Categories
Romance

Read The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes

Read The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes (London Highwaymen #…

Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, just shot her husband. Of course, the evil, murderous man deserved what was coming to him, but now she must flee to the countryside. Unfortunately, the only person she can ask for help is the charismatic criminal who is blackmailing her–and who she may have left tied up a few hours before…

A highwayman, con artist, and all-around cheerful villain, Rob Brooks is no stranger to the wrong side of the law or the right side of anybody’s bed. He never meant to fall for the woman whose secrets he promised to keep for the low price of five hundred pounds, but how could he resist someone who led him on a merry chase all over London, left him tied up in a seedy inn, and then arrived covered in her husband’s blood and in desperate need of his help?

As they flee across the country–stopping to pick pockets, drink to excess, and rescue invalid cats–they discover more true joy and peace than either has felt in ages. But when the truth of Rob’s past catches up to him, they must decide if they are willing to reshape their lives in order to forge a future together.

Liked this better than the first book. The epistolary opening is a total delight. Rob is great. I quite enjoyed it but found it a bit of a slower read usual for a romance — and I stalled out at 70% for a few days — I think because much of the plot is actually pretty incidental to the relationship.

I appreciated the way revelations were handled. I wasn’t sure exactly how the ending would turn out but it felt like a good landing. The drama at the climax I think needed to be explained better earlier on since it seems emotionally important.

A lot of bi representation seems like lip service but these two felt queer and the way they approached sex was non-traditional compared to a typical m/f romance.

Categories
Science Fiction

Read Stolen by the Alien Rogue

Read Stolen by the Alien Rogue (Fated Mates of the Zaarn, #0.5)

He’s a demon alien with a wicked smile and an even wickeder tail. And he claims I’m his fated mate.

Space was supposed to be better than my sitch on Earth. Yeah, right. I shoulda known. I wake from cryosleep surrounded by blobby aliens, unable to understand a word. They even throw me in a cage! Looks like I’m the newest pet in an alien zoo.

Then a gorgeous blue demon, complete with horns and tail, steals me from my cell. We go on the run, playing charades to communicate as we con our way through one sticky situation after another.

Zol’s hot as sin. He looks at me like no one ever has, like I’m the most precious thing in the universe. Growing up on the streets, I’ve learned to trust my instincts, and they say he’s the real deal. As things heat up between us and danger closes in, it turns out Zol wants to steal one more thing. My heart.

Stolen by the Alien Rogue is a steamy alien romance featuring a charming alien mercenary who’s all in and the street-smart heroine tempted to gamble on love. Strap in for a fun ride filled with adventure and toe-curling steam! This novella contains a complete love story with a HEA.

New to me author. I got her first newsletter and cackled at the sample text so I decided to give this free novella a try.

This is short but successful at telling a complete story in a tight space. I would have liked a little more backstory and explanation of how she wound up here but think it worked without it. Some funny parts and a cute telepathic pet. A variety of alien species hinted at a broader world.

I was hoping for a little more leadership from the street smart heroine, though she was plucky in following along. I appreciated that she was easy-going about everything — it seems like many SFR heroines get wound up in how weird and different everything is, while Frankie accepted right away that this was just another culture. There were a few references to sinning and wickedness that to me didn’t fit the character all that well but didn’t overwhelm or define her experience.

Categories
Comics History

Read We Hereby Refuse

Read WE HEREBY REFUSE: Japanese American Resistance to Warti…

Three voices. Three acts of defiance. One mass injustice.

The story of camp as you’ve never seen it before. Japanese Americans complied when evicted from their homes in World War II — but many refused to submit to imprisonment in American concentration camps without a fight.

In this groundbreaking graphic novel, meet:

— JIM AKUTSU, the inspiration for John Okada’s No-No Boy, who refuses to be drafted from the camp at Minidoka when classified as a non-citizen, an enemy alien;

— HIROSHI KASHIWAGI, who resists government pressure to sign a loyalty oath at Tule Lake, but yields to family pressure to renounce his U.S. citizenship; and

— MITSUYE ENDO, a reluctant recruit to a lawsuit contesting her imprisonment, who refuses a chance to leave the camp at Topaz so that her case could reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Based upon painstaking research, We Hereby Refuse presents an original vision of America’s past with disturbing links to the American present.

Overall this was an effective and moving history. It was interesting to trace the path of three different forms of resistance. This expands on what I learned in Takei’s They Called Us Enemy.

Jim Akutsu’s story was the most fleshed out, followed by Hiroshi Kashiwagi’s. His could have used a bit more clarity, and I would have liked more on Mitsuye Endo.

Two artists use significantly different art styles to illustrate the stories. Though the art in Kashiwagi’s segment looked rough and sketchy, I did like it for the tone. I’m not sure it was complementary to the more traditional art style for the other two segments. Perhaps a third art style might have pulled the distinctive styles together better?

Categories
Romance

Read Sailor’s Delight

Read Sailor’s Delight

Self-effacing, overworked bookkeeper Elie Benezet doesn’t have time to be in love. Too bad he already is—with his favorite client, Augustus Brine. The Royal Navy sailing master is kind, handsome, and breathtakingly competent. He’s also engaged to his childhood sweetheart. And now that his prize money is coming in after years of delay, he can afford to marry her…once Elie submits the final prize paperwork.

When Augustus comes home, determined to marry by the end of his brief leave, Elie does his best to set his broken heart aside and make it happen. But he’s interrupted by one thing after another: other clients, the high holidays, his family’s relentless efforts to marry him off. Augustus isn’t helping by renting a room down the hall, shaving shirtless with his door open, and inviting Elie to the public baths. If Elie didn’t know better, he’d think Augustus didn’t want to get married.

To cap it all off, Augustus’s fiancée arrives in town, senses that Elie has a secret, and promptly accuses him of embezzling. Has Elie’s doom been sealed…or is there still time to change his fate?

A quiet but deeply emotional story — Rose Lerner always seems to be very good at writing emotional complexity. The narrator, Elie, struggles with his love for his client, wondering what the right thing to do is, and trying so hard to do right by everyone else that he forgets about himself. His family, his honor, his duty, his faith all matter deeply to him. I really liked the framing of Rosh Hashanah, the new year, for the story and his arc of change. This feels painstakingly researched, with so many historical details enriching the story. This romance is mostly yearning, with the barest glimpse through the closing door, so don’t go in expecting heat. I would have liked one more chapter at the end to give them some more time together after so long apart.

Categories
Fantasy

Read For the Wolf

Read For the Wolf (Wilderwood, #1)

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Gnarly ending, but fitting. Parts felt YAish, probably because the heroine and her sister are twenty and blindingly dumb sometimes. I had to roll my eyes at the sister a lot — for someone trained to be queen, she is pretty oblivious. The magic system is cool and creepy and very bloody. I like the way the forest itself gets an arc. It’s a good Beauty and the beast retelling, though a weird choice to put so much weight in story on the red cloak, and to put it on the cover, so you expect it to be riding hood 🤷‍♀️

Categories
Fantasy Romance

Read The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Read The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?

Quite enjoyed this mashup of wild west meets ancient Greek / Norse / Egyptian mythology meets The Shop Around the Corner meets zombies. I liked that it was as much about the romance as it was friendship and family. I have minor quibbles with some aspects of the ending but it got to a good spot.

Categories
Health

Read Come As You Are

Read Come as You Are

Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never exist—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few years have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

The first lesson in this essential, transformative book by Dr. Emily Nagoski is that every woman has her own unique sexuality, like a fingerprint, and that women vary more than men in our anatomy, our sexual response mechanisms, and the way our bodies respond to the sexual world. So we never need to judge ourselves based on others’ experiences. Because women vary, and that’s normal.

Second lesson: sex happens in a context. And all the complications of everyday life influence the context surrounding a woman’s arousal, desire, and orgasm.

Cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines tells us that the most important factor for women in creating and sustaining a fulfilling sex life, is not what you do in bed or how you do it, but how you feel about it. Which means that stress, mood, trust, and body image are not peripheral factors in a woman’s sexual wellbeing; they are central to it. Once you understand these factors, and how to influence them, you can create for yourself better sex and more profound pleasure than you ever thought possible.

Learned lots of interesting things, especially in the first section. I didn’t love the examples of real people. The last chapter has a clear connection to her next book Burnout, here emphasizing completing the cycle of emotions rather than stress.

Categories
Getting Shit Done Writing

Read The 12 Week Year for Writers

Read The 12 Week Year for Writers

In this book we show writers how to use the 12 Week Year system to help them increase their productivity dramatically. The 12WY for Writers system, based on the principles of the 12 Week Year and honed over many years of helping students learn to write more effectively, is a strategic operating system for writers. The system helps writers answer the most fundamental and big picture questions: What is my vision for the future? What are my writing goals? What are the best strategies and tactics to achieve those goals? How can I manage my writing process to ensure that I stay focused, productive, and on track?

While the examples primarily draw from academia, the structure is also applicable to fiction writing. This book won’t help you figure out the steps of your writing project, but does seem very helpful for *accomplishing* the steps. I have some quibbles about his emphasis on grit, but agree with his overall philosophy of time >> writing and planning >> better, easier, faster writing.

I am excited to try out this approach in conjunction with Sarra Cannon’s Plan Your Writing Schedule workshop on YouTube, which starts by going through your calendar and identifying all the days you *can’t* write so you know exactly how many days are even available to you.

Categories
Activism Personal Growth Political Commentary

Read Rest is Resistance

Read Rest Is Resistance

Far too many of us have claimed productivity as the cornerstone of success. Brainwashed by capitalism, we subject our bodies and minds to work at an unrealistic, damaging, and machine‑level pace of work –– feeding into the same engine that enslaved millions into brutal labor for its virtuous benefit. Our worth does not reside in how much we produce, especially for a system that exploits and dehumanizes us. Rest, in its simplest form, becomes an act of resistance and a reclaiming of power because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy.

From the founder and creator of The Nap Ministry, Rest Is Resistance is a battle cry, a guidebook, a map for a movement, and a field guide for the weary and hopeful. It is rooted in spiritual energy and centered in Black liberation, womanism, somatics, and Afrofuturism. With captivating storytelling and practical advice, all delivered in Hersey’s lyrical voice and informed by her deep experience in theology, activism, and performance art, Rest Is Resistance is a call to action and manifesto for those who are sleep deprived, searching for justice, and longing to be liberated from the oppressive grip of Grind Culture.

As someone who’s experienced burnout and still struggles with letting go of perfectionism and productivity, I was on board with a lot of this.

It’s interesting to think of rest as inherently valuable, not valuable by virtue of letting us feel rested — as an activity in itself, unnecessary to be justified by the outcome we produce from it. I fall into this thinking trap sometimes, of framing my breaks in terms of making me more effective and productive rather than part of life and a right to which I’m entitled.

Much of the book is repetitive — but that is intentional, as she frames herself the Nap Minister and approaches the book as a secular (theoretically) sermon, drawing on oral culture’s use of repetition to drive points home emotionally.

Her approach is rooted in religious beliefs and the text is supposedly secular, but steeped in spiritual language that can be a lot to wade through if you aren’t spiritual. She is dismissive of anyone who is not spiritual, claiming that capitalism and grind culture have separated us from our innate spirituality 🙄 We cannot rest because we are not spiritual. Thanks for the judgment lady. I almost quit at 75% because I don’t feel the need to be insulted but ultimately pushed through.

Unfortunately, she relied on spirituality as her justification for why humans deserve rest: because they are divine and their existence is a miracle 🙄 This feels like an oversight and missed opportunity to dig into this more. Relying on unexplained claims that depend on specific spiritual beliefs is not very convincing. Her explanation of the Dream Space also needed more, in my opinion.

She also claims it is necessary to “detox” from technology completely to be able to rest. I understand her stance on social media being an expression of Grind Culture, but I feel demanding a complete removal of technology is dismissive of those for whom technology is a connector of community — disabled people, anyone living in an area where they are out of place ideologically, anyone who does not have the opportunity to form local in-person community.

Categories
Science Fiction

Read Ocean’s Echo

Read Ocean’s Echo

Rich socialite, inveterate flirt, and walking disaster Tennalhin Halkana can read minds. Tennal, like all neuromodified “readers,” is a security threat on his own. But when controlled, readers are a rare asset. Not only can they read minds, but they can navigate chaotic space, the maelstroms surrounding the gateway to the wider universe.

Conscripted into the military under dubious circumstances, Tennal is placed into the care of Lieutenant Surit Yeni, a duty-bound soldier, principled leader, and the son of a notorious traitor general. Whereas Tennal can read minds, Surit can influence them. Like all other neuromodified “architects,” he can impose his will onto others, and he’s under orders to control Tennal by merging their minds.

Surit accepted a suspicious promotion-track request out of desperation, but he refuses to go through with his illegal orders to sync and control an unconsenting Tennal. So they lie: They fake a sync bond and plan Tennal’s escape.

Their best chance arrives with a salvage-retrieval mission into chaotic space—to the very neuromodifcation lab that Surit’s traitor mother destroyed twenty years ago. And among the rubble is a treasure both terrible and unimaginably powerful, one that upends a decades-old power struggle, and begins a war.

Tennal and Surit can no longer abandon their unit or their world. The only way to avoid life under full military control is to complete the very sync they’ve been faking.

Can two unwilling weapons of war bring about peace?

Very different from Winter’s Orbit but liked it just as well. Kept me on my toes — I was never sure what would happen next, even if I could anticipate a few key moments that would happen *sometime* — which fits quite nicely with the main character as an agent of chaos. High tension, I didn’t want to put it down though it was too long to read at once 😂

Although their relationship was integral to the story, I would categorize this as sci-fi with a strong romantic element rather than sci-fi romance.

One quibble is I don’t believe the direction of the public’s hatred and fear makes sense: isn’t it worse that someone can make you act against your will than that they can read your mind? That order — readers are scarier than writers — is foundational to the story, so I wish there had been a stronger explanation.