mini-review · stuff I read

New People by Danzy Senna

33275357Summary from Goodreads:
From the bestselling author of Caucasia, a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class and manners in contemporary America.

As the twentieth century draws to a close, Maria is at the start of a life she never thought possible. She and Khalil, her college sweetheart, are planning their wedding. They are the perfect couple, “King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom.” Their skin is the same shade of beige. They live together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn, where Khalil is riding the wave of the first dot-com boom and Maria is plugging away at her dissertation, on the Jonestown massacre. They’ve even landed a starring role in a documentary about “new people” like them, who are blurring the old boundaries as a brave new era dawns. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her–yet she can’t stop daydreaming about another man, a poet she barely knows. As fantasy escalates to fixation, it dredges up secrets from the past and threatens to unravel not only Maria’s perfect new life but her very persona.

Heartbreaking and darkly comic, New People is a bold and unfettered page-turner that challenges our every assumption about how we define one another, and ourselves.

New People was a really interesting novel but I feel like I got lost midway through. Maria is a fantastic character – a woman who has always adopted identities starts to lose herself as her wedding date draws near and she finishes her dissertation about Jonestown. You don’t like her (actually, the only character I liked was her mom, Gloria) but you want to know what she’s doing next. But about midway through I started wondering where the plot was going – is Maria going to break up with Kamil? Shag this poet dude? Yell at Lisa? Go crazy? I really enjoyed Senna’s writing, though, so even if Maria’s narrative got a bit wonky I was enjoying the way Senna described the action.

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

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mini-review · Read My Own Damn Books · Readathon · Reading Diversely · stuff I read · YA all the way

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Guide #1)

29283884Summary from Goodreads:
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is ridiculous, rompy, and touching YA novel about Monty (a grade-A, Capital D, Capital R “dissipated rake” and bisexual, sent on the Grand Tour by his dad to shape up or face disinheritance), Percy (Monty’s bestie and unrequited crush), and Felicity (Monty’s younger sister and a bluestocking) in the 1730s. There are pirates, accidental garden nudity, French political shenanigans, and an alchemical secret that chases them across Europe. This was a delightful one-sitting read.

Dear FTC: I read Read My Own Damn copy.

mini-review · Read My Own Damn Books · Readathon · Reading Diversely · stuff I read

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (The Machineries of Empire #1)

27276118Summary from Goodreads:
The first installment of the trilogy, Ninefox Gambit, centers on disgraced captain Kel Cheris, who must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles in order to redeem herself in front of the Hexarchate.

To win an impossible war Captain Kel Cheris must awaken an ancient weapon and a despised traitor general.

Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics. Kel Command gives her the opportunity to redeem herself by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles, a star fortress that has recently been captured by heretics. Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle, and he may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress.

The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao–because she might be his next victim.

Ninefox Gambit is an absolutely brilliant mind-fuck of a novel, hitting both sides of your brain: the right with an “oooh, gorgeous” appreciation of the world-building, the left with awe over the almost mathematical intricacies of the plot. There is so much to enjoy in this book: the religious details, the little servant robots, the politics, the characters (Jedao’s voice is basically Anthony Hopkins’s creepy Hannibal Lecter personality which if that doesn’t give you the creeps….yeek). The last three chapters are a masterclass in writing. I’ve got loads of books to read but Raven Stratagem just got bumped up the list. (This would make an amazing movie but only if they don’t diddle with the plot AT ALL or make everyone white.)

Dear FTC: I read My Own Damn Copy of this book.

happy dance · Readathon · Reading Diversely · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai (Forbidden Hearts #1)

29422692Summary from Goodreads:
One night. No one will know.
That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.
Until the night she didn’t show up.
Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?
Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.
Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.

*screams with delight* I saved Alisha Rai’s Avon Romance debut to read during Readathon this weekend and I inhaled the whole thing and then had to resist immediately re-reading it.  (I re-read it last night because all the heart-eyes.) Hate to Want You comes out swinging, with a second-chance-enemies-to-lovers romance with a twist: Livvy and Nicholas been having one night of HAWT sex every year for ten years since they broke up.

Until this year, when Livvy didn’t show up. But now she’s back in town because her mom got sick and ALLLLLL the drama is waiting in the wings to start up again.

Y’all, this book is extremely hot and sexy and very, very raw. Everybody’s got some problems in this book, none of them immediately solvable with a single conversation: Livvy and her mom have issues, Nicholas’s dad is a shitty piece of work, Nicholas’s sister has some stuff, Livvy’s twin Jackson has his own problems, their older brother Paul has died and his widow Sadia has financial and emotional stuff to work through (tl;dr: the town soap opera is the Kane-Chandler family feud/war/dramarama). And it’s so, so goddamn good. Big ups to Alisha Rai for writing the scene where Livvy has an honest talk with her aunt about women’s emotions and relationships (you’ll know it when you read it). Also Maile, love that woman.

Now, I know that the next book is Jackson’s but I really, really hope there’s a book planned for Eve.

Hate to Want You is out today! GO, go, go!  Why are you still here? Go buy it/borrow it (please, no stealing). And then go pre-order book 2 (can we do that yet?).

Dear FTC: I read the digital galley two times, and now my nook has a copy all for its very own.

mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Bliss by Lynsay Sands

Summary from Goodreads:
No one blends humor and sensuality like New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands in this captivating story of feuding nobles forced to marry…and destined to fall in love.

Love thy neighbor, ’tis said. A fine idea, except when the neighbor in question is Lord Holden. Lady Helen Tiernay has complained frequently about his treatment of his people. Too frequently perhaps, for the king intends to curb their constant bickering by ordering them to wed. Helen can’t refuse a royal decree, but she’ll do everything possible to drive away her devilishly attractive husband-to-be.

Holden has faced all manner of horrors on the battlefield. But marriage to “the tyrant of Tiernay” is still a worrying prospect—until he glimpses Helen in the flesh. What flesh it is…soft, lush, made for his touch. If she weren’t so intent on thinking up devious ways to prevent consummating their bond, Helen would see how perfect they are together, and that a marriage begun as enemies can turn to absolute pleasure.

Bliss is a re-release of an older Sands medieval romance out July 25, 2017. It’s fine – definitely better than the new Highlanders book I caught up with last month. The set-up for the romance is interesting (if King Henry II orders you to get married, you do that bc absolute monarchy), the plotting is better, and characters make far fewer silly choices but the writing still feels kind of rough.

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

mini-review · stuff I read

The Stars in Our Eyes: The Famous, the Infamous, and Why We Care Way Too Much about Them by Julie Klam

Summary from Goodreads:
From bestselling author Julie Klam comes a lively and engaging exploration of celebrity: why celebrities fascinate us, what it means to be famous today, and why celebrities are so important.
“When I was young I was convinced celebrities could save me,” Julie Klam admits in The Stars in Our Eyes, her funny and personal exploration of fame and celebrity. As she did for subjects as wide-ranging as dogs, mothers, and friendship, Klam brings her infectious curiosity and crackling wit to the topic of celebrity. As she admits, “I’ve always been enamored with celebrities,” be they movie stars, baseball players, TV actors, and now Internet sensations. “They are the us we want to be.” Celebrities today have a global presence and can be, Klam writes, “some girl on Instagram who does nude yoga and has 3.5 million followers, a thirteen-year-old ‘viner, ‘ and a Korean rapper who posts his videos that are viewed millions of times.”
In The Stars in Our Eyes, Klam examines this phenomenon. She delves deep into what makes someone a celebrity, explains why we care about celebrities more than ever, and uncovers the bargains they make with the public and the burdens they bear to sustain this status. The result is an engaging, astute, and eye-opening look into celebrity that reveals the truths about fame as it elucidates why it’s such an important part of life today.

The Stars in Our Eyes was a quick enough read, and Klam’s interviews were fun, but it was a bit bland after having read Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud a few weeks ago. I had been hoping Klam would dig into WHY we feel compelled to feed the celebrity machine but she stayed pretty surface level, in my opinion. Her interviews were nice (hey, Timothy Hutton) but I would have liked an interview with an uber-celebrity (like maybe Emma Watson) to get into sudden-fame-in-the-social-media-world. I enjoyed the “celebrity encounters” stories Klam included at the end of each chapter (one about Ron Jeremy actually had me laughing out loud).

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

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian (The Turner Series #3)

Summary from Goodreads:
Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.

Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.

As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.

Since his introduction in the previous installment in this series (The Lawrence Browne Affair), Lord Courtenay has been desperately in need of a redemption arc.

He doesn’t really do all the things that scandalous novel purportedly based upon his life says he does. He’s a hedonist, not a rake. He’s happy with ladies, or gentlemen, and as long as everyone is happy and down for pleasuring the other party it’s all good. But since that wretched novel came out, he’s not been allowed to see his nephew, had trouble with his income, and largely spending time with (i.e. making sure she’s eating and the house hasn’t become overrun with cats) his friend Eleanor.

Now Eleanor’s brother, Julian, is the most correct of all correct gentlemen whoever tried to break into the upper echelons of the ton.  He’s also had a crush on Lord Courtenay forever (but he would never act on it, because correctness). When Eleanor asks Julian to rehab Courtnay’s reputation the plot takes off like a shot.

The Ruin of a Rake is an excellent conclusion to this series. It’s also very different because so much of the conflict between Courtenay and Julian is internal rather than external (no one’s sneaking about investigating blackmailers, no one’s hiding out from murderous criminals) and very rooted in How One Behaves in Society. Medlock and Courtnay make a compelling couple, the straight-laced social climber and the reckless hedonist. Plus cats. (Dear Author: I’d like to know what’s up with Lady Montbray and her companion, and Oliver and Georgie’s sister needs a HEA, too.)

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss then I bought a copy on my nook because of course.

Reading Diversely · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Friend (With Benefits) Zone by Jennifer Brown

34857442Summary from Goodreads:
I’m ridiculously attracted to my best friend.

Today is a bad day. The worst actually. After dealing with the constant manhandling that comes with being a cocktail waitress at a dive bar and surviving a date from hell, I see an eviction notice slapped on the door of my sketchy basement apartment. Great.

When my best friend Devon shows up at my door and uses his stubborn charm (emphasis on stubborn) to get me to move in with him, I give in. We’ve had about a million sleepovers since we met in the kindergarten Deaf program, but this time it’s different because I can’t stop thinking about his hard body covering mine, every single night.

I know Devon would do anything for me, but I’m afraid what I want to happen will ruin our friendship forever. And the more time we spend together in close quarters, the harder it’ll be to resist the spark of attraction I’ve always felt. But maybe it’s possible to have the best of both worlds: keep the one relationship I can’t live without and indulge in an attraction I can’t deny.

I guess the only thing we can do is try…

Friend (With Benefits) Zone came across my radar on it’s release day (so I couldn’t get it read last week) but because it was an Avon Impulse, the ebook isn’t very much to buy right away.  So I did.

Because I jumped at the opportunity to read an #ownvoices book – this one a romance specifically about a Deaf/Hard of Hearing couple written by a Hard of Hearing author. (I believe it’s loosely connected to a previous book, Signs of Attraction, so my “must read series in order” senses are prickly.)

It’s a pretty good read. I liked the story and characters. Jas and Dev are such great characters together, with a really classic friends-to-lovers plot.  I would also characterize this as a “new adult” contemporary romance, since they are both maybe around 21/last year of college age, because not all new adult is erotica, harrumph. The secondary characters are wonderful, particularly Dev’s brother Blake and his boyfriend (who have a little B-plot), and Dev’s and Jas’s friends Nikki and Pete (who have a little C-plot!), and created a very “real” world for the main couple to inhabit. What pulled the story down, for me, was 1) alternating 1st person POV which I loathe unreservedly in almost any type of book and 2) approximately 100 pages was Jas being completely obnoxious about pushing Dev away/refusing help from anyone (because she does get dealt some really shitty crap in the beginning of this book) which was about 50 pages too many, in my opinion. But the resolution was great, and the sexy-times were appropriately sexy and occasionally hilarious (because sometimes it is).

I’ll definitely be checking out Laura Brown’s previous book.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book.