books and reading

What I Read this Week

These are the things I read this week:

34189556The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks: Vanessa is the jilted ex-wife of the wildly successful, rich, and handsome Richard. He’s set to marry another woman, but Vanessa feels that she must warn his new fiance that he is not what he seems. Of course, Vanessa is not what she seems, either.

Billed as one twisty mind-trick, this was a very silly, ultimately pretty disappointing read. Part of that is the marketing doing it a disservice (don’t talk about all the twists in the blurb, right?) and part of it is that it’s just not very well done. Super savvy readers will figure out the twists long before they’re revealed. Also it’s just kind of ridiculous.

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Roomies by Christina Lauren: Holland Bakker is obsessed with an Irish busker named Calvin in the subway station she frequents. When he saves her life from a drunken attacker, she feels obligated to get him an audition with her musical director uncle. But then Calvin reveals that he’s in the country illegally, and Holland stupidly offers to marry him so he can remain and work with her uncle. The result is…a mess.

This was my first novel by the author duo who go by Christina Lauren, and it was pretty much what I expected. Went down easy, not much substance. But also, a totally ridiculous premise.

 

 

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pop culture

Internet Link Round-Up

These are the articles that got my attention this week. Without further ado:

From ‘Dawson’s Creek’ to ‘Buffy’ to ‘Frasier’ to ‘Seinfeld’ – What Happened to Those ‘Lone’ Token Black Actors? (The Undefeated)

A piece featuring interviews with eight different black actors who played “token” roles on television shows in the 90s, this is a must read:

Indeed, in the 1990s, the wealth of black representation on television could lull you into thinking (if you turned the channel from Rodney King taking more than 50 blows from Los Angeles Police Department batons) that black lives actually did matter. But almost all of these shows were, in varying ways, an extension of segregated America. It’s there in the memories of the stars below: There were “black shows” and there were “white shows.” If you were a black actor appearing on a white show, you were usually alone.

Thank You For Asking (NYT)

A really interesting look at Antioch College, the place where much of the consent movement relating to sexual assault started. It’s a really interesting piece and provides a lot of detail and history of how they developed their program and what it means in the #MeToo movement:

The college’s administration sees this all as a big selling point for the school. “Our students and our alumni have always been very involved with activism, and social justice is in our DNA,” said Mila Cooper, Antioch’s vice president for diversity and inclusion and the director of the Coretta Scott King Center. “There’s a heightened awareness of sexual violence and sexual assault right now with the MeToo movement, but I do think Antioch has been involved in these conversations long before. It’s not just a policy, you know, it’s part of the education and the culture here.”

Erik Killmonger is Not a Super Villain, He’s a Super Victim of Systemic Oppression (The Blavity)

So I saw Black Panther this weekend, and then I stumbled across this article. It’s really great, and worth a read, even if you haven’t seen the movie (but it probably resonates more if you have):

I refuse to see Killmonger as a super-villain. I see him as a super-victim of systemically oppressive forces, forces that forced him into a hyper-awareness of his dueled unwanted status in Wakanda and in America, due to having the blood of his mother, who was a descendant of black folks forced into the United States via the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. This two-pronged othering serves as the source of his super-power. His super-power did not derive from radioactive spider bites like Spider Man, or mythological alien strength like that of Superman. Killmonger’s character harbors a super-power more potent than the fictive mineral Vibranium, housed exclusively in Wakanda: Killmonger is the possessor of un-tempered black rage.

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: The City Baker’s Guide to County Living by Louise Miller

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Olivia Rawlings is a renowned baker at an exclusive Boston dinner club when she sets the room on fire instead of her Baked Alaska. That public embarrassment is the tip of the iceberg, so she flees to rural Vermont for a weekend away, but it becomes somewhat permanent when she begins to work for a woman who owns an inn. Even though she tells herself it’s temporary, Olivia soon finds herself drawn to the people in the small town of Guthrie, and she finds herself drawn to Martin, a man who says little but clearly feels a lot.

The first half of this debut novel by real-life pastry chef Loiuse Miller is charming, smart, and oftentimes very witty. A fresh take on the fish-out-of-water story, Olivia is a charming heroine with a sidekick in her giant dog. There’s a lot to like in this story about a city girl finding new life in the country, and the characters who populate the small town in Vermont provide much of the novel’s charm, even as they engage in petty jealousies and rivalries.

The slow-burn romance between Olivia and the mysterious Martin is also fairly compelling, with a genuine chemistry between the two characters. Although the end of the novel feels a bit too tidy (and maybe even overly-saccharine), the start of this romance is certainly interesting enough to keep the pages turning. An unhurried romance, as well as an unhurried plot, help illustrate the slower way things happen in rural life.

It’s not until the end of the book that the story goes off the rails slightly. What was a strong, smart, witty novel turns into one that’s a wee bit too sweet, and the ending is so tidy and provincial that it’s almost as though it’s two separate novels. Still, Miller is an author with promise, and it’s an enjoyable, if not totally believable, ride.

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. Pamela Dorman Books: 2016. Library copy.

 

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

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Drew Nichols and Alexa Monroe meet in an elevator when it stops working. They’re strangers, but when they leave the elevator some time later, Alexa has agreed to go to a wedding as Drew’s fake girlfriend. Destined to be a one-night thing, the two find themselves drawn to each other and embark on a long-distance fling that might actually have the makings of something real.

Guillory’s debut novel is a charming and sexy look at a fake romance that becomes totally real. Fully realized characters help flesh out this at times cyclical romance, creating a captivating story. The characters in this are likable, with hopes and dreams, and their chemistry leaps off the page. Readers will root for their deserved happy ending.

While on the whole the novel is fairly light in its tone and content, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the two main characters are in an inter-racial relationship. Alexa experiences racial aggressions throughout the book, and when she tells Drew about them, he accepts what she says as fact, which is refreshing. In this, the book is more grounded than others, and it’s an appreciated touch.

A fast-paced plot keeps the pages turning, and the genuine chemistry between the leads makes it compelling. While the two start out their relationship as a casual hookup, their connection deepens in a satisfying way, and while there are plenty of love scenes, Guillory engages in a lot of fade-to-black writing, so this doesn’t fall into the “erotica” category.

Romance readers, rejoice: this modern-day rom-com is completely engrossing and really, really fun. I loved it.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. Berkley: 2018. ARC received from NetGalley.

 

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Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

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Abby Williams hasn’t been back to her tiny hometown since she graduated high school ten years ago. But when her Chicago law firm sends her back to Barrens, Indiana to work on an environmental case that involves the town’s biggest employer, she finds herself drawn back into a mystery that has haunted her since she left: the disappearance of her childhood best friend, Kaycee. Is there a connection to the case she’s working now? Is it part of a larger conspiracy? Obsessed with finding answers, Abby doesn’t realize that the town’s mysteries might consume her, too.

This unputdownable thriller from Ritter, best known as an actress, was one of the best reads of 2017. Fast-paced, brilliantly written, and featuring a compelling and fascinating narrator, this is a knockout of a novel, guaranteed to keep readers breathless until the last page is turned. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel as far as mystery/suspense novels go, it does provide a really unique take on the genre, with very satisfying results.

Abby is a compelling narrator, clearly smart but also clearly broken. Much of that is related to her upbringing in the desolate town of Barrens, Indiana, a setting that becomes as much of a character as anyone else in the novel. She’s an extremely well drawn character, and feels very real. She also makes a ton of mistakes, but they all make sense in the context of what’s happening.

Gripping, suspenseful, and unrelentingly dark. This would make a great movie but stands alone as a great piece of fiction. Put this in the hands of readers who like their mysteries complex and their heroines complicated. Absolutely fantastic. I will read whatever Ritter does next.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter. Crown: 2017. Library copy.

 

books and reading

What I Read This Week

Back in the swing of things. Here’s what I read this week:

36595101Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff: Wolff spent much of the first year of Trump’s presidency inside the White House, privy to the “private” conversations the administration had as it fumbled throughout the first months and literally hemorrhaged people and classified information.

At times hilarious, infuriating, and terrifying, this sloppy book was a thrill ride of a read. It’s in desperate need of editing, but it’s also so timely and so fascinating it hardly matters. If even half of it is true (and it is), it’s worth reading. What a time to be alive.

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All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler:  Cole is in high school and obsessed with sex. Hooking up with girl after girl, he thinks about sex constantly, when he’s not watching or sharing clips with his best friend. But then he meets a girl that might actually be his match, and he starts to learn about consequences.

A one-sitting read, this experimental novel by the author also known as Lemony Snicket provides a very adult look at the teenage boy mind. I loved it: it was weird and sexy and disturbing and subversive. Definitely not for everyone: there’s a ton of explicit sex to be found in this slim little novel.

35099035Red Clocks by Leni Zumas: Abortion is illegal once again in America, and women who try to cross into Canada to seek abortion services are imprisoned. Four women living in this America try to do just that: live in it.

I wanted to love this one so much more than I did. It’s been called a modern take on The Handmaid’s Tale, but it isn’t, unless the only parallel readers are looking for is that women can’t have abortions. This is a much more stylized look at a theoretical future. It was hard to connect with the characters and some narratives were so much more compelling than the others that the plot as a whole suffered.

What did you read this week?

books and reading · pop culture

January 2018 Recap

January flew by, and I’m not sure I got as much done as I hoped I would. But let’s see how the month shook out:

Books:

Total: 51
Picture Books: 36
Middle Grade: 0
YA: 5
Adult: 10
Fiction: 48
Non-Fiction: 3
Audiobooks: 2
Total Pages Read: 4350

Favorite Reads in January:
31207017Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed:

American-born Maya Aziz wants to be a good Indian Muslim daughter, but she also wants to make her own way in the world. She loves filmmaking and wants to attend NYU, but her parents are completely against it. And don’t even get them started on what it would mean to date a white boy. When a terrorist attack close to home threatens everything she loves, Maya has to figure out how to stand on her own.

A very well done book about coming of age in the modern era, with a narrator whose voice is authentic and compelling. This sweet story was really great and holds a ton of teen appeal. It reminded me in many ways of an updated version of Marie G. Lee’s Finding My Voice.

Next Year for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson: Chris and Kathryn have been together for 30201150nine years, and they’re pretty happily ensconced in their domestic life. But then Chris meets Emily, and Kathryn tells him to ask her out on a date. The two embark on open relationships that alter their perceptions of romantic love and of themselves.

Read for my book club, I really loved this weird literary novel about polyamory and bucking convention. It was well-written, thoughtful, and totally ambiguous, which I like. Full of complicated and garbage-y characters, too. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it was for me.

Viewing

Total Movies: 3
New: 2
Re-Watch: 1

Favorite Movies in January:

ladybirdLady Bird: I loved this movie by Greta Gerwig about a girl’s senior year of high school. It’s a quiet, weird little movie, set in 2002-2003, which is when I graduated high school, so I’m sure that’s partly why I liked it so much. But it’s also about mothers and daughters, and being a weird girl, and it was a total delight.

I’m already way behind in my “watch 52 new movies in 2018” thing, so we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.

Other Things I’ve Been Watching:

I’m nearly done with a re-watch of The Fosters, which I can’t even explain. I really like the first two seasons of the show, but I have to say that as I approach the end (with the understanding that new episodes are still airing, for now), it’s become so sudsy and silly that it’s hard to stay with it. Callie makes the dumbest choices and Jesus is the WORST, no matter who they cast to play him.

I’ve gotten really into 911 on Fox, and I’m embarrassed to say that that is the only thing I’m current with (except for The Bachelor, but that is another story entirely).

I’m also watching One Day at a Time on Netflix, because the second season just premiered, and it is as great as I remembered it. Seriously, it’s a show you should be watching.