Whatcha Reading? July 2023, Part One

Welcome to our first Whatcha Reading post of July 2023! It’s time to talk about what we’ve been reading lately!

Claudia: I am reading Appointment in Bath by Mimi Matthews! ( A | BN | K ) Hoping to keep my very good book run that included the fantastic The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies and We Could Be So Good!

Sarah: I just started Cathy Yardley’s Role Playing and it is DELIGHTFUL.

Lara: Claudia, I just finished Appointment in Bath and it made me rage, mostly because I absolutely detest Fred.

I’ve been drip feeding myself The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi because I love it so much. It’s a soul cleanser.

Chef’s Choice
A | BN | K
Shana: I’m halfway through Chef’s Choice by TJ Alexander, and it’s a delight: fake dating, a food competition, funny dialogue, and thoughtful trans representation. I love it but we’ve reached the point where they are OBVIOUSLY in love with each other and not just pretending. Yet, they both refuse to open their adorable mouths and say it, so I am ready to commit violence if someone doesn’t stop this nonsense soon.

Elyse: I’m reading Dead Eleven. ( A | BN | K ) A reporter goes in search of his sister who disappeared on a small island on Lake Michigan. The islanders are isolated, don’t have technology past 1994 and there’s a supernatural element to it.

It’s got M. Night Shyamalan vibes.

Sneezy: The Psycho Duke and I. It’s a webtoon on PocketComics. I hadn’t heard anything about it before and thought I’d just flip through a couple chapters before bed.

And then my platinum Bad Decisions Book Club membership was renewed.

Whatcha reading? Let us know below!

Comments are Closed

  1. Jill Q. says:

    Still holding strong with my “Short Stories for Summer” plan and I’m mostly skipping from author to author and genre, but I have been particularly enjoying the anthology MARPLE: TWELVE NEW STORIES. It’s 12 new Jane Marple short stories written by a bunch of authors who are popular with the Smart Bitches, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, Leigh Bardugo. They all take the challenge of being true to Miss Marple in a way that is appealing to a newer audience and I was really impressed overall at how they did it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend reading them all in a row b/c there is a lot of repetition in characters and tropes, but I enjoyed reading one or two and then switching over to Ray Bradbury or Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, etc.

  2. Qualisign says:

    Just got back last night from a not fun trip driving alone 11.5 hours through horrible thunder and rainstorms coupled with threats of flash flooding, but was saved by listening LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus. It was incredible!!! I cried; I laughed. For me, there was not a single misstep in this book. I don’t know if I’d consider this as having even a HFN, though it is a story of profound love (and chemistry!) in the mix, but the hope it engenders incredible. This is a SQUEE — or in my case, a cleansing exhale. LESSONS… is an A+. Wow. Do check for TW/CW.

  3. Jill says:

    I’m listening to The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. It’s riveting, but I can only handle small doses at a time because I’m always worried that Belle’s carefully crafted identity is going to get questioned too closely and everything will fall apart. Especially when some of the people looking a little too closely have their own secrets that would ostracise them at the time. It’s the weirdest form of a nail biter I’ve ever read.

  4. M says:

    The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi is a KDD for $3.99 today!

  5. Deborah says:

    HOW TO KEEP HOUSE WHILE DROWNING by KC Davis (audiobook read by author) – The right book at the right moment in my life. For months now, I’ve been sinking into burnout or a mild depression that has just gutted my executive functioning…and I, unfortunately, am from a generation that labels the result as “laziness.” The book’s advice is practical and generous and non-prescriptive, but it was the author’s message of self-compassion (and the mere existence of the book, which presumes an entire target audience going through similar experiences) that had such a remarkable impact on me.

    This is some kind of WAYR chain: the title caught my attention in Katie C’s comment in June 2023’s WAYR, and she expresses gratitude to the reader who mentioned it in a previous WAYR. My thanks to Katie and the ur-source of this recommendation.

    And now for something completely different:

    PERFECT TOGETHER by Kristen Ashley – I have no excuse for being blindsided by the level of internalized misogyny in this book. It’s not like misogyny is new in KA’s writing; I had just compartmentalized it in earlier novels so I could enjoy the melodrama. But here, there’s nothing to compartmentalize it from. It’s just one hideous example after another. I try to limit my opinions to the books I read while keeping my paws off the author, but reading this book was like sitting down for a conversation with a woman who hates other women and non-ironically parrots patriarchal bullshit, and I’m so dispirited by the sense that the U.S. is somehow being sucked backwards in time.

  6. I’m finishing up LADY KNIGHT by Tamora Pierce. I’ve really enjoyed the Protector of the Small series, and I’m looking forward to checking out more of the Tortall books.

    Lots of other books waiting on my TBR pile, including QUEEN BEE by Amalie Howard; AFTER THE CROWN by K. B. Wagers; and CUPCAKES, TRINKETS, AND OTHER DEADLY MAGIC by Meghan Ciana Doidge.

  7. FashionablyEvil says:

    Been a little bit of a mixed bag of late:

    Loved Rebecca Yarros’s THE FOURTH WING (should be subtitled: If Eragon met Sarah J. Maas.) Yarros is apparently a romance novelist by trade (this is her first foray into fantasy, I believe) and it’s definitely worth the hype.

    THE GENTLEMAN’S BOOK OF VICES by Jess Everlee was solid if not outstanding. I liked the premise a lot (author of erotic novels meets one of his biggest fans), but the key conflict (one of our heroes, Charlie, is supposed to be getting married; other hero, Miles, is not interested in being with a married man) is wrapped up in a way that felt pretty hand wavy.

    As much as it pains me to say it, I think I’m going to DNF Cat Sebastian’s WE COULD BE SO GOOD. I made it nearly halfway through but it’s due back at the library and I’m not sure I care enough about the characters and the plot to pay the fines to keep it. I feel very conflicted about this! I normally love Cat Sebastian! But meh.

    Also going to DNF Jacqueline Winspear’s THE WHITE LADY. Just too much reused material from her Maisie Dobbs series (woman in Kent after WWII who has secrets from both wars).

    I’m currently reading one of Theresa Romain’s early novels (I think it might have been her first?), THE VISCOUNT’S INCONVENIENT TEMPTATION. It’s fine—definitely has some first book-type issues, but I like the way it’s moving along.

  8. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Part 1

    Anita Kelly’s SOMETHING WILD & WONDERFUL somehow slipped by me when it was first released, but I grabbed it when it was recently on sale and gulped it down in a day—total bad decisions book club. SW&W is a lovely, lyrical story of two men who meet while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Alexei has recently been disowned by his parents when he came out as gay; he is hiking the trail in the hopes of discovering who he without his family or the church in which he was raised. Ben is hiking the trail to celebrate his graduation from nursing school and his decision to turn over a new leaf regarding his tendency to get into bad relationships. When Alexei and Ben meet on the trail, they decide to hike together—and so begins a beautiful slow-burn romance interspersed with gorgeous descriptions of the trail and characters sorting through their desires, hopes, and dreams. I especially liked that everything does not work out smoothly: both men face significant obstacles to planning a life together (not least of which is that they live on opposite sides of the country). The thing I appreciated more than everything else was how Kelly did not end the book where so many other authors might have: at the point where Alexei meets Ben’s large, loving, and welcoming family & friend group, and he (Alexei) feels loved and accepted for who he is for the first time. A less talented author might have let that be the MCs’ HEA. But Alexei and (perhaps to a lesser extent) Ben have to determine who they are individually before they are ready to become a couple. Alexei realizes he still hasn’t finished his journey of self-discovery and reinvention, noting that he “hadn’t rebuild himself. He’d only built himself around Ben,” and understands that wouldn’t work for them in the long term. There are so many wonderful things about this book (the title is totally appropriate), not just how the love between Alexei & Ben develops, not just the eventual HEA, not just the natural beauty of the Pacific Trail, not just the supporting characters who move in and out of Alexei’s and Ben’s orbits, but how Kelly pulls all of these things together. One of my favorite reads of the year. Highly recommended.

    I may have reached a point where all the m/m hockey romances I read are bleeding into each other because, as I read Ashlyn Kane & Morgan James’s Hockey Ever After series (WINGING IT, SCORING POSITION, UNRIVALED), I found myself encountering characters, situations, events, and dialog that had me nodding, “Oh yes, similar to what happens in HEATED RIVALRY…or THE LONG GAME…or SEASON’S CHANGE…or THROWN OFF THE ICE…or GAME MISCONDUCT…or ROLE MODEL…or…” Well, you get the idea. This is not to say that the Hockey Ever After books aren’t worthwhile—they are good reads with engaging MCs who experience emotional growth (sometimes quite painfully) in the course of falling in love. If m/m sports romances are your jam, Hockey Ever After will be for you. I would recommend reading the series in order because, although each book focuses on a different couple, a timeline moves through the three books and characters do recur. All three books are highly recommended:

    WINGING IT is a bi-awakening story. Gabe is gay and reluctantly pushed out of the closet when a former boyfriend sells a picture of them to the tabloids. Gabe deals with some instances of homophobia (cw/tw) from fans and teammates, but he also finds support from teammates too, especially extroverted younger player, Dante, the first athlete of Mexican ancestry to play in the NHL. In the course of supporting Gabe, Dante finds himself falling in love with him—and that creates a bisexual closet that Dante is unwilling to stay inside. Dante (aka, “Baller”) is my favorite character from the entire series: outgoing, big-hearted, a loving partner, and a strong & loyal friend. He will show up again in the other books almost as a deus ex machina when it seems all is lost for the other couples.

    SCORING POSITION features two openly gay MCs—Nico and Ryan—who are both playing for the same underperforming team. Nico is a promising player but tends to overthink his game on the ice. Ryan is a serviceable player but is able to clearly see that Nico needs to get out of his own head if he’s going to achieve his promise. The guys become roommates and, eventually, lovers; but the team’s capricious coach and Nico’s demanding father/agent keep the guys off-balance and unable to achieve their full potential. Unusually for a hockey romance, SCORING POSITION has a suspense element—it takes place mostly off-page, but it does impact the MCs in significant ways.

    UNRIVALED’s title is an obvious homage to HEATED RIVALRY, and there are some significant similarities. Grady and Max are openly gay and bi, respectively, because by this point in the Hockey Ever After timeline—thanks to MCs of the previous books—being either in the NHL is pretty much nbd. Grady is self-contained, serious, and single-minded in his commitment to hockey (very much the “Shane” character), while his archrival/nemesis Max (obviously playing the “Ilya” role) is far more carefree, cocky, and spontaneous (also somewhat bratty). When a Grindr hookup throws the two rivals together, they discover the hate-fucking is pretty hot—but soon both MCs are looking for more, even while their on-ice rivalry is stoked by the fans and the press. UNRIVALED is my favorite of the Hockey Ever After books: I really like how both Grady and Max grow emotionally during the story—and Gru, Max’s dog, is such an adorable good boy.

  9. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Part 2

    I started CD Reiss’s CROWNE JEWEL just a couple of days after my sister’s accounts were hacked and the entire database of my state’s DMV was hacked, so the story of a woman who is shut out of her online accounts by a stalker felt even more timely than usual. CROWNE JEWEL is the fifth book in Reiss’s Crowne Brothers series about a wealthy Southern California family and their various romantic entanglements. Despite the name of the series, CROWNE JEWEL’s heroine is the lone Crowne sister, Lyric, a social media influencer who once had dreams of being a filmmaker. When Lyric’s accounts are hacked and she becomes the focus of a stalker, Anton, a security consultant and Lyric’s former lover, steps into the role of bodyguard while trying to unmask the increasingly unhinged culprit. Reiss (who I continue to assert ranks with Julie Kriss for being one of Romancelandia’s most underrated writers) does a great job of showing how exhausting social media can be but also how addictive it is, how tied to our devices we are, how awful it is when our world is turned upside-down by an anonymous person who seems to know everything about us. There’s also a theme of role-play running through the book: not just the roles we assume when we project ourselves online where anyone can pretend to be anyone or anything, but more specifically a long-running sexual role-play game between Lyric & Anton where he plays a cop and she plays a woman who’ll “do anything” to get out of getting a ticket (it’s well past the two-thirds point in the book before Lyric & Anton have sex as themselves rather than as their role-playing avatars). As Anton puts it rather sadly, they were “play-acting a cheap porno with characters burdened with less knotty personalities [than ours].” CROWNE JEWEL perfectly captures a certain type of Los Angeles vibe, whether that’s vintage clothing stores, music festivals in the foothills, Hermes silver-buckled hair ties, or references to Orville Peck. Another note: Lyric (unapologetically and without regret) terminated a pregnancy in the past: it’s good to see that romance writers are taking on, even tangentially, abortion and reproductive rights issues. I was pretty sure I knew who the hacker was fairly early in CROWNE JEWEL—and I was right—but I still give Reiss high marks for making the “sexy bodyguard” trope something entirely her own. Highly recommended.

    TEMPTED is another bodyguard-client romance. It’s a novella published through the 1001 Dark Nights franchise and is also part of Lexi Blake’s long-running Masters & Mercenaries series of romantic-suspense stories. In TEMPTED Ally is a reality-star-turned-actress; she has a stalker whose behavior is escalating in scary ways (cw/tw: one of the escalations involves dead birds). West is a bodyguard assigned to Ally by the McKay-Taggert security agency (the fulcrum of the Masters & Mercenaries universe). There’s some antagonism between Ally and West to begin with; but, although Ally resents the loss of freedom that having a bodyguard brings, she also knows “when being stubborn had crossed the line into too stupid to live,” and she never crosses that line. Being a novella, there’s not much time between the MCs’ first meeting and when they fall into bed—but I felt Blake handled the abbreviated timeline very well. TEMPTED isn’t like the early books in the M&M series, where BDSM sex was front-and-center and involved a private club, rope-play, fire-play, fet-wear, etc. Now we basically have a couple of scenes of sexy-times (nicely done) with a D/s dynamic. Whether you’re new to the Masters & Mercenaries world or just want to catch up with Big Tag, Charlie, and the gang, TEMPTED is a good choice. Recommended.

    Ruth Cardello’s OUT OF OFFICE is the second book of her The Twin Find duet, and I don’t think the book can be read as a stand-alone, you have to read the first book, STRICTLY FAMILY, first. The two books in The Twin Find feature identical twin heroes who were separated at birth and adopted by different families. In STRICTLY FAMILY, we discovered that a notorious doctor (now dead) was responsible for the separation/adoption of twins so he could study them for “scientific purposes”. In OUT OF OFFICE, the hero, Zachary, is determined to take revenge on the family of that doctor by ruining the life of the doctor’s granddaughter, Charlotte. If you guess that Zachary falls in love with Charlotte while trying to ruin her, come claim your prize. However, as with all of Cardello’s books, themes of family—biological, adopted, and found—run through OUT OF OFFICE; lots of interconnected characters appear in the course of the story. [A couple of CW/TWs: first, there are references to the experiments Nazis conducted on twins during WWII (nothing is detailed); second, Charlotte runs a small horse ranch and is known in the area for providing emotional support to families who have to have their horses euthanized. It’s obvious that Charlotte performs her tasks with compassion and empathy—and no horses are euthanized on-page—but the subject is referred to and is a significant part of the plot, so take care if this would be upsetting for you.] OUT OF OFFICE breaks no new ground in the “revenge” trope, but it’s still a worthwhile read—just read STRICTLY FAMILY first. Recommended.

    Kate Hawthorne’s DAYBREAK (2021) is a well-written tropey romance with a melancholy tint to it. It’s the story of two people—who, for different reasons, have been denying themselves love, joy, and happiness—finding those things with each other. As many of the stories in the Vino & Veritas series seem to do, DAYBREAK begins with one MC having car trouble: Liam, closeted (at least from his family) and taking a road trip to get away from the life his homophobic politician father has mapped out for him, stops in Burlington, Vermont, when his car breaks down (conveniently, quite close to the Vino & Veritas bar/bookshop). Local mechanic Jasper, a recluse since the death of his husband three years before, is called upon to do the repairs. Add in a snow storm and Jasper’s offer to give Liam a place to stay at his house (the old house, in Jasper’s family for generations, is so beautifully described, it becomes almost its own character in the book), and you have a lovely slow-burn/opposites-attract/grumpy-sunshine story. Both Liam and Jasper will have to face their pasts and come to terms with their present if they want a future together. As Jasper says, “…wanting to move on wasn’t the same thing as being ready to move on.” Hawthorne does a great job with what in lesser hands would merely be a trope-fest. Recommended.

  10. Steph says:

    I signed up for Kobo plus and downloaded a lot of books to take on a family vacation. The ones that really stood out were by Sandra Kitt- THE COLOR OF LOVE and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, which were part of the Sandra Kitt Collection Volume One. Both feature Black women who fall for White male police officers. The books were published in 1995 and 2000, and the explicit and casual racism in them felt both dated and sadly realistic having lived through the time period. The portrayal of police violence and bias felt completely timely.

    I wish I had read these books when they came out, and I am glad I read them now. I am going to take a break however before reading the third book in the collection.

  11. JenC says:

    I read THE ROAD TO ROSWELL by Connie Willis, which was a lot of fun. I had to put it in my eyeballs immediately upon receipt. (Her book TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG is my favorite book and always a delight.) I also finished WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY by Ava Wlider, which I enjoyed, and I’m reading A MOST AGREEABLE MURDER by Julia Seales, which I think I should be enjoying more than I am. I’m looking forward to the next in my list, THE DANE OF MY EXISTENCE by Jessica Martin, since I loved her first book, FOR THE LOVE OF THE BARD.

    I also enjoyed THE FIREFLY SUMMER by Morgan Matson, a middle-grade book about a group of cousins spending the summer together and solving mysteries. I enjoyed every page and immediately bought copies for my 12 year old nieces. Highly recommend—it really captures the feeling of summer. Plus the main character likes to read mysteries.

  12. Big K says:

    Hello, Smart B’s!
    Little PSA – I had a red circle on me, and I went to urgent care to be checked for Lyme disease (we’re within and hour of Lyme, CT, and the ticks have been CRAZY this year – have found a couple crawling on me) and immediately went on antibiotics. My mother, meanwhile, also has Lyme. If you have swelling of joints, a weird rash of any sort, or just feel crappy, and have seen any ticks on or around you, get checked! No worries, we both feel fine, but it could have been bad news.
    Solid romance reads – WED TO THE ALIEN WARLORD January Bell, BOUND TO THE BATTLE GOD Ruby Dixon, and UNTAMED DELIGHTS (Phoenix Pack #8) Suzanne Wright – sci fi, paranormal/ancient gods, and shifter romances were all enjoyable, and exactly as promised in the blurbs. You are either in the mood, or you are not.
    THE HOUSEKEEPERS by new author Alex Hay was a heist novel set in 1905 London. Not a romance. I enjoyed this book and read it one sitting. Some of the characters were excellent (I especially loved the crime boss, Mrs. Bones), and I liked how the point of view shifted between three or four key characters. I would also point out that the author seemed to do his research regarding existing technology and mores of the time. However, I did have two complaints – One, in a heist I like to be surprised by how the heist is going to actually be pulled off. Think Ocean’s Eleven, The Sting, or Marion Deeds’ incredible book COMEUPPANCE SERVED COLD (paranormal heist in alternate 1920’s timeline). You had a guess as to how the con was going to work, but you didn’t know. Here, you pretty much knew, and I feel robbed of that “Ah Ha!” moment. That might be a me thing.
    Secondly, there were a couple of things that were too unrealistic for a generally realistic plot. Not to give spoilers, but the paintings’ removal and the emptying of the house both made me say, “No way,” and bounced me out of the story. So, be ready to sustain your disbelief beyond what is credible, and don’t think about how this is all happening too much. Looking forward to reading this author’s books in the future.
    Cannot wait to read ONLY GOOD ENEMIES by Jennifer Estep (out July 18th) and Mid-Summer Bride by Kati Wilde (out July 31st). Also have Susanna Hoffs (yes, from the Bangles) book in hard copy, winking at me as we speak, so will give that a spin. If I finish it before the weekend is over, will report back here. 🙂
    Happy reading!

  13. HeatherS says:

    I read “Kushiel’s Dart” by Jacqueline Carey last weekend, resulting in several nights spent in the Bad Decisions Book Club tent. Staying up until 3 AM when you have to be up for work the next day at 8 is not good life choices, but it’s kinda hard to have regrets when the book is so compelling.

    I finished “Kushiel’s Dart” on Monday and my hold on the next book, “Kushiel’s Chosen”, came in at the library the same day. I started on it and am finding it as compelling as the first – Phedre and the world she inhabits are so INTERESTING – but then…

    They FINALLY dropped the trailer for “Red, White & Royal Blue” on Thursday and it sent me into a spiral of watching the trailer over and over (and over) and diving back into the book for a reread, and now there’s no room for anything else in my brain. I love RWRB so much that I’m just flailing around over here until August 11th in full fangirl mode. I think this is my 6th read of RWRB and I get sucked into the story and characters and swept away by the romance so fast every single time.

    It’s been a few years since y’all did a Desert Island Keeper Shelf discussion post, a ton of books have come out since then, and I think it’s time for a new one.

  14. HeatherS says:

    Also, if you’re like me and really dug “The Fourth Wing” by Rebecca Yarros but find yourself needing more dragons before the next book comes out in the fall, check out “To Shape a Dragon’s Breath” by Moniquill Blackgoose (Indigenous author) – moar dragons, but make it speculative fantasy where the Norse colonized the Americas and the main character is an Indigenous girl. I’m so on board for it if finishing my reread of RWRB can satisfy me long enough to move onto other books. Otherwise, I may have to wait a couple of months.

  15. Kareni says:

    Since last time ~

    — a regency era mystery which I quite enjoyed, The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman. The book featured unmarried 42 year old twin sisters who take on several cases to aid women and children. I look forward to reading the next book when it is released. Trigger warnings for SPOILER ALERT**breast cancer, abduction of children to a brothel, and a horrific insane asylum***END SPOILER
    — another reread of a favorite book which I enjoyed once again ~ Linesman by S. K. Dunstall.

    — For my distant book group, I read The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. (I’d attempted unsuccessfully to read this a year or so ago, but this time was a go.) This book is a very female centric book which I enjoyed. The main character’s life revolves to a large extent on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.
    — read We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian which I enjoyed (even though I took a two week break mid-book). This was a historical romance set in the 1950s featuring two men, a newspaper journalist and the son of the newspaper’s owner who is learning the business.
    — reread two fan fiction short stories set in the world of a favorite series (Lyn Gala’s Claimings series); I enjoyed them both. They were Deviations and Revelations, both by allonym.

  16. Kareni says:

    @DDD: I see your Part 2 but not your Part 1!

  17. Kate says:

    My library hold on THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES finally arrived (both ebook and audio within an hour of each other, natch–even though the narrator has a lovely Scottish accent, I opted for ebook for expediency’s sake). It’s a very sweet, quick read and sequel-ready.

    Other than that I’ve been making my way through Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway mysteries which is an oddly comforting world to sink into, brutal murders nothwithstanding. They are set in Norfolk, as is Very Secret Society, so I apparently have a theme going. I’m tempted to go back and reread the books from the Swallows and Amazons series set in/near Norfolk now.

  18. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Kareni: for whatever reason, part one went to comment moderation, but it’s visible now.

  19. flchen1 says:

    Like @DiscoDollyDeb, I quite enjoyed the HOCKEY EVER AFTER series.

    A couple other enjoyable recent reads—
    – Avery Flynn’s ANGER BANG, where a quiet scientist type decides to exercise some backbone at her bossy sister’s OTT for-the-media wedding extravaganza by well, boning the best man
    – Jennifer Bernard’s THE REBOUND, a lovely visit to her Lake Bittersweet small-town contemporary series. The two characters have recently gotten out of relationships and don’t think they are looking for something too intense, but we all know how all that goes…

  20. Kareni says:

    @DDD: Thank you, I now see Part 1.

    Interestingly, Winging It, the first of Ashlyn Kane & Morgan James’s Hockey Ever After series was originally published in 2015, so it actually predated many more recent hockey romances. Admittedly, it was rewritten/reissued recently.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Mimi Matthews books are all great – love the latest. Also reading old school, Grayson Sherbrooke’s Otherworldy Adventures by Catherine Coulter.

  22. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Kareni: Kane & Morgan discuss that in the authors’ note to WINGING IT. They say they took out some of the more detailed hockey information in the earlier edition of the book, updated technical references, and expanded some of the storyline to make reference to the characters who appear in the other Hockey Ever After books.

  23. JenM says:

    HELLO STRANGER by Katherine Center is releasing on Tuesday and I loved it. The MC is a portrait artist who has been really struggling to make a name for herself and has just become a finalist in a prestigious art competition. She has 6 weeks to paint a brand new portrait, has a seizure, undergoes brain surgery and wakes up with prosopagnosia, or face blindness. She can see all of the individual components of a face, but her brain can’t form them into a cohesive whole. You can imagine what a problem this would be for a portrait artist! Her biggest problem though is that she’s been pretty stuck in her personal life, including a very toxic family relationship, and the (hopefully temporary) condition is the catalyst for getting herself unstuck and moving on in new directions. There is a romance, with a twist but that’s just one of the new things she is dealing with. There were some coincidences that strained believability and I thought the family dynamics were solved way too easily (I would have cut them out of my life completely), but I didn’t care, loved it anyway.

    Another fun recent read was SHENANIGANS by Sarina Bowen. Sarina is one of the authors I can count on to always deliver an entertaining story and romance. This one opens with a drunken Vegas wedding between a male player on the Brooklyn Bruisers and a female player on their “sister” team, the Brooklyn Bombshells. Low angst, likable characters, and MMC was not only rich but was also a golden retriever type hero, kind of sweet and adorable. I’m a total sucker for Vegas wedding plots, so I read this even though it’s book 9 and I’ve only read a few of the others in the series, but that wasn’t a problem at all.

    I’m currently reading and enjoying HARD FOR A HARPY by Lauren Connolly, which also comes out on Tuesday and is a fun paranormal romance between a harpy veterinarian and a witch who hates his own magic and doesn’t want to be part of the magical world.

  24. Darlynne says:

    A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Anne Tyler for book club. Me: What was the point? No one communicated/listened to anyone else, lots of passive/aggressive behavior, no really likable characters. Great writing? That’s all I’ve got.

    @Kareni: Nearly finished listening to QUARTER SHARE by Nathan Lowell, which I’ve enjoyed very much. I can see how some readers might be put off with all the discussion of shares and trading, but Ishmael is so likable I’ll listen to the next in the series.

    Just started BETTER THE BLOOD by Michael Bennett, a debut crime novel set in New Zealand and very much focused on Maori culture. CW for racism, assault, murder, stalking and who knows what else; also killer’s POV, which I hate, but can skim through.

    Hanna Westerman is a Maori senior detective investigating a horrific crime, in addition to her already complicated life. Her white ex-husband is also her superior officer; a guilty verdict doesn’t include prison time for a wealthy white offender, who is now stalking Hanna’s daughter and claiming Hanna broke his nose. And I’m only 19% in! Highly recommended so far and I definitely want to listen to the audiobook.

  25. Heather M says:

    Since my last time here:

    Lizzie and Dante by Mary Bly
    I think this is categorized as Women’s Fic which is admittedly not my genre usually. I enjoyed some things about it, but in the end it felt too sentimental to me.

    Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller

    I began reading this back in March before my health issues. Luckily I was able to pick up where I left off without too much issue. Based on the podcast, the book profiles some nasty, mean, and complicated queer people, and explores how history has shaped understandings of queer identity. A good read.

    Masters in This Hall by KJ Charles

    I’m kind of startled that I barely remember this one after just finishing it. I didn’t really connect with either of the heroes, I guess.

    Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

    This is about an athiest lesbian with severe anxiety and depression who accidentally ends up working as a receptionist at a Catholic church. The premise reads more quirky than it turns out to be. Its first person pov, and if you experience suicidal ideation I’d recommend you skip this one. I was kind of hoping for the ‘turn’ to positivity a little earlier in the book, but it really only comes in the last 20 pages or so. It was a difficult read for me tbh but not a bad book.

    And I’m continuing on my reread of Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, currently on volume 4. Basking in the sweet scenes with little A-Yuan.

    Thats it for now. Happy reading!

  26. Lace says:

    If you have Hoopla and want a quick great feel-good read, I recommend Colleen Duran’s graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s short story Chivalry. Great story, beautiful art style, and an older protagonist, in maybe an hour or two’s reading. The story was also an episode of LeVar Burton Reads a few years back.

    I finished Ed Yong’s An Immense World, about how animals sense the world and how our human assumptions get in the way of understanding their experiences. This is an amazing read, one I spread over a few months so I could take in and think about what I was learning.

    Alexis Hall’s Mortal Follies was fun but not my favorite of his (1) Looking for Group 2) Boyfriend Material), and I’m kind of good with that. I’d rather have an author trying different things and being right on target some of that time. I did like Follies a lot, especially some of the supporting characters.

  27. Christine Whittington says:

    I am reading “Room with a View” for the first time. I had no idea how funny, romantic, and nonconventional it would be.

    As soon as I am finished with that, I am going to read “Sex and Shakespeare: Here’s Much To Do with Pain But More with Love,” by Jillian Keenan. There is, as it says, a lot about love and pain (it about how Keenan developed and nourished a spanking fetish) but also a lot about Shakespeare!

  28. LisaM says:

    I really enjoyed Uzma Jalaluddin’s new book, Much Ado About Nada. About halfway through I had to skip ahead to the last couple of chapters, because though I knew a happy ending was coming, eventually, I needed to know how. The Persuasion vibes were strong, especially in those last chapters, so I ended up re-reading that next.

    I caught up with two Beverly Jenkins’ historicals, To Catch a Raven and Rebel. I’m also checking for the historical set in Henry Adams, the Blessings world. So far I’ve found two, Something Like Love and Wild Sweet Love. I’m looking forward to meeting the July ancestors, some of whom I’ve met through the stories told in the Blessings books.

    I wanted to read Sarina Bowen’s latest, Good as Gold, which I enjoyed very much – and led me to a couple of the True North books I hadn’t read yet, Speakeasy and Fireworks. Apparently I needed the cozy small town and family vibes in these, but I’m not ready for the NA of the next two books.

    After spending a good part of the 4th of July flipping through books that didn’t hold my attention, I ended up with a KJ Charles recommendation that I’ve had on reserve, Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett. I’m just starting book 3 of the 5-book series, so I may be here for a while. There’s a quiet MM romance running through the series, but it’s not Romance. I love the world they’ve created, it’s so woman-centric (despite the two main characters being male). It’s like female is the default setting for characters, and patriarchy doesn’t exist, and I hate how I keep tripping over my own assumptions.

  29. Katie C. says:

    I plowed through my re-read of the Five Packs series (reading along with my sister-in-law who was reading it for the first time).

    THE HEIR APPARENT’S REJECTED MATE by Cate C. Wells (m/f – paranormal romance – Five Packs 2): This a new adult romance between the titular heir apparent hero and the low-in-the-pack scavenger heroine. I think this is the best of the series.

    HIS CURVY REJECTED MATE by Cate C. Wells (m/f – paranormal romance – Five Packs 4: The hero and heroine have a relationship secret from the rest of the pack, but then they officially find out they are mates and things do not go well from there. Very serious Content warnings about body image and fat shaming.

    Very Good:
    THE LONE WOLF’S REJECTED MATE by Cate C. Wells (m/f – paranormal romance – Five Packs 3): The other books in this series are dual POV with the story told slightly more by the heroine’s POV. However, this book is very heavy on heroine POV and light on the hero’s. I understand the author’s reason for this, but still wanted more hero POV. Also this is much more romantic suspense than the other 3 books, which didn’t quite hit the mark for me. CW for abduction, torture, and violence

    CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber (m/f – YA Fantasy – Caraval 1): I loved the premise of a game where nothing is what it seems and the ultimate winner gets one wish. The world building was wonderful – the descriptions were lush and vibrant. But I thought the ending was good not great and the romance was meh.



    The Bad:

  30. Midge says:

    I have been on a awesome 4-week holiday trip involving some long flights and waiting around airports… so I have gobbled up a ton of books! Plus I didn’t get around to posting just before I left. So:
    MURDER ON MILVERTON SQUARE – GB Ralph. M/M cozy mystery, gives me vibes of Josh Lanyon’s Secrets and Scrabble series, but set in a small town in New Zealand. Cute, this is the first in a new series, so the romance is just beginning.
    CLOUD TEN / CLOUD NINE – Fearne Hill. M/M contemporary romances, can be read on their own but more fun when read in order – Cloud Ten comes first. No big angst, good feels. Both touch on interesting themes but do not go awfully far in them. The first features Frankie who works as a PA but faces the fact that most people think PAs should be women and therefore he loses out on good jobs. So… he decides to dress as a woman when an offer for a dream job comes up, and he gets it. It doesn’t go into cringe territory with costume mishaps or the like, and at first he wants to come clean after getting the job, but of course he likes the job and the boss too much – but also experiences the sexism that women still experience. Yes, you could go deeper on that, but this is not the kind of book for it. Anyway, he does come clean to his boss when he has to, things go a bit south first but they work things out and – HEA of course, and he keeps the job. The second book is about Frankie’s brother who has cerebral palsy and the other hero’s brother, who’s an irresponsible frat boy who has some growing up to do. He behaves like a total dick first regarding the disability (warning – this might be a deal-breaker for some people), has to make amends – and of course they fall in love. I think it’s well done, shows the reality of living with CP but Tristan is also smart, snarky and horny as the next guy.
    THE STOLEN PRINCESS – Anne Gracie. M/F Regency romance. I picked this from a street library and took it on the trip to leave either at a street library or a hotel library (and did so). It was ok, it’s a classic Regency, the hero to me was a bit too Alpha – in my teens I would probably have liked this better. There’s also a marriage of convenience, but it happens late in the plot when they are already in love, though wouldn’t admit it.
    WE COULD BE SO GOOD – Cat Sebastian. Needs no introduction here ;-). I loved it and I know I will read it again because it is so good. All the feels!
    THE BENEVOLENT SOCIETY OF ILL-MANNERED LADIES – Alison Goodman. M/F Regency romance with a bit of mystery. Bought upon recommendation from here and I love it for all the reasons that have already been mentioned. I literally can’t wait for the next installment!
    BROADWAY BUTCHERY – CS Poe. M/M contemporary romantic suspense. As good as the first two, engrossing mystery, and the romance… though not much happens per se, I just love Larkin and Doyle and the way their relationship works. The next book is to come next year… again, it will be a hard wait for me, I just want more of these two!
    THE BEST MAN’S PROBLEM – Sera Taino. M/M contemporary romance. This a Harlequin, so not a long book, and part of a series (but the only M/M one in it), but it works fine as a stand-alone. Lovely romance and great supporting cast. One character’s family is Puerto Rican, the other one has more recently immigrated from Haiti, so there’s lots of family and food involved. Both characters have some issues, and there’s a bit of enemies to lovers, but it’s not very angsty.
    BURIED IN BOOKS – Kate Carlisle. Contemporary cosy mystery. I bought this at a secondhand bookstore because it looked interesing – the heroine is a bookbinder/restorer. However, it was meh – didn’t really engage me, and there heroine’s love interest/husband-to-be and family are all too perfect and everything around her is too perfect.
    BEHOLD THE DREAMERS – Imbolo Mbue. Another secondhand shop find from my trip, and very good. A tale of a Cameroonian immigrant family in New York, unfolding against the 2008 financial crisis and Lehman Brothers scandal. The husband gets work as a driver for a guy who’s high up in Lehman and the tale then follows the two families and the question of how far anyone is ready to go for their dream of wealth.
    THE BARBIZON – The Hotel that set Women free – Paulina Bren. Another secondhand find. I’d had this on my wishlist, so I grabbed it when I saw it on the front shelf at a super nice used bookstore, even though it was a bit big and heavy to lug along. A history of the legendary Barbizon Hotel in New York, one of the first women-only hotels and one of the longest-lasting, going from the 1920s to today. It’s basically also a social history of women in the US, how their roles changed, from flappers and single working women about town in the 20s and 30s to the total reversal after WWII and so on. It is interesting, and there are some really interesting women’s stories that the book picks out (not just the celebrities – if you want to read about those, this is probably not your book), though for some reason I didn’t find it quite as engaging as I thought it should be.

    That’s all… I’ve started couple more toward the end of my trip, but will talk about them next time ;-).

  31. Kareni says:

    @Darlynne: I’m pleased to hear you’ve been enjoying Quarter Share and look forward to learning if you’ll continue on.

  32. DeborahT says:

    I just finished WE COULD BE SO GOOD by Cat Sebastian. I loved the first half, but the second half lost me a bit. The setting was great, the characters were interesting, but once they got together I found myself a bit bored.

    Also recently finished BROADWAY BUTCHERY by CS Poe and echo Midge in that there isn’t too much going on, but I just want to read about Larkin and Doyle forever and ever. I just love how that relationship works, how they acknowledge each other’s challenges and even get frustrated by them, but always support one another. Kinda funny because I’m really not a sequel person and generally don’t love previous MC cameos in later books in series, but I guess Larkin and Doyle are just written so well I can’t get enough!

  33. Katie C. says:

    @Deborah – I am so happy HOW TO KEEP HOUSE WHILE DROWNING resonated so much with you. And I totally agree that knowing there are others feeling the same way was very comforting. I also appreciated that it was broken down into very manageable reading chunks.

  34. Penny says:

    @Deborah – hugs (or your preferred friendly gesture of comfort). I can really empathize with both the burnout/depression and with feeling guilty for being “lazy” – hang in there! I listened to the audiobook of BURNOUT by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (because reading the ebook was beyond my energy level) earlier this year after seeing it recommended here, and if nothing else it was like getting the best pep and/or real talk from a friend.

    Over the 4 day weekend I dove into Jasmine Guillory’s backlist and really am loving it. Breezed through THE WEDDING DATE, THE PROPOSAL, and THE WEDDING PARTY, and just now finishing the ROYAL HOLIDAY. Page turners all! I love her sense of location, treatment of aggressions micro and macro, and satisfying conflict grounded in character which was resolved through growth.

  35. Maeve says:

    I can confirm that Only Good Enemies is amazing! My copy purchased from the author arrived pre-publication and I devoured it.

  36. ET says:

    AN ISLAND PRINCESS STARTS A SCANDAL – really enjoyed this one!

  37. Crystal says:

    :::hops in to some Siouxsie, because it’s never too early to start thinking of Halloween:::

    I really don’t have too much to report this time. I got onto a bit of a mythology-retelling kick. It started with Aru Shah and the City of Gold. I always enjoy these, since Hindu mythology is not one that I know a great deal about, and I like Aru’s snarky little voice, too. The next one in the series is the last, so I’ll get to it pretty soon, and then can pat myself on the back for completing a series. Then I pulled Storm of Olympus by Claire Andrews out of the Netgalley pond (I think it comes out in September). There was A LOT of plot and action in this one, which I think is why it took me a bit longer to read. One thing I always enjoy in a Greek mythology retelling is a frank portrayal of the fact that Zeus is THE WORSTTTTTT. I also liked that Andrews pulled some of the other mythologies in as well, even if my brain can no longer picture Thor and Loki without seeing Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. As for right this moment, I only finished Storm of Olympus last night (or this morning, depending on what you consider shortly after midnight), and I’m mulling over a few library books that I picked up this past weekend. So until next time, a 12 foot tall yard skeleton can be a year-round decoration with the right accessories.

  38. Escapeologist says:

    I also enjoyed Anita Kelly’s SOMETHING WILD & WONDERFUL, @DiscoDollyDeb described it better than I could. Wonderful indeed.

    Rachel Hawkins’s RECKLESS GIRLS delivered what it said on the tin, a beachy murdery twisty story. No HEA here.

    Other than those, I’ve been down a Victoria Goddard rabbit hole, starting with THE HANDS OF THE EMPEROR. This has been recommended a few times, I’d have tried it sooner if I’d realized the emperor goes on a much needed tropical vacation. It’s very long and gets repetitive in places, main character is asexual and doesn’t get a romance until the sequel AT THE FEET OF THE SUN which gave me All The Feels. Lovely found family vibes, kindness and competence but also high stakes, both personal and fate-of-the-world. Also did I mention it’s a giant rabbit hole I’m still digging into. All her books interconnect, most if not all of them are on hoopla. I’d also recommend DERRING-DO FOR BEGINNERS for more excellent found family and people being decent and kind to each other, though zero romance.

  39. Escapeologist says:

    I just saw Jo Walton’s reading list posted on tor.com – it includes a favorable review of AT THE FEET OF THE SUN from a fantasy genre perspective.
    I’d add that both this book and Hands of the Emperor explore burnout and the consequences of working too much, which is all too relatable.
    Shout out again to the Nagoski sisters for their book BURNOUT and podcast Feminist Survival Guide. And to KC Davis for

  40. Freelance work ramped up to the max this last week or two, and I found myself fighting insomnia and stress as a result. So I pulled out Robin D. Owens’s Celta novels (the CELTA’S HEARTMATES series) and happily binged my way through the first seven books in a week, beginning with HEARTMATE. (I figured if I couldn’t sleep anyway, at least I could reread something familiar until I felt ready to fall asleep.) If you’re not familiar with them, the series late ’90s- to 2000s-era fantasy romance, set on a Celtic-inspired world with a wiccan-like religion and a magic system that is a cross between highly-developed psychic powers and actual spells, called Flair. Class is based on family, Flair, and how long a family has had significant Flair; strong Flair allows for immediate social mobility. The society is an oddly attractive mix of modern, Renaissance, and medieval elements, complete with duels of honor, Montague-and-Capulet-style family feuds, and a still-functional colony-spaceship (now grounded) run by a sentient AI. The basic romantic premise is that some people have a Heartmate, a fated mate, but a HEA isn’t guaranteed in-universe: they may not know who or where their Heartmate is, or one of a pair may choose not to accept the bond. Of course all the heroes and heroines in the books are Heartmates, and these are romances, so despite some pretty challenging complications, they do all have a HEA. I don’t know why I love these books, but I do. They are a little dated in some of the attitudes, and somewhat lacking in diversity. But the characters and the emotions are strong and compelling, and I really enjoy the worldbuilding.

    I’m also reading CLAWS & CONTRIVANCES by Stephanie Burgis, book 2 in her Regency Dragons series. I’m still in the early chapters, so I can’t give an in-depth report, but so far it is as charming and delightful as the first book, Scales and Sensibility, with the added benefit that the heroine of this book has a loving family rather than a horrendous one.

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