Fiction

Book 28 of 52: The Duke Goes Down by Sophie Jordan

I’m going to start a new category of book: aggressively fine. These are books you read even if you know they’re not going to be the pinnacle of your literary experience. I read so many books, and am used to always having a book, that sometimes I want something I know is going to be OK and won’t make me consider throwing my consciousness into a river. It’s something to read to pass the time, not unlike falling into the familiar patterns of a cozy British mystery series, or Dateline. The Duke Goes Down by Sophie Jordan is aggressively fine. It’s fine! It was small enough to toss into my backpack while hiking in Maine (hence this picture), and something I could read in snippets while I finished vacation, then came home from vacation, and then pouted that vacation was over. It does have some choice quotes though: “Perry…had been…

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Book 27 of 52: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio was not chosen by me, per se. It’s on the Vandegrift High School Banned Book Club reading list. The group formed in response to the Leander Independent School District banning a whole bunch of books for ridiculous reasons. These students wanted to read the books and discuss them anyway.  None of the Above was yanked by the school district because it features “sensitive topics” and “concepts of sex and anatomy,” according to the Washington Post. Yes, this book does such horrible things as recognizing that 18 year old ADULTS, who in Texas can buy assault rifles, might have sex. It’s also cognizant of the very real fact that gender is not a pink/blue binary. The protagonist here is track star and homecoming queen Kristin Lattimer. After experiencing incredible pain when having sex, she’s diagnosed as intersex. In Kristin’s case, she has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), which…

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Book 24 of 52: Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam

Sarah and Lauren have been best friends since they were 11 years old, even though that friendship started with a chip in it. Sarah is rich and goes to the pricey New York City private school because that’s what people with that much money do. Lauren goes because her mother works for a doctor who tells her about it, and that Lauren could go there on scholarship. What happens from there is the crux of Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam, with the story told around the planning of Sarah’s wedding. It’s about friendship and how sometimes we hang on too long to people just because they’ve always been there (during one of their many tiffs, Lauren asks: “Is this friendship or is this a force of habit?”) That can be interesting, but I found this book dull. Sarah and Lauren float through New York City life, they make up,…

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Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can’t ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it’s SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn’s Rokesbys Series, which are prequels to her enormously popular Bridgerton Series (and now a Netflix show). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England). Here we meet Sybilla “Bille” Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs…

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Book 19 of 52: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

After reading Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer last year, and the sequel P.S. Be Eleven for book 7 of 52 this year, of course I was going to read Gone Crazy in Alabama, the third book in the trilogy about sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern and their adventures in Brooklyn, Oakland and Alabama in the late 1960s. In this book, they spend the summer in Alabama with their grandmother, Big Ma, who previously lived with them in Brooklyn after their mother left and moved to Oakland (hence the previous Oakland trip). After their father re-married, she moved back to Alabama to live with her mother, Ma Charles. They in turn live across the creek from Miss Trotter, Ma Charles’ half sister, and the two are trapped in a bitter feud. Why? The book goes into all that of course – along with the usual “city girls in the country” doing things…

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Book 18 of 52: How to be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

Romance novels always involve some kind of conflict. Without it, why would we read the 300 or so pages about how the two leads get together? There’s usually some sort of external force the characters unite to fighting against. And while there’s some of that in Eloisa James’ How to be a Wallflower, it’s not heavy. Instead, James focuses on the relationship between the leads: Cleopatra Lewis, who inherited and now runs her father’s “commode” business (as in, yes, toilets); and Jacob Astor Addison, an American looking to poach London’s best costumer designers for the chain of theaters he owns in the U.S. The conflict? Themselves. Cleopatra’s mother had engaged in a series of short affairs with actors (often married actors) and left her daughter to clean up the mess, and it’s skewed her views of sex, marriage and love. Cleopatra also knows that if she marries, her business becomes…

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Book 17 of 52: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is one of those books I knew about, but hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. It received so much coverage (well deserved!) and won so many awards (also deserved!) and figured I’d get around to it eventually, which I did when I recently found a copy in a Little Free Library near my house. Of course, it’s as good as everyone said, the story of Desiree and Stella Vignes, identical twin sisters growing up in Mallard, Louisiana, a community where light skin is valued, in the 1950s and 1960s. When they’re sixteen and their mother pulls them out of school to work, they run away to New Orleans instead. Their stories split when they do, because Stella leaves to start a new life passing as a while woman. I’m obviously not qualified to write about the racial issues of the book (and I know…

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Book 15 of 52: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

As I wrote last time, I picked book 14 of 52 because I wanted a book small enough to fit in my bag during a trip to New York City. I picked Wishtree by Katherine Applegate for book 15 of 52, also for convenience: as a member of Libro.fm, I get one credit for one audiobook per month. I had four days until my next credit went live. What to listen to until then? Wishtree is about three hours long, and available for free as an audiobook through my library. And thus I found another great title because it happened to be the right book at the right time. Wishtree is a middle grade book about a tree (and birds and skunks and spiders) that can talk. This isn’t relevant at first because they don’t talk to people, but the fact that it’s a wish tree is. I thought this was made…

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Book 14 of 52: My Kind of Earl by Vivienne Lorret

Last year, I did a friend a favor and in turn she gave me some romance novels by authors I’d never read of before. I like regency romance (the era you see in Bridgerton, which is based on the also popular romance series that I read early during COVID). So when I saw My Kind of Earl by Vivienne Lorret in the pile, I said sure why not. I picked it last week for a practical reason: I was traveling to New York City to run the NYC Half Marathon and wanted a book I could fit in my purse. And…it’s fine! It’s about Jane Pickerington, an inquisitive single aristocratic woman working on a book about scoundrels. She meets Raven (yes just Raven) in a brothel because she snuck in for research. As you might imagine, they fall in love. Of course there are twists and turns along the way, including but…

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Book 9 of 52: The MacGregors: Serena and Caine

In my post about Station Eleven, I wrote about two groups of people, those who ran towards pandemic fiction at the start of COVID, and those who ran far away from it. I was 100% in the latter group. Reading wise, that meant delving into genre fiction: crime, thrillers, suspense, and of course romance. You might think that these are different, and they are, except in one way: I know what’s going to happen at the end. Just like I know Detective Bosch in Michael Connelly’s books is always going to figure out who did it, I know that, in a romance, the two leads are going to have a Happily Every After (known in romance circles as an HEA). I craved predictability in my reading, whether it was about solving a murder or matters of the heart (and in some romances, you can have both!) Romance, as you might…

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