September Wrap Up, Part One

September is already half over? How is this possible? On the bright side, my birthday is twelve days away! My sister actually already gave me my birthday gift of two books I picked out while I was home over Labor Day so I’m the proud owner of The Nightingaleby Kristen Hannah (finally) and A Secret History of Witchesby Louisa Morgan (impulse purchase, honestly). I guess I’m in the mood for historical fiction after finishing one of my favorite books of the year at the beginning of the month. So let’s talk about the books I’ve read so far!

1) A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert

Talia Hibbert is so talented, first of all. Secondly, our heroine, Ruth Kabbah is an autistic, fat, Black woman who is shunned by her town so she never really leaves her apartment. She also has a new neighbor and the walls of her flat are thin enough that she can pretty much hear everything. It turns out her new neighbor is Chris Evans’ twin, Evan, and he is a darling man. Utterly startled to discover Ruth doesn’t have a stove, he starts cooking for her and reads her comics, which they then discuss. This is a fantastic slow burn where the romantic and sexual tension is there under the surface, but they move really slowly toward a relationship. And God bless, the consent in this novel. Just… Talia Hibbert for Queen status or something. I don’t even know, but she is utterly marvelous.

2) Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

This book is AMAZING. I loved it so much, I’m still not sure I can put into words how much I loved it. Also, and more importantly, you should read this article on BookRiot that Olivia, aka StoriesforCoffee on Instagram, wrote about how important Next Year in Havana is for her as a Cuban American. Essentially this book follows Marisol as she travels to Cuba, smuggling in her grandma’s ashes to fulfill Elisa Perez’s last request in the present day and Elisa as a teenager as she survives the Cuban Revolution. This book taught me so much about Cuban politics and is absolutely fantastically written. It also contains two love stories and has the most fantastic set up for book two I’ve ever seen in my whole life. I just adored this book. The audiobook is especially wonderful.

3) The Duke Buys a Brideby Sophie Jordan

This is one of the books I read as part of my Try a Chapter: Romance Novels with Blue Spines post that I did at the end of August and at the end of the first chapter I was definitely intrigued and concerned. The book begins with our hero waking up face down in horse excrement and with our heroine planning to participate in some sort of thing where her childhood friend is going to claim her and make her his bride. It turns out that thing is a literal bride auction and they put her in a bridle and whoa, was that uncomfortable to read about. The premise of this book is baffling and uncomfortable, but I enjoyed the book overall. Marcus buys Alyse because he’s really freaked out by this whole auction thing and feels horrible for this woman. He tells her though that she’s not his wife, she’s going to be his employee, specifically his housekeeper. He does not let on, at all, that he’s a Duke. And as they travel along, they keep winding up sharing a bed. This forced proximity eventually makes them fall for each other, but, if I’m honest, I’m not actually sure why they fell for each other? My first instinct when I finished the book was that it was really fun and I rated it highly, but on reflection, I think this book is pretty average.

4) Halfway to the Graveby Jeaniene Frost

Technically I didn’t finish this book, but I read enough and felt very strongly about this DNF so we’re going to talk about it. This book has a 4.18 rating on Goodreads and I want to know how the hell that is possible. This heroine is AWFUL. And I don’t mean that Cat is unlikeable in a way that if she were a man people would love her, I mean Cat is a prejudiced asshole who thinks that she is super smart but is really just an idiot 20 year old. And I just absolutely could not deal with her at all. But people love her! And they compare Bones to Spike from Buffy, which I guess is fair, but also it takes so much for me to DNF a book. I complained about that Emily Giffin book the entire time I was reading it, but I refused to give up on it, but this one? It was so awful. But apparently this is a very unpopular opinion, so. Oops. OH, I almost forgot the slut shaming. It’s rampant and irritating beyond belief.

5) Bittersweetby Sarina Bowen

When I DNF’d Halfway to the Grave, I was somewhere in Tennessee, I think, and so I switched over to Bittersweet for the last few hours of my drive and wow, what a switch. I adored this book. I think Sarina Bowen is incredibly talented and I really enjoy her writing. She writes really excellent characters in their early to mid-twenties who are trying to figure out their lives in some way, which is easy to relate to for me. In this book, she sets up this world in Vermont centered around the Shipley Farm. Audrey Kidder is really trying not to get fired from her job and so when they send her off to Vermont with no preparation to buy some farmed goods, she thinks she’s good to go. Of course, she winds up with a flat tire and stuck in a ditch in Griffin Shipley’s farm driveway. This was not the way she would have chosen to run into her former hook up. This book is so great. There’s a lot of commentary about farm to table and corporate greed, but there’s even more sexy moments between Audrey and Griffin, and food descriptions that will have you really resenting being stuck in a car and also, not being able to eat gluten. I so enjoyed this one.

6) Still Meby Jojo Moyes

I had listed Still Me on my Highly Anticipated: Winter edition list and I meant it, but for some reason, every time my hold would come through, I wouldn’t pick it up. So I finally found the motivation to do it this month and I’ve got to say I enjoyed it. Also, standard caveat that the first book in this trilogy is quite problematic in its representation of Will, a young man who was in an accident that caused paralysis.

A couple of things. One, I realized that I do not have a clear recollection of Me Before You because the movie kind of wrote itself over the text of the book, so there were characters I was very confused by in this book. Two, I really enjoy books where the heroine is trying to figure out what she wants out of life. This book is far from perfect, but Louisa is a really great character to me and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow over this trilogy. So, overall, I have mixed feelings about this whole trilogy, but I’m glad I’ve finished it.

7) Steadfastby Sarina Bowen

The second book in the True North series follows Jude, the convicted felon and recovering addict we’re introduced to in Bittersweet. Harvest season is over and Jude has to return to his dad’s place in the town where he knows temptation will abound. He’s not expecting to run in his former love, Sophie, who is also the sister of the man who was in the car with him when he crashed into a tree (which is what led to him becoming a felon). I really appreciated the way that addiction was dealt with in this book, but I also really appreciated Sophie as a character. This book is darker than the first by a good degree, but it still exudes warmth and the guaranteed HEA is great. Also, if someone wants to talk spoilers about this book, same. Let’s have a WHOLE discussion because I have some feelings.

8) Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

I finished Steadfast way too late one Friday night to immediately pick up Keepsake, but guess what I did… Yeah. So Keepsake was really good, but not my favorite of the three. It follows Zach, who has been a year round worker at the Shipley Farm for a few years and ran away from a cult in Wyoming (I think that’s the state), and Lark, May Shipley’s best friend who is in Vermont for harvest season to recover from her recent trauma of being kidnapped in Guatemala. Lark is doing her best to pretend that she’s totally fine, but she’s really, really not. When she wakes up her bunk mates because she’s having a nightmare, Zach starts going to comfort her. Slowly the two grow closer and start something no one is sure is a good idea. I want to note that this is not a love will fix everything novel and I really appreciated that. Neither was Steadfast for the record. Therapy is good! Yay!

9) Loving the Secret Billionaireby Adriana Anders

This novella got rave reviews from Sarah MacLean so you know I had to pick it up. This novella is about Veronica Cruz, a Guatemalan American running for City Council against family man, Riley, and Zach, a blind billionaire, virgin, recluse whom Veronica meets when she’s out canvassing. Zach has a secret, of course, but he can’t help his pull to Veronica who smells wonderful and is full of passion for making the world a better place. While I’m not a novella person, I did really enjoy this one. That said, I felt like the pacing was off. The first third of the book felt like a normal intro to a romance novel and then we were just off to the races and everything felt so rushed. But that’s the point of novellas, isn’t it?

10) The Negotiatorby HelenKay Dimon

Another novella, this one falling into Dimon’s romantic suspense series Games People Play, The Negotiator felt like a more full length novel in it’s pacing. Or, at least, the pacing I would love in romantic suspense novels so I don’t expire from anxiety. This book follows Lauren, whose dead husband just showed up on her doorstep, and Garrett, the man she’s been dancing around for the past several months. When she texts Garrett her 911 message, he shows up at her doorstep and they head off to grab some take-out, only to return to Lauren’s to find her not-dead husband actually dead. Murdered, dead. I enjoy Dimon’s writing tremendously and this novella reminded me that I really need to pick up the rest of the books in this series. If you like romantic suspense, she’s an excellent author for it and this novella gives you a good taste of that. That said, I didn’t love this as much as I have loved her full length novels in the past. So, again, I just don’t think I’m much of a novella person.

11) Learning Curvesby Ceillie Simkiss

My first read for LatinxBookBingo and it was pretty good! A very short novella, Learning Curves is about a lesbian, Puerto Rican, law student (at UNC-G, which does not have a law school for the record) and an asexual, panromantic business grad student falling in love. I liked the way the relationship in this novella builds and I enjoyed the writing style. As per usual, I wish it was longer. However, it was a pretty fluffy read and you know, sometimes that is exactly what you need. I would definitely recommend if you’re looking for a fluffy f/f read, in other words!

My favorite read of the month so far has hands down been Next Year in Havana and I cannot recommend it highly enough! What about you?


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