I loosely wanted to read 29 books in 29 days in February, but, tbh, that’s not going so well at the moment. There’s still a chance I’ll pull it off, but right now, it’s not looking too promising. Nevertheless, let’s talk about what I HAVE read so far this month.
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
I listened to this on audio and it’s a really beautifully written memoir that absolutely broke my heart so many times. Patrisse Khan-Cullors is a queer black woman whose life has been touched by mass incarceration multiple times, and as you follow her through her life, you can really see the early seeds of the Black Lives Matter movement pop up in her life. The way that systemic racism was used (and is used) to demonize black boys and bodies and the way that drugs and the concept of gangs came about is really heartbreaking to read about. I have a lot of thoughts about community that I’m not sure I can really put into words, but essentially, the Shelf Love podcast with Tif Marcelo talking about Thirsty really connected with some of the content of this memoir for me. Andrea (the host) talks about how she’s found herself wishing she had that sense of community and I definitely can relate. This made me think too of Jesse from Bowties & Books who mentioned in one of their videos (and I’m so sorry, I can’t remember which) about how they never really wanted to have more stuff than what could fit in their car because having roots can be scary. This connected with some other things they’d said in a different video (for me, I don’t remember if it did for them) about how black people have kind of been denied the ability to have roots. Anyway, this is all a long and convoluted way of saying that this book and the way it brings attention to the various gang statutes that came down and how that DID impact community. But at the same time, this book celebrates community of queer people and how even that space can be threatened. In case it’s not obvious, this book has stuck with me and I think about it a good amount! I would definitely recommend it for anyone, but for any other white people reading this, I think that this memoir does a fantastic and likely unintentional job of showing just how protected our white skin has made us from so much of this harm.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Quick Synopsis: Lucy Mulcheny responds to a letter asking her to recommend someone to translate an astronomy text by showing up at the widowed Countess of Moth’s country home. She and Catherine slowly take steps toward becoming friends and then into being more than that.
Oh my goodness, this book is one of the most beautifully written books I think I’ve ever read. There were so many lines that I highlighted because this book is so soft and strong and gentle and beautiful… I just, I loved it so much. This particular line hit hard for me: She’d believed she could bear a widow’s loneliness more peacefully than the misery of a bad marriage. But that was like choosing whether hemlock or belladonna was the better poison. In the end, they both sapped the life from you. This book really is an exploration of loneliness and connection and the importance of finding your people, not just your person. I was worried at first that the writing style wasn’t going to work for me because I’m so out of reading historical romance, but I settled in and wound up adoring the beautiful writing and the characters are so lovely. Also, the consent work being done in this book is absolutely incredible. “The whole point is to feel excited about one another, isn’t it? If you’re more anxious than excited, then we wait. Simple.” If you’ve put off reading this book like I had, then I would definitely recommend you reconsider that decision.
The Billionaire’s Bargain by Naima Simone
Quick Synopsis: Isobel married this golden boy, had a son, then her husband died and his family shut her out so completely, they didn’t even care to meet their grandchild. Isobel attends this fancy society thing so that she can see them in person and advocate for her son, but then a black out happens and she winds up trapped in a hallway with her ex husband’s best friend who is having a panic attack. The tl;dr is that for reasons Darius decides they should get married so he can help raise Isobel’s son in the manner he should be based on his family.
After a really not great day at work, in which my well felt completely empty, I came home and I read two category romances back to back because I just needed something to make me feel like the world was not an entirely awful place. And as per usual, Naima Simone delivered. I didn’t always love what was happening, but I did always love Naima Simone’s ability to write characters that are drawn to one another even when they shouldn’t be. I do wish there had been more groveling at the end, because that was messed up, but all things considered, this book saved my sanity at the end of the day and that’s more than one can really expect from a book. So I loved it.
“. . .[F]orgiveness isn’t saying what that person did was okay. It’s just choosing to no longer let that poison kill you.”
Engaging the Enemy by Reese Ryan
Quick Synopsis: Parker needs the land that Kayleigh Jemison’s store sits on and Kayleigh needs a date to her ex’s sister’s wedding. The problem? Parker and Kayleigh used to be best friends, but now they basically hate each other. So while Kayleigh drives a hard bargain, how are the two supposed to pull off pretending to be in love? Dates to get to know one another, obviously.
This is the other book I read after that really terrible day at work. I wish I could explain to you why I never love Reese Ryan’s writing the way that I should given she writes tropes I love, but unfortunately, I have no idea what stops me every time from falling in love with her stories the way I want to. I did enjoy this one. I mean, how can you not?? The tropes are delightful. I think, actually, my two issues with this book are (a) I felt like the childhood betrayal was never really discussed to the extent I would have liked it to be? I know all too well that the scars of childhood can really linger and so I felt like I needed more than we got on that front and then (b) the conflict at the end just did not ring true to me and I wasn’t a fan. I think both just needed to be fleshed out more than they could at the category length. But, overall, definitely a good category romance!
The Love We Keep by Toni Blake
So the thing is, this book isn’t bad, I just didn’t like it. In all honestly, it might be my favorite of the three books in the Summer Island trilogy, but like… First of all, Suzanne is still getting over Brett Granger, whom I still cannot fathom when or why she fell for him?? Like, that was a crush, not something more, and I feel like it was a huge misstep to pretend otherwise. And secondly, Zach is still getting over Meg, who is Suzanne’s best friend, and yet Suzanne and Zach fall for one another anyway. AND, third, Meg randomly has all of the conflicted feelings about Zach even though she’s living out her HEA with Zach, which felt unfair, even if realistic. So basically, I don’t really recommend this trilogy at all unless you like women’s fiction and are in the mood for a women’s fiction romance novel. Because this entire series just has the weirdest beats and even though I gave all three of the books three stars, I just don’t like the series and I’m so glad I’m done reading it. (Also I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher and, in case you can’t tell from my complaints, that didn’t effect my review. It did compel me to keep reading, which is another story.)
One Last Chance by Therese Beharrie
Quick Synopsis: Fake dating turned into a very real, but brief, relationship between Zoey and Sawyer six years ago. But now their friendship is in pieces and they haven’t seen one another for two years, until they’re both at the same charity event.
This book comes out on Tuesday, shout out to Negalley and Carina Press for letting me read it early, and y’all, I loved it. I wish I’d gone into this book entirely blind because the way the reveals are told with the alternating present and past timelines is so freaking gorgeous. I absolutely adored this book and if you don’t want to take my word for it, maybe you’ll take Kate Clayborn’s? I have a slightly more coherent review in Tuesday’s post, so I’ll refer you there if you actually do want my thoughts!
Barbarian’s Alien by Ruby Dixon
Quick Synopsis: Um… So Liz is one of the humans who was kidnapped by bad aliens and crash landed on a hostile planet and was rescued by good aliens. One of said good aliens resonnated (fated mates) with her and kidnaps her (Raahosh), but she has a real good time with that.
If I started my synopsis with um, is it too much for my review to be equally um…? Because… I do not know what I thought of this book. Lol. These books are just bananas and it’s fun but it’s also like, what is happening and what am I reading? So I still need to go listen to the second episode of the Ice Planet Podcast, which I am very much looking forward to. Have y’all read these books?? Can anyone explain why they’re compulsively readable?
A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe
Quick Synopsis: Lady Nora needs a scandalous man to help her get sent back to the love of her life in England and it just so happens there’s a scandalous man throwing a dinner party upstairs as she’s dining with her aunt and uncle and a very boring suitor. Nora sneaks upstairs and gets very drunk Julius to agree to pretend to be her fiancé and then we’re off to the races.
I love Joanna Shupe’s writing and I loved Lady Nora so freaking much. And it was so cool to see Tripp in this book that led to my favorite (so far) Joanna Shupe being written!! I’m not sure what it was about Julius and Nora that I found so engaging, but I think it has something to do with the fact that Julius is continually blown away by how forthright Nora is. And maybe sometimes it veered a little too close to not like other girls, but Nora also made friends with two society ladies that kept it from really feeling that way. In general, I just really liked this book a lot and it helped reinvigorate my love of historicals, I think!
A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
Y’all, I’m still so angry about this ending. It’s been two days. Will I ever recover? I’m not sure I’m in a state where I can coherently talk about my feelings on this book, but I’m going to have to pull it together for our next When Old Meets New post, which will feature mine and Dani’s reviews of this book and Hold Me by Courtney Milan. I’m very much looking forward to rereading Trade Me and Hold Me in advance of that. I should have already, but alas. Time.
I’ve also read a couple of books for Contemporary A Thon this month, but you’ll see those in that wrap up so look forward to that! My favorite book so far this month was easily The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics, but I’ve enjoyed several of these books! What have you been reading and loving?