Whatcha Reading? May 2024, Part One

Cozy seat in beautiful backyard flower gardenWelcome back to Whatcha Reading! It’s our first WR post of May 2024. Here’s what we’re reading at SBTB HQ:

Lara: Shana inspired me with an idea to get out of a reading slump. I’ve returned to a series that is totally different to what I had been trying to read: GA Aiken’s dragon series. I’m currently devouring How to Drive a Dragon Crazy ( A | BN | K | AB ) and it’s a bloodthirsty, lusty adventure. Finally I can settle into a book and actually want to read it to the end.

Sarah: No one writes over the top shifters like Aiken/Laurenston.

Lara: She is in a class entirely of her own.

Marple
A | BN | K | AB
Sarah: I am torn between audiobooks and am sampling them all, a buffet that likely will create some very strange dreams. I’m starting The Night Raven by Sarah Painter ( A | BN | K | AB ) – The Ward Witch is a related book in the same world, but the Raven series came first. I’m also going to listen to Death in the Spires by KJ Charles ( A | BN | K ), and Marple: Twelve New Mysteries, an anthology of remixes.

Elyse: I’m re-reading Remarkably Bright Creatures ( A | BN | K | AB ) for book club and crying over the mortality of a fictional octopus

Oh I just downloaded The Ward Witch! ( A | BN | K ) You’ll have to let me know what you think, Sarah.

Sarah: I liked it a lot! Very atmospheric, and a really neat mix of spooky, weird, and sweet.

Shana: I finished The Marquis Who Mustn’t by Courtney Milan a few days ago and I’m obsessed by how much I loved it. I even convinced my mom to read it (which hopefully won’t be weird once she gets to the sex).

Honey and Spice
A | BN | K
Now I’m reading Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola on audiobook and I love it just as much! Although, as a contemporary enemies to lovers romance with British college students it couldn’t be more different. Maybe it’s the banter in both? I’m a sucker for banter.

Claudia: I also taking a page from reading something radically different to combat at reading slump! I’m reading T. Kingfisher’s The Saint of Steel series, and I’m on the third book, Paladin’s Hope. ( A | BN | K )

Sarah: Update: Marple: Twelve New Mysteries in audio is EXTREMELY GREAT. Alex Kingston, Adjoa Andog, Miriam Margolyes, and others are reading the stories. I’m SO HAPPY.

Whatcha reading? Let us know in the comments!

Add Your Comment →

  1. Msb says:

    @Claudia
    I have the Saint of Steel series and am enjoying it very much. Only in book 2, however. I got Thornhedge from the library and loved it. I have my own copy of Nettle and Bone, to facilitate rereading.

    Rereading Their Eyes Were Watching God for book group, and to see if it hits me as hard 20 years later.

    And, long after everyone else in the world, I just finished Good Omens. Loved it!

  2. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Are y’all changing the WAYR dates? I was expecting to see it tomorrow (second Saturday of the month). Anyway, will check back in (probably tomorrow) when I can get my notes together, lol.

  3. oceanjasper says:

    Late to the party on Emily Henry, but I’m listening to Beach Read on audio and loving it. I have higher standards for the writing quality in audiobooks which, when combined with my pickiness about narrators, means that I rarely find romances worth listening to, as opposed to reading. But I think I can look forward to using up some Audible credits on this author.

  4. kkw says:

    Did a reread of AJ Demas, wishing there were more. So delightfully loving and kind. It’s non-essential to the story, I think, like I assume it would still be entertaining if one never cared about Greek history or literature? but the AU ancient world setting is almost like some kind of easter egg laden fan service if you do. It’s so rewarding to have these flashes of oh that bit is Sparta, but that’s from Rome understanding.
    Rereading some Suzanne Brockmann and they hold up neither as badly as I feared, nor as well as I hoped. Enjoyable, as I know what I am in for. She can be way too didactic in that Beverly Jenkins way where it’s like, yes this is fascinating and important history that you have worked in here but. And I know people need to be hammered with this information but I wasn’t looking for that kind of hammering. The seams are of course far more apparent on a reread. I still admire how well she weaves all the narrative strands together, idk anyone else that completes an A and a B romance each book as well as carrying a C strand(at least) over the course of several novels. It’s tragically rare to balance even the sequel bait with the main romance. Or to not have the coupled off previous pairs bogging down all semblance of action (cough Mary Balogh cough, love you but cough cough).
    After I read Death in the Spires three times I have *not* been rereading more KJ Charles, because even though she is impressively prolific I have read everything else dozens of times now and I am trying to branch out.
    It’s not going well. Sigh.

  5. Jill Q. says:

    Oh boy, I feel like my brain is still coming back to life, but I did really enjoy the audiobook version of THE GUEST LiST by Lucy Foley. Very exclusive wedding on secluded Irish island, everyone has secrets. Very much in the vein of modern female centered thrillers, where most characters are done in shades of gray and the trickery is often not in puzzles/clues but unreliable narrators and playing around with narration/flashbacks/timelines. I had a pretty good hunch who did it early on, but she did enough to keep second guessing my early pick. Very evocative and creepy which is what I’m looking for when I need to do lots of chores. I also love multiple narrator audiobooks and this was a good one.

    I also listened to NIGHTHAWK by Beverly Jenkins for my book club, which was a lot of fun. One of her historical mysteries, a US Marshall and his female prisoner. Talk about bringing the conflict in right away! I needed to be patient to get into it at first, but once I was in, I was in. I appreciated how adult the characters were in how they viewed each other and the world. No last minute misunderstandings.

    In eyeball reading, I read 2 decent historical mysteries, but they also had almost the exact same plot (by coincidence only), so I’m almost afraid mentioning them would be a spoiler.

  6. SusanS says:

    @kkw: new AJ Demas book, The House of the Red Balconies, will be published June 24!

  7. Amanda says:

    No, y’all aren’t seeing things! I got my dates mixed ups, so Whatcha Reading popped up a day early. Carry on!

  8. Jill Q. says:

    @Jill (me!) the Beverly Jenkins was a historical romance, not historical mystery! I wasn’t ready for WAYR today and it showed!

  9. Carol S. says:

    Some of my library holds came in, so I read Starling House, which is very atmospheric and gothic. It’s got a romance plot but is a mix of horror and suspense, too. The Extinction of Irina Rey is another hold that finally came in. It’s hard to describe — it is something of a mystery as a character disappears, but it also touches on environmental concerns, the act of translating books, celebrity and hero worship, and keeping secrets. I DNF’d The Maid — I just didn’t get into the narrator’s voice.

    Light on romance, although I just got an ARC from Netgalley. Must read the new Courtney Milan, too.

  10. SB Sarah says:

    I had to drive to BWI last night and listened to one of the Marple stories (the one by Ruth Ware) on the way there. It was PERFECT for I-95 rush hour congestion and the perfect length for an airport trip. The mystery was solved as I waited in the arrivals area. It’s such a great anthology.

  11. Kate says:

    Remarkably Bright Creatures absolutely wrecked me.

    I can’t get off the crazy train that is the Sarah J Maasverse and am currently reading HEIR OF FIRE from the Throne of Glass series. Started off slowly since I kind of hate every character at the moment (except the sentient door knocker) but we just ran into some cannibal witches so things are picking up.

    Also blew through the horror Webtoon STAGTOWN by Punko (complete, 116 eps) and loved it. Cozy horror, found family, CW for brutal animal death.

  12. KitBee says:

    First up for me this month was MARRY IN SECRET by Anne Gracie, a perfectly fine Regency romance. I’m still searching for a Gracie book that I’ll love as much as I did THE WINTER BRIDE, but no luck so far.

    I also read Emily Henry’s FUNNY STORY and liked it, though I’m glad I got it at the library instead of buying. Good chemistry and good banter between the leads, but I think Henry is a “like, not love” author for me.

    Just finished a non-romance, Carol Berg’s THE SPIRIT LENS, which had languished unread on my shelves since 2010. It’s a fantasy in a quasi-Renaissance setting with lots of mystery and political intrigue. I don’t have much patience with beefy fantasy novels these days, but Berg is a good writer, and I’m interested enough to continue with the trilogy.

    Now starting India Holton’s THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEWOMEN WITCHES. I enjoy her flavor of wacky ahistorical fiction, so I’m excited for this one!

  13. ella says:

    Murder by Lamplight by Patrice McDonough

    Solid start to a Victorian mystery series featuring a female doctor and a fish out of water detective. Many GR reviews complained there was too much historical detail and I honestly don’t get it. There’s some discussion about John Snow and the 1850s cholera epidemic which are relevant to the plot. Anyway, don’t let the reviews deter you if you’re into this sort of thing.

  14. Jane says:

    I’m reading “To Have and to Heist” by Sara Desai for my book club. For the first half of the book I was like “What on earth am I reading?” and planning to give it a giant nope, but then around halfway I started getting sucked in.

    I think it works if you don’t take it seriously—it’s like the book version of “Murder Mystery” or one of those other movies where normal people with no skills get caught up in some deadly situation and miraculously survive and save the day. So for example, they’re about to go to a dangerous meeting where they need their wits about them, but the alcohol is free so they get drunk and later find out they were being followed and didn’t even notice.

    I can’t wait to hear what others thought of the book because I had generated a list of scenes that irritated me, but they might have been based on my earlier feelings of “this is a hot mess” and I just cannot tell anymore.

  15. flchen1 says:

    I’m reading not very much these days, but at least the ones I’ve picked have all been really good, LOL!

    THE ALPHA TAU PLEDGE PROJECT is the third in Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey’s Alpha Tau series set on the fictional Lassiter campus. They bring the humor and compassion and feels with Briar and Casey. While Alpha Tau strives to live up to its values of inclusion and respect and brotherhood, not everyone else is as committed. I love seeing that the fraternity brothers truly have each other’s backs. A great addition to this series.

    HOT STREAK by Beth Bolden will make a baseball lover out of you. Connor Clark is an up and coming pitcher who is incredible when he’s on, and sometimes a hot mess when he isn’t. Jackson Evans is an experienced catcher who’s brought in to help settle Connor down. That goes about as well as one might anticipate, which is to say, dreadfully.

    Beth Bolden brings her A game as always, and the intensity of the emotions at play as the resentful and boldly confused Connor and the locked down and frustrated Jackson warily circle each other swept me away. Ms Bolden uses the players and the games and the rhythm of those and the season to great effect, and Connor and Jackson get to know each other and learn what it means to trust on and off the field.

    While I am a self-confessed not-baseball-fan, I absolutely loved this story, and while Ms Bolden has said that Hot Streak is a stand-alone, I would be thrilled were she to write more baseball stories.

    All that said, I also am blithely ignorant of Bull Durham, which apparently Ms Bolden has stated this is an m/m retelling of. I know @DiscoDollyDeb started this, and I’m eager to hear her thoughts.

    RECKLESS is the first in Kimberly Kincaid’s RESCUE SQUAD series, about the firefighters at Station Eight. Alex Donovan is a passionate firefighter and his convictions at times have him as a bit of a loose cannon. When his determination to check for trapped people lands him on probation and he’s assigned to work that suspension at Zoe Westin’s shelter, sparks fly. The problem? Zoe is Chief Westin’s daughter, and she’s a rule follower for the ages.

    For her part, Zoe is thrilled to be using her hard-earned culinary skills to feed people who need it, and having to oversee a cocky hotshot for a month is not her idea of a good time. When Alex offers her the chance to step outside her comfort zone while agreeing to respect her boundaries and rules, they both learn a lot about themselves…

    Kimberly Kincaid’s writing is stellar as always. Alex and Zoe leap off the page, as does the crew and family at Station Eight. Reckless is fantastic, and I am eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

    Can’t wait to catch up with all of your reading, B*tchery!

  16. Julia L. says:

    I finished two lovely fantasy books from the library. Grace Curtis’ “Floating Hotel” shows the Abeona, a slightly down-at-heel luxury hotel on a spaceship and its staff and guests. I’ve heard it called “Grand Budapest Hotel in space”.

    I listened to Sylvie Cathrall’s “Letter from the Ominous Deep” on audiobook and that was a lovely way to experience an epistolary story. You get the story from different sides in form of letters, email, journal entries, etc. A young woman isolated at an undersea house writes to a naturalist about an unusual eel she spotted and they strike up a friendship. The world is predicated on their ancestors losing their sky cities to live on the seas. So romantic, although one HEA is up for question at the end. Queer and hetero couples and OCD rep.

  17. Nina says:

    I’m reading (listening to) the Agatha Raisin cozy mystery series. I have no idea which book I’m on (maybe 10), but it’s called Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam. I like this character because she’d a grouchy pill who never gets nice or learns a single lesson.

    I’m happy for the reminder about Marple/Ruth Ware – maybe I’ll do that after!

    I’ve got 40 minutes left of my Happy Place/Emily Henry and I’m saving it for an evening walk. Maybe it’ll force me to do some exercise?

    Nina

  18. catscatscats says:

    Has anyone else read Alexandra Raife? I think her books were originally published in the 1980s. They are romances with a tinge of women’s fiction, set in Scotland, usually in aristocratic families with a fish out of water plot (woman going through stuff comes to stay). Lots of detail about a specific kind of life, agriculture, land management, hunting. I saw that Mary Stewart of blessed memory had recommended them so tried them out, read two and mildly enjoyed them. Read a third, sudden shocking pet death which ruined the book for me. Gave her another chance and tried a fourth. Racial slur which would have seemed awful even in the 1980s, and a defence of domestic abuse (love interest used to hit his wife). Returned to Amazon with “offensive content” ticked.

    Now got two others on the go, a Mary Russell mystery (“The Language of Bees”), which is ok though could do with some editing for length, and “A Line in the World”, a travel / nature book by Dorthe Nors. Blurb: “the story of the windswept coastline that stretches from the northernmost tip of Denmark to the Netherlands … an extraordinarily powerful and beautiful journey through history and memory – the landscape’s as well as her own”. It is good as far as I have got.

  19. Darlynne says:

    FINLAY DONOVAN ROLLS THE DICE by Elle Cosimano: I love this series, now up to book 4, and everything about it makes me smile/laugh. The books must be read in order, but if you want a ride-along with a woman the Russian mob thinks is a killer-for-hire, look no further. Finlay is a writer, juggling single parenthood, employing an allegedly felonious nanny and an ex-husband with a contract on his head. Plus a love interest who’s a cop. The best part is how Finlay navigates each day and the next crisis with a growing sense of herself.

    DANGER IN NUMBERS by Heather Graham: Florida state police and FBI agents team up to solve a cult-like murder near the Everglades. Romantic suspense isn’t my usual jam, especially the instant lust and super agent skills, but still interesting.

    MICKEY CHAMBERS SHAKES IT UP by Charish Reid: Here, the instant lust worked really well and I enjoyed both MCs very much. They have difficult personal issues to work on and families to deal with, definitely worth the effort.

    MINIMUM WAGE MAGIC by Rachel Aaron: I have never met a Rachel Aaron book I didn’t like, not sure how she does it, also some of the best covers in the industry. We’re back in the Detroit Free Zone, which has stabilized somewhat. Opal Yong-ae is a cleaner of abandoned apartments, hoping to find unusual items to sell. Things are not going well at all and her debts are mounting. Maybe the next job will change her circumstances (spoiler alert: not so much).

  20. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Part 1

    After reading & writing about the first five books in Nicky James’s excellent Valor & Doyle romantic-suspense series last month, I finished the final two books (DISRUPTED ENGAGEMENT & MATRIMONIAL MERRIMENT) last week. In DISRUPTED ENGAGEMENT, Doyle’s repeated attempts to stage the perfect proposal are constantly being interrupted; this leads the anxiety-prone Valor to suspect the worst, worrying that his boyfriend is keeping secrets. Valor’s ambush of Doyle to force him to give up the secret is both comedic and deeply emotional. All of this is juxtaposed against the search for a serial killer who has apparently been active for several decades. While the final book, MATRIMONIAL MERRIMENT, does include a few references to ongoing cases, the bulk of the book is about Valor & Doyle planning their wedding (which takes place a few days before Christmas—although Valor insists theirs will not be a “Christmas wedding”). It’s a very sweet book—and I must admit I shed a few happy tears when the guys finally tied the knot. I highly recommend the entire series.

    One of the supporting characters in MATRIMONIAL MERRIMENT is a Toronto PD records clerk, Tallus Domingo (I’ve given up on expecting “standard” character names from James). Tallus plays a small role in the book, but it was significant enough that I wasn’t surprised to see that he (along with ex-cop-turned-private-eye, Diem Krause) are going to be the main characters in James’s upcoming series, Shadowy Solutions. The prequel novella, INVISIBLE SCARS, is now available—and I gulped it down in one sitting. I’d call INVISIBLE SCARS something of a grumpy-sunshine pairing, with Tallus (snarky, flirty, and just that bit extra) being the bright one and Diem (taciturn, gruff, scarred both physically and emotionally) the grump. The guys work together on a missing persons case, but that is just window-dressing to set up the series. I’ve said before how good James is at portraying characters who think they’re coping when they’re clearly not, and Diem is a perfect example. We know a lot of bad things happened to him, but we’re not exactly sure what. As Diem says of the therapy he attends, “I had to be constantly aware of my feelings and emotions, and who the fuck wanted that?” And as Tallus says of Diem, “For the first time in my life, it seemed I’d found a guy with more issues than me.” For all its heavier themes, I found INVISIBLE SCARS to be weighted more the humorous side than other James books, mostly because of Tallus, who reminded me very much of Sebastian from the “Shakespeare & Hathaway” tv series: a drama school graduate working in a clerical office job happy to don disguises and accents to fool the bad guys. I’m really looking forward to the first full-length Shadowy Solutions book, SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET, due later this month. Meanwhile, INVISIBLE SCARS, though brief (and benefiting very much from the Valor & Doyle lead-in) is highly recommended.

    Selena Bell’s HOTT TAKE is the next in her Hott Springs Eternal series of romances about a family of brothers who, by the condition of their grandfather’s will, must performs certain tasks by certain dates or lose the family’s resort/destination wedding business (which is run by their sister). Yeah—you just have to hand-wave the premise, and Bell is such a good writer that it’s not hard to do so. In HOTT TAKE, actor Shane Hott is charged with arranging a celebrity marriage (with participants who are truly in love). When the first couple’s nuptials fall through, Shane approaches Ivy, an actress who had some success in a cult tv show, but, after a bad breakup, fled Hollywood, with a mutually-beneficial “fake marriage” proposal. The way these two cagey people (both of whom have been hurt and let down by many people in their lives) dance around each other on their way to love is very well done. Although I’m of the opinion that Bell’s recent work has lacked the depth and angst of some of her earlier books (particularly her Returning Home series), HOTT TAKE is still a very good book especially for fans of the fake relationship and celebrity romance tropes. Recommended.

  21. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Part 2

    I took a deep dive into my tbr and came up with Kris Ripper’s GOING HOME (published in 2014), a nuanced look at consent, autonomy, agency, and power exchange. However, the book does need content/trigger warnings dealing as it does with characters who have very traumatic backstories. In an economical style, Ripper presents an alternate universe where both “legacy slavery” (a social system, not one based on race) and indentured servitude (a criminal justice structure rife with abuse and exploitation) were, until recently, legal in parts of the country. When the systems were outlawed, the formerly enslaved indentured were forcibly removed from their owners and placed in re-education camps to help them process their trauma and acclimate to life as a free person. Rory, a former legacy slave, desperately misses his owner, Geo. In flashbacks, we see the life Geo & Rory had together: a nice upper-middle-class home where Rory cooked, cleaned, did maintenance, and was happy to serve his master. Concepts of consent & autonomy are unknown to Rory—and I thought Ripper did a great job of communicating how lost Rory feels without Geo (who is also going through a tough time without Rory). Geo & Rory’s ongoing story is contrasted against that of Rory’s friend, Demon, a former indentured servant who has been horribly abused and whose angry and violent outbursts are on par with someone suffering from deep trauma (Demon gets her own book later in the series, here she’s a supporting character). What I thought Ripper did so well in this book was show that once Rory’s and Geo’s eyes are opened to how abusive the slavery system was, both of them (especially Geo) have difficulty figuring out how they will work together as a couple when both of them are free. As Rory says of the D/s sex he & Geo have always enjoyed, “I don’t want to go back to [non-consent] being true. But I want…to go back to it feeling true.” There is a third act diversion where Rory & Demon are kidnapped by a terrorist group seeking to restore slavery—I thought that distracted from what had been as philosophical a book on the notion of free will as any erotic romance I’ve read. Nonetheless, I found GOING HOME an unexpectedly trenchant book that doesn’t take the easy way out. Recommended.

    I had to DNF Beth Bolden’s HOT STREAK (sorry, @flchen1), an m/m baseball romance featuring a veteran catcher and a rookie pitcher. On the surface it would seem the book was right up my alley, loving both baseball and baseball romances as much as I do, but HOT STREAK was straight-up plagiarism of the movie “Bull Durham”. I couldn’t believe how blatant it was. Within the first few pages of the book, verbatim phrases, events, and situations from the movie appeared: “the Church of baseball”; “million dollar arm, five cent head”; “He struck out eighteen players; he walked eighteen players. Both league records”; “He fucks like he pitches—all over the place”; the hot-shot pitcher trying to come up with a nickname; the veteran catcher inching closer to the minor league homerun record; the two having their first meeting at the local bar. This was no homage, no thinly reworked fan-fic, this was the flagrant stealing someone else’s work and passing it off as one’s own. I’m shocked that no one involved in the production of HOT STREAK noticed the, um, let’s be kind and say similarities between the movie and the book. This is the first Beth Bolden book I’ve tried, and I just have to wonder if her other books feature obviously expropriated material. It’s one thing to be inspired by someone else’s work, but the wholesale plagiarism I found in HOT STREAK left me with a bad taste. If I were Ron Shelton (the screenwriter & director of “Bull Durham”), I’d sue.

  22. Jeannette says:

    Looking back my reading has been a bit eclectic this month:

    Very Good

    A TASTE FOR GOLD AND IRON by Alexandra Rowland (M/M Fantasy). From this week’s sale list. Really enjoyed it, although I felt the HEA might end up a HFN eventually.

    PATROLLING THE HEART OF THE WEST by Stephen Raabe (Nonfiction) True short stories about being a Nevada State Highway Patrol. Each story took around 5/10 minutes to read and was told in an interesting fashion.

    VALMONT CONTINGENCY / NOBINATA GAMBIT by Val Roberts (M/F Science Fiction Romance). They remind me of well done harlequins set in outer space. A re-read which held up pretty well.

    Average

    DAMSEL series by P.S. Power (Urban Fantasy). An interesting take on the ‘normal girl becomes crime fighter’ trope. The heroine is an heiress who is tired of being kidnapped. I liked the first two books the best as the world of superheroes is explained and am 4 books in and still enjoying it. .

    BOUND BY BLOOD by Lisa Oliver (M/M Vampire Romance). A vampire regent and a housecat shifter in modern Altanta.

    Latest in Kontra’s Menagerie series by Charlie Richards (M/M Paranormal) These are basically short stories with insta-love. However they are like Pringles, salty, tasty, nothing nutritious, and you can never eat just one.

  23. Escapeologist says:

    How I Stole The Princess’s White Knight and Turned Him To Villainy (book 1) by AJ Sherwood. m/m slow burn, virtuous knight meets chaotic sorcerer, they have to work together to save the townsfolk, which is just the perfect opportunity for flirting. Funny and fluffy with hints of deeper backstory. There’s a bunch of these novellas, I only read the first one, it wrapped up the saving innocent townsfolk storyline but the slow burn is still very slow. If you want the whole romance, you may want to pick up the box set.

    To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (reread) – I relate hard to the main character’s struggles to just get some damn sleep, constantly thwarted by annoying humans and pets. Also trying to save the world while sleep deprived. Wait a minute, this is a parenting metaphor, isn’t it.

  24. LolaGranola says:

    @Jane, I loved TO HAVE AND TO HEIST, when I read it a few years ago! I always love South Asian heroines who are funny and more screwball. I’ll borrow it again to read, and update!

    I have read and enjoyed the below this month so far, keeping in mind that your mileage may vary as I am in a low-anxiety, witty banter and strong competent characters sort of place, probably forever:

    NEW READS

    HOTEL OF SECRETS by Diana Biller. Adding my favorite theme of renovations and small businesses, this is a very charming historical novel about a woman trying to rehabilitate her family’s hotel that had fallen on hard times in Vienna. Adding a handsome possible American spy and some found family and kidnappings and sabotage and old family secrets. A lot of fun.

    Alexandra Vasti’s HALIFAX HELLIONS series. Three bite-sized novellas on Kindle Unlimited. Emotionally smart, steamy and full of consent each book follows one of a pair of strong willed twins and their older brother.

    REREADS

    Caitlin C. Wells (mostly on Kindle Unlimited) is fast approaching comfort rereads for me. Her STEEL BONES collection and the REJECTED MATE series are fun, especially AGAINST THE WALL, have a theme of Alpha males who become golden retriever cinnamon rolls for their ladies.

    Erin Langston’s FOREVER YOUR ROGUE, and accompanying novellas A DAY UNTIL FOREVER and SOME WINTER’S EVENING (new to me featuring Sinclair, Cora’s brother). Always a lovely read.

    WE COULD BE SO GOOD by Cat Sebastian – comfort read I read last year and grabbed when it went on sale. Love it. I am really bad at picturing who would be cast for book characters – let me know if you have any thoughts on Nick and Andy.

    CURRENTLY READING

    I have borrowed from the library for the third or . time THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB. I don’t understand why the rest of the world loves these books and I read one page every 4 days. I will try again.

    Just started THE TAKEDOWN.

  25. JenM says:

    I had a lovely book hangover this week from RIFT IN THE SOUL by Faith Hunter, the 6th book in her Soulwood UF series. The series is a spinoff of the author’s more well-known Jane Yellowrock series, but it’s not necessary to read that series to get full enjoyment from this one. It features a woman who seems to be some kind of earth sprite or wood nymph. She survived a somewhat traumatic upbringing in a cult and now works for a governmental paranormal agency as an investigator. The author does a fantastic job of blending wonderful found family elements, and a fantastic romance between the MC and a sweet, supportive leopard shifter with a really good police procedural/mystery that underpins each book as well as advancing the overall series arc.

    I also enjoyed two fake dating romances, currently one of my favorite tropes. LOVE, LIES AND CHERRY PIE is the latest from Jackie Lau, whose books pretty much always work for me due to my love of (slightly) cranky, mature FMCs and the guys who fall for and support them. In this case, the FMC concocts a fake dating scheme with the guy that her mom is pushing on her, then of course, falls for the MMC after swearing he’s not her type.

    PACKAGE MAKES PERFECT is by Lauren Connolly writes strong FMCs and the gooey cinnamon rolls who love them. The book opened with a great scene in which the FMC confronts her cheating BF and gets satisfactory revenge without doing any permanent damage, then goes into fake dating territory with an MMC who is a cousin of the ex (and who also happens to be a virgin in need of kissing lessons). I also loved that both MCs had “regular” professions. She’s an Army vet and competent small plane mechanic, he’s a mailman.

    I just started DUST BORN by Elizabeth Hunter, the fourth book in her Cambio Springs shifter series and so far, so good.

  26. Kolforin says:

    I kind of took a week off from reading but am back now. I’m in the last quarter of THE WISTERIA SOCIETY OF LADY SCOUNDRELS by India Holton, which I love except for the romance parts. Both the main and side romances are just not working for me (the side one is giving me David Eddings flashbacks), but everything else is way fun.

    I’ve also returned to BEA WOLF by Zach Weinersmith and Boulet (a comics adaptation of Beowulf populated by suburban kids), which I’m reading with long gaps between chapters but quite enjoying (I saw recently that someone else here was reading it too).

    I’m also reading 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, which…well, it’s very manly. In many ways not my thing, which I knew going in but I still wanted to read it, and it won’t take long because it’s a comic. I used some points on it instead of spending real money.

  27. ET says:

    Just started A HEART OF BLOOD AND ASHES by Milla Vane. Promising amounts of rage and vengeance and a marriage of convenience! Looking forward to the rest of it 🙂

  28. Kareni says:

    Over the past two weeks ~

    — continued reading books by Nathan Lowell. I reread the final book in the initial series, Owner’s Share. Skipped over the next trilogy and continued with a reread of School Days before reading the new to me Working Class and Hard Knocks. I enjoyed all of these science fiction/space opera books.
    — read Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle which I quite enjoyed due in part to its unusual premise. The main character, from the fifth grade on, receives a message (post card, note under her door, paper stuck on her shoe in the street) that lists the name of the new romantic interest in her life and the amount of time it will last. That time might be two months, three years, or one night. When the story begins, she has just received a note with a name but no time period.
    — read Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet, a biography intended for older children (and people like me). In addition to enjoyable text, this had wonderful artwork by the author/illustrator.

    – read several collage books looking for inspiration. Cut Paper Pictures by CloverRobin; If You Can Cut, You Can Collage byHollie Chastain; Collage Workshop for Kids by Shannon Merenstein; and Delight in the Art of Collage by Lisa M. Pace were all of interest.
    – For my book group, I read So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. I came to enjoy the story more in the final half. It’s set in 1915 and is narrated by a writer who is struggling to write a second book. His neighbor (once a criminal) wishes to apologize to the wife he deserted some twenty years earlier and asks the narrator to accompany him across the country on this errand. All manner of events take place as a young man joins their group and they are pursued by a Pinkerton agent.
    – enjoyed A Sense of Danger: A Section 47 book by Jennifer Estep which is described as urban fantasy; the leads both work for an organization staffed with people with paranormal powers. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Be aware that there is significant violence in the book.
    – enjoyed Ticket Out (Traffic Warden Mysteries Book 1) by Michelle Diener which is a 1960s era mystery set in London. The lead character is a traffic warden (sometimes called a meter maid in the US) who encounters a murder victim; a detective becomes a romantic interest. I will happily read on in the series even though my favorite of the author’s books are her science fiction romances.
    – enjoyed the contemporary romance I’m Your Guy by Sarina Bowen which features a hockey player with an empty home and a designer who furnishes homes.
    – enjoyed A Light In The Dark (Tales from the Deep Dark Book 1) by Nathan Lowell ; this is a novella set in the same world as a favorite series of mine but featuring different characters.

  29. DeborahT says:

    Mostly rereading and saving my new TBRs for vacation.

    I started Here for the Right Reasons by Jodi McAlister after seeing it recommended by a few posters here. The trilogy takes place during the shooting of a very similar show to The Bachelor, and I thought it could be fun, but it’s falling a bit flat for me. I’m not really buying the situation, and I find the heroine super cliche, so I’m not sure that I’ll finish it. The second and third books in the series look a little more interesting though!

  30. I’m reading OUT OF THE DARK by Gregg Hurwitz. I’m slowly working my way through the Orphan X series.

    I also have the MARPLE mystery anthology on my TBR pile. A good reminder to get started on it.

    Other books I want to check out include THE BLOOD TRIALS by N. E. Davenport and FALLING HARD FOR THE ROYAL GUARD by Megan Clawson.

    Hope everyone has a great weekend! 🙂

  31. Big K says:

    Hello, and happy spring, Smart B’s!
    I have had a lot of graduation/family/girl’s weekend type fun going on (as well as work), so little to no quality reading time.
    HOWEVER! I did read one book on my plane rides that I LOVED!
    THE BLACK TONGUE THIEF by Christopher Buehlman was fantastic! Fantasy with a little romance woven through. Vivid characters, great world building, plot that moves right along. Kraken, goblin wars, giants, magic, badass females, told from the view point of a skilled thief/con artist, WHO HAS A BLIND CAT. The author was clearly influenced by Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and Joe Abercrombie, but in addition there’s a lighthearted joy woven throughout the mayhem and darkness of the story that left me feeling very hopeful. Definitely going to be one of, if not my best, book of 2024.
    Thanks for all the recommendations! Can’t wait to dig into them!

  32. EditChief says:

    Just finished the Jackie Lau “Chu’s Restaurant” two-novella series. These books hit all the Jackie Lau beats: mouth-watering food descriptions, East Asian MCs dealing with their parents’ expectations (among other life issues), loyal and amusing friends for the MCs, immense sexual compatibility when the MCs get together, etc. However, I don’t recall other Lau novels with celebrity MCs (maybe I’ve forgotten?) and I greatly enjoyed meeting these MCs– one in each novella is an actor on the fictional Canadian-set TV show “Chu’s Restaurant.”

    I liked the first novella, THE SITCOM STAR, a little more than the second one, THE RELUCTANT HEARTTHROB. In the first book, we meet the characters and learn about the TV show through snippets from reviews, interviews, and social media posts that open each chapter. It’s not a new device but I don’t recall Lau using this technique before, and I thought it was particularly effective in THE SITCOM STAR. Maddie, the titular star, who is also the burned-out co-producer and writer, is trying to take break when she bumps into (literally) Adrian, a childhood friend, who spills his bubble tea on her. She’s driven; he’s a bit of slacker; the plot unfolds as expected but held my interest.

    The second novella focuses on Ethan, the heartthrob, who doesn’t want to be known only as the “Chu’s Restaurant” character that made him famous. He’s intrigued by a woman he sees in the coffee shop where he sometimes hangs out (slightly disguised; it’s a post-Covid setting so wearing masks at times makes sense). The intriguing woman, Robyn, introduces herself to Ethan after her friends dare her to, there’s a hook up, and Robyn learns the next morning (reading a listicle on her phone) that the cute guy is also a TV star. Robyn is on the spectrum and has trouble recognizing faces, and doesn’t watch much TV; Ethan is thrilled to be with someone who is interested in him beyond his TV persona, but she makes him wait before continuing the relationship. So another somewhat-predictable but still engaging story unfolds.

    Lau hints in her author’s endnotes that more “Chu’s Restaurant” stories might appear in the future– if so, I’ll be eager to read them.

  33. LisaM says:

    No romance again this time, but some romantic elements in the good books. I am just finishing KJ Charles’ DEATH IN THE SPIRES, and I had no idea who did the murder. I did read the end though, because I needed to be sure that Jem was OK at the end. I want so much to read more about his life after the book ends, to see him begin to recover, hopefully find congenial work and his love again. I am now feeling the KJC call and will probably read Think of England and Spectred Isle again – two other heroes (four really now that I think about it) who need healing and joy in their lives.

    I spent a week immersed in Martha Wells’ lightly revised and newly-reissued THE BOOK OF ILE-RIEN (combining THE ELEMENT OF FIRE and THE DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER). As soon as I learned there are three novels set later in this world, I broke my book budget ordering them.

    I have been slowly reading and savoring Ross Gay’s THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS, but the library finally wanted its copy back, so I had to stop re-reading favorite bits. It has helped me think about and find joy in small things, which is something I have been working on to cope with depression and anxiety. I just picked up his next book, INCITING JOY, and I anticipate more delight to come.

    The book that stood out for me, and will be on my best books list this year, is MIGHTY JUSTICE, MY LIFE IN CIVIL RIGHTS, by Dovey Johnson Roundtree (with Katie McCabe). This pioneering lawyer, born in North Carolina in 1914, was one of the first Black women to join the WACs in World War II (despite white male recruiting officers refusing to believe that women [especially Black women] were going to serve in THEIR army). After the war, she enrolled as one of the few women students at Howard University’s law school, encouraged by Pauli Murray. She then went on to fight segregation and for abused children. And then she became one of the first women ordained in the AME church. I am just in awe of this woman, and I nominated her as a Kick-Ass Woman in History – she brings out the history evangelist in me.

    @SusanS Thank you so much for the news of a new AJ Demas book! I can’t wait to read it.

  34. Laurel K. says:

    I’m reading The Uncharted Life of Olivia West by Sara Ackerman. It’s a dual-timeline story with Olivia, a 1920s pilot with a unquenchable drive for adventure (like Beryl Markam or Amelia Earhart), and Wren, a 1980s woman who inherits a plot of land in Hawaii with an old barn with historical objects that set her on quest to find out more. Very good so far.

    I loved the new Marple collection. I felt almost all of them captured the spirit of Miss Marple. My favorite was by Dreda Say Mitchell and I wish she would write a book about Miss Bella.

  35. Crystal` says:

    It’s been a weird month for me, simply because April tends to be one of my busiest work months. Also, until I get a new tablet computer (my 11 year old iPad2 finally bit the dust, I’m sending it back to recycle and the damn thing is so old that I can’t even get store credit for it), it’s mostly been Netgalley on the phone. I’ve also dived DEEP back into gaming this year, so that’s a thing, too (it’s currently Assassin’s Creed Odyssey). So since last time, I read Haunted Ever After by Jen DeLuca. I enjoyed it (it was my first DeLuca, although I have meant to get around to her Ren Faire books). I liked the ghosts (my favorite there was the one that got addicted to trash reality TV, because who among us), and how casual the local population was around them, since it is a *literal* ghost town. The one thing I didn’t get was how the hero didn’t figure out what was happening sooner, in terms of the main conflict. Dude, you grew up around these ghosts, you should have been able to figure out what was going wrong A LOT sooner. Bonus points for the sheer FLORIDA of it all (had to get me a Publix sub while reading it). I’m currently reading Think Twice by Harlan Coben. It is reliably fun, since Myron and Win remain a winning team (Win especially, I love his gleefully sociopathic outlook on life). The conceit around the way the killer in this one is really good, too. It’s not something I’ve seen before, and makes total sense, in terms of how difficult it would be to pull off being a serial killer in our cameras everywhere, true crime podcasting, DNA testing landscape. So until next time, I’ll be off engaging in some light naval warfare on the PS5.

  36. Karin says:

    I read a contemporary rom-com, SAY YOU’LL BE MINE by Naina Kumar. It’s a fun fake engagement story, very cinematic. I can just picture the movie with the heroine played by Simone Ashley.
    I finished the latest Sebastian St. Cyr book, WHAT CANNOT BE SAID, and now I am rereading some of the early books in the series, but tbh, I’m just skimming the mystery parts and reading the scenes that Hero is in.

  37. HeatherS says:

    I listened to “Sabriel” by Garth Nix, narrated by Tim Curry, and “The Hunger Games” on CD on a road trip.

    I read “Bloomsbury Girls”, a historical fiction that I found had a twist I wasn’t expecting, and arrived home to my signed preorder of Cat Sebastian’s newest, “You Should Be So Lucky”. Cat never fails me – her books are always exactly what I expect.

    Also browsed through “Barbie: The World Tour”, which collects all of the outfits Margot Robbie wore during the Barbie tour and talks about the process of selecting the outfits, designers, etc. Very pretty.

Add Your Comment

Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By posting a comment, you consent to have your personally identifiable information collected and used in accordance with our privacy policy.

↑ Back to Top