30 September 2022

Books Completed Since September 1

book icon  Love on the Brain, Ali Hazelwood
This is another one of Hazelwood's science-based rom-coms and it's a lot of fun, if not quite as good as The Love Hypothosis. Bee Konigswasser is a neuroengineer; her spiritual guide is Marie Curie (she even has a popular Twitter account called "What Would Marie Do?"), and she's just been offered her dream job, working on a project developing a helmet operation system for NASA. Except she'll have to work with Levi Ward, the hot guy she met in graduate school and who's never given her the time of day. They're archenemies, and that's it. Still, Bee wants to work on the BLINK project so badly she's willing to put up with "the Wardass." But when she turns out for her first day at work she finds she and her partner Rocio have no equipment.

It's a rom-com so you know what happens eventually, but in the meantime there are complications. Our heroes have their quirks—Bee is secretly searching for home (and a cat of her own), she has a peripatetic twin sister currently in Europe, her lab partner for the BLINK project is an offbeat conspiracy theorist, oh, and she faints when she gets stressed due to low blood pressure, and Levi has an overbearing gung-ho family tied to hunting and the military who think he's a loser even though he's a PhD because he's not in the Army (where do people dig up these crazy parents?—why do they even have kids if they're not going to love them as they are?). The climax to this story contains an element of suspense that was not part of Love Hypothesis.

BTW, I had no idea that it was so gruesome to get into graduate school! (See also Blame it on the Brontёs below.)

book icon  How Y'All Doing?, Leslie Jordan
I fell in love with Leslie Jordan after watching the sitcom The Cool Kids—even if it wasn't as good as I hoped—with Jordan as one of a bunch of retirees in a Western senior center (sorry, not liking him as well in Call Me Kat; he'd be the only reason I watched). After reading this book, I'm even more besotted: this is funny—his chapter on Ronnie Claire Edwards (whom everyone knows as prudish Corabeth Godsey from The Waltons) alone is worth the price of the book—and also touching (his tales about his dad). There's the story of how Debbie Reynolds called his mother, how he ended up being famous for hymn singing, his love of horses and how he worked with them for a while, and more. This book will make you laugh and cry. Enjoy!

book icon  The Way I Heard It, Mike Rowe
This is an adaptation of Rowe's entertaining podcasts akin to Paul Harvey's classic radio feature The Rest of the Story, where Rowe relates unknown tales about celebrities and other names in the news: the Jewish man who played music by Jewish composers directly into the Nazi lines;  the story of a Titanic survivor, or a man who invented a unique new tool, or a devoted husband and wife who wrote spicy letters to each other every day they were apart—in all, 35 tales about people you never knew, or thought you knew.

After each tale, Rowe tells his story, about his childhood, young adulthood, and how he got initially involved with The Deadliest Catch and then was given his own series, Dirty Jobs. If you love little unknown bits of history, or are a Mike Rowe fan, or both, this is the book for you.

book icon  Go Hex Yourself, Jessica Clare
Regina Johnson needs a job, and when she sees one that looks like she will be working on her favorite geeky card game, Spellcraft, she jumps at the chance. Instead she finds she's to be employed as a witch's familiar to Drusilla Magnus, an elderly woman who's clearly infatuated with all things Roman and who is clearly dotty—who believes in witchcraft anyway? "Reggie" is sure she can cope with Ms. Magnus and her fantasies, especially for $25K a month, since she has her parents' debts to pay off; it's the woman's handsome nephew Ben that's going to be the problem.

Basically, this is rom-com with magic, with a broody male protagonist who cultivates his bad rep and a female protagonist who has trust issues because of her dreadful parents, who basically have gotten her into debt by hacking into her accounts and running up bills on her credit cards. Drusilla is basically wacky old lady who's lived for centuries and is bored. Plus Reggie has a flaky gay roommate named Nick—who rates people's characters based on who they resemble on the series The Golden Girls—who's obsessing over a new flame, and there's a cat named Maurice who has his own secrets. It's cute. Some spicy sex. And a different witch's discipline than the usual Celtic goddesses. Probably best if you're a Golden Girls fan (I'm not; have never even watched it), but also for fans of stories with a magical twist.

book icon  The Shelf, Phyllis Rose
I picked this up for a dollar at Dollar Tree and it was actually an entertaining read. Rose, already an avid reader, decided to explore books as she hadn't before: she picked a row of fiction books at a local library and decided to read all of them, "off road reading." In this way she reads a Russian epic by Mikhail Lermontov along with The Phantom of the Opera, Rhoda Lerman, an author who wrote surprising books and now writes nonfiction about Newfoundland dogs, and from the nearly 800-page tome Gil Blas to the detective thrillers of John Lescroart. There's also an excellent chapter about how when women write domestic fiction it's considered "their place" but when men do it, it's considered notable and extraordinary, and another chapter about how books are culled from libraries (considering my recent complaints about our local public library having been horribly culled of books, this one hit the spot).

I wouldn't go out of my way to buy this book, but I did find it an entertaining read.

book icon  Blame It on the Brontёs, Annie Sereno
So here I am deep into another rom-com; this time about English professor Athena Murphy who's run into a roadblock with her university position: she either has to publish a book related to her discipline or she'll lose her tenure. She decides to dig out the truth about C.L. Garland, a popular writer who's done a series of spicy novellas about classic literature couples, someone she discovered lives her her old home town of Laurel, Illinois. But guess who's back living in Laurel: the man who broke her heart, Thorne Kent, who's given up his law practice to run a bakery/coffee shop. She can get through this, she's sure, even with working for some extra cash as a waitress at Thorne's business. But there's no way what they felt for each other in the past isn't going to come bubbling up in the present.

This is a nice enough rom-com; it revolves around literature and the protagonists are amiable enough. There's also an undercurrent in what's going on with Athena's separated parents about being true to yourself, and the fact that Athena and Thorne's story leads some other folks into happy relationships. But it's also one of those books where you want to shake at least once of them. Thorne has a good reason for what he's done, and Athena is supposed to be his best friend; why not let her in on it? His excuse is that he doesn't want some personal info to come out. So you love her, have sex with her, and still can't trust her? Also, this is the second book in a row where the female protagonist has a flaky gay friend (actually, in this case it's her brother) who gets hysterical at the least thing. And yet another small town with small businesses with cutesy poo names. I'm finding this in my cozy mysteries, too. Plus I've never understood the fascination with Wuthering Heights; from all that I can figure out, Heathcliff and Catherine had a very toxic relationship, so why is it considered so romantic?

Between this and Love on the Brain I am damn glad I am not an academic.

I had to admit I laughed during the bits with Athena's fake boyfriend Sergei. I was less enchanted with the Murphy pet pug, and I usually like a dog in a story.

book icon  Christmas Past, Brian Earl

book icon  Shenanigans, edited by Mercedes Lackey
This is the newest collection of Valdemar short stories. I missed the previous one, Boundaries, and noticed two things about this one: the books are now trade paper, which I hate, and this one, at least, seemed to be based around a single theme (pranks), which the previous collections were not.

I had mixed feelings about this collection. Most of the stories were okay or good. I quite enjoyed the opening story was about a pair of hertasi (sentient lizards who act as servants) who outsmart three highwaymen; "All Around the Bell Tower," told from the point of view of a youngster who seems to be autistic and who sees visions, which features Herald Wil; and the annual story featuring Lena at the Temple of Thenoth, which always focuses on animals (this time it's a dog) and also the annual story about the Iron Street Watch guards, this one featuring a very perceptive chicken.

I also enjoyed the two stories that had love stories between older people in them, "Love, Nothing More, Nothing Less" and "One Trick Pony," and a Herald-based detective story, "Of Ghosts and Stones and Snow."

Several stories are about deliberate or accidental pranks at the Collegium, most are sort of fluffy. My least favorite was "Trap Spell," which I found pretty blah.