stuff I read

Blog Tour Spotlight: John Eyre by Mimi Matthews

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

ADVANCE PRAISE

“Bertha Mason Rochester shines, dominating her scenes with vitality and strength. The style, too, is spot-on, reprising the spirit of 19th-century Gothic prose without descending into mimicry.”— Publishers Weekly

“An entertaining spin on a classic with thrilling twists and turns…Matthews skillfully transforms a well-known story into a truly original tale.”— Kirkus

“[Matthews] retells Charlotte Bronte’s classic story in a way that will keep fans of the original novel totally gripped from cover to cover… Fresh and dynamic… Fast-paced and spellbinding…a book you will have a hard time putting down.”— Readers Favorite

“One of the most moving, suspenseful, innovative and remarkable retellings of a classic in the history of, well, ever… Every page is sheer rapture as [Matthews] moulds popular source material into a spell-binding creation so wholly her own.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration

“[A] captivating and ingenious retelling of Jane Eyre with a supernatural twist. Smart, suspenseful, and deliciously spooky, JOHN EYRE is a must-read; I loved everything about it!”— Ashley Weaver, author of the Amory Ames Mysteries and the Electra McDonnell series

AUTHOR BIO

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Regency and Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats.

SO. Do you like Jane Eyre? Do you like Jane but really dislike Mr. Rochester because, you know, the wife in the attic thing? Would you be into a gender-flipped-sort-of retelling of Jane Eyre where JOHN Eyre comes to Thornfield Hall to work for a mysterious Mrs. Bertha Mason Rochester? And maybe something supernaturally hinky is going on? Well, John Eyre by Mimi Matthews is probably for you!

Full disclosure: I haven’t had a chance to read this yet – my reading brain is having some issues so I didn’t want to promise anything which is why this is a spotlight post not a review. However, you can stop by the review at Austenprose to find links to all the blogs on the tour for excerpts and reviews. Join the virtual book tour of JOHN EYRE: A TALE OF DARKNESS AND SHADOW, Mimi Matthews’ highly acclaimed Bronte-inspired Gothic romance, July 12-25, 2021. Thirty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical fiction, Gothic romance, and paranormal fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpt, and reviews of this new Victorian-era novel set in Yorkshire, England.

TOUR SCHEDULE

July 12 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (review)
July 12 Syrie James (review)
July 12 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (review)
July 13 Bronte Blog (interview)
July 13 Laura’s Reviews (review)
July 13 All-of-a-Kind Mom (spotlight)
July 14 Gwendalyn’s Books (review)
July 14 Austenesque Reviews (review)
July 15 Bookworm Lisa (review)
July 15 Nurse Bookie (review)
July 16 Savvy Verse and Wit (excerpt)
July 16 The Lit Bitch (review)
July 17 My Bookish Bliss (review)
July 17 From the TBR Pile (review)
July 18 Rosanne E. Lortz (review)
July 18 Books, Teacups, & Reviews (review)
July 19 The Secret Victorianist (review)
July 19 Christian Chick’s Thoughts (review)
July 19 The Gothic Library (review)
July 20 Getting Your Read On (review)
July 20 The Silver Petticoat Review (review)
July 20 Lu Reviews Books (review)
July 21 Scuffed Slippers and Wormy Books (spotlight)
July 21 The Green Mockingbird (review)
July 22 Unabridged Chick (review)
July 22 A Darn Good Read (review)
July 23 Kathleen Flynn (review)
July 23 So Little Time… (review)
July 23 The Calico Critic (review)
July 24 The Bronte Babe (review)
July 24 Probably at the Library (review)
July 24 Impressions in Ink (review)
July 25 From Pemberley to Milton (review)
July 25 Vesper’s Place (review)
July 25 Cup of Tea with that Book Please (review)

mini-review · stuff I read

Books Promiscuously Read: Reading as a Way of Life Heather Cass White

Summary from Goodreads: The critic and scholar Heather Cass White offers an exploration of the nature of reading

Heather Cass White’s Books Promiscuously Read is about the pleasures of reading and its power in shaping our internal lives. It advocates for a life of constant, disorderly, time-consuming reading, and encourages readers to trust in the value of the exhilaration and fascination such reading entails. Rather than arguing for the moral value of reading or the preeminence of literature as an aesthetic form, Books Promiscuously Read illustrates the irreplaceable experience of the self that reading provides for those inclined to do it.

Through three sections–Play, Transgression, and Insight–which focus on three ways of thinking about reading, BooksPromiscuously Read moves among and considers many poems, novels, stories, and works of nonfiction. The prose is shot through with quotations reflecting the way readers think through the words of others.

Books Promiscuously Read is a tribute to the whole lives readers live in their books, and aims to recommit people to those lives. As White writes, “What matters is staying attuned to an ordinary, unflashy, mutely persistent miracle; that all the books to be read, and all the selves to be because we have read them, are still there, still waiting, still undiminished in their power. It is an astonishing joy.”

I picked up Books Promiscuously Read thinking that it would be about reading multiple books at one time or reading kind of all over the place (heyo, it me) and, well, this wasn’t it. It’s a very introspective “why are we READERS” discussion, which was nice but didn’t hold my attention well. I think it’s also worth noting that a lot of the pieces referenced in the text are much more high-brow and literary, so a reader may not immediately be able to connect with the philosophy of White’s piece. But it was interesting to think about reading as a development, since it’s isn’t instinctive as an activity, reading still has to be taught and developed into a habit.

Books Promiscuously Read is out tomorrow.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

stuff I read

Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers Is Saving Ballet from Itself by Chloe Angyal

Summary from Goodreads: A reckoning with one of our most beloved art forms, whose past and present are shaped by gender, racial, and class inequities—and a look inside the fight for its future
 
Every day, in dance studios all across America, legions of little children line up at the barre to take ballet class. This time in the studio shapes their lives, instilling lessons about gender, power, bodies, and their place in the world both in and outside of dance.
 
In Turning Pointe, journalist Chloe Angyal captures the intense love for ballet that so many dancers feel, while also grappling with its devastating shortcomings: the power imbalance of an art form performed mostly by women, but dominated by men; the impossible standards of beauty and thinness; and the racism that keeps so many people of color out of ballet. As the rigid traditions of ballet grow increasingly out of step with the modern world, a new generation of dancers is confronting these issues head on, in the studio and on stage. For ballet to survive the twenty-first century and forge a path into a more socially just future, this reckoning is essential.

Turning Pointe reminded me very much of a book I read in junior high – Off Balance: The Real World of Ballet by Suzanne Gordon – that was very much an expose about the toxicity of the ballet world (since it came in the wake of Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave and was more a work of investigative journalism than memoir, I don’t think it hit quite as big as it should have). Angyal’s new book about ballet in the 21st century, and what we need to do to make the art form relevant, more inclusive, and less-likely to do permanent damage to young bodies and minds both updates Gordon’s work and expands it. It is very well-researched, with a lot of interviews with working dancers, teachers, administrators and with some who have left the profession. She covers a lot of subjects including racism, classism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, sexual assault/abuse, psychological abuse, body dysphoria/eating disorders (all the trigger warnings for this book, although it is all handled sensitively, I think).

I think Angyal perhaps tried to cover too much in this book. I feel like she could have pushed deeper on a number of subjects. This may have been due to having to research and finish a book during a global pandemic, which obviously curtailed planned research trips and also added new subjects to the book. But it does feel like this book is the tip of an iceberg, that a book could be written for each chapter to deconstruct some of these very entrenched institutional constructs of “how” ballet and ballet dancers should exist. This is necessary reading for all dancers and dance parents.

As a former dancer, who started at age 3 and danced until finally stopping at 34, even though I never danced professionally I saw versions of many scenarios recounted in this book. I love ballet, I would have continued taking daily class until I died (thanks, osteoarthritis, you are very much not welcome), but we as dancers and ballet-lovers really need to demand change or the art form will make itself obsolete.

Turning Pointe is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

Our Work Is Everywhere: An Illustrated Oral History of Queer and Trans Resistance by Syan Rose

Summary from Goodreads: Over the past ten years, we have witnessed the rise of queer and trans communities that have defied and challenged those who have historically opposed them. Through bold, symbolic imagery and surrealist, overlapping landscapes, queer illustrator and curator Syan Rose shines a light on the faces and voices of these diverse, amorphous, messy, real and imagined queer and trans communities.

In their own words, queer and trans organizers, artists, healers, comrades, and leaders speak honestly and authentically about their own experiences with power, love, pain, and magic to create a textured and nuanced portrait of queer and trans realities in America. The many themes include Black femme mental health, Pacific Islander authorship, fat queer performance art, disability and healthcare practice, sex worker activism, and much more. Accompanying the narratives are Rose’s startling and sinuous images that brings these leaders’ words to visual life.

Our Work Is Everywhere is a graphic nonfiction book that underscores the brilliance and passion of queer and trans resistance. Includes a foreword by Lambda Literary Award-winning author and activist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. 

I came across this book just browsing some small press catalogs. It’s a beautifully illustrated collection of interviews with queer and trans activists. The art style is very unique – I did have some trouble navigating the text layout on occasion, not quite sure why (could have been the digital galley), so I did have to back up and re-read some pages to get the flow right. Rose includes many intersectional voices from across the spectra of gender identity and sexuality, race, disability, and tries to capture each person’s unique voice in the illustration.

I’m having trouble getting Our Work is Everywhere in at the store (the warehouse is out), so you may need to order it directly from the publisher.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.

audiobooks · mini-review · stuff I read

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren, narrated by Todd Haberkorn and Jayme Mattler

Summary from Goodreads: Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

I’ve never read Christina Lauren before, so after getting some recs from Twitter I decided to start with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating (plus, it was available right away on Libby audio).

I really liked this story of two sort-of opposites – delightful chaos Muppet vs calm order Muppet – who reconnect years after college. They become best friends and wing-people on the dating scene. And then “best friends” to something more. I really felt Hazel’s hesitancy about long-term relationships because she does have history where women who aren’t “quiet” are punished by a guy who wants them to be “less.” And when Josh realizes his long-distance girlfriend has been cheating on him…oof. I wasn’t super down with the ending (spoiler: you bozos, condoms are a real thing) – I feel like that curtailed most of the discussion of why they were each resisting actually dating each other when CLEARLY they were each other’s person. (Aside: Hazel’s pets are delightful.)

Specific to the audiobook: there are two narrators. The narrator for Hazel’s chapters is great but the narrator for Josh’s chapters makes Hazel sound like a Ren and Stimpy character. Do not recommend.

(A slight trigger warning: the first time Josh and Hazel have sex, at least one or both of them is drunk (it’s a little up-in-the air whether Hazel is still buzzed at this point). There is consent – Josh is definitely into it – but it could be a squicky for some readers since enthusiastic drunk consent isn’t 100% sober enthusiastic consent.)

Dear FTC: I borrowed this book through the library’s Overdrive/Libby app.

mini-review · stuff I read

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Summary from Goodreads: From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

You might know Michelle Zauner as the singer/songwriter and creator of the group Japanese Breakfast. She started writing essays and other pieces several years ago – it all led to her new memoir Crying in H Mart.

Now, I’m not going to be able to write much of anything coherent or more profound than any number of incredible reviews about this book. Because: all the trigger warnings about death of a parent from cancer in this book. There are chapters where I read with tears streaming down my face. Zauner writes with such beauty and grace about finding connection to a parent you had a rocky relationship with but are now rapidly running out of time. She uses what is her neutral ground with her mom – their mutual love of Korean food – to find an opening into Korean culture and to who her mom is and was over time.

Crying in H Mart published on Tuesday – go buy and read it.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Gray Hair Don’t Care by Karen Booth (Never Too Late #1)

Summary from Goodreads: Everything went wrong. And then she went gray.

At 47, newly divorced makeup artist Lela Bennett is dreading her next steps. Dating. Meeting people. Not letting herself go. But then she runs into Donovan James and tries something different—sleeping with her sexy crush from college. Unfortunately, in a post-orgasm stupor, Lela confesses she was in love with Donovan all those years ago. He responds by leaving while she sleeps. The next morning, her gray hairs are practically taunting her. She knows she has to get it together. Forget men. Embrace her age. Own her gray.

Donovan James is a marketing genius, but his ex-wives will tell you—nothing freaks him out like feelings. Three years after his one-night stand with Lela, he’s focused on his daughter’s lifestyle company, but unprepared to meet the face of the beauty division. It’s Lela. With stunning silver locks and new confidence, she’s no longer swayed by his charms. When business starts booming, the universe seems intent on throwing them together time and again. And suddenly, two people convinced that romance was behind them are wondering if love could be what’s next.

Gray Hair Don’t Care is a really nice third-chance romance between a makeup artist launching her eponymous makeup line and a marketing whiz (college besties to one-night-stand as adults to coworkers to HEA). Lela and Donovan are both in their early 50s during most of the book and it’s such a fun change. I love how the book addresses how we all deserve to be happy, that feeling sexy and having a loving relationship is not the sole preserve of the young, hip, and pre-menopausal.

This isn’t a very long book but Booth really does a great job characterizing not just her main characters but also some of the friends and family who are important – Donovan’s daughter who is hired as the lead publicist (? job title?) for Lela’s makeup line, her finacee, Donovan’s mom and his brother, Lela’s best friend and her fiancee. It’s such a lovely, fun read with some stakes but low-angst. Great for summer, if you have plans for some lazy, “lay around and read” days.

Shout-out to letting your hair go gray – my silver hairs have been proliferating this year and since I cannot ever manage to remember to get a hair cut more than once a year I will definitely be going gray naturally (and it might even be white/silver at the end, based on the individual strands now).

Dear FTC: I read a copy of this book purchased on my Nook.

Romantic Reads

The Way You Love Me by Elle Wright (Pure Talent #3)

Summary from Goodreads: Stunning social media meltdowns. Glamorous dueling power couples. Mega-viral scandals and dizzying Internet super-spin. No one is better than the Pure Talent Agency at handling it all–or facing down up-close-and-personal bad news…

Superstar actress Paige Mills is America’s Sweetheart. But with a shocking divorce, she’s burning her powerful husband’s house of lies right down to the ground. Reeling from ugly revelations and unable to trust anyone, she takes refuge way off the celebrity grid in her family’s remote Michigan lake house. But the brilliant agent who helped shape her success won’t give up his client–or his long-simmering passion for her–without a fight…

Andrew Weathers can’t let the gifted, caring woman he’s always loved wreck her career. And at first, he just wants to help her hope again. But soon their professional chemistry turns into days and nights of no-holds-barred desire–and a resulting publicity firestorm. Now, between hard choices and potentially career-ending consequences, can Paige and Drew risk a seemingly impossible happy ending? 

I had to read Andrew and Paige’s story because “I’ve loved you so long but you were unavailable” is a trope I’m super-trash for. And this is such a sweet story about trust and friendship as a basis for a romantic relationship (and sexy as all hell). Netflix, I’ve got your next three-season series right here!

Paige and Andrew were introduced in the previous book as Skye’s client, an actress on the press circuit for her new movie directed by her husband while her marriage disintegrates due to said dog of a husband, and the actress’s agent. You know in reading the few scenes they’re in that Wright definitely intended for them to be the central couple in the next book. And she pulls no punches at the beginning of The Way You Love Me: Paige’s AWFUL husband is suing her for her home, Andrew is unreachable, and Paige is at the end of her patience. Paige manages to get through the legal stuff with her lawyer but then retreats to a lakefront house in Michigan, putting Andrew in cold storage. Andrew – who has had feelings for Paige for a very long time – has tried to keep his distance to avoid creating more publicity and instead drove a wedge between the two of them. When he finally manages to track Paige down, Andrew really only intends to try and get her to at least keep working and look forward but instead the chemistry between Andrew and Paige pulls them together (there’s a scene with a thunderstorm, whew *fans self*).

So much of this book is about learning to put yourself back together and put yourself out there again after someone you trusted burns you (two people, actually, since Paige essentially feels abandoned by Andrew at the start of the book even though he thinks he’s doing it to help her). Trust is something Andrew has to earn back, and he does. Even though Paige comes out the other side stronger, it is really hard to read the shit her ex-husband puts her through – the tabloid “leaks”, the cheating, the insinuation that she’s actually the guilty party, etc. – that I would put a content warning on that so if this is something hard for you, you’re prepared.

I loved it.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book from my store.