The Wedding Date (CBR10 #8)

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I accrued some library fines on this book and I’m sending my apology out to the universe for the person behind me in the holds list who is delayed in getting this copy in their hands. That’s what happens when you get six books on interlibrary loan over three days (after none arriving for three weeks), your social calendar gets very full, and you can’t renew this new book (published January 30, 2018 y’all). But I’m also quite glad that I embraced the fines and kept the book.

I try to be more mindful in my reading, and one area that I still don’t give enough attention to is making sure I’m reading book written by people of color and those featuring them. This book is both, and for that reason is a slam dunk for me as it is in a favorite genre – romance – and is perfect for the Read Harder Challenge task 10: read a romance novel by or about a person of color. Done and done. And it is good to boot.

This book has been on my radar for a few months, ever since Roxane Gay gave it a rave review on Twitter back in September. If Roxane is about it, and it is diverse Romance? I’m on it.

She’s spot on, it is charming and its characters are great. However, our opinion diverges on star rating. I’m rounding up to a 4 from a 3.5 because this is Guillory’s debut and the craft of her writing is there, but there’s some first go hiccups (over-reliance on certain phrases for example).

The Wedding Date is the story of Alexa and Drew who meet in an elevator during a quick blackout and each experience a bit of well placed lust. Drew jumps on instinct and asks Alexa to be his date to a wedding he is in that weekend, his ex’s wedding (oh yes, good old Romancelandia drama). Alexa says yes and we are off to the races of these two flirting and eventually getting together. A single weekend turns into trading weekends back and forth as they live in opposite ends of California, which leads to misunderstandings and emotions developing that neither is ready for or really expecting.

Guillory built herself some very believable and nuanced characters. Each has their strengths, each has their weaknesses, and they don’t necessarily solve the others, they have to work on whatever this relationship is at any given time. The secondary characters serve to fill in the yelling of the reader at the main pair (why are you saying that? Why AREN’T you saying that?!), and are well drawn and interesting on their own (Carlos follow up! Please!!). We also don’t suffer instalove, the relationship builds over several months and they talk about issues that exist in our contemporary world, the gross men, the legitimate concern Alexa would feel about not knowing if she will be the only black person at a given social event, the bureaucratic layers associated with getting social aid if our public servants have managed to get it provided in the first place.

This is a good one folks; it has meat on its bone and sexy bassline. Get on it!

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

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A Duke in Shining Armor (CBR10 #7)

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The Romance genre is a trope filled place. Like any other genre, its readers are trained for what to look for, and what to expect. I am a well-trained reader, so much so in fact that I went back to Goodreads early on in reading A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase to make sure that the book in my hand was in fact the first in the series. I am apparently not the only one with this thought: Ms. Chase dedicated a blog post to assuring us, yes, this is the first. My trope instincts went off because Ms. Chase dumps us into action already in progress: the characters know each other, one of the pairs is already married* (but estranged), and a wedding is supposed to be taking place but the bride and groom are both drunk, and the bride is making a run for it out the nearest library window and the best man is setting off to bring her back, if only he can convince her (and himself) that it’s the best plan.

* I am very, very excited and interested in what will be the third book in this series as it will focus on reuniting a married couple (I presume).

I was immediately intrigued. Add into that a heroine who has been overlooked, is a nerdy book girl (Loretta Chase is writing herself and all of us into the story here, I swear), and a steadfastly loyal to his friends male lead and I knew exactly why so many of my romance reading friends were so happy with this book after a relatively lackluster 2017 in Romancelandia. The year was so lackluster in fact that I read only two romances published in 2017 last year (Pretty Face  – which everyone should read after they read Act Like It in time for book three in that series to come out later this year and When Life Happened at PattyKates’ request.)

Ms. Chase does much well in this book, and it’s nice to see her back towards Lord of Scoundrels territory after an enjoyable but not great Dukes Prefer Blondes. In A Duke in Shining Armor Chase deploys a well-paced timeline to keep a short time period from turning into instalove. Chase lays out the historical precedent of how little times affianced couples could expect to spend together in the upper echelons of society in England during the 1830s, and fills a week with more one on one time and varied experiences than many couples featured in romance novels, let alone the real world, would experience, and simultaneously uses the idea of putting a pair together that had spent the better part of a decade keeping each other in their sights we are dealing with people who don’t know each other but would not be considered social strangers. It is just one of many historically accurate details that Chase is known for adding to her writing, and features so prominently on her other blog Two Nerdy History Girls (also a great follow on Twitter for those inclined).  

It was also a bit of a cozy read: there was zero sturm und drang until right at the end. We simply have a bit of an adventure, a bit of a misunderstanding, and some work against social expectations and needs. Olympia and Ripley are well matched, even if we get a little less of who Ripley is on the page, but I expect his character will become clearer as we learn more about his compatriots, the Disgraces.  Oh, and one of my favorite components: a road trip.

I know I’ve told you very little about the book itself, but there are some great reviews to give you more detail there, I’m just going to sit here in my happy feels about a solidly 4 star (creeping towards 4.5 star) book.

 

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

A Hope More Powerful than the Sea (CBR10 #6)

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When I didn’t manage to read a book I had selected for 2017’s Read Harder Challenge I left the library request in as these were books that I had put onto the list for several reasons. Following ElCicco’s detailed and extensive review of A Hope More Powerful than the Sea I knew I needed to read this book in order to bear witness to one woman’s experience as a refugee from the Syrian war as it is one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of my life, and with this being Melissa Fleming’s debut I had an excuse to move it up the list.

I am always stunned when I come across people who seem to think refugees are to blame for their circumstances. There seems to be a prevailing response in the United States (and parts of Europe) to blame the individual for the crimes of the masses and government. Perhaps I am so far in the other direction because I grew up in South Florida during the Haitian and Cuban refugee crises of the early 1990s. Dry foot laws and quotas, detention centers, and seemingly racist choices about who to send home to death and who to allow in permeated the nightly news as well as my classrooms and friends’ families were a part of my daily reality and directly impacted my view on what it costs for someone to leave their only home with nothing but the clothes on their back and no guarantee that they will survive the trip. Twenty years later we’re watching it happen again, on a much larger scale.

Because the suffering and despair that push refugees to flee their homes and risk their lives can only be tremendous, it is expected that a book memorializing the story of one such woman must be harrowing. Doaa Al Zamel’s is exactly that, but it is also an incredibly accessible primer on what life was like in part of Syria before the war started, the excitement that the Arab Spring brought, and the realities of suffering that families and communities have been made to endure both in the war zone but also in the places they have run to for safety. Melissa Fleming takes dozens of hours of interviews a well as other primary resources surrounding Doaa’s life and her ordeal in the Mediterranean Sea in order to make the point that not only is this suffering happening, that we are all criminally negligent (my wording) in our overall lack of response and follow through to this humanitarian need. It has become to easy to get caught up in to what the war has metastasized into; and not look into the great crevasse of need it has created.

While I wish this story was more directly from Doaa, I understand intuitively why it would have been to hard, to emotionally taxing, for her to have attempted it alone. Instead she turned to Melissa Fleming and the other UNHCR staff and humanitarians to tell her story and to help reunite her remaining family. Doaa’s story is important, and Ms. Fleming has done a respectable job in crafting a streamlined, accessible, and easily read accounting. There is no excuse to not read this book.

A Hope More Powerful than the Sea was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Romancing the Werewolf (CBR10 #5)

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In some ways my CBR history is the history of my reading Gail Carriger books. The third book I ever reviewed for Cannonball was Carriger’s Soulless book. Heck it and the next three books in the Parasol Protectorate series make four of my first 10 reviews. Carriger showed back up in my reading in CBR6 as I started her Finishing School books (a prequel series) which spread out over Cannonballs 7 & 8. I am a big Carriger fan; I enjoy her online presence, and find the tempo of her writing fun and soothing. When last year I saw that her second novella in this universe was going to focus on the love story of two of my favorite supporting characters from the Parasol Protectorate books, Professor Lyall and Biffy, I pre-ordered it to read at the end of CBR9. Of course, it ended up in the beginning of CBR10 instead because that’s just how I roll.

While this is a perfectly serviceable romance novella and an interesting piece of Carriger’s Steampunk Universe I made a mistake. In the Note on Chronology Carriger tells us readers that her Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order, and that this book takes place chronologically after the events of Imprudence (in 1895), and ties romantically to events in Timeless. I focused on the Timeless portion of that sentence but I should have paid closer heed to the Imprudence part as I have read a sum total of zero of the Custard Protocol books which follow the Soulless books in chronological order.  I should have just gone and spoiled myself so the setup made more sense.

That said, this novella still has all the things I love about Carriger’s writing: her brand of humor, werewolves, vampires, fancy dress and hats, intrigue, and a quick little mystery to solve, and a peak into an alternate Victorian England. It also is a sweet romance between two characters who have been separated for a long time and aren’t sure what they are to each other anymore. Any time spent with Biffy and Lyall is time well spent. I wish there was a little more ahem, romance, in this novella, but I’ll take what I can get.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.

Born a Crime (CBR10 #4)

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Last year there were several glowing reviews of Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime at Cannonball Read. Based on positive word of mouth I had already picked up the audio version which Noah narrates himself. I was intrigued by Noah – we’re the same age (well, I’m almost exactly a year older) but our lives couldn’t be more different, and I love a good memoir.

For the many reasons life throws your way I did not manage to listen to Born a Crime in 2017. However, fast forward to New Year’s where I am terribly sick, it was ridiculously cold, and the friends I was staying with decided to stay in and do nothing but watch Netflix and read books (there are many reasons why these women are some of my favorite humans on the planet) and we ended up watching several of Trevor Noah’s specials, and a documentary called You Laugh But It’s True which features a baby-faced 25 year old Noah breaking into the comedy scene and putting on his first one man show, The Daywalker. I was immediately mesmerized by the trajectory of this man’s career. In less than 10 years he went from comedian to respected host of The Daily Show.  (Full Disclosure, I have never watched The Daily Show with either Jon Stewart or Trevor Noah as host outside clips here and there.)

The documentary hit on some of the same stories he revisited in the book, giving a careful overview of what is was like to grow up in South Africa. In Born a Crime Noah stops being careful and instead explains in detail the realities of his life, the lives of his friends, and his mother. Noah’s mom Patricia plays a large part of his life and it is reflected in the book. I feel as though I know as much about Patricia Noah as I do about Trevor at the end of the book. She is simply amazing. Read this book, go to Netflix and find You Laugh But It’s True so that you can but faces and voices to names and see the world that Noah so lovingly recreates in his writing. The book has some pacing issues, but this is a great memoir and a fascinating look at an interesting life.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (with a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail (CBR10 #3)

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Sometimes it pays to remember the good ideas cannonballers and friends have so you can steal them outright to suit your purposes. You all should go back and read denesteak’s brilliant review from last January, she unpacks the world through her powerful viewpoint and it is more than worth your time. When I had a few hours to myself on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the States I remembered Dene’s review and the fact that I’m supposed to be finding a single sitting book for the Read Harder Challenge and off to the internet I went.

I am ashamed to admit that I had previously never read Dr. King’s full letter.  Unfortunately this work is as prescient as it was nearly 55 years ago when Dr. King was imprisoned in the jail in Bombingham. As I mentioned, I intentionally read it all in one go for the Read Harder Challenge and it felt like being hit repeatedly by waves. My favorite thing to do at the beach (besides read under an umbrella) is to jump waves. Sometimes they lift you up, if you time your jump just right you feel as if you are flying. However, if you mistime your jump, or if the wave is too large, you are slammed by the force of nature and sent sputtering towards shore, spitting water as you resurface.

What Dr. King was saying in this supremely eloquent letter gave much the same feeling. I was lifted by his resilience, by his steadfast knowledge of the rightness of his actions. I was also slammed back towards shore with how little has really been accomplished. It has been swirling around me for quite a while, all that remains undone and all those who could and should be doing more. Moderate whites (whom Dr. King calls out in some of the most stirring language in the letter) still do not pull their weight. I hope that you will take the time and read the full work. It is tempting to feel as though you know what Dr. King has said because so many famous quotes are pulled from this piece of writing. But Dr. King was a titan of oratory and this letter builds and builds and builds to a crescendo of meaning, and as Dene points out, supreme amounts of shade.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society in the name of a fallen friend. Join us, won’t you?

 

An Age of License: a Travelogue (CBR10 #2)

After not completing last year’s Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I am back at it again for 2018 with a new set of challenges. My first stop was seeing if any of the books I did not manage in 2017 would suit a 2018 challenge, and low and behold the book I had picked out for last year’s task 8: Read a Travel Memoir would suit this year’s task 4: Read a Comic Written and Drawn by the Same Person.

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A couple of years ago I read and enjoyed Relish and was looking forward to another visit with Lucy Knisley. An Age of License chronicles approximately a month of Knisley’s life in the fall of 2011 when she cobbled together a few segments of travel to allow herself time to roam around Europe (specifically Norway, Sweden, Germany, and France). It is also a look at a woman in her mid-twenties flailing about a bit, if you’ll forgive the less than complementary descriptor.

Knisley through her own eyes is finding her footing professionally, mourning the end of a relationship, settling herself into a new city, and taking off to see a bit of the world and a boy she met. We join her as she files away a variety of new peple, new experiences, and ruminates on how to settle into her adulthood. My experience with Knisley’s art is rather limited, but one of the issues I had with Relish was that the panels were so tightly drawn, with so much happening in each panel. In An Age of License Knisley spreads out a bit, using the white space to help foster the feeling of floating in the ether that she is experiencing in her month of travel. I prefer this visual style, but the narrative is thinner than I would have hoped.

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A good, quick read, but not too much more.