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bookish posts monthly book list

December 2018 reading

I was in the middle of a reading slump for most of December, so I really didn’t get as many books finished as I wanted. But I did go out with some pretty strong titles!

Also, some of you know that I had surgery last December–I finally wrote up everything that happened and shared it. If you’d like to learn more, that document is here.

Mistletoe and Murder Robin Stevens 12.27 175

Arabella Georgette Heyer 12.25 174

For a Muse of Fire Heidi Heilig 12.24 173

The Song of Achilles Madeleine Miller 12.22 172

Cousin Kate Georgette Heyer 12.18 171

The Word for World is Forest Ursula K Le Guin 12.18 170

Keeper of the Isis Light Monica Hughes 12.12 169

The House on Chicken Legs Sophie Anderson 12.11 168

When You Reach Me Rebecca Stead 12.7 167

Lumberjanes v. 7 12.6  164-166

Lumberjanes v. 8

Lumberjanes v. 9

 

Total books read: 12

Total rereads: 3 (When You Reach Me; Cousin Kate; Arabella)

Favorites:

  • For a Muse of Fire
  • The Song of Achilles
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bookish posts monthly book list reviews

November 2018 books

The Death of Mrs Westaway Ruth Ware 11.29

This was on the NPR Book Concierge and it sounded like the kind of mystery I’d like. It was! I’m always a sucker for the “assuming someone’s identity” trope, and Ware plays nicely with that here. I also liked Harriet a lot. It feels very old-fashioned on several levels, I think intentionally, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that aspect.

Pride Ibi Zoboi 11.29  (review tomorrow)

Girl at the Grave Teri Bailey Black 11.25 [review]

Darius the Great is Not Okay Adib Khorram 11.17  [review]

The Language of Power Rosemary Kirstein 11.16  [review]

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road Sheba Karim 11.14  [review]

Making Friends Kristen Gudsnuk 11. 9  

The Witch Boy Molly Knox Ostertag 11.8 

The Proposal Jasmine Guillory 11.9  [review]

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster Deborah Hopkinson 11.7  [review]

 

Total books read: 10

Total rereads: 0

Favorites:

  • Darius the Great is Not Okay
  • Pride
  • Witch Boy

Weekly reading roundups:

I kind of stopped doing the weekly roundups towards the end of this month, but I could be persuaded to try them again if anyone is interested!

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bookish posts reviews

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

When Nik’s boyfriend very unexpectedly proposes to her on the Jumbo-Tron at a Dodgers game, a stranger and his sister rescue her from a camera crew. Carlos just wants to do the right thing, but when after they keep meeting, it turns into something more. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory is a contemporary romance featuring an African-American heroine and a Latino hero. It’s a sequel to The Wedding Date, which came out earlier this year.

I really adored The Wedding Date when I read it, so of course I picked up The Proposal as soon as I could. And it was the perfect light but smart read for the mood I was in.

Public proposals are a Thing, of course, and I’ve always kind of hated them. It turns out I’m not alone! Here’s a whole book whose inciting incident is a very, very botched public proposal. That in and of itself says a lot about the kind of book this is–very aware of the real world while also having that slightly-Technicolor version of reality that is often a feature of romance books.

I appreciated that Guillory didn’t just have Nik get over the proposal instantly. She deals with a very understandable range of emotions, and the anger that her ex-boyfriend throws in her direction for daring to reject him is entirely plausible. The fact that she doesn’t just instantly go back to okay did make it a little tough for me to root for her rebound fling with Carlos at first, but as the story went on, I started to buy their relationship and the way they’re both wary of it becoming something real.

I also loved the food in the book–it was so fun to read about characters who love cooking and eating. It’s a nice touch of grounding and creativity. Also, as with The Wedding Date, there’s a really nice sense of place here which is nice to see.

Carlos’s desire to take care of his family was the only aspect of the story that didn’t quite work for me. I understood the whys of it, and it theoretically made sense, but I didn’t fully buy that he had never had the conversations with his mother and sister that he needed to, and it seemed at odds with his truly supportive attitude towards Nik. So that made it hard to be as invested in his part of the storyline. That said, I truly enjoyed the rest of the book and his relationship with Nik was really fun to read.

Overall, I’d suggest this one for fans of smart contemporary romances, and I hope that we’ll have more books from Guillory soon!

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Previously, on By Singing Light
Complex & Haunting Adult SFF: Oyeyemi & Jemisin (2016)
Favorite Authors: Gillian Bradshaw (2014)
Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald (2013)

 

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bookish posts monthly book list

August 2018 books

This was a pretty good month for books! I didn’t love everything equally, but I did have a couple of really strong reads and that’s always nice. I’m hoping to finish up the Steerswoman series in September and keep reading the Astreiant books. Just as a reminder, I always post each book I finish on Instagram, so if you’d like to stay up to date on what I’m most currently reading, head over there.

Summer of Salt Katrina Leno 8.31

Point of Hopes Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett 8.29

The Bookshop on the Corner Jenny Colgan 8.27

Sideways Stories from Wayside School Louis Sachar 8.26

The Lost Steersman Rosemary Kirstein 8.25

A College of Magics Caroline Stevermer (reread) 8.20

The Kiss Quotient Helen Hoang 8.18 [review]

Monday’s Not Coming Tiffany Jackson 8.18

Last Shot DJ Older 8.18 [review]

Recipes for Love and Murder Sally Andrews 8.17

Where the Watermelons Grow Cindy Baldwin 8.13 [review]

Black Panther Long Live the King 8.13

Rogue Protocol Martha Wells 8.10

Cafe by the Sea Jenny Colgan 8.9

Starless Jacqueline Carey 8.7 [review]

Valley Girls Sarah Nicole Lemon 8.1 [review]

 

Total books read: 15

Total rereads: 1

 

Favorites:

  • Valley Girls
  • Cafe by the Sea
  • Rogue Protocol
  • Monday’s Not Coming
  • Point of Hopes
  • Summer of Salt
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bookish posts reviews

Recent adult fiction: Older, Hoang, Carey

I’ve been on kind of a roll with adult fiction recently, after my earlier YA romcom binge. Here are a few that have no thematic connection except that I read them recently.

Last Shot by DJ Older: Star Wars tie-in, about Han and Lando and one last job. There’s some interesting past/present narration and we see things from both Han and Lando’s points-of-view which is cool. I do wish that the timeline was slightly clarified–the main action takes place a few years after Ben Solo is born (I think he’s two here) but the older parts are all “fifteen years earlier” or “ten years earlier” and sometimes it was hard to orient to where that was in the larger SW universe. However, I always like a good heist and there are some funny characters and moments, plus some heartbreak as Han wonders if he’ll ever learn to be a good parent. Bonus for Lando’s amazing wardrobe.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang: Super cute contemporary romance! I liked a lot of things about this one, especially the interactions between the main characters and the male mc’s family. It was really sweet to see a male mc who cares so much about his mother and sisters, and it helped make sense of how he understands Stella. There’s not much external drama here, which is also nice sometimes! It’s much more focused on Stella and Michael and whether they will/can commit to each other.

Starless by Jacqueline Carey: This is actually the first book by Carey that I’ve ever read, although I know she has a lot of others out there. I have extremely mixed feelings about this one. On the positive side, the narration was pretty engaging and some of the worldbuilding concepts were pretty neat. On the other hand, I felt pretty strongly that this book needed to be edited down, or that one clear through-line should have been established, or both. There are entire sections that felt irrelevant to the ultimate story, and I never felt truly invested in Khai’s journey, resulting in what felt like a somewhat boring read. But I might be in the minority on this one, so take my grumps with a grain of salt.

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bookish posts monthly book list

July 2018 books

Most Wanted Rae Carson 7.26

Dread Nation Justina Ireland 7.22

Always Never Yours Emily Wibberley and Austen Siegemund-Broka 7.22

By Your Side Kasie West 7.12

Listen to Your Heart Kasie West 7.10

Front Desk Kelly Yang 7.10

All Summer Long Hope Larson 7.10

The Girl with the Red Balloon Katherine Locke 7.9

Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines Adam Gidwitz 7.6

Puddin’ Julie Murphy 7.2

The Beauty That Remains Ashley Woodfolk 7.2

 

Total books read: 11
Total rereads: 0

Favorites:

  • The Girl with the Red Balloon
  • All Summer Long
  • Front Desk
  • Listen To Your Heart
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bookish posts reviews

Recent YA romcom round-up

To me, summer feels like the perfect time to read a bunch of YA romcoms, so I have. And it’s helped me zero in a bit on what I find most enjoyable in this type of book: a story that’s sweet and funny but also has a bit of substance to it. And, of course, great characters. Comedy and romance are both inextricably character-driven, so that makes sense! Anyway, here are some I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

I really liked this one; the main character is prickly without being so mean that I was put off (I know this makes me sound like one of those people who hates ‘unlikable’ characters. I don’t! I’m also not convinced that a romcom is the best place for one? anyway.). Also, I really liked that the growing friendship felt as important, grounded, and central as the romance. Woo! The mom aspect wasn’t my favorite, but overall this was great. I need to read more Maurene Goo.

From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon

Awwwww, I really super liked this one. It’s a cute story and I thought it worked just as well as When Dimple Met Rishi. The conceit of  Twinkle writing to her favorite female directors could have felt gimmicky, but it was just earnest enough to pull it off. I did realize where the story was going pretty quickly, but it was still effective for me.

Listen to Your Heart & By Your Side by Kasie West

So, I strongly prefer Listen to Your Heart, since By Your Side largely features the male main character not talking to the female main character while she tries to draw him out. It just made me uncomfortable; while I’m sure it was meant to be an update of the taciturn hero trope, this version didn’t work for me. (Also, I am a pedant and I know it, but: libraries have phones and doors that open from the inside even if locked!) But I really liked Listen to Your Heart, and the whole podcast scenario seemed pretty solidly depicted. And I did like the characters in that one a ton, especially the rivalry between Kate’s family and the local hotshots.

Always Never Yours by Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley

This one veers a bit more into drama territory (wow, this was not intentionally a pun but I’m just going with it) and is a lot less light-hearted than the other books here. But I’m including it anyway, because I think it still hits a lot of the same emotional beats as most romcoms. I liked it a lot! It’s thoughtful about a lot of stuff and I liked having a theatre story that focused on directing as well as acting. I’m also very curious about the fact that this is a husband and wife writing team but this is not a book with dual narrators! Intriguing.

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March 2018 reading

 

The Cruel Prince Holly Black 3.11

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani 3.19

American Panda Gloria Chao 3.3

Emergence CJ Cherryh 3.10

The Belles Dhonielle Clayton 3.13

The Disorderly Knights Dorothy Dunnett 3.12

As the Crow Flies Melanie Gillman 3.26

Leia, Princess of Alderaan Claudia Grey 3.1

Garvey’s Choice Nikki Grimes 3.24

The Wedding Date Jasmine Guillory 3.1

All’s Faire in Middle School Victoria Jamieson 3.14

A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle 3.8

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald 3.19

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon Jill Thompson 3. 23

Spinning Tillie Walden 3.12

 

Total books read: 15

Total rereads: 1 (A Wrinkle in Time)

Favorites:

  • Spinning
  • Leia, Princess of Alderaan
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • The Wedding Date
  • The Belles
  • As the Crow Flies
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bookish posts reviews

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner

listen to the moonListen to the Moon is the third in Rose Lerner’s Lively St. Lemeston series. As in many historical romance series, it features a number of cameos from the protagonists of the other books, which is always a fun thing to spot! In this case, Lerner does something slightly unusual and features as her main characters two servants.

I’ve definitely read other historical romances with servants as main characters before. But they often tend to fall into a couple of patterns: distressed gentlewomen down on their luck, or illegitimate children of nobility, or people in disguise. In this instance, Lerner resists all of these patterns: John and Sukey are genuinely part of the servant class. They expect to be part of this class for the rest of their lives.

I very much appreciated the way the complexities of being a servant are shown, both within the characters and in the different experiences depicted. John, for instance, is well paid and highly trained, someone for whom work is a source of pride. Sukey works because she must in order to live, and she doesn’t have the same pride in the job nor the same prospects (which is a source of conflict in the story). But at the same time, there’s an inherent tension between the reality of being perpetually lower class and at the mercy of your employer’s circumstances, and having a sense of fulfillment from doing the job well. It’s not resolved, because it can’t be resolved; there are no simple answers here, and Lerner doesn’t attempt to pass off platitudes as wisdom. Instead, she shows us John, and Sukey, and Thea and Molly, and Mrs. Khaleel. We’re given a sense of some of the very small range of experiences, not a single story. We’re also shown that even a well meaning or kind employer doesn’t erase the structural inequalities.

In terms of the relationship at the heart of the book, I really liked the contrast between Sukey’s impetuousness and John’s exactness. It gives food for realistic and believable tension between them, though I occasionally did want them to just talk. I also liked the way John’s concern about his age and suitableness for Sukey relieved some of the worry about that inequality of age and power that might otherwise be there for me.

I also really appreciated the way Sukey was shown as a young woman who knows her own mind, who wants to be valued for who she is. Her anxieties and strengths both worked well for me, and I liked that she’s someone who doesn’t leap into romance and who’s aware of the potential costs to both love and marriage.

Perhaps the most resonant thread of the story for me was actually John’s struggle to come to terms with his family and how much of him comes from his father. This fear that he’ll be as tyrannical and feared combined with his desire for things to be done right was nicely balanced. Especially, I think, when we begin to see his genuine pride in doing things well at the same time as he wants to find his own way.

Having read this book twice, I do feel that there’s something a little awkward about the ending. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is–pacing? a shift in tone?–but I noticed it both times. However, as an overall story, I loved this one, and I found the emotional payoff of the ending to still be very rewarding. As usual, Lerner writes engaging and complex characters, and I really appreciated John and Sukey’s story.

Book source: review copy from author

Book information 2016, Samhain; adult historical romance

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My review of Lerner’s True Pretenses