It’s interesting to go from such a themed ARC post (Christmas ARCs) to this eclectic mix of a holiday romance, Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern, a high fantasy, Black Sun, and a contemporary romance, If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon. The good news is that if these books sound appealing to you, Miracles and Menorahs and Black Sun are already out and If the Boot Fits will be out very soon on October 27th. I won an ARC of Miracles and Menorahs in a Romance Sparks Joy giveaway on Twitter, which was super exciting! Black Sun and If the Boot Fits both came from the publisher via Netgalley. I mostly listened to Black Sun on the audio I purchased for myself though, tbh. Anyway, let’s talk about these books!
Miracles and Menorahs by Stacey Agdern
Miracles and Menorahs needs a Hallmark channel or Netflix Original movie treatment and I would like to watch it ASAP. Unfortunately, the tension necessary for this book to really nail exactly what I needed wasn’t quite there, although I still found it generally enjoyable. The book follows Sarah, the town’s “Hanukah Fairy,” who is attempting to Vice Chair the Hanukah Festival, which this White conservative Christian dude keeps trying to shut down/convert to a Christmas festival. Sarah is trying to find someone to make a large menorah to provide the focal point for this Festival, which sounds really awesome. Unfortunately, everyone costs too much money. One of the older women in the town sets up a meeting between her grandson, Issac, and Sarah because Issac makes metal sculptures. Unfortunately, (a) Sarah’s already met him and upon meeting him called him a Hanukah snob and (b) Issac has no interest in the commercialization of any holiday, but especially not Hanukah. So he refuses, but the sparks flying between them is a bit too much to resist.
There’s a lot to like in this book, like all of the descriptions of food, the really fascinating side characters I adored, and the real Hallmark small-town feel of all these people being super invested in community. I love books about community and I loved, so much, that it was so woven into the fabric of this book. I really liked the conversation too about how neither extreme of big city vs. small town narratives we have developed in American society are accurate. I thought that was really well done and I loved how this played with that a bit.
The main thing that kept me from really loving this book was the fact that I just really didn’t feel like the tension between Issac and Sarah kept me engaged. There’s conflict because he doesn’t want to make the sculpture, which Sarah really needs, but she doesn’t really hold that against him. And then there’s a little about the fact that they do live in too separate places, but they don’t really delve into that too much. They both like each other, but don’t really do much to advance the relationship for a long time and then the end conflict felt a little too contrived and then they were in love. I just needed a little something extra here to really make me believe the romance and get invested in it.
All that to say, I think this book is an excellent addition to the holiday reads options and I’m looking forward to what I hope will be more books in this series.
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
I have a feeling this will be a book that I fall in love with more on my eventual reread before the sequel comes out. The first read was a little overwhelming for me, a person who has really fallen off from reading fantasy lately, because there is a lot of world-building to be done in this pre-Columbian inspired fantasy world. That said, by the time I really felt like I had the lay of the land and a grasp of the characters, I was very invested. Unsurprisingly, I was much more interested in the storylines following Xiala and Serapio because there’s also a budding romance happening. I was shipping them so hard, I actually cried at one point.
Anyway, let’s talk about what this book is about before I ramble on about my ship. This book has four perspective characters, though one is introduced rather late into the book, so I won’t really touch on him. First up, we have Serapio, who is the vessel of the Crow god. His mother performs an elaborate and painful ritual in the opening chapter and then we fast forward to the present where he’s on a quest to get back to Tova in time for this eclipse. Then we have a Captain, who is Teek, and also in jail, but she can’t quite figure out why. That captain is my favorite character, Xiala. She’s a bit of a mess, but I love her the most. She’s so engaging and I love the journey she takes and there are lots and lots of secrets and mystery surrounding her and I can’t wait to learn more. We also have Naranpa, the Sun Priest, who despite being a position of great power seems sort of precarious because she’s trying to change the way this priesthood thing does things. Her sections of the book were weirdly some of the most confusing to me and I still don’t think I have a solid grasp of what was happening there. Finally, we have the late intro, Okoa. I don’t think he’s really a spoiler because I don’t even think he was mentioned until his perspective appears. He’s a Carion Crow and a member of the ruling family. His chapters are interesting, but by the time we got there, I was furious we left Xiala and Serapio every time. I truly love them.
So now seems like the right time to squeal about my ship. I love them the absolute most and I’m basically Dido singing, “I will go down with this ship,” because even while I was falling in love with them, baked into the plot is a “this love is doomed conflict.” I am DISTRAUGHT and I need book two immediately, but only if it gives me an HEA. Otherwise, I would like six hundred fix it fics giving me what I need.
Some really cool things about this book: The magic that happens here is very cool. There are a couple aspects of that. The usage of they/them pronouns briefly for a quick character intro and two separate characters who use xir pronouns. Honestly, the entire story is really fascinating and I’m just super looking forward to the second book and my reread of this book so I can take it all the stuff that I missed in my frantic desire to know what happened next.
The audiobook has four narrators and is really excellent. I especially loved the narrators for my two favorite characters.
If the Boot Fits by Rebekah Weatherspoon
This book follows Amanda and Sam who have a one night stand. Amanda accidentally takes Sam’s Oscar, but they don’t actually see one another again until a mutual friend’s wedding that takes place at the Pleasants’ ranch. I have somewhat complicated feelings about If the Boot Fits and a lot of them are things that are very much it’s me and not the book so this review isn’t easy to write. Amanda is a Hollywood assistant to a D-list celebrity who is actually an abusive boss with no respect for boundaries or other people. Dru, the boss, is theoretically nuanced and I know she reads that way to others, but I just absolutely despised her and there was nothing about her that made me understand why Amanda didn’t apply to work LITERALLY anywhere else. This toxic work environment made it really tough for me to read and I felt like the work environment was really overshadowing the romance.
Eventually, the romance did manage to surpass the work aspect, but it shares a lot of screen time with Sam’s family, whom I adore. The problem for me, with this book, is that while I liked it fine, I also felt like the romance just winds up not being what I think of when reflecting on this book. And I feel like if so much of this book was going to be dealing with Amanda’s job, I needed her to have a satisfying HEA with the job thing too and I mean, sure, I guess we get that? But I didn’t feel satisfied with it at all.
Ultimately, it’s hard for me to talk about the things I liked about this book because they’re so overshadowed by the main thing I didn’t like. I would not want to discourage anyone from picking up this book though. Just make sure you’re in the right headspace to deal with a character working in such a toxic environment for a really, really, really long time.
Have you read any of these? If so, please let me know what you thought! If you haven’t made a voting plan and you live in the United States and are eligible to vote, please make a voting plan! Or don’t make a plan and just do it. Either way, make your voice heard.