off the shelf: what I read – May through October [a summer to fall round-up]

I debated posting these, but I DID read a lot of books during the interim and I wanted to get back on track, so why not. These are micro reviews because it’s been months… Mostly impressions and an impromptu rating system of 🍰

Read (listed from most recent)

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – 🍰🍰🍰

A long delayed read, but worth it. She’s creepy y’all. More so than Affinity and definitely a spooky read if that’s what you’re into.

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt – 🍰🍰🍰

My first Hoyt and likely not my last. This was fun. I think it’s her first novel, if I recall correctly, so it’s a little dated and some phrases made me giggle-snort, but fun time had by all. (The “prince” has the same name as the Boy so that made me giggle-snort 10xs more)

And then it became my summer of Sarah MacLean…

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰

Lady in pants! I love a lady in pants. I was super excited to get to this one (the big twist in the Scoundrels series), but I think I hyped myself up to hard and I felt a little meh about the heroine after seeing her character in the earlier books.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

Oh, this was a good one! More angst (gah! I love it!). Lots of groveling. A woman with a past who is skilled at knocking men out, and a man with a reputation for doing the same. Also, see adorable troupe of meddling boys.

Bombshell by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

We’ve reached the Victorians and it’s a hell of a ride. Girl gangs, secret identities, and a spot of explosives.

The Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

This is the most “controversial” of Sarah MacLean’s books, but I ate it with a spoon! Complex second chance romance (because he done f*cked up) with a LOT of angst. This is my catnip.

TW: miscarriage and cheating.

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

Ward/Guardian romance with a ward who knows her mind.

Broke Millennial Takes on Investing by Erin Lowry – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

The Broke Millennial series is great if you’re interested in upping your finance game without Business Bro speak or convoluted finance jargon. The different “tracks” make it easy to learn what you need without reading material you know.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

The book that started me on this binge… The first in the Scandal & Scoundrel series. Sophie is everything that I love in a “wallflower” heroine – takes charge and isn’t afraid to handle a man (too often, writers use the “I’m a virgin and don’t know what a man is” trope and I HATE it – this book does not do that). Runaway adventure with a touch of second chance.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

I started reading this and within days I learned that my mom and gran had covid… had to go on a hiatus until they recovered because reading about a dying mother and having a mother in peril was a little too hard.

Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – 🍰🍰🍰

One of those SEP classics that gets name-dropped on Fated Mates on a regular basis, so I finally had to read it. SEP does not shy away from weird, questionable plots. There’s some serious consent re: secret baby (and how she gets it), but it is what it is. You also get a trio of mountain women eschewing men with a firm hand (and maybe a shotgun).

Flirting with Forever by Cara Bastone – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

A sweet, sort of enemies-to-lovers because of a silly misunderstanding love story between a slightly older woman and an adorable lawyer who wants to help everyone. See also, man with cat 💖

The Queen’s Triumph by Jessie Mihalik – 🍰🍰🍰

The third in the Rogue Queen series. Space opera romance FTW! Also, one of my insta-buy authors 😉.

Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

This book is bonkers in the best way. It’s older, so beware dynamics and situations that wouldn’t fly today, but it’s such a random, fun read. Broke rich girl forced to marry circus performer by her Russian royalty obsessed father (I told you it’s bonkers).

TW: It came out in the mid-90s, you’re in for some dubious consent moments.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami – 🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰

Vignettes and a very slow, unexpected romance between a salary woman and her former sensei.

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai – 🍰🍰🍰🍰

This may be my favorite in the Modern Love series. Influencer gets catfished by her celebrity crush (or does she?).

Taming Him by Kennedy Fox – 🍰🍰

This one’s on me. I wasn’t expecting a baby plot, so I kind of meh-ed on the latter half of the book. Want to read more of the series though, as cowboys are a thing I didn’t know I needed.

DNF

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin – 🤷🏻‍♀️ I liked the concept, but it wasn’t for me. Give me this book with adult characters and less Magisterium style churchiness and I’m in.

Audiobooks

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 🍰🍰

One of those canonical horror stories you have to read. Read it for the podcast, so you can hear my thoughts here

Episode 48: The Haunting of Hill House The Bluestocking Circle Podcast

In which we break down the horrors of solitude, learn that ghosts will improve most stories, and, as always, expect more murder. All this and more as the Bluestockings discuss the book The Haunting of Hill House.

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off the shelf: what I read in March and April 2021

what I read – March & April 2021

Currently reading

Taming Him by Kennedy Fox

Read

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas – My third Kleypas read and my second of the 2021. There’s a lot of debate in Romancelandia about Derek Crave vs. St. Vincent and, friends, I am a St. Vincent girl, so I read this one purely for the cameo. It’s nice to see the series transition to the Victorian era, but Pandora is that class of independent-naive-quirky-rich-girl (dare I say manic pixie dream girl?) that gets on my nerves in a historical romance. The plot also falls flat in the third act… Kleypas loves an injured hero/heroine, but it didn’t work for me this time.

Take a hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert – SO MUCH LOVE! I can’t believe I slept this long on Talia Hibbert (partly because I know she’s prolific and I wasn’t ready for a rabbit hole of new books…). There is a lot of me in Dani and I loved how the way her character grows from someone who only cares about academics to someone who is emotionally competent. Also, Zaf’s protein bars 🥰

Take the Lead by Alexis Daria – This one was partly research because one of Alexis Daria’s books is a comp title for my future queries, but it’s also just good fun. It’s not something I ever really talk about but I LOVE dance. I always wished we could’ve afforded dance lessons, because I love dancing, even though I’ve always been too shy and awkward to dance in public 😅. Alexis Daria has a way of making TV celebrity romance something that I actually care about and this one was no exception. If you enjoy reality dance competitions and sexy, contemporary romance, this one’s for you.

The Rakehell of Roth by Amalie Howard – Normally, I’m a sucker for second chance romance, but sometimes even I get tired of a hero who thinks he isn’t good enough for his wife.

An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn – Can it be that I miss the slow burn of Veronica and Stoker’s will they/won’t they romance? I kind of think I do… Another fun Victorian mystery, but it fell a little flat. Will, of course, continue to read the series.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin – on hold. Hmmm… I’m not sure if I’m not in the right place for this one or it’s not for me. Will revisit.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown – DNFed against my will! Lol 😅 it took me too long to get to it and I had to return it to the library. I’m on the hold list until it circles back to me.

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata – Taking a few book layovers because this is a HEAVY little tome. Currently on hold, maybe future DNF? Not sure if I’m in the right place for this one either. It’s clearly leading to a recurring sexual abuse plot.

TW for verbal and physical abuse and sexual assault.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas – If you thought ACOTAR was too sexy, this is not for you… This book SIZZLES. It spicy, y’all. Also, so much angst. I wasn’t sure I would care for Nesta’s story, but this hit all the marks for me: high stakes fantasy, angry heroine, female friendship, and a fated mates love story.

TW for ALL the violence, threat of/assault on the page, depression, self-hatred, and mention of self-harm.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken – I LOVED this book. It’s the perfect blend of mythology and urban fantasy that destroys me as a reader AND a writer because it is the kind of story I yearn to publish one day. If you love Greek mythology, high stakes, and violent urban fantasy, this book is for you. It’s technically YA, but reads like an adult novel.

DNF

The Awakening by Nora Roberts – I like Nora Roberts. I like slip fantasy. I just couldn’t get into this book and was thrown out of the story the minute the heroine mentioned sharing an iPod with her roommate. This was published in 2020, y’all. Who has an iPod?

Audiobooks

n/a! Mostly because I’ve been binging youtube on my downtime.

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video: off the shelf – what I read in May

 

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off the shelf: latest reads, a book binge

Mini Review time… for more detail, watch the video 🙂

Campbell’s Redemption by Sharon Cullen (via NetGalley)

Highland romance featuring a widow and a misunderstood laird. I liked that it was original in its take on life and romance after loss. Post-Culloden setting (totally missed that in the video, what was I thinking?!). Perfect for Outlander fans looking for a bit of fluff between seasons (and tomes).

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify  by Francine Jay (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)

Easy to read manual on everyday minimalism. Not as intense as KonMari and very approachable if you’re just looking for an intro to minimalism as a lifestyle.

The gods lie. by Kaori Ozaki

Japanese light novel… not light at all. Reminds me of Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden. Very dark and melancholy with a touch of hope.

A Girl on the Shore by Inio Asano

Another light novel… reminds me of Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. Teens in very adult situations. Rated 18+ and well-earned.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

The Dregs at their finest. I loved the intricate plots and the “just when you think all is lost” feeling of it.

After You by Jojo Moyes

Not my usual cup of tea, but I’ve really fallen for Jojo Moyes’ writing, and this one did not disappoint.

5 things: fantasy reads (or recent loves)

I read in all genres, but I always come back to fantasy. It is truly my not-so-guilty pleasure. And I have read a lot of good fantasy this year. I am especially partial to what I think of as magical girl fantasy (much like magical girl manga), so I scoured my list of 2016 goodreads books for my top 5 of 2016 (read in 2016, not published). Here they are in all their wondrous glory:

5 things: recent fantasy reads


These books are otherworldly, mythic in scope, and full of wit and wonder.

all the books I’ve known (in 2014)

There are a few books missing from this list (a few review books that fell through the cracks, and a bunch of books I read on usability that I breezed through), but below is a nearly complete listing of the books I read, loved, and/or gave up on in 2014.

My original goal was to get through 30 of the books on the TBR shelf. I failed, but I made a good effort and weeded a large portion of those that I realized I would never get around to reading (whether because my reading tastes have changed, or they were bought on a whim in a moment of what-was-I-thinking impulsiveness). Working in a library, I have access to new books all the time. I also started reviewing for a trade journal this year and have received some excellent selections; this means that there will always be more books than I will ever be able to get through, so when I decide not to finish a book, it is with the understanding that there are other books to be had and I no longer have to read a book just because a) someone recommended it, b) everyone else is reading it, or c) it will make me look more well-rounded as a reader.

books read in 2014

Key:

  • Books highlighted in bold are my best of 2014
  • ^ = library book
  • * = personal collection (ie. The TBR mountain)

Currently Reading

  • Gwendolen by Diana Souhami
  • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People by Susan M. Weinschenk^

 Manga and Graphic Novels

  • Ranma 1/2 (2-in-1 Edition), Vol. 1-3 by Rumiko Takahashi^
  • Sailor Moon Box Set 2 (Vol. 7-12) by Naoko Takeuchi*
  • Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura series by Arina Tanemura^
  • Saga, Volume 2 (Saga #7-12) by Brian K. Vaughan^
  • Chi’s Sweet Home series (1-11)  by Kanata Konami^

 Fiction

  • The Betrayal of the Blood Lily (Pink Carnation, #6) by Lauren Willig *
  • Clariel (Abhorsen, #4) by Garth Nix^
  • The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (Pink Carnation, #4) by Lauren Willig*
  • The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope^
  • Long Live the Queen (The Immortal Empire, #3) by Kate Locke*
  • The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne*
  • Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan*
  • City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments, #6) by Cassandra Clare*
  • Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School, #2) by Gail Carriger^
  • The Magicians (The Magicians, #1) by Lev Grossman^
  • Death of a Schoolgirl (The Jane Eyre Chronicles, #1) by Joanna Campbell Slan*
  • Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl^
  • Into the Wilderness (Wilderness, #1) by Sara Donati*
  • The Queen Is Dead (The Immortal Empire, #2) by Kate Locke*
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1) by Robert Galbraith^
  • A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5) by George R.R. Martin*
  • Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4) by Margaret Stohl & Kami Garcia^

Nonfiction and Essays

  • Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay^
  • Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris*
  • Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties by Rachel Cooke*
  • Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords by Henry Jacoby^
  • VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman^
  • Mistakes I Made at Work: 25 Influential Women Reflect on What They Got Out of Getting It Wrong by Jessica Bacal*
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling^

Highly anticipated but disappointing

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon*
  • Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1) by Susan Dennard^
  • Midnight Never Come (Onyx Court, #1) by Marie Brennan*

Books I couldn’t finish

  • Lost Voices (Lost Voices, #1) by Sarah Porter*
  • Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin^
  • The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3) by Deborah Harkness*
  • The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver (Ruby Oliver, #1) by E. Lockhart^
  • The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1) by Erika Johansen*
  • Tanamera by Noel Barber^
  • Beautiful Ruins  by Jess Walter^
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins^
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie*

 Read for work

  • Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug^
  • The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley^
  • Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug^
  • Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set …Test! by Carol Barnum^
  • A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making by Russ Unger^

On writing

  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K.M. Weiland*
  • Revision and Self Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel That Sells by James Scott Bell*
  • How to Write by Alastair Fowler^
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King^

The plan for 2015 is to keep reading my way through the shelves and finish getting through all those lonely, untouched books that have been waiting for years.