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 πŸ’–

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 πŸ˜‰.

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 – πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ 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 πŸ₯°

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 πŸ˜…. 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 πŸ˜… 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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writing: May draft update

writing

I have news! The draft is complete! Except, it’s not… not really, but you know what I mean. This draft, as it stands, is completely revised and mostly rewritten. I finished it on Saturday and had a nice lunch to celebrate, before writing up a quick plan for next steps.

The first step: proofreading and a deep review of the first 50 pages (plus, take care of all those notes I added in the margins).

Next: query and synopsis research, as it’s been a while since I’ve done this and need a refresh.

Agent research, list-making, and more to follow. But, for now, it’s in a happy place and I can relax when I go to my yearly library conference next week.

The stats:Β 

  • Words (re)written in May: 9,998
  • Total wordcount: 80,163
  • Previous wordcount: 83,124
  • Words that survived from the last draft:Β probably 163

*Patting myself on the back.*

video: off the shelf – June reads

It’s been an emotional and physical roller coaster of a day, but that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, June reads πŸ™‚

(sorry about the shaking, I think I kicked the tripod a few times)

5 things: unexpected love stories

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I rounded up 5 of my favorite, unexpected, slightly unconventional, but totally magical love stories.

5 things: unexpected love stories

 

Lovely, easy breezy reads with a twist.Β A Song for Summer is a historical romance set against WWII, whileΒ The China Garden is set in the English countryside sometime in the ’90s (I haven’t read it in a while, but I think it’s aged pretty well).Β Uprooted,Β Shades of Milk and Honey, andΒ Rose Daughter need little introduction. Excellent, magical girl fantasy for all.