mini-review · stuff I read

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence

32768516Summary from Goodreads:
A Gen-X librarian’s snarky, laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving collection of love letters and break-up notes to the books in her life.

Librarians spend their lives weeding–not weeds but books! Books that have reached the end of their shelf life, both literally and figuratively. They remove the books that patrons no longer check out. And they put back the books they treasure. Annie Spence, who has a decade of experience as a Midwestern librarian, does this not only at her Michigan library but also at home, for her neighbors, at cocktail parties—everywhere. In Dear Fahrenheit 451, she addresses those books directly. We read her love letters to The Goldfinch and Matilda, as well as her snarky break-ups with Fifty Shades of Grey and Dear John. Her notes to The Virgin Suicides and The Time Traveler’s Wife feel like classics, sure to strike a powerful chord with readers. Through the lens of the books in her life, Annie comments on everything from women’s psychology to gay culture to health to poverty to childhood aspirations. Hilarious, compassionate, and wise, Dear Fahrenheit 451 is the consummate book-lover’s birthday present, stocking stuffer, holiday gift, and all-purpose humor book.

Annie Spence has delivered a sweet and tongue-firmly-in-cheek book about books loved and books lost by a book lover (librarian, in this instance). The first half is a series of letters to books the author has loved, reviled, or merrily weeded from the library collection. The second half is a collection of readers’ advisory essays of book suggestion. This is out today and would be good to keep in mind as stocking stuffers for your book-loving giftees (as well as ordinary, every-day book purchasing).

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

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mini-review · stuff I read · YA all the way

The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin

S30046340ummary from Goodreads:
Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were all figured out… until she failed senior English and her single college acceptance was rescinded. Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass English and get back into Ohio State—and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar… until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden boy next door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure’s not an option.

The Big F is a really sweet, real contemporary YA romance that isn’t just about the romance (there’s a love-shape, y’all, but it’s not bad) but about learning to take responsibility for yourself. It’s about realizing that people change. It was really nice to read a teen romance where no one was a d-bag or an alpha-hole. I loved Danielle’s best friend Zoe, she’s a hoot. (Could have done without the romance genre bashing, tho.)

Read for the September Teen Book Group at my store – plus we had a signing for Maggie earlier in the month.

Genre disgression: Books like The Big F, Fangirl, and When Dimple Met Rishi hang out in this really unfortunate space where they’re tagged as YA/teen but really push farther out into the adult world because the characters are eighteen-ish or early college-aged. This is where I feel “New Adult,” as a descriptor, got hijacked early on as a tag that’s short for “here’s your romance with extra sex and maybe kink but not real erotica contemporary” when it really could have been used to signal romances or other genre fiction in either the adult or teen markets with characters that are newly out in the adult world and working out a things that happen to people learning to handle themselves. But the cat’s out of the bag and we’ll never get it back. (I’ve tagged this as “New Adult” because I’m a rebel.)

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of Maggie’s book.

mini-review · Reading Diversely · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm by Dana Simpson (Phoebe and Her Unicorn #6)

34227897Summary from Goodreads:
The first Phoebe and Her Unicorn graphic novel!

Phoebe and Marigold decide to investigate a powerful storm that is wreaking havoc with the electricity in their town. The adults think it’s just winter weather, but Phoebe and Marigold soon discover that all is not what it seems to be, and that the storm may have a magical cause. To solve the case, they team up with Max, who is desperate for the electricity to return so he can play video games, and frenemy Dakota, who is aided by her goblin minions. Together, they must get to the bottom of the mystery and save the town from the magic storm.

First of all, if you haven’t yet been introduced to Phoebe and Her Unicornhighly suggest checking out this webcomic series about a little girl and her unicorn.  Kind of like Calvin and Hobbes, only Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is a real unicorn who cloaks herself in a Shield of Boringness so people don’t freak out when they see her. There are five collections of strips already, where we are introduced to frenemy Dakota (with her sentient hair and goblin posse) and Max (Phoebe’s adorably nerdy school friend) and Phoebe’s hipster-geek parents.

The Magic Storm is the first original graphic novel in the series. A huge snowstorm is coming, one that might knock out power to the town, but Marigold is certain that the storm has a magical cause. She’s down to only 1 bar of magic that she can sense with her horn, so something is using up the magic in the area. Phoebe recruits Dakota with her goblin minions and Max, with his science knowledge, to help her investigate.

THIS BOOK IS INSANELY ADORABLE. It puts a new spin on all those snow days I had as a kid. Also all the nerd jokes. Please to have all the nerd jokes.  Phoebe and her Unicorn is one of the best kids comics going right now (and when I say “kids” I mean “anyone who likes a good pun and nerd humor of all types and ages”). The Magic Storm is out October 17 from Andrews McMeel.

Dear FTC: I read a galley of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  And you can bet that I’ll be buying a copy for myself and perhaps for the nieces.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (Girl Meets Duke #1)

33296129

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

When a new Tessa Dare romance is in the offing there is an expectation that:

  1. There will be banter, lots of it
  2. There will be hilarious jokes and puns
  3. The meet-cute will be unusual (cf. being chosen as a future Duchess while covered in sugar when one is the barmaid, writing letters to a fake fiancé who turns out to be a real person, inheriting a castle with a grumpy Duke still living in it, proposing that the local rake accompany you on a road-trip to a scientific conference with a dinosaur fossil in tow (that one has the drrrrtiest math jokes), etc.)

The Duchess Deal delivers on all three. And turns the Beauty and the Beast story on its head.

The Duke of Ashbury (Ash), sporting horrific facial scars from Napoleonic battle wounds and freshly jilted by his fiancé, finds himself bearded in his den by a seamstress in a wedding dress. Despite his growling, and insistence that the garment in question is so awful it belongs on a bawdy-house chandelier (among other insults), Emma Gladstone stands her ground and demands to be paid for the work done on his ex-fiancé’s wedding dress. Ash, who was recently reminded that he’ll need a male heir to prevent something untoward happening to the dukedom, decides to kill two birds with one stone – he offers to marry Emma instead.

Emma, with infinite good sense, does not agree to this immediately. (Yes, I am here for a romance heroine to take at least a few days to consider whether getting yourself permanently hitched to a dude one does not know well, in an era where divorce was almost never granted and then never to the woman’s benefit, is a good idea.) But in the end Emma agrees, with a few conditions of her own.

I loved this book. So good, I read it through twice over before marking it as “read.” Emma is one of the best romance heroines, with a solid moral center that feels natural as opposed to contrived. Her gift is knowing how to make someone look and feel good in their own skin; she covers Ash in it and loves him even when he can’t figure out how to love himself as he is now. Ash is another in Tessa Dare’s lineup of heroes physically and mentally damaged by war. His psychological reaction to having burn wounds is so real and true (though, maybe not the “Menace” bit, but you have to love that, too). The secondary characters are all wonderful. Khan, Penny, Alex, and Nicola are the best and while Penny, Alex, and Nicola are all set up as the next heroines in the series, I do wish that Khan could have had a relationship of his own. (Maybe in a novella? Please?) Breeches’s introduction to the story was a hoot and the servants’ plotting to get Emma and Ash to fall in love so Ash won’t be an insufferable pain-in-the-ass forever was my favorite B-plot.

(Props to the cover designer who at least put the male model in profile so we don’t have the mismatch of a totally unscarred dude on the cover.)

The Duchess Deal is out today!  Go get it!  Happy reading!

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, twice, and I have a copy pre-ordered, too.