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Summer is wrapping up around here–school starts today already–and it’s gone too fast. We rounded it out with an amazing week in the mountains celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
Lots of hiking, wildlife, and cousin time for the kids made it hard to leave. My family drove from several states to be here, while it was a quick trip up the mountain for me.
Lucky thing, because my anxious dog (who we rescued a few months ago) was being a total drama queen for the dogsitter! A visit home seemed to help–though she found new ways to get into trouble until we returned.
Anyway, it was both an eventful and relaxing week with family, and I didn’t read as much as I expected. Nonetheless, I’ve read some great books this past month–and am nearing the end of another that I’m loving.
Here’s what I’ve been reading:
Print and E-Books
Years after her life and sense of safety are shattered, Kat Roberts finally has an opportunity to expose the person who caused it all: Meg Williams is back in California. The con-woman is now using her own name, and Kat begins her own con to find out what Meg is really up to and to bring her comeuppance. She doesn’t expect to like Meg, and her feelings get even more complicated when she learns Meg’s true game.
This wasn’t so much a thriller as a cat-and-mouse character study. I couldn’t put down this clever spin on taking on a con artist. Meg and Kat’s relationship is complicated and believable, and the story is fast-paced and interesting. I loved it.
I think that same feeling that drew people to Station Eleven and other pandemic dystopias compelled me to pick up this 2018 novel set in an imagined (and now, all-too-real) future when abortion and IVF are illegal. Red Clocks follows several women in a small Oregon town: a single high school teacher who is trying to have a baby and is writing a biography of a female polar explorer; a frustrated wife and mother; a pregnant teen; and a local healer, on trial for helping a woman with an abortion.
The premise of this book kept me reading, but I found it very hard to get into. Zumas’s writing style feels impenetrable for a good portion of the book, and the passages on the polar explorer, though short, were boring until their purpose became clear toward the end. I eventually found my groove with this book and had to keep reading, but it required some patience.
If you’ve read any of my audiobook reviews, you know that Julia Whelan is my favorite narrator. In Thank You for Listening, she brings her talents to her own romance book–while also lending it her deep knowledge of the genre and its tropes (the chapters are named for them!), as well as her experience as an audiobook narrator.
Sewanee had acting dreams that were cut short by a tragic accident, and she now narrates audiobooks–but avoids romance. When a famous romance author dies and leaves a request that she pair up with mysterious heartthrob narrator Brock McKnight to narrate her last book, the offer is too good to pass up–her grandmother needs hands-on care, and this would pay for it.
Before the two even meet in person, sparks fly over their text banter. This being a trope-filled romance, there are plenty of misunderstandings and complications, but the characters and their relationship are fantastic. I had a blast listening to this and didn’t want it to end.
I haven’t yet had the chance to read Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, but I thought I’d give her memoir a listen. Evaristo recounts her childhood in England, growing up with eight siblings and a Nigerian father and Catholic mother, and how her drive toward a creative life helped her find her writing voice. Poetry and the theater occupied her early creative years, during which she also explored her sexuality with several queer relationships (one deeply unhealthy), until she moved to writing fiction (and eventually met and married her husband).
The story of Evaristo’s life is interesting, but it’s her compelling voice and deep determination in the face of every obstacle that stand out. Her strength to push–and push hard–toward creative pursuits and success is inspiring. Evaristo narrates the audiobook and it’s worth the listen for any artist.
I’m not sure why I keep reading memoirs by authors whose work I haven’t read yet, but Erika Sánchez’s has convinced me that I need to pick up I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. I loved her telling of her childhood in Chicago, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, and her pursuits of life on her own terms and a creative career.
Sánchez has a strong, funny, unapologetic voice, and she shares raw details about intimate health struggles, depression, and relationships that will resonate with many readers.
Kiki Banjo hosts the popular radio show Brown Sugar at Whitewell University, and she speaks to the women of the Afro-Caribbean Society about relationships, situationships, and the players on campus. When she calls out Malakai Korede as one of those players, she doesn’t expect a professor to pair her with him to enhance both of their resumes.
The arrangement prompts a fake relationship that soon starts to feel real, despite Kiki’s resistance to the charming banter and undeniable chemistry. This took me a while to get into–there are a lot of campus politics that complicate the storyline–but I enjoyed Kiki’s and Malakai’s relationship, as well as the ways Kiki grew and opened herself to friendships with other women at her school. Not as fast and fluffy as some romance novels, but the great characters, fun tropes, and HEA will satisfy any romance fan.