Reading Roundup #54: I Changed the Rules

Fasten your seat belts — it’s going to be a long one today, so I won’t keep you long with the intro. I loved this week of reading, which is filled with everything from unflinchingly realistic nonfiction to the most fantastical fantasy, with a large dose of romance novels in between. The one thing all of these works have in common, however, is a willingness to challenge the status quo in the names of justice and of love — for self and for others.

David Walker’s Appeal by David Walker: Written in 1829, David Walker’s Appeal is a powerful condemnation of slavery and a call to black people to stand together against oppression. Walker systematically breaks down the hypocrisy of white people in their attempts at self-justification. Every bit of racist rhetoric he rebuts here is, sadly but unsurprisingly, the same rhetoric in use today by the bigoted and ignorant. His arguments are meticulously laid out and undeniable, with the raw eloquence of the most angry, the most righteous Psalms. I won’t pretend I can sum up his arguments, his wisdom, and his eloquence after only one read (I will certainly be coming back for more), so instead, I want to encourage you all to read it for yourselves, if you haven’t already.

The Game (Shellenberg Brothers #2) by A.B. Wilson: I may not be much of a sports fan in real life, but I know it makes for great narrative — and thanks to friends, I’ve discovered sports romances are a glorious part of that. Wilson’s latest takes on the world of soccer, as two players find themselves in a fake engagement. He needs serious image rehab, and she’s recovering from a bad accident, so she agrees to be his fiancée for a year, and in return, he’ll pay for her surgery and recovery. (Pay inequity may be terrible, but at least it can feed romance tropes? Yay?) The first half is mostly Abby and Mattie flirting, which is cute and fun, but it’s the second half where stakes and conflict finally kick in, and that’s when my feelings got involved. Both have relatable struggles and fears, but while they are both growing and changing, they’re not doing that at quite the same pace. So, where does that leave their relationship? It’s a very real problem many couples face, and I applaud Wilson’s willingness to take it seriously… even if I think Mattie needed to take a little more responsibility for his actions before getting his second chance. But that’s just me — I always want the full groveling-and-despair package! Overall, this is a fast-paced, sexy romance, with some sports and drama thrown in, and a fun way to while away a lazy afternoon. I’m looking forward to the next in the series because… did someone say bondage? My thanks to A.B. Wilson for providing an eARC for review.

The Valet’s Secret by Josi S. Kilpack: Call me corny, but I love a good Cinderella story. The Valet’s Secret is a sweet take on the classic tale, full of tenderness and humor, as well as a few nods to previous iterations. And it’s a mature romance! The hero is in his late 50s and the heroine is, I believe, somewhere in her 40s, and it was lovely to watch two nice people from different worlds navigate their blossoming relationship. The conflict with her abusive father felt unnecessarily melodramatic, and I can think of more interesting ways for that relationship to have played out. Likewise, there was opportunity for more depth with the male lead’s female relatives that could have been a great twist on the old story. But these are relatively minor quibbles, made up for by the other wonderful supporting characters (I’m looking at you Rose, Baroness, and Malcolm). And the main focus really is on the love story, which I happily rooted for and will recommend to anyone who wants a tender love story about good people. My thanks to NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher: Start with a princess and a dog made of bone. Add a dust-witch and a possessed chicken, a former knight, and a well-meaning godmother. Set them on a quest for justice, then sit back and watch the adventures unfold. Inspired by Kingfisher’s questions about “The Princess and the Pea” (which I’m also suddenly seeing through a very different lens — hello, ruined childhood), Nettle & Bone is a beautiful fractured fairy tale, filled with desperation and righteous anger and balanced with hope and redemption, as only Kingfisher can do it. I know I’ll be returning to this one again and again, not only to mine its wisdom but also simply to revisit these characters, who made me laugh and cry and who became a truer family than some born by blood. Possibly my new favorite from T. Kingfisher. My thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

After Nettle & Bone, I think my brain knew that nothing could compare and decided to swing in the opposite direction for some old-fashioned romance. I started with The Courtesan Duchess (Wicked Deceptions #1) by Joanna Shupe, which was fun and dramatic but veered into a trope that isn’t my favorite. But then it won me back with the “aw” factor, as the brooding hero melted into a giant puddle for his baby girl. Say it with me now: “awwww.”

Maiden Lane #5-7 by Elizabeth Hoyt: More romance and much more drama — this time with a good dose of action thrown in! This series is set in the mid-1700s, which is a great change of pace from all the Regency romances out there, and there’s a good deal of swashbuckling to go along with the society scenes. So far, all of the couples are unique and interesting, but again, there are some tropes that make me roll my eyes a bit. Right now, I’m planning to read one more because I like the heroine from her appearances in these books, but then I’ll step away for a while and come back when it strikes my fancy.

And that’s my (busy) week! Honestly, I’m a little wrung out from speeding through so much, so I might take it easier next week, in spite of my looming NetGalley shelf. I enjoyed the change of pace that came with reading nonfiction, so I expect I’ll be pulling a few memoirs and essay collections off the shelf in coming weeks, too. In the meantime, what are you reading? Or, since there were several upcoming releases in this post and it seems on-topic — what books are you looking forward to?

—b

2 thoughts on “Reading Roundup #54: I Changed the Rules

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