THE CLOSE-UP. It wasn’t deep but I liked the characters and the cam-guy turned relationship therapist hero, even if he was a little too perfect. The insights here felt very on-point. I wish he existed and was the phenomenon he is in this fiction.

    Very much enjoying Denise Williams’ series of slightly connected airport novellas, which are first appearing in audio like Ali Hazelwood’s STEM series did. The second one, THE MISSED CONNECTION, is just out. Williams manages to make her characters and stories as compelling in novella size as she did her two previous novels. I highly recommend them all (also the Hazelwood).

    Also liked Rachel Van Dyken’s Seaside Pictures series, though I’ve bounced off other books of hers. I’m a sucker for stories about musicians. My husband isn’t a musician, dammit, but he does play a mean stereo. Though all the male characters here are very similar, I enjoy their humour and their devotion to their partners (once they fall for them) warms my heart. Also like the setting as I love those Oregon beaches.

    I’m generally a big Kylie Scott fan, but finished FAMOUS IN A SMALL TOWN this morning and though I was happily immersed in it at the start, enjoying the heroine’s snark and issues a lot, by the end felt like it needed more–more time for the relationship to develop, more of the hero, more of them together. The timeline didn’t work for me though some parts of it really did.

    I was also slightly disappointed in Kayley Loring’s SLEEPER, mostly because it seemed similar to other books of hers I’ve read though I only recently discovered her when I totally fell for THE LOVE INTEREST a few months ago. Still, I’m glad I read it and will read more due to also liking ATTACHMENT THEORY so much and buying several of her books when they were on sale on Audible a couple of months ago.

    To end on a positive note, I listened to Kristen Callihan’s THE HOT SHOT, just out in audio, and I still love love love these characters and their wounds and how they are both ready to move on from them together. I read and re-read and love this book every time and keep wanting to come back to it. And do. I can’t think of another book that works quite this way for me. Maybe BOOK LOVERS which I also wanted to re-read immediately.

  32. Darlynne says:

    Just returned from our city’s Planned Parenthood rally, great energy, many older women like me who remember all the words to Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” from 1967 and we are all *&^$#@&^ tired of doing this again. We will never stop.

    So in good book noise: Lara Prescott’s THE SECRETS WE KEEP about the effort to publish Dr. Zhivago and embarrass the Soviet Union. Start to finish, this was a thrilling and very real story about the women, primarily CIA secretaries, recruited to spy for the endeavor. I alternated reading the book and checking the true story; very little daylight between fiction and fact. The misogyny is exhausting to read, but it always is, and the story is worth it.

    More good noise, possibly my favorite so far this year: Bonnie Garmus’s LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY. I mentioned this early before finishing it and now it’s on the keeper shelf. A woman in science back in the 50s/dark ages, all the misogyny, patronizing, stealing of research and TW for sexual assault. She prevails professionally in the most satisfying ways, but also with her precocious daughter, a huge dog with an equally huge vocabulary and a built-in spidey sense for what people need, and the community she creates. Loved this book so much.

  33. EJ says:

    I just finished Entreat Me, by Grace Draven, which is a fantasy Beauty and the Beast retelling. I enjoyed it, but sometimes the comments about what a bitch (my word) the heroine is got on my nerves. She’s a widow who doesn’t put up with bullshit and will resort to violence to protect herself and others, and the men in the book think it’s funny to joke about her being a secret murderer. I believe the words “shrew” and “harpy” are used a lot. She has a younger sister who pretty much exists to be beautiful and way too trusting. It really wasn’t bad, and I was happy with the characterization of the heroine, but not the other characters’ interpretation of her actions, if that makes sense.

    I also enjoyed Ice Blue by Emma Jameson, which is a murder mystery about a British peer (21st century) who works as a detective for the London police and his much younger, working class colleague. There’s a romance between them, which is inappropriate professionally, but because it’s fiction it never feels like the heroine is being taken advantage of. The book addresses the sexism, racism, and class issues found in the London police but doesn’t handle them in an especially sensitive way. I know this sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book but I did, and I believe it’s a series.

  34. Meg says:

    I’ve read a bunch, but Abby Jimenez’s latest, PART OF YOUR WORLD, is, hands down, the best romance I’ve read in a long time. The character development is superb, the author’s sensitive portrayal of a woman undergoing psychological abuse is unparalleled, and there’s a damn find love story. I enjoyed her earlier books, but I can’t recommend this one enough.

    I enjoyed Kate Quinn’s DIAMOND EYE, a novelized account of a female Soviet sharp shooter during WWII, but it wasn’t as engrossing as THE ROSE CODE. Also riveting but terrifying, Ken Follett’s NEVER and the fabulously written and only slightly less worrisome SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel.

    I liked IN A NEW YORK MINUTE but not as much as the rest of the world seemed to. Some of it was just a bit too twee, including a scene in which the heroine leaves the hero still sleeping in bed to Tweet to her best friends about her three orgasms. Come on.

    I enjoyed Vivienne Lorret’s upcoming HOW TO STEAL A SCOUNDREL’S HEART but wouldn’t put it on my keeper shelf. And for a bookclub I read Roni Loren’s OFF THE CLOCK. It was far too explicit for my prudish taste, but I devoured it anyway because she’s such a talented writer.

    Finally, I thought Helena Hunting’s newest STARRY-EYED LOVE was good, but I actually enjoyed the short story (“She’s the One”) she included in the Ukraine charity anthology NIGHTINGALE more.

  35. Katie C. says:

    It has been so long so I last posted (and I am about two months behind in reading SBTB posts, but chipping away at it). My life is just beyond right now – we are building a new house, I am planning a very large and complicated multi-generational trip that will be happening soon, my mom had major surgery, and I have two toddlers. So when I say beyond I mean beyond tired, beyond exhausted, beyond stressed, beyond busy. BUT SBTB brings me so much joy, so many small mental breaks that I want to be sure I contribute a little something too. So here is what I have finished since the last time I posted.

    Excellent:
    None

    Very Good
    The Old Fox Deceiv’d by Martha Grimes: Second in the Richard Jury mystery series, this entry revolves around a rich family, a long lost family member returned to the fold (or is she an imposter) and murder, of course. I marked it down from Excellent only because there was too much sympathy for one of the male characters who did not deserve it, but otherwise great.

    Good:
    House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J Maas – Look, it is Maas, and it is compulsively readable. BUT I thought this was the weakest of all of her books. Also the twist at the end – my sister-in-law warned me it was a doozy but seriously WTF? I also thought Maas (much like in House of Earth and Blood) relied way too much on big villain explains it all to the heroine (and thereby to us) at the end in a cliche evil-doer monologue. I just care about the characters in this series so much less than A Court of Thorn and Roses and a lot lot lot less than Throne of Glass.

    Kingdom of the Wicked and Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco: Books 1 and 2 in YA fantasy romance between a witch and demon – everything she thinks is true about the world isn’t (gasp – shocking). They were good enough that I will finish the series when the third book comes out in August, but the thing I remember most is how abruptly the tone shifted from very YA romance in Book 1 to very adult fantasy romance in book 2 – it was just such a shift it was very very jarring.

    Red Velvet Revenge by Jenn McKinley: Fourth in the Cupcake Bakery cozy mystery series, there is nothing earth shattering here, but I enjoy the MCs and especially enjoying the baking descriptions.

    Meh:
    Hard Justice by April Hunt: Third in the Alpha Security series, former mob niece turned white hat computer hacker heroine and former Navy SEAL must team up and return (undercover) to her family fold for an investigation into a human trafficking ring. There is a trip to a high-end sex club, a ship hijacking and sex that quickly seems to solve a lot of long-standing emotional problems. I really loved the first book in the series, but found the next two pretty blah.

    The Bad:
    None

  36. Susan says:

    A+ Reads:
    Abby Jimenez – Part of Your World
    Emily Henry – Book Lovers
    Helena Hunting – Starry Eyed Love

    Kate Morton – The Lake House A new author for me and I could not put this down. A mystery shifting between past and present, missing babies, love and betrayal and big secrets.

    Re-read a trilogy that goes in my all time favorite list. The author is Zoe Ferraris Finding Nouf, City of Veils and Kingdom of Strangers. The books follow a young Saudi woman, Katya Hijazi and her love interest Nayir. She’s a forensic scientist and he’s a Bedouin. She wants to become a detective and they become involved while solving a missing person case. Each book is a different mystery. While the mysteries are interesting the depiction of life in Saudi Arabia is equally compelling.

  37. DeborahT says:

    I read my favourite romance so far of 2022 – DIPPED IN SUNSHINE by Fearne Hill. It’s the second in a m/m romance series and both heroes are adorable. I love how the author addresses the struggles the characters experience while injecting humour where she can. Great writing style – highly recommend (reading the first book BRUSHED WITH LOVE isn’t necessary but I would recommend – it was almost as good!)

    I’m on a m/m re-read kick so I’ve just finished re-reading BAD JUDGMENT by Sidney Bell. I have a couple of JL Merrow shorts cued up for bedtime reading tonight, and I’m thinking Avery Cockburn’s Glasgow Lads series might be next.

    I’ve bought THE LONG GAME but I’m procrastinating. I loved HEATED RIVALRY so much and I liked how it ended – I’m kinda scared it’ll be ruined. But I’ve read a lot of good reviews, so I’ll probably go for it next weekend.

  38. catscatscats says:

    Salt Magic Skin Magic by Lee Welch, a fantasy M/M romance which I would recommend. Has elements of country house mystery, with magic. Got a bit grim for me near the start and I nearly DNFed, but glad I stuck with it.

    Re-read Jenny Crusie’s What the Lady Wants. One of the things I liked about it was, even for this early category romance, Crusie’s people are surrounded by community – Mae’s dysfunctional family, Mitch’s friends.

    Read several of Catherine Aird’s detective series. On the one hand the dullness was what I wanted – these are quite simple and short – but on the other hand, after a few the lack of character development got to me. And she tends to kill off the most interesting and sympathetic characters.

  39. Deborah says:

    JUST A HEARTBEAT AWAY by Cara Bastone – [B+] – This came up in a sale post last week with a note from Amanda that Aarya had mentioned it in a previous WAYR. A widower eventually becomes involved with the younger teacher who had propped up his lackluster parenting skills two years earlier when his young son was exhibiting signs of neglect shortly after his wife’s death. Honestly, that description is not my cuppa (I’m not much for single father romances); however, the protagonists are just incredibly kind to each other. It was so soothing and refreshing and joyful. I appreciated the feelings of shame and gratitude the hero still carries from his first encounter with the heroine, when she gives him a checklist for caring for his son.

    WEDDING AT THE RIVERVIEW INN by Molly O’Keefe – [B] – TW/CW for miscarriage, alcoholism, incredibly selfish “hero.” A man asks his alcoholic ex-wife to serve as the chef for a society wedding that will be the grand opening of his Hudson River Valley inn. Although we spend as much time in his head as hers, any reward from this painful book comes from the heroine’s journey to recovery. The ex-husband is not only frozen in place but nursing resentment toward both the heroine and his long-absent mother until the very end where a switch is flipped and he and the heroine get their HEA (the thing with his mother remains a dangling thread to be picked up by the next books in the series). Every character in this book (with the exception of the bride’s stock snobby mother) is a fully fleshed out human being…which makes the ex-husband’s selfishness and inability to display compassion for the heroine that much more painful to read. I give this book high marks for the writing and emotions it evokes, with a sharp downgrade for the abrupt, clichéd ending.

    BELOW ZERO by Ali Hazelwood – [C-] – The formula Hazelwood has been employing throughout this audio-first STEMinist series (female scientist/engineer nurses unsubstantiated hatred for incredibly hot guy she’s forced to spend time with) broke down completely for me in this novella. The hero behaved perfectly in every way and did nothing to merit her outsized distrust. The Arctic rescue was both OTT and dull, without a single mention of ice planet Hoth to liven it up. The heroine’s explanation for her commitment-free but sexually active lifestyle is low self-esteem (she doesn’t think she’s lovable, people always leave, yadda), but she doesn’t employ the same sharp psychological insights on herself that she delivered to Sadie, the heroine of the previous book in the series. The only thing rescuing this from the D-zone is the flawlessly casual representation of the heroine’s bi/pan/omnisexuality (so casual, it’s never labelled).

    * * *

    My Kindle Unlimited subscription expires next week, so my library books are languishing while I hate read a lot of domestic drama. I don’t mean to suggest that KU is just a dumpster. I have a couple of Lily Morton novels and Kate Canterbary’s The Worst Guy in my queue, plus Cate C. Wells is there and I really admire her stuff. But my go-to KU reads are these kind of half-crappy, marriage-in-jeopardy or he-done-her-wrong stories. (That sentence is more hyphen than words.) It’s so relaxing to read a book I know is going to provoke an emotional response but that I don’t need to analyze objectively because I’m not going to review or recommend it. So naturally I’m going to review one.

    JESSIE BELLE by Jennifer Peel – [C+] – I’m guessing that Peel is a Christian or Christian-friendly author. The book lacks the scriptural references I associate with inspirational romance, and the heroine’s grief over her miscarriages and infertility has resulted in her attending church with a very agnostic mindset, but still she goes because Merryton is like some 1950s whites-only Stepfordville. (It’s in Colorado, so I choose to believe there are at least two households in town that are growin’.) After 12 years of marriage and several miscarriages, Jessie had a stillbirth and a hysterectomy. Her husband won’t consider adoption (the opposite scenario of O’Keefe’s book, incidentally), and after a year of marital detente, things explode when her husband reveals that he fathered a child from a ONS with her former roommate during a brief break in their relationship before they became engaged. The roommate has stage 4 melanoma and wants Jessie’s husband to assume custody of their daughter. All this dramatic set-up is really a backdrop for small moments of domestic angst that illustrate a lack of intimacy in their marriage. What fascinated me and had this book headed for a high B rating is that I thought Jessie’s husband was being portrayed as neurodiverse, that his selfishness and inability to interpret social cues came from a lack of awareness. (Socializing is complex, darnit.) But instead of going for a diagnosis, Peel just has the man suddenly realize he’s been “an idiot” for 13 years and he needs to be more focused on Jessie’s needs. (If you’re tempted to check this book out, I need to warn you that — based on my sampling of two books in this series — Peel makes the OW in her novels a caricature. No compassion is spared for the baby mama in this story.)

  40. Crystal says:

    Normally, I’d probably have more books, but yikes on bikes, the book I just finished took me forever to read.

    Let’s see, I didn’t actually drop out on This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber, but having read it all the way through, I’m forced to conclude that Huber’s writing doesn’t really work for me. Not even sure why, but that kind of story, with the inherent intrigues, should have felt more interesting to me, and it didn’t. Then I read Breaking Badger by Shelly Laurenston, which was the exact combo of rage and extremely insane humor that I needed right then. A bunch of lady badgers just effing everything and everyone in their orbit that needed it all the way up? SURE THING, GIVE IT TO ME BABY. Then I decided to pull out a book written all the way back in the 1990s (lolsob) and read The Alienist by Caleb Carr. I really enjoyed it, for all that most of it a bunch of people sitting around in a circle talking about murder. Took me forever, though, which I think is a result of it just being a very dense read. That 488 pages took me about 11 days. So until next time, I’ll see you guys when I get back from NYC. I have a shot to not throw away and Asian food to eat.

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