Romantic two-fer: The Wedding Party and The Flatshare, two contemporary romances to lift your spirits

Sometimes, light-sweet-cute-hot is exactly what a reader needs. Right? I had a terrific time this week reading these two contemporary romances…

Title: The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date, #3)
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: July 16, 2019
Length: 351 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library

Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend

2. They hate each other

After an “Oops, we made a mistake” kiss, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking.

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.

Maddie and Theo are successful professionals, both dedicated to family and friends, and both in need of love and companionship. Despite sharing a best friend, they manage to take an instant dislike to one another at their first meeting, and only tolerate each other for Alexa’s sake. But with Alexa’s wedding coming up, they’re forced to spend more time together, and after an initial, spontaneous, one-time-only sexual encounter, they’re both aware that their chemistry is off the charts.

It’s totally engaging and charming to see Maddie and Theo battling their attraction and reluctance to admit feelings, when it’s so obvious that their connection is deep and real. And though they keep insisting to themselves that this is physical only, with an agreement to stop hooking up once the wedding is over, it’s clear that Maddie and Theo make each other happy in a way no one else can.

The Wedding Party fits in with the author’s The Wedding Date series, as characters from the previous two books (especially Alexa and Drew from book #1) appear in this book. I think The Wedding Party could be enjoyed as a stand-alone, although it’s even more fun to see the connections established in earlier books continue here.

As with Jasmine Guillory’s other books, I’m occasionally frustrated by how much lack of communication contributes to the couple’s obstacles. They really should be better at this, considering what they do for a living! Still, the book overall is a really fun read, and I loved the characters, the adorableness of their relationship, and their smoking hot sparks. Can’t wait for the next book, Royal Holiday!

Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth O’Leary
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: May 28, 2019
Length: 325 pages
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Library

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

Oh, this is just too cute. And also surprisingly touching and serious at times.

Tiffy is broke, newly single, and desperate for a decent place to live. Leon needs cash. A flatshare seems like a great solution — their schedules never overlap, so why not share this cozy, one-bedroom apartment? (Okay, for me, the sharing-a-bed piece would be a dealbreaker, but it seems to work for these two so long as Tiffy sleeps on the left and Leon on the right). As they start communicating via Post-It notes, they begin to get to know one another and to open up in all sorts of charming and quirky ways, and instantly establish a funny, easy rapport.

It’s not all sweetness and light, though. Tiffy is just starting to realize how emotionally manipulative and abusive her ex-boyfriend was, and Leon is devoted to helping his wrongfully accused brother win an appeal of the conviction that landed him in prison. As the book progresses, we explore more of each of these issues, and the author does a great job of presenting the turmoil and trauma involved while balancing the serious moments with the book’s overall light-hearted appeal.

The narrative shifts between Tiffy and Leon’s POVs in alternating chapters. Tiffy is exceptionally funny and delightful, and Leon is sweet, devoted, and somewhat shut off from dealing with his emotions. When they finally meet in person, they’ve already established a connection that binds them together, and the physical chemistry is just icing on the cake.

The Flatshare deals with some serious issues, but is overall a charming, sparkly romance that left me feeling uplifted and entertained, start to finish. Bonus points for some truly unique, stand-out characters and a really off-beat set-up!

Both of these books are nominated for the 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance. I don’t usually think of Romance as “my” genre, but between these two books and three others I’ve read from the list of opening round nominations, I may have to own up to being a romance fan! (As well as a sci-fi/fantasy/horror geek, a devourer of historical fiction, and… you know what? Why bother with labels? I’ll read anything!)

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers That Give Off Autumn Vibes

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is  Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes.

I’m going by cover art here, not necessarily anything to do with the books’ content. Here are 10 book covers that make me think of autumn!

 

 

I haven’t actually read all of these, but I do have copies of them all on my shelves! Are any of these familiar to you?

What books make you think of autumn? Please share your TTT link!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 (okay, 12) books on my TBR list for fall 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books On My Fall 2019 TBR.

My list is partly upcoming new releases, and partly books that I already own and still need to get to. And somehow, I ended up with twelve, because I kept adding books without counting and then couldn’t decide which ones to drop!

So, here are my top dozen book for the next few months. (Click on any of the book cover images to see larger versions.)

 

  • Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: I’m so excited for the sequel to Carry On.
  • A Very Scalzi Christmas by John Scalzi: I don’t usually go for Christmas collections, but I’m happy to make an exception for John Scalzi.
  • The Toll by Neal Shusterman: The end of the Scythe trilogy comes out in November. I’m dying to see how the story wraps up.
  • Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein: I’ve been wanting to give this author a try, and was delighted to get an ARC of her new book, to be published in late October.
  • Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire: A new Seanan McGuire novella! Need I say more?
  • Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery: I started the Anne of Green Gables series in January, and I have only this book left before I’m done! My goal is to finish before the end of 2019.
  • The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris: A selkie story! I picked this up a couple of months ago, and need to get to it.
  • Witchmark by C. L. Polk: Yet another book that I picked up a while ago and haven’t started yet. Sounds terrific. Maybe I’ll make this and other witchy stories a priority for October.
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: I bought a hardcover as soon as it came out, and it’s been on my shelf ever since. Must. Read. Soon.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Ditto. Shaking my head at myself for not reading this one yet — I’ve loved every other book by this author!
  • Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal: I think my next series project will be reading the five books in the Glamourist Histories, starting with this one (which I read long ago, but have mostly forgotten. Need to re-read before tackling the rest!)
  • A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny: I wrote a Shelf Control post about this book a few months ago. My plan is to read one chapter per night during the month of October, which I’ve heard is the way to go with this book. Sounds like fun!

What books are you most excited to read this fall? Please share your TTT link!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Terrifying two-fer: Our War and Wanderers, two all-too-believable versions of our world (and its future)

Over the past two weeks, I read two gripping, enthralling, un-put-downable books that scared the pants off me. These two books are quite different, but each presents a vision of our world that’s utterly terrifying because it’s so utterly possible.

Title: Our War
Author: Craig DiLouie
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: August 20, 2019
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Speculative fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher 

A prescient and gripping novel of a second American civil war, and the children caught in the conflict, forced to fight.

When the president of the United States is impeached, but refuses to leave office, the country erupts into civil war.

10-year-old Hannah Miller, an orphan living in besieged Indianapolis, has joined a citizen’s militia. She had nowhere else to go. And after seeing the firsthand horrors of war, she’s determined to fight with the Free Women militia.

Hannah’s older brother, Alex, is a soldier too. But he’s loyal to the other side. After being separated from Hannah, he finds a home in a group calling themselves The Liberty Tree militia.

When a UNICEF worker and a reporter discover that both sides are using child soldiers, they set out to shine a light on something they thought could never happen in the United States. But it may be too late because even the most gentle children can find that they’re capable of horrific acts.

Where to even start describing this powerful and upsetting book? It feels all too real, as an increasingly factionalized and radicalized America is plunged into a brutal civil war. Sides are drawn — and armed. It’s deadly serious, and as is sadly the norm in armed conflicts, children are the ones who are caught in the middle, starving, orphaned, witnessing death and brutality that no child should have to see,

Hannah is one of several POV characters; others include a hard-charging journalist pursuing her next great story, an inexperienced but determined UNICEF representative, the militia leader who takes in Hannah’s bother Alex, and Alex himself. Each shares their unique viewpoint on the war and its impact, and through each, we see the futility of the armed conflict and the seeming hopelessness of any attempt to find a resolution.

The political situation in Our War is, honestly, not so far different from our own current situation. It’s scarily easy to imagine these events evolving from where we stand today.

As a reporter, Aubrey had always been shocked by the right wing’s war on facts. They regularly vilified anybody in fact-based professions, from scientists to doctors. They generated and consumed propaganda and called anything else fake. For them, reality wasn’t as interesting as a good simple narrative that had them righteously and perpetually enraged.

At first, I found it confusing to keep track of which side was which, but I think that’s part of the point. After all, your view of whether someone is a patriot or a rebel may depend very much on which side of the line you yourself are standing on.

The writing here is raw and shocking and immediate, and makes for a completely gripping read. Above all, the children caught in the middle are the ultimate victims here, and seeing the war through Hannah’s eyes is truly gut-wrenching.

Title: Wanderers
Author: Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication date: July 9, 2019
Length: 800 pages
Genre: Speculative fiction
Source: Purchased

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

This massive, 800 page book seemed like a huge reading undertaking… but once I started, I savored every word, paragraph, and chapter. Did it need to be this huge? Why, yes. Yes, it did.

Wanderers is truly epic in scope. What starts as a weird local event — a sleepwalking girl who can’t be woken or stopped — turns into something huge and eerie (and to some, horribly frightening) as Nessie is joined by more and more sleepwalkers in her journey across America. Escorted by family members and friends who look after them, the flock moves endlessly forward. Meanwhile, the CDC scrambles to find out why, and right-wing militiamen, politicians, and conservative rabblerousers see the flock as a harbinger of end-times, and use their existence as an excuse to ramp up their hateful, violent rhetoric, whipping their public into a frenzy.

Just what is causing the sleepwalking phenomenon is revealed over time, as is the connection to a money-hungry tycoon’s mysterious death. The weirdness of the sleepwalking is leavened by the beauty of the human interactions and interconnectedness as we get to know the various shepherds, their motivations and fears, and their own sense of running out of time.

Parts of this book are terrifying. Strangely (or not), I was much more disturbed by the human evil and hate-mongering than by the pandemic threat to all of humanity. Nature, science, possible extinction — these just are, without good or evil. Instead, it’s the people of Wanderers who inspire admiration for their bravery, sacrifice, and wisdom, as well as despair over the cruelty that people display toward one another.

This book takes our current crises related to climate change, increasingly drug-resistant bacteria and viruses, and hate-filled politics, and spins these into a tale that feels prophetic, cautionary, and disturbingly real. Wanderers forces the reader to ask “what if”… and then see how the scenario plays out in full, grisly, technicolor detail.

I suppose I should add, if not already clear, that this book contains violence and cruelty and should be approached cautiously (or not at all) by anyone who may find themselves triggered.

That said, I just loved so many of the characters, felt completely invested in their journeys and ordeals, and could not stop reading. At the risk of sounding incredibly corny, reading Wanderers made me feel like I’d been on a journey too. A terrific read.

I want to note that Craig DiLouie and Chuck Wendig are both new-to-me authors, although they’ve been on my radar for a while now thanks to friends’ recommendations. Having read these two books, I definitely want more! Please let me know if you have suggestions for me!

Side note: I have so much more I’d love to say about both of these books, but with my arm and hand in a cast for several more weeks, typing is a challenge — so I’m keeping this on the short side. Bottom line: Both of these books are 5-star reads for me. I can’t recommend them highly enough!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten favorite characters from recent reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is a Character Freebie, which means that we come up with our own topics on the subject of book characters.

I’ve done a whole bunch of character posts over the years, including…

  • Favorite fantasy characters
  • Best secondary characters
  • Frustrating characters
  • Characters I’d want with me on a deserted island
  • and more…

This time around, I thought I’d keep it simple, and just focus on characters from books I’ve read in the last year or so. Without further fuss, here are ten (um, actually, eleven) characters I’ve really loved from some of my more recent reads:

1. Billy Dunn, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Reid Jones: Sexy lead guitarist, songwriter, and family man, whose electricity just crackles off the page

2. Tasheret, Competence (The Custard Protocol, #3) by Gail Carriger: A gorgeous were-lioness who’s afraid of nothing, especially not showing love

3. Young-sook, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See: This story floored me, especially the bravery of the diving women and all they endured. Young-sook’s story is absolutely fascinating and so moving.

4. Lord John Grey, from various Lord John and Outlander works by Diana Gabaldon: Lord John isn’t actually new to me, but my book group has been re-reading all the Lord John-related novellas and novels in the Outlander world during the past year, so he counts as recent! Lord John is a sweet, smart, talented soldier and gentleman, who has a dry wit that’s a joy to behold. He also has great taste in men!

5. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery: Where has Anne been all my life? I’m halfway through the series, and I adore Anne’s brightness and spirit as she grows from precocious tween to effervescent young woman.

6. Roger and Dodger, Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: Twins with unlimited power, with murky origins and incredible gifts, who are — despite all this — really interesting and complicated people.

7. Prince Peter, The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King: Ah, the good prince Peter! Everything royalty and nobility should be. He made me want to cheer as he struggled for redemption and to free his kingdom from evil.

8. Maggie Hoskie, Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: The lead character of these terrific books is a strong, kick-ass monster hunter, rooted in tradition and adapted to a changed world. Can’t wait for more!

9. Beka Cooper, the Beka Cooper trilogy by Tamora Pierce: Beka is such a great character! I loved all three books about her, and just wish there were more.

10. Veronica Speedwell, A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn: Gotta love a Victorian lepidopterist who enjoys science, adventure, and taking lovers.

What characters have you really loved recently? What theme did you pick this week? Please share your links!

Save

Save

Save

Save