Given my grand plans of reading a lot of nonfiction and writing 50,000 words by the end of the month, the second half of November has definitely gone awry. That said, I’m not mad about it. November is an exhausting month. Like, when Daylight Savings kicks in (off?), it’s basically time to just start going to bed early and not accomplishing anything. Also, I started looking at all of the books I want to read by the end of the year and… Well. Stress. But regardless, let’s talk about what I read this second half of the month.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
What a way to start off this second half of the month wrap up because Love Lettering was an actual masterpiece and I loved it so incredibly much. It’s about Meg, who is an Insta famous hand letterer with some serious hang ups about fighting with people, and Reid, who is a… math something or other and an adorably direct nerd. Meg hid a code in the wedding programs for Reid and his fiancé indicating it was a mistake and now that the wedding is off Reid is back to confront her. For REASONS, they wind up adventuring all over New York City. Like many of Kate’s books, Love Lettering starts out slow, which means that Meg is a real person out there and is meant to be my friend. I’m just waiting to stumble into her. Anyway, truly, the fact that we get to know Meg so well (and Reid) makes this book wonderful because you really BUY that HEA at the end. Also, here’s a link to my Twitter thread about how this book tackles teaching yourself how to have confrontation and how valuable and important that is if you’re interested. Oh, this book is out December 31st and I was lucky enough to get an ARC from Kensington (bless you), but I do also already have my copy preordered (and it was before the arc, so…).
White Whiskey Bargain by Jodie Slaughter
So the long and short of it is that I really thought I was going to adore this Appalachian, people of color centered, marriage of convenience romance and so when I didn’t LOVE it, I was disappointed. The book is good other than a pretty blatant copy editing problem (like there’s a whole sentence that is just… not supposed to be there, I think?), but something about the book just, didn’t click with me the way I wanted it to. I’ve been trying to figure out what it was that didn’t work and I just… don’t actually know. Maybe it’s one that would work for me at a different time and I just read it when I shouldn’t have. Regardless, I’m in the minority, I think, so y’all should give it a shot if you’re at all interested!
I can’t talk about this duology except to talk about them together because I cannot fathom how the people who actually read them when they released made it. There is a cliffhanger at the end of The Kingmaker so going straight into The Rebel King feels imperative. But anyway, Kennedy Ryan’s writing is absolutely gorgeous. Like, she makes me laugh with lines like:
“Seven-fucking-teen? She’s jailbait. And I’m literally already in jail.”
And then she breaks my heart with gorgeous lines like:
“Grief is its own kind of intimacy, a bond of sorts between you and the one you lost. No one else feels it the way you do about that person you loved most. And maybe it helps to know someone reaches that same level of despair. That’s what family is for, right?”
Anyway, these books follow Lennix, a badass Native American activist, who delivers a rousing speech at a protest against a pipeline when she’s seventeen. (Like, wow, the courage.) Anyway, Maxim is arguing with his dad about how his future is his and not actually his dad’s to command when he sees and hears Lennix and is so inspired and just wowed. The two of them wind up getting arrested together and it’s utterly delightful. Their love story spans a whole lot of time and a few continents and it’s absolutely gorgeous and amazing and I cannot recommend enough. I actually think this duology is a great place to try out Kennedy if you haven’t before.
Content Warnings for grief, discussion of missing Native American women, abduction, being stranded… Probably some others…
The One You Fight For by Roni Loren
Speaking of authors tackling difficult topics, Roni Loren’s series about school shooting survivors working toward their happily ever after is definitely that and they’re really incredible, but sometimes really hard to read. This one is really fascinating because Professor Taryn Landry finds herself falling for the brother of the boy who shot and killed so, so many of her classmates. She’s got some intense survivor’s guilt going on, which has been a theme in at least the last two of these, and has dedicated her professional life for pinpointing the reason(s) people become mass shooters and developing a program to address that. While I liked the romance, I absolutely hated Taryn’s relationship with her parents. I think my issue is that too often when we see involved parents, they’re involved in an unhealthy way?? Or maybe I’m just overly sensitive to that despite my really lovely relationship with my parents. I don’t know. Anyway, this book mostly worked for me, but there were a couple of things that just held me back from really loving it.
Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
Ugh. Lover Butch and Marissa was, in fact, exactly the drag that Jen suggested it would be on the Fated Mates Dark Lover episode. I seriously considered giving up on the series for a minute, however, the end did make up for it a bit and made me glad that I continued. I don’t know why manipulation by outside characters to make it so that the two main characters don’t know that the other one is absolutely interested is one of my least favorite tropes, but wow, I hate it. Like, it just seems so obvious to me?? And I kept being like USE YOUR WORDS. So, yeah, this one just wasn’t working for me. And, to be fair, it’s gotta suck having your book come after Lover Awakened, which is so obviously far superior. Anyway, if you haven’t read Black Dagger Brotherhood… Um, Idk. There are vampires and it’s a very different lore.
Hot Asset by Lauren Layne
So, I read this one because Lacey from LaceyBookLovers made a video called Favorite Bromances and mentioned this series and I was incredibly intrigued. Why? I… don’t really know. BUT whatever instinct had me going, “hey that could work for you,” was 100% accurate because I really enjoyed this book. It’s about SEC investigator, Lara MacKenzie, who is sent to investigate super hot and super successful, Ian Bradley. There’s a spark there that neither can deny even though denial would be really quite helpful. I really can’t explain why I loved this book because on a different day, I would have DNF’d at the end of chapter one. Ian starts out the book extremely irritatingly hyper masculine, but once he dials down that toxicity, it turns out he’s actually a really great guy. Regardless, I very much enjoyed this book and now want to continue reading the rest of the series. (Also, Lacey is right. The friendship in this is *chef’s kiss*!)
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Speaking of bromances, this book!! I wasn’t necessarily expecting to love this book because marriage in trouble isn’t really a trope I seek out, but I mostly don’t like second chance romances. However, for unknown reasons (jk, I have some), I really did wind up loving this book about Thea and Gavin! Thea is the kind of prickly I like my heroines to be. She’s got trust issues and Gavin certainly gave her reason to fall into her old patterns of thinking. Her needing to work through her baggage was a really important plot element in the story, but I will admit, I would have liked to see just a little more focus on that. And Gavin is a mess. He pretty much turned himself into an ostrich and then wildly overreacted when he discovered that there were problems in his relationship with Thea. But he’s a good guy and I appreciated his desperation and willingness to work for it. However, Aarya’s review at Smart Bitches points out a flaw that I think it would have been really great if it had been tackled, which is that having an orgasm from penetrative sex does not define the emotional health of your relationship. It’s not a personal failure if you (as a person with a vagina) cannot orgasm via penetration and cis men really need to chill on making their whole identity about their penis. (And yes, not all, blah blah.) All that said, I still liked this one enough I want to own a copy of it because I think it might be one I’m likely to revisit.
The Widow of Rose Hall by Diana Biller
For more in depth thoughts than what I’m about to provide, my review of this and This Earl of Mine went up last weekend. But tl;dr is that I adored this book. It’s slow and lovely and Sam is one of the best heroes I’ve ever read. If you’re looking for a book with a little spooky in it and can handle reading a book with past domestic violence, which appears on page, then I would highly recommend.
Lover Unbound by J. R. Ward
Well, the good news is that I liked this a lot more than Lover Butch and Marissa and actually want to keep going in the series. The bad news? I just don’t get why we couldn’t have had Lover Butch and Vischous, which is clearly the direction the story should have taken. Honestly though, I just don’t really have much to say about the series that I haven’t said before. I’m still surprised by my attraction to the series because the world building feels so convoluted. But I am really enjoying myself and the ride I’m on with the series, so we’ll see how far it goes.
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughtry
This was my fifth and final nonfiction read of Nonfiction November, which means I fell two short of my goal (so now I have two to read during December, eek!). I thought this book was well written. It’s basically an anthropological look at a variety of death practices from different cultures. I am definitely one of those people who is death averse and doesn’t deal with death well, which Doughtry discusses in the intro and touches on throughout. It was really interesting though to see what some death practices and traditions were from a variety of cultures. I really liked learning more about Dia Dos La Muertos because despite the way cultural appropriation works, I still wouldn’t say I knew more than just that it means Day of the Dead and what I learned from Coco. But I actually think the practice sounds so helpful for grief. I love the idea of it.
The One for You by Roni Loren
This series finale was my favorite of the entire series, which makes sense because Kincaid is my favorite character and this is finally her book!! Kincaid is pretty positive she’s too much and is never going to find her one true love because her high school sweetheart was one of the individuals who died during the Long Acre prom night horror. But her estranged best friend is back in town and they’re thrown together and wow, that chemistry! I think this book is not going to be for everyone though. For one thing, Ashton was in love with Kincaid all through high school. For another, Kincaid’s high school boyfriend that she thinks was amazing, was actually not amazing. Ashton, however, knows some more and therefore, so do we as readers. Also, there’s a line where “spirit animal” is used and it shouldn’t have been. But ultimately, my love for Kincaid prevailed. She is not too much, she is perfect and I love her the most. I think the way she and Ashton have their communication issues and successes was really relatable and felt grounded in reality. Keep an eye out for my series review post coming soon as well for more of my thoughts on this book! (And thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this one early!)
I had a lot of favorites from this month, including Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn, The Kingmaker and The Rebel King by Kennedy Ryan, Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Moonlighter by Sarina Bowen. And I had a lot of books that I really enjoyed. What were your favorites of the month?