99 Percent Mine (CBR11 #10)

99 Percent MineFirst, as someone who suggested The Hating Game to literally anyone requesting a romance recommendation in the past two and a half years I feel the need to send an apology out into the universe for Sally Thorne – I never wanted you to feel so much pressure for your next book. That being said, I’m so glad you were able to work through it and produce this, your sophomore outing. It is very worth the reader’s time and another example of the kind of contemporary romance I’m happy to read and extol its virtues.

99 Percent Mine is a friends to lovers romance. Darcy Barrett has travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him as his best friend at age 8. When Darcy and Jamie inherit their grandmother’s tumble-down cottage they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy has no intention of staying to see the project through, she’s working at the local biker bar to make enough money to finance her next trip overseas and away from her family, troubles, and her desire for Tom who remains off-limits – this time due to an engagement ring on another woman’s ring finger. But when Tom shows up to lead the renovation (and with her passport MIA) Darcy’s sticking around.

It may not be apparent from the plot summary, but this is a romance with some built in high stakes. Darcy has a heart condition that she hasn’t been taking care of and it informs her past with her brother and Tom as well as her present. Thorne writes frankly about navigating life with a chronic illness. The other high stakes item is Tom’s personal history that has led him to feeling the need to be perfect at all times to be accepted, to be good enough. Darcy is also struggling with some career issues, feeling as though she peaked at 20 when she won a photography prize and has since shuttered her wedding photography business after a truly terrible wedding shoot. She is carrying around a lingering sense of failure and having to settle for ‘good enough’ in her late 20s. These are themes that resonated for me.

Thorne delivers on characters with real weight and fleshed out backstory. It is also a similarly limited cast of characters, with the grand majority of the narrative taking place with just two characters, although this book does bring in a more side characters who are important to the plot moving forward as well as filling in character details for our main pair. This one isn’t quite The Hating Game, but it is still really quite good, AND FUNNY, even if the last chapter or two felt a little tonally off (but I am a fan of the epilogues!).

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.

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Completed 2018 Read Harder Challenge

My Read Harder Challenge 2018 is complete with 24 hours to spare. I appreciate that these 24 tasks push me to consider what I am reading, and give me a way to prioritize my choices. Below are all the books which I have read as of December 30, 2018 in attainment of these various goals.

I haven’t decided if I will continue with Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge in 2019. I know that I will be working towards Reading Women’s 2019 Challenge though. We’ll have to see what the new year brings.

Station Eleven (CBR10 #58)

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I apologize now, this review will not really be a review. It is more a love letter to the community at Cannonball Read.

Of the ten books we had to choose from for the So Popular bingo square, I had read most, but not all. The ones I haven’t read I don’t care to (looking at you, Divergent) so I was thinking about re-reading Eleanor & Park to go with last year’s re-read of Attachments or maybe The Martian to see if I still had a book crush on Mark Watney. I wrote up my #cbr10bingo list with a couple options and went about scheduling the books that were already on my to read list for the year.

But then I realized that what I really wanted to do was revisit the book that led to our having Cannon Book Club in the first place. MsWas had floated the idea at the end of 2014 about possibly having a book club. When I read Station Eleven the first time I knew that this was a book that needed a book club experience, and I loved it enough to step a little bit further out of my comfort zone (I had just organized my first book exchange for the site, even though we’d had one the previous year) and volunteer to do it. This book grew me as a person in ways I would never have expected when I picked it up at the end of January 2015.

The stories in Station Eleven ask you to think big thoughts: what can you do? What do you do if you know you have a matter of hours left to live? How do you survive? What mark can you leave behind? Do you even get to choose? What are the benefits of remembering? Of forgetting? While I was reading this time I knew what was coming, so I wasn’t as caught out by Mandel’s ability to distract me and send the reader flying in different directions or timelines than anticipated, but her style and mechanics still held together a finely drawn world which is eerie, unsettling, and full of tension waiting to be released. There were moments so exquisitely written, nuance settled deeply into the pages, that it in some ways felt like coming home.

I still love this book, and I love the togetherness it helped inspire. I look forward wholeheartedly to our FIFTH year of book club next year where we’re planning to tackle Good Omens and who knows what else. My most heartfelt thanks to all the people who make Book Club and Cannonball Read possible, I am so very lucky to have all of you in my life.

 

 

The Lawrence Brown Affair (CBR10 #19)

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The Lawrence Browne Affair is the second in a series by Cat Sebastian. Like The Soldier’s Scoundrel, it is a historical m/m romance set in Regency England. This time around we’re following Georgie Turner, brother of Jack from The Soldier’s Scoundrel, as he is on the run from his underworld boss after having double crossed him. Jack sets him up with a job in the country as the titular Lawrence Browne’s secretary.

Georgie however finds himself a little over his head. He’s planning to hide out for a while, take something of value from the Earl, and be on his way. What he discovers is that the Earl isn’t as mad as he might appear on first glance, the neighborhood is full of eccentric characters, and a truly fascinating scientific endeavor underway. Georgie can’t help but accurately play the role of secretary, organizing the Earl’s correspondence and getting ever more involved in the research. Georgie is also ever more interested in the Earl himself.  Lawrence is, for his part, highly interested in Georgie – but also convinced that it is just one more symptom of his oncoming madness.

Things get complicated as life shows up (including Lawrence’s son – like I said: complicated), and a deep connection is built and nurtured between Lawrence and Georgie. I continue to really like how Cat Sebastian builds her stories: they are steamy, upbeat historical romances where the worlds of each character are brought to light and the characters help heal or fill in the weaknesses in their partners.

Things get much more dramatic before a final resolution, but as a return to reading after a slump this book was perfect. I laughed, I cried, I was entertained. What more can we ask for from a trip to Romancelandia?

 

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.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (CBR10 #9)

I’m not really in a hurry so much as I am overscheduled. I am also the lone non-science person in my family. I love science, but my brain doesn’t always hold onto the salient details of science. Say, for example, the difference between astrophysics and cosmology (Astrophysics is a sub-branch of astronomy to deal with physics of celestial objects and phenomena. Cosmology talks about universe as a whole which includes origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.). But, I really like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s conversational style and my brother just came to visit for a week and he made his third pilgrimage to the Hayden Planetarium so I felt inspired to bump this audio book up the to read list when he left.

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My Siblings at the Museum. Notice the shirt. 

I think the best encapsulation of this book I could offer you is that it is basically one super extended planetarium show, or a long form podcast, or a sober Drunk History marathon.

Not enough information? Okay. In fourteen chapters Tyson talks the reader through the basics of his field and its related sciences. You get a taste of how the universe formed, what it is made of, and the near constant search to quantify and understand just what the heck is going on out there beyond our atmosphere. But also within it because we’re all star stuff. Some of this I already knew, because I am related to several space science geeks. Some of it was new to me, the biggest being that sometime in the future the observable universe won’t be observable anymore and it is up to scientists now to figure out how to leave an appropriate record of what they are seeing/have found for the future generations. My museum heart felt their pain.

This is a perfectly pleasant way to spend just shy of four hours, so pick it up if you feel like it, but don’t expect anything earth shattering.

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.

Read Harder Challenge 2017

This year I did not complete the 2017 Read Harder Challenge within the calendar year. I have marked the books that I read in 2018 as such. I completed the challenge in August 2018.

These challenges continue to push me, and I’ll be trying again with 2018’s challenges.

Read Harder Challenge 2017

  1. Read a book about sports.
    1. Making Up by Lucy Parker (2018)
  2. Read a debut novel.
    1. Trainwreck by Sady Doyle
    2. The Devourers by Indra Das
    3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    4. If Our Bodies Could Talk by James Hamblin
    5. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  3. Read a book about books.
    1. Saga Volumes 1-8 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist) (2018)
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author
    1. August by Romina Paula
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration theme
    1. The Devourers by Indra Das
  6. Read an all-ages comic
    1. Lobster is the Best Medicine by Liz Climo
    2. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
    3. March: Books One, Two, Three by John Lewis
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
    1. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolf
    2. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (John Slattery, narrator)
  8. Read travel memoir.
    1. An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley (2018)
  9. Read a book you’ve read before.
    1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
    7. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
    8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
    1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
    1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
    2. In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
    1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
    2. The Devourers by Indra Das
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
    1. Grunt by Mary Roach
    2. If Our Bodies Could Talk by James Hamblin
  14. Read a book about war.
    1. Grunt by Mary Roach
    2. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, John Slattery (narrator)
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
    1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
    1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
    1. Kindred by Octavia Butler (2018)
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
    1. Mockingbird: Volumes 1 I Can Explain & 2 My Feminist Agenda
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older, author of Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and YA novel Shadowshaper)
    1. The Devourers by Indra Das
    2. March: Books One through Three by John Lewis
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels)
    1. The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian
  21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay)
    1. No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Key (Write Bloody Publishing) (2018, owned)
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng)
    1. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
    2. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
    3. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen
    4. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series)
    1. Odes to Opposites by Pablo Neruda
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension)
    1. In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa

 

Wonder Woman and Break from the Usual

Mostly this blog space is dominated by my work for Cannonball Read. Over the years more and more of my free time and energy has been placed in that wonderful community and our goals.

Over there, many are comics aficionados. It was never something that worked for me as a reader. I did not grow up going to the comic book shop, I never read the stories of the legions of heroes.

I also spent my cartoon years in a Disney rabbit hole. Gummie Bears. The Rescuers. Darkwing Duck. What can I say, I’m a child of the early 80s. Batman: the Animated Series was just not on my radar even though by rights it should have been.

But as an adult I have found and crafted an interest in the mechanics of pop culture. I am endlessly fascinated with actor’s processes, the production web, black listed scripts, Hollywood history, media representation, and the comings and goings of each year’s movie offerings by major studios. I have probably consumed 6 hours of podcasts and many articles on Alien: Covenant and I have never watched a single Alien movie. But the process, the lore, and the production decisions interest me. I’m the gal having an in depth discussion about sequels v universe stories with friends and colleagues, regardless of whether I’ve watched the product in question. The theory is enough.

It also means that over the past decade (thanks Marvel Cinematic Universe) that I have educated myself in the worlds of comic characters. I am by no means a scholar on the subject, but I am conversant. My experience as an MCU fan though, has taught me that sometimes the theory isn’t always enough.

Marvel has its fair share of powerful female characters. Sometimes we even get to see them on screen. But in its 25 years of existence Marvel Studios (formerly Marvel Films) has never produced a female led property. Reasons are given, excuses are made, media forecasters have their opinions and we are left without even this much in representation.

I admit to being late to fully understanding the disparity in representation and its cornerstone in modern feminist movements. As a young person I had Leia. She already was. Many of the books I read as a young person (after being a late reader to begin with) were female focused and driven. My movie and television intake was relatively limited, but in all honesty the “token girl” in movies and television shows didn’t feel weird to me because I was so often the only girl hanging out with the boys in my neighborhood.

Then we moved and I went through puberty and I started to see the world through slightly different eyes. But in my immediate life I was more concerned with racial issues with my best friend being of a different race than me, and dealing with constant blow back in some cultural arenas (that friend and I – over the course of 26 years – have rarely NOT been separated in a crowd. People assume we aren’t together).

But now my focus has been brought to seeing women as we are, and as heroes. Jessica Chastain in the closing ceremonies at Cannes just railed against the way women are portrayed, still, in media. 

So I will be going to see Wonder Woman. Even though I have never seen the 1970s series or read a single word over her many stories.

It might feel small, like a pebble tossed into the ocean, and in some ways it is. But, it is also me using my limited consumer dollars to support something I believe in. The MCU has done its fans a disservice, and for that I will take my money to the competitor for the first time since the current model DC Cinematic Universe has been underway. I was going either way, but I am ecstatic that the reviews are so glowing. It will make those dollars even more sweetly used.

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