mini-review · Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Glutton for Pleasure by Alisha Rai (Pleasure #1)

25444538Summary from Goodreads:
They’re craving something sweet. She likes it spicy.

Devi Malik knows how to heat things up. She does it every night as head chef in her family’s Indian restaurant. Her love life, though, is stuck in the subzero freezer. Now, with a chance to fulfill a secret fantasy with her long-time crush and his brother, it’s time to put her desire on the front two burners.

For Marcus Callahan, a love-’em-and-leave-’em attitude isn’t only a necessary evil of their kink. It’s a protective device. Lately, though, his brother Jace has been making noises about craving something more.

Jace’s dissatisfaction with their lifestyle grows with every glimpse of sweet little Devi. Yet Marcus is too haunted by the pain of their shared past to give love a chance.

Despite their reputation for vanishing with the dawn, they discover one night with Devi isn’t nearly enough. And Devi finds herself falling in love with two very different men.

It’ll take more than explosive sex to light up the shadows surrounding the Callahan brothers’ secrets. But Devi’s never been afraid of the dark…

Warning: This title contains two sizzling men for the price of one, ménage a trois, oral sex, anal sex, fun toys, great food, and creative uses for syrup and dressing rooms.

Well, I needed a book to fill the Read Harder task “Read a book in a genre you’ve never read before” – which is kind of impossible for me anymore. So I went for a sub-genre of romance that I’ve definitely never read: polyamorous or menage romance.

And since I never do anything by halves (I read Bound to Be a Groom a little bit ago), I finished Glutton for Pleasure yesterday. It’s a good “sweltering weather” book since no one can tell if you fan yourself because of the heat or because of Alisha’s writing! Win! Glutton for Pleasure definitely comes down on more on the erotica side of romance – there were some places where I felt that the relationship development was too thin.  There were also a few times where I was questioning whether Jace and Marcus were not giving Devi enough time to thoroughly consent (I’m definitely for more consent-positive sexytimes in my romance). But whoooooo-boy, can Alisha Rai write a steamy sex scene.  While poly/menage romance still isn’t high on my list of sub-genres to read – there are still too many “parts” to keep track of, sorry – I did really enjoy reading this one.  I could see where we got the Forbidden Hearts series from here.

(There was a S’mores metaphor – I am simultaneously AWWWW and DED)

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this book on my nook.

Advertisements
Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Too Wilde to Wed by Eloisa James (The Wildes of Lindow Castle #2)

36341200Summary from Goodreads:
The handsome, rakish heir to a dukedom, Lord Roland Northbridge Wilde—known to his friends as North—left England two years ago, after being jilted by Miss Diana Belgrave. He returns from war to find that he’s notorious: polite society has ruled him “too wild to wed.”

Diana never meant to tarnish North’s reputation, or his heart, but in her rush to save a helpless child, there was no time to consider the consequences of working as a governess in Lindow Castle. Now everyone has drawn the worst conclusions about the child’s father, and Diana is left with bittersweet regret.

When North makes it clear that he still wants her for his own, scandal or no, Diana has to fight to keep from losing her heart to the man whom she still has no intention of marrying.

Yet North is returning a hardened warrior—and this is one battle he’s determined to win.

He wants Diana, and he’ll risk everything to call her his own.

I will always get a little weepy at a good Happily Ever After.

Because at the very end of Wilde in Love, Eloisa James gave us an Epilogue, wherein North visits his ex-fiance Diana to inform her that he is going to lead a regiment of the British Army against the rebel Colonists in America….and as he is leaving, a baby cries. And that’s the end of the book!! GAH!

Too Wilde to Wed picks up two years later, when North returns home to Lindow Castle – whole in body, but broken in spirit and mind – and finds Diana installed in the nursery as the nursemaid/governess to his little sister. And a strange little boy that is not a member of the family. And a gossip mill rumor that has tagged him as the little boy’s father.

Diana has her own reasons for hiding herself away in the Wilde family nursery – most of them personal and potentially extremely embarrassing, if not actually dangerous to a member of her family. North’s return presents an annoying problem – Diana didn’t jilt him because she didn’t love him or find him attractive, she just couldn’t handle the social pressure of becoming the duchess of North’s future dukedom (not that the current Duke of Lindow was going anywhere soon – he’s a pretty healthy guy in his fifties). Plus her mom was the actual worst and Diana decided that her sister came before a fiance.

love a good second-chance romance. Like, my favorite Austen is PersuasionToo Wilde to Wed has second chances galore – but also a lot of real-world baggage. North doesn’t come sauntering back home a war hero; he’s disillusioned, haunted, and suffering from PTSD. Diana, while she is still attracted to North, is extremely averse to the social whirl surrounding the Wildes, particularly since she cannot afford to please only herself. But Diana and North have a lot of late-night talks – and snacks – and very slowly begin to find a way forward that is their own path together. And they get a lot of pushes and shoves from the rest of the Wilde clan who are absolutely in their element trying to match-make North and Diana.  I loved it.

And that cover model is welcome to get crumbs in my sheets any time. Hummina hummina.

Too Wilde to Wed is out today!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss – and I pre-ordered it because if you did, and sent Eloisa the proof, you get access to an exclusive novella about the Duke of Lindow and his third wife Ophelia.

mini-review · stuff I read

Sanctuary by Rebekah Weatherspoon (Beards and Bondage #2)

38883903Summary from Goodreads:
From multi award-winning author Rebekah Weatherspoon, comes book 2 in this sexy, suspenseful series…

When she needs a sanctuary…

Targeted by a sadistic former client, attorney Liz Lewis needs a place to lay low. When a friend offers her his family farm as a safe house, she eagerly accepts, unaware that she’ll have to share the farm with her friend’s brawny, beautiful brother, Silas McInroy.

…she invades his…

Weary of a world that doesn’t understand him, Silas just wants to be left alone to grow the best produce upstate New York has to offer. Still, he’s not going to toss a woman out when her safety is on the line. But the only way to explain her presence on his farm is to claim that they fell in love online…and the last thing he needs is a fake relationship that threatens to become more and more real every day.

With her world turned upside down and danger on her trail, Liz knows that this temporary refuge can’t last forever…but leaving the comfort and ease of Silas’s arms and farm to face the reality of her life may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.

*** WARNING: This book contains scenes of mild bondage and domination between a gorgeous lawyer and a sexy farmer who is terrible with women. And five farm dogs with varying degrees of loyalty to both the hero and heroine.***

Remember the “fake engagement” trope? It’s back but in a modern form. In the follow-up to Haven, Rebekah Weatherspoon has produced a modern romance between a smart woman hiding from what seems to be a contract on her life and a man who really likes his quiet, mostly-solitary life as a farmer. When they have to pretend to be in a relationship to explain why she’s all of a sudden at his house (because her friend is his brother), sparks fly.  And I mean fly. *whew, fans self*

Sanctuary is a less-intense or insular book than Haven, IMO. Not that there isn’t a lot going on in this book (because there is) but I felt a little less emotionally connected to Liz and Silas than I did to Claudia and Shep. And while I loved the HEA for Liz and Silas there are some dudes in this book that still need a good comeuppance and beat-down.

I’m definitely reading more Rebekah Weatherspoon, though. I like how she writes first person POV in romance.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this book on my nook.

mini-review · stuff I read

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

36345284Summary from Goodreads:
A highly anticipated debut by one of the most ferociously gifted young writers working today (Michelle Huneven)

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

I finally made it to the top of the library holds list!!

I really loved Machado’s writing style and imagery. This is a really solid story collection of strange, unsettling, fairy-tale adjacent stories, very much in the vein of story collections I’ve loved this year (JagannathThe Heads of the Colored PeopleAll the Names They Used for God). The only exception was the extremely over-long and nonsensical central story “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU” which was somewhat boring and possibly doesn’t make sense unless you’re an SVU devotee (I’ve watched some episodes but definitely not very many).

Dear FTC: I borrowed a copy of this book from the library.

mini-review · stuff I read

Tropic of Squalor by Mary Karr

35959197Summary from Goodreads:
A new volume of poetry from the New York Times bestselling and esteemed author of The Liar’s Club and Lit.

Long before she earned accolades for her genre-defining memoirs, Mary Karr was winning poetry prizes. Now the beloved author returns with a collection of bracing poems as visceral and deeply felt and hilarious as her memoirs. In Tropic of Squalor, Karr dares to address the numinous—that mystery some of us hope towards in secret, or maybe dare to pray to. The “squalor” of meaninglessness that every thoughtful person wrestles with sits at the core of human suffering, and Karr renders it with power—illness, death, love’s agonized disappointments. Her brazen verse calls us out of our psychic swamplands and into that hard-won awareness of the divine hiding in the small moments that make us human. In a single poem she can generate tears, horror, empathy, laughter, and peace. She never preaches. But whether you’re an adamant atheist, a pilgrim, or skeptically curious, these poems will urge you to find an inner light in the most baffling hours of darkness.

I’d never read Mary Karr’s poetry before, didn’t even know she had previous collections 🙀 but I have read her memoir Lit and loved it. I found Tropic of Squalor very interesting. I liked the poem cycle that made up the last half of this collection. (I am the worst reviewer of poetry – can I speak critically about the work? Nerp, not a clue. But I enjoyed reading it.)

Dear FTC: I read a paper galley from the publisher.

stuff I read

The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts by Tessa Fontaine

36672583Summary from Goodreads:
A daughter’s astonishing memoir of pushing past fear, through life in a traveling sideshow and her mother’s illness

Turns out, one lesson applies to living through illness, keeping the show on the road, letting go of the person you love most, and eating fire:
The trick is there is no trick.
You eat fire by eating fire.

Two journeys—a daughter’s and a mother’s—bear witness to this lesson in The Electric Woman.

For three years Tessa Fontaine lived in a constant state of emergency as her mother battled stroke after stroke. But hospitals, wheelchairs, and loss of language couldn’t hold back such a woman; she and her husband would see Italy together, come what may. Thus Fontaine became free to follow her own piper, a literal giant inviting her to “come play” in the World of Wonders, America’s last traveling sideshow. How could she resist?

Transformed into an escape artist, a snake charmer, and a high-voltage Electra, Fontaine witnessed the marvels of carnival life: intense camaraderie and heartbreak, the guilty thrill of hard-earned cash exchanged for a peek into the impossible, and, most marvelous of all, the stories carnival folks tell about themselves. Through these, Fontaine trained her body to ignore fear and learned how to keep her heart open in the face of loss.

A story for anyone who has ever imagined running away with the circus, wanted to be someone else, or wanted a loved one to live forever, The Electric Woman is ultimately about death-defying acts of all kinds, especially that ever constant: good old-fashioned unconditional love.

I was intrigued by the premise of this memoir – a literal “running away to join the circus and escape the confines of one’s ordinary life” story. Tessa Fontaine trained herself to become a part of one of the last travelling side-show acts. She learned how to swallow a sword, perform slight of hand, and to take a surge of electricity through her body to become The Electric Woman. In the background of the nitty-gritty of side-show life, Fontaine writes about the worry and occasional despair her family faced when her mother suffered a devastating brain hemorrhage.

Fontaine has a very good writing style and really makes the two story lines of her mom’s illness and her summer with the traveling side-show come alive. I don’t quite agree with how she laid out the timeline of the book – there are a few places where it seems she jumps back and forth unnecessarily in time – but it is really interesting. In particular, she shatters her own – and the reader’s – romanticism about travelling in a side-show: the lack of amenities, the lack of privacy, and the danger faced by a young woman seemingly alone when confronted with the misogyny of both carnival workers and carnival visitors.

The Electric Woman is out tomorrow!

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

stuff I read

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

35959632Summary from Goodreads:
By the New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams, an exploration of addiction, and the stories we tell about it, that reinvents the traditional recovery memoir.

With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction–both her own and others’–and examines what we want these stories to do, and what happens when they fail us.

All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Raymond Carver, Billie Holiday, David Foster Wallace, and Denis Johnson, as well as brilliant figures lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here.

For the power of her striking language and the sharpness of her piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag. Yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.

I really enjoyed Leslie Jamison’s memoir/history of alcoholic writers/ideas about “sober genius.” I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was most interested in all the parts that took place in my town (look, there’s The Foxhead! Java House! I know where that bakery is!). There are a lot of personal stories in this book and I think Jamison does all of them justice.

That said, I do think that Jamison doesn’t quite make her point – that getting sober doesn’t stifle creativity. Her examples, Carver aside since I’ve never really liked Gordon Lish and I’m with Carver on Lish basically rewriting Carver’s stories, are almost all writers who really failed at sobriety or never managed to capture the magic again while sober (Berryman, Rhys, Jackson, etc.). But she doesn’t focus very much on Denis Johnson, also an Iowa alum who not only got famous not only for his writing but for how spectacularly wasted he could get. But he did clean up, and become a writing teacher, and continued to write – he was sober (I think, I’m not solid on timeline) when Tree of Smoke won the NBA and his last collection of stories is stunning. I wonder if she had at all been given an early copy of Denis Johnson’s last story collection since he died last May as he finished that collection and she would have been finishing the final draft of this book. I think it would have helped her thesis that getting sober doesn’t kill genius.

I think also she could have put more of her Author’s Note – where she talks about how AA is not the only way and that medication-aided sobriety is also a good and necessary thing – into the body of the book. Because it comes off a bit as AA is the only way. It’s the focus since AA worked for her, and a lot of the writers she researched did AA, too, but the book maybe needed a broader treatment focus.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this book because I super-love Leslie Jamison’s writing.

mini-review · stuff I read

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (Peter Grant #1/Rivers of London #1)

16033550Summary from Goodreads:
Probationary constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

I finally clawed my way back to the top of the library hold list to finish Midnight Riot!

I really enjoyed the story of brand-new constable Peter Grant as he comes to learn about magic and the paranormal when he gets apprenticed to the decidedly weirdest Detective Superintendent in the entire London constabulary. It was quite an intricate plot, with all the details and bits of magic and history, but it didn’t feel bogged down by details. The narrator of the audiobook, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, really nailed Peter’s voice and the myriad London/non-London accents called for in the book. A+ to the publisher who did NOT Americanize the language (which sadly happens more often than not and annoys me greatly). I think Aaronovitch was a little heavy on the “Peter is hard up for a lay” part of Peter’s psyche; it got boring/old/tired/dude, get over yourself after a while. This book scratched all my “need a new Thursday Next” itches, so I am definitely going to read more.

Note: I do not like the new US audiobook cover (above) considering that Peter doesn’t carry a handgun as a London constable. I much preferred the map drawing.

Dear FTC: I borrowed this via the library’s Overdrive system.