Year: 2022

Book 66 of 52: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath

And here we have it, the last book of the year: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath. And it’s…fine.

I wasn’t in much of a reading mood this week, despite being a person who always has a book. I started and stopped two books before I got to this one. Beauty Tames the Beast isn’t terrible, but it feels a bit like Heath ran out of gas. This is the sixth book in the “A Sins for All Seasons” season. There’s a out of nowhere plot twist in the last 100 pages. Of course our hero and heroine get together, but the “final” hurdle to them doing so feels low stakes. But it’s done and on the shelf of the books I read this year.

Looking back on my reading in 2022, it feels…fine? I haven’t written this blog in a while, and it did force me to be more thoughtful about my choices, and to try to read authors of different backgrounds, which of course isn’t a bad thing.

I keep the (physical) books I read through the year together. Tomorrow I’ll break this down and decide what to keep, what to offer friends and what to donate. But doesn’t […]

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Book 65 of 52: A Gentleman in Moscow

The funny thing about A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is that I’ve had this for almost three years, but avoided reading it because I assumed it would be a heavy book. It’s a Russian novel! But when I saw a friend write online that her blood pressure dropped every time she read it, I gave it a go. I’m glad I did.

It’s about Count Alexander Rostov, who, at age 30, is sentenced to house arrest. The “house” in this case is the Metropol hotel in Moscow in 1922. A Bolshevik tribunal determined he was an unrepentant aristocrat, but spared his life because of a poem he wrote 1913. Instead, he is sent to live out his days in the belfry of this luxury hotel near the Kremlin.

Alexander makes the most of it, living a full, often delightful life inside. My friend was right: I did feel soothed every time I opened the book. It was a warm friend on some of the shortest nights of the year.

I’m pretty sure I bought this on March 14, 2020, when were were told if we stayed home two weeks, the whole COVID-19 thing would blow over (I know the date […]

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Book 64 of 52: Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobson

Two warnings on this post.

First the serious one: this review is in part about the Holocaust. If you want to skip it given everything that’s going on right now, I completely understand. I also put warnings in the post about where the rough stuff is. It’s also why, after looking at the post after it published, I changed the featured image. I don’t think anything’s wrong with the cover, but I don’t want to shove a hate symbol into your day, especially during Hanukkah.

Second, the less serious note: this post discusses the first season of the Apple TV+ show For All Mankind and will contain  mild spoilers. That bit comes at the end of the post, and I’ll give another warning with {SPOILERS AHEAD}.

Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobson is about just that: Operation Paperclip, a U.S. intelligence program that brought 1,600 Nazi scientists to the country after World War II. The program got its name from the practice of adding a paperclip to the files of scientists they wanted, despite what those scientists did during the war.

And those “what those scientists dids” were often […]

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Book 63 of 52: Baron by Joanna Shupe

In November, I reviewed a romance anthology for book 55 in this series: How the Dukes Stole Christmas, which included novellas by four different authors. I’d read books by three of the authors. The fourth, Joanna Shupe, was new to me, and I liked her novella enough that I bought Baron, which is part of her Knickerbocker Club series.

The heroine is “Madam Zolikoff,” a medium who pretends to connect with the spirit world. It’s a job Ava Jones undertook because it was the best way to support herself and her three siblings, and to save money for her dream of moving them all out of New York City during the so-called Gilded Age, which left a lot of non-gilded people out in the cold.

One of her clients is a man running for governor. He’s not the hero. Instead, it’s William Sloane, a railroad baron who will become his lieutenant governor if elected. He knows that any whiff of scandal, including his candidate employing a medium, could derail both of their political careers, so Baron sets out to shove Zolikoff out of the picture. Instead, he falls in love with Ava, the real woman under the makeup and wig.

I […]

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Book 62 of 52: The Secret Apartment: Vet Stadium, a surreal memoir by Tom Garvey

Tom Garvey came home from a the Vietnam War with PTSD, and was trying to figure out what’s next while going to college and working for his uncle helping to manage parking at sporting events in South Philadelphia. When said uncle gave him the business to manage — and after he and his friends crashed at Veteran’s Stadium the night before the Pope’s visit, so they would be on site early to help manage parking — Garvey decided to move in.

In The Secret Apartment: Vet Stadium, a Surreal Memoir, Garvey finally tells a story that he said was only known by a small group of friends (including some professional athletes). He claims that from 1979 to 1981, he lived in an unused concession stand under the slope of section 354 at Veterans Stadium. He took full advantage of his living quarters, making friends with professional baseball and football players and coaches, going to a zillion games, roller skating around the stadium at night, and sometimes sleeping under the stars from the fabled 700 level.

Garvey started posting his memories during the pandemic, for fun and the entertainment of other people, then self-published them in this book in 2021. And it’s […]

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Book 61 of 52: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

When Inspector Chopra retires, he receives an unusual inheritance: a baby elephant. He can’t figure out why his uncle left him the animal, but he doesn’t have much time to figure it out. Despite the early retirement due to heart problems, he has one final case he can’t shake. What was initially ruled an accidental drowning doesn’t appear to be so, and in tracking down what really happened, Chopra uncovers a much bigger web of trouble running through the city of Mumbai.

That’s the set up for The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan, but this cozy mystery didn’t do it for me. It doesn’t really come together until the last 50 pages. The separate stories of this case, what to do about the elephant, and the strain in Chopra’s marriage all feel like they’re plot lines floating around each other, to the point that I wondered why they were even in the same book.

This is the first book in a series, and maybe it’s because Khan had to do a lot of world building, but there was just too much warming up. It didn’t grab me enough to make me want to read the follow ups.

I finished […]

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Book 60 of 52: Desert Star by Michael Connelly

The most distinct memory I have of reading a Michael Connelly book was in a Candlewood Suites in Grand Junction, Colo. on July 1, 2017. I was about six weeks into my “do you think a depressed person make this?!” trip to see the 18 states I hadn’t been to yet. I’d just driven across Utah while was sick with a head cold that hit me somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my flight back from Hawaii to Las Vegas. I’d planned to camp on public lands somewhere outside Arches National Park in Moab, but with temperatures still in the 90s at 5 p.m., I decided to skip it (and Arches entirely) and pay Fourth of July weekend hotel rates somewhere in Colorado.

I was tired, physically sick, and homesick even though I didn’t have a home-as-a-structure to go back to. So I cried in the shower, turned up the AC, and sunk myself into the hotel bed, and read Angel’s Flight, Connelly’s sixth novel in the Harry Bosch series.

I even took a picture:



I’d started to work through Connelly’s back catalogue in 2016 at the recommendation of two friends who like these kinds of books. The events that, in […]

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Book 59 of 52: We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu

Let’s take a trip with a very handsome man! Simu Liu, who is most known as the lead in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings. He has quite a story to tell in We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story. And most of it is not about Hollywood.

Liu is a Chinese-Canadian actor who spent the first four years of his life in China with his grandparents, as his parents scraped their way to establishing a new life for the three of them in Canada. When Liu was finally able to join them, it wasn’t a perfect reunion. Not only were his parents essentially raising a small child they didn’t know, but they also pressured him to succeed in sometimes cruel ways. No way around it: they beat him, and did things like lock him out of the apartment if he was bad. They made him feel worthless if he was not at the top of his class, and beyond, in everything.

I thought a lot about book 44 in this series, I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. The big differences are that his parents didn’t want Liu to have anything to do with […]

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Book 58 of 52: The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

I’m getting ready to leave on a trip, so this will be a short post — which is apt as The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is short! It’s a novella about the parents of characters in her The Brothers Sinister series (I’ve read most of these — recommended!) This story is about finding happiness after trauma and abuse. I don’t want to say exactly what happened to our hero and heroine because their stories unfold over the course of the novella, but it’s not a story I’ve often read in regency romance in exactly this way.

Also if you’re coming here and still thinking romance writers and readers are a bunch of head in the cloud dodos, Milan is the pen name of  Heidi Bond, a Chinese-American lawyer who clerked for a Supreme Court Justice. She paved a way for herself in romance via self publishing, and then blew the lid off Romance Writers of America, which needed to confront its internal racism even if the group reacted poorly. And that’s just scratching the surface of why I admire her as a writer and person. I highly recommend her newsletter, which is free.

And now, […]

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Book 57 of 52: Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

Signal Fires, a new novel by Dani Shapiro, starts with a death. Sarah Wilf, 17, is too drunk to drive, so she asks Theo, her 15-year-old brother, to drive for her. He ends up crashing into a tree in front of their home, which kills their friend Misty, who was a passenger.

Signal Fires is about the after, and how secrets can be an acid that rips someone apart. The story focuses on the Wilfs, and also the Shamkmans, who move into the house across the street once Sarah and Theo have flown the nest. At the accident, Sarah lies and said she was driving, to protect Theo. Their father Ben, a doctor, rushes to the scene. He knows Theo wasn’t driving, but sticks to the story Sarah has made up.

Even though she did it as an act of kindness to keep Theo out of trouble, it plants a corrosive seed, as does a handful of other secrets and lies the characters keep to themselves.

“The words that might have been spoken will instead be swallowed. Unexpressed, they will wind their way through and around each of them like vines choking a stand of untended trees,” Shapiro writes.

It’s not a surprise […]

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