I’ve been doing so much reading and not enough reviewing – at least, not here on the blog. Between my own writing (which was going well, and now is – not) and reading and life in general, I feel both overwhelmed and behind. (Is it possible for the year to have passed both quickly and painfully slowly at the same time?)
Reflective of my brain, the blog feels both overweighted with book reviews and also…empty. What I need is consistency, and a schedule. So with that, I’m bringing back “What I’m Reading Wednesday“. With this, I can – at a minimum -share with you some of the good stuff that I’ve been reading. (And hopefully open up some room for writing other things here).
Or so I’m telling myself. How about we try this for March and see how it goes?
Some of these books I purchased on my own. For others I received an advanced copy from their publishers via NetGalley. However, ALL opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
Recent Good Reads
For lovers of memoirs and/or travel stories:Braver Than You Think by Maggie Downs
Published by Counterpoint Press on 2020
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Health & Fitness, Diseases, Alzheimer's & Dementia, Travel, Essays & Travelogues
Newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: Her mother's.
As a child, Maggie Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. "You are braver than you think," her mother always insisted. That statement would guide her as, over the course of one year, Downs backpacked through seventeen countries―visiting all the places her mother, struck with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, could not visit herself―encountering some of the world's most striking locales while confronting the slow loss of her mother. Interweaving travelogue with family memories, Braver Than You Think takes the reader hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, white-water rafting on the Nile, volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia, praying at an ashram in India, and fleeing the Arab Spring in Egypt.
By embarking on an international journey, Downs learned to make every moment count―traveling around the globe and home again, losing a parent while discovering the world. Perfect for fans of adventure memoirs like Wild and Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, Braver Than You Think explores grief and loss with tenderness, clarity, and humor, and offers a truly incredible roadmap to coping with the unimaginable.
I bought this in hardcover when it came out. However, because of a backlog of ARCs I’d committed to reading, Maggie Downs’ Braver than You Think was pushed by the wayside. (I spent my own hard cash on this, so I should not feel guilty for reading it first.)
And dammit, I regret not reading this sooner.
This book was simply amazing. It is an incredible story of her adventures around the globe (mostly) solo. The writing is alternately heartbreaking in her grief (without becoming maudlin), jawdropping in some of her adventures, and mesmerizing in her descriptions. Maggie finds her way through her grief in her journey, which proves to be as much internal as external.
If you are feeling stagnant from lack of travel this past year, pick up Braver than You Think.
The Garden of Promises and Lies by Paula Brackston
For lovers of historical fiction and/or time-travel stories:
Published by St. Martin's Publishing Group on December 15, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Historical, General, Fantasy
Buy on Amazon
Buy from your local independent bookstore via Bookshop.org
The third installment of a bewitching series "brimming with charm and charisma" that will make "fans of Outlander rejoice!" (Woman's World Magazine). New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston's second novel in the Found Things series, Secrets of the Chocolate House, was called a "time-swapping romance [that] will please fans of Alice Hoffman" (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with a third book, The Garden of Promises and Lies. As the bustle of the winter holidays in the Little Shop of Found Things gives way to spring, Xanthe is left to reflect on the strange events of the past year. While she's tried to keep her time-traveling talents a secret from those close to her, she is forced to take responsibility for having inadvertently transported the dangerous Benedict Fairfax to her own time. Xanthe comes to see that she must use her skills as a Spinner if she and Flora are ever to be safe, and turns to the Spinners book for help.
It is then that a beautiful antique wedding dress sings to her. Realizing the dress and her adversary are connected in some way, she answers the call. She finds herself in Bradford-on-Avon in 1815, as if she has stepped into a Jane Austen story.
Now in Xanthe's time, Fairfax is threatening Xanthe into helping him with his evil doings, and demonstrates all too clearly how much damage he is capable of causing. With Fairfax growing ever more powerful, Xanthe enlists the help of her boyfriend Liam, taking him back in time with her. It is a decision that might just ensure she prevails over her foe, but only by putting her life—and his—on the line.
The Garden of Promises and Lies is the third entry in Paula Brackston’s Found Things series. While it works as a standalone, you will enjoy it SO much more if you read the first two. (My reviews of The Little Shop of Found Things and Secrets of the Chocolate House can be found by clicking the links.)
Xanthe is a “spinner” with the ability to jump in time, aided by a found object that speaks, or “sings” to her. In this tale, an antique wedding dress brings her to 1815 and will really speak to Jane Austen fans. The story is loaded with tension, intrigue, a bit of romance, and a quick paced story that is entertaining. Brackston is excellent with setting and complex characters. My only complaint (and a bit of a spoiler) is that the book again ends on a cliffhanger. And is it a doozy!
Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala
For fans of YA romance with LGBTQ inclusion:
on January 1, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fashion & Beauty, LGBT, Romance
Buy on Amazon
Buy from your local independent bookstore via Bookshop.org
Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story from the author of Reverie about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.
Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making--for creation. He's always chosen his art over everything--and everyone-- else and is determined to make his mark at this year's biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There's only one small problem... Raffy's ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.
Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store--or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca's insecurities and Raffy's insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can't ruin.
But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he'll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he's ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.
Praise for Reverie: B&N's YA Book Club Pick * Walmart Buzz Pick * Indie Next Pick * Book of the Month Club YA Box"This outstanding debut novel will light readers' imaginations on fire...Imaginative, bold, and full of queer representation, this is a must-purchase for YA collections."--School Library Journal *STARRED REVIEW*"This fantasy offers readers something wonderfully new and engaging...a gem of a novel that is as affirming as it is entertaining."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books"The story's many LGBTQ characters are prominently represented and powerfully nuanced."--Publishers Weekly"A darkly imagined, riveting fantasy... thrilling."--Shelf Awareness"Joyously, riotously queer... The themes of creating one's own reality and fighting against the rules imposed by the world you're born into will ring powerfully true for many young readers."--Kirkus Reviews
BE DAZZLED is a contemporary YA romance with a story about doing what you love. And there’s lots of glitter. And sequins. (It’s a fun look into the work and passion that goes into making cosplay costumes.)
The story is told in alternating past and present timelines with La Sala’s expected effervescence and energy. The characters are well-crafted (pun intended), layered people – all but perhaps Raffy’s mom, who is an unlikable pill. The story is excellent, the crafting a delight. Be Dazzled offers a fun look into the world of cosplay. It also includes complicated family dynamics, and most importantly, delivers a message to stay true to yourself and your dreams.
Sneak Peek: What I’m Reading NOW
Coming up on my reading list:
In YA, Rose Szabo’s What Big Teeth
This YA debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.
In Historical Fiction, Carol Windley’s The Midnight Train to Prague.
The acclaimed author of Home Schooling returns with Midnight Train to Prague, a timeless tale of friendship, romance, betrayal, and survival that spans the turbulent decades of the twentieth century, through two world wars and between countries and continents.
In Non-Fiction/Science : Adam Rutherford’s How to Argue With a Racist.
This penetrating guide shows us how being a responsible and enlightened citizen on the matter of race today requires us to know what modern genetics actually can and can’t tell us about human difference.
and in Non-fiction/Craft: Joanne Harris’ Ten Things About Writing: Build Your Story, One Word At A Time
An indispensable guide to the craft of writing and business of publishing from one of our bestselling and most versatile authors. This no-nonsense collection of pithy and funny lists of advice provides both hard-won wisdom and insider industry help.
Well, I think that’s a start at escaping from reality for a week, as my kids are on spring break next week.
Never mind that they were home for a week with rolling blackouts. And then home for another as the schools were made ready to return. No problem at all. I love spending time listening to my kids yell that the wi-fi sucks!
(Another reason why I read as much as I do.)
I can’t wait to share my thoughts on these books in the coming weeks, either in a future roundup or on their own!