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It’s the Great Catch-up Round-up of June/July 2017, Charlie Brown!

So you may have noticed that I’ve been a bit AWOL lately, and that’s because I just haven’t been in the right head space for a few weeks.  But now I’m back in action, okay?  Am I forgiven?

Because of this, I’m really behind on reviews.  What I’ve decided to do is combine all of my remaining June and July reviews into this one post.  It shouldn’t be toooo long because I’m going to make the reviews short, but we’ll see.  (Spoiler: It’s kinda long.)


FICTION


1In Bed with the Devil (Scoundrels of St. James #1) — Lorraine Heath
Genre:
HR // Year: 2008 // Length: 372 // Format: K // Own
Date Read: June 25, 2017
Grade: A-

I started this book in the morning, wondering if it was what I wanted to read next.  Apparently, it was.  Luke and Catherine were so stupid in their love for each other, and I loved it.  I loved the literary allusions (what the Dickens!), and now I want to read Oliver Twist soon.  And I adored Frannie.  I was worried she would be the “bitchy other woman,” but she totally wasn’t.  I’m excited to read her book.  I also really appreciated that Heath showed the difficulties for a woman in an abusive relationship.  Some of Winnie’s problems with not being able to leave are specific to the time, but the general ones aren’t–it’s so relevant.

Favorite Quote: “After all, they knew the worst of each other’s lives.  Why was that so much easier to share than what should be the best?” (12)


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2

The Winter King (Weathermages of Mystral #1) — C.L. Wilson
Genres: 
F, R // Year: 2014 // Length: 595 // Format: PB // Own
Dates Read: June 26-30, 2017
Grade: A

How C.L. Wilson managed to pack so much into just 600 pages, I’ll never know.  This one book read like an entire series, and there wasn’t any superfluous material.  Everything she included mattered.  There were moments my heart was racing so fast that I had to take a break just to calm myself down.  This book excited me and hurt me–in a “this book is so good” kind of way–and warmed my heart as thoroughly as Khamsin warmed Wynter’s.

The mythology is so intricate and epic; I’m impressed.  I can definitely see some Greek and Nordic influences there, and Wilson used them so well.  I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her work, which I hope will be at least half as excellent.

Also, can we just applaud her for having a pregnant woman basically save the world?  Not her big, strong husband.  No.  A pregnant woman!  Perfect.

Favorite Quote: “A man who treats a woman–his own sister, no less–with so little care or honor is a man who cannot be trusted.” (462)

(That quote comes from the hero of the next novel in this series, The Sea King, which comes out October 31!!)


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3

A Matter of Class — Mary Balogh
Genre: HR // Year: 2009 // Length:  210 // Format: K // Library
Date Read: July 2, 2017
Grade: A-

I kind of suspected the twist toward the end, but I still couldn’t help flailing with a stupid grin on my face when it was revealed.  I feel like some parts of the writing could have been a bit more polished when it came to tying everything together to match the stories up, as it were, but for the most part, I didn’t care.  It was a really sweet story, and I’m glad Balogh was able to do it in so few pages; I was worried it would seem rushed, but it didn’t.  I tend not to like short stories for this reason–there never seems to be enough room for me; I don’t get to spend enough time with the characters.

Favorite Quote: “All things that happen in life, my grandmother once told me–all things–happen for a purpose.” (157)


Amazon | Audible | Library | Goodreads


4

And Then He Kissed Her (Girl Bachelors #1) — Laura Lee Guhrke
Genre: HR // Year: 2007 // Length: 375 // Format: K // Library
Dates Read: July 2-7, 2017
Grade: B+

This was very nice.  It was like a warm, comforting hug.  Or a box of chocolates–yeah, I’ll go with the chocolates.  Or both.  That works, too.  If you’re in the mood for some fluff with minimal angst, read this.

I loved the Scheherazade references.  I really need to get around to reading that.  With this novel, I got another heroine who discovers that she didn’t need to follow society’s rules for her all the time to be happy, and I loved her.  Guhrke made her journey relatable and not annoying.  Harry was really sweet and caring, as well.  It’s just a lovely book, and I’m glad I read it.  I do wish there were some other conflict in the book, though, but it doesn’t ruin the novel for me.

Favorite Quotes: “She was a fallen woman now, she realized, but she felt no regret, no shame.  Just an incredible, overpowering happiness that opened and blossomed inside her like a flower turning upward toward the sun.  This was what she hoped for coming here tonight.  It was the happiness of being alive, of feeling vibrant and beautiful.  Yes, she was a fallen woman now.  Emma began to laugh out loud.  How wonderful.” (308)

“Best of all, she realized, was the most valuable thing she’d learned in her first month of their affair.  How to admit to herself what she wanted.  And how to ask for it.” (324)


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5

The Prince Who Loved Me (The Oxenburg Princes #1) — Karen Hawkins
Genre: HR, RT // Year: 2014 // Length: 358 // Format: K // Own
Dates Read:  July 5-9, 2017
Grade: A-

While I would have liked a little more depth for the characters, overall this was a very pleasant read.  I like that Hawkins made me think she was using certain Cinderella tropes but then surprised me by turning them on their heads.  Sometimes I was worried it was going to get too angsty, but it never did.  Issues were resolved fairly quickly, which I’m always thankful for.

Favorite Quote: “That was the beauty of novels: in the middle of the fantasy were golden kernels of truth.” (153)


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6

The Duke’s Guide to Corrected Behavior (Dukes Behaving Badly #1) — Megan Frampton
Genre: HR // Year: 2014 // Length: 376 // Format: K // Own
Dates Read: July 10-13, 2017
Grade: A-

Reading this was like eating a cupcake.  With sprinkles.  It was just so sweet.  If there were a scale to measure the quantity of angst in a book, this novel would rank around a 12 out of 100, and that’s pushing it.  I love how Rose is such a central part of the story and that both Marcus and Lily have to look past themselves in order to ensure Rose’s happiness.  In doing so, not only does Rose gain an adoring father, but she gains a new loving mother, as well.

Favorite Quote: “But keeping the child safe wasn’t the same as keeping her well, a voice reminded him.  His parents had kept him safe, but not well.” (35)


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7

Love Is Blind — Lynsay Sands
Genre: HR // Year: 2006 // Length: 352 // Format: K // Library
Dates Read: July 17-29, 2017
Grade: C-

I wanted to like this book more, but it took me forever to finish. I think it was a combination of the writing style (when someone uses “’tis” so much, it seems forced), the characters’ stupidity, and the lack of substance. Another thing that irked me was Sands’s lack of continuity at times. Sometimes Clarissa could see people’s expressions from across the room without her glasses, while other times she couldn’t see anything if it weren’t right in front of her face. I mean, it was nice, yes, but that was about it. The culprit for Clarissa’s “accidents” was obvious from the beginning, but apparently only to me and not to the characters. I didn’t really have any motivation to read it, and I even considered abandoning it with only 111 pages left. Ah, well.

Favorite Quote: “Intelligent people have no need to pretend to knowledge they do not have. Only the stupid feel they must feign knowledge about everything and anything. They fear appearing as stupid as they are.” (66)


Amazon | Library | Goodreads


POETRY


8

Scriptorium — Melissa Range
Genre: P // Year: 2016 // Length: 96 // Format: PB // Library
Dates Read: June 30 – July 1, 2017
Grade: A-

Contemporary poetry is always a bit of a gamble for me, but luckily this one turned out to be good.  I had never before encountered any poetry about Appalachia.  While I’m not from the area, I’ve visited there a lot and only live a couple hours away.  I particularly like “Regionalism” because it brings up things that Southerners are identified with, even if we don’t relate to them.  The many religious poems throughout the book really hit home for me, as well.  This is a beautiful collection, and even the foreword was lovely to read.

Favorite Poems:

  • “Offermod” (23-26)
  • “Lampblack” (27)
  • “Regionalism” (61-62)

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


9

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám — Edward FitzGerald (Translator)
Genre: 
P // Year: 1947 (12th c.) // Length: 149 // Format: HC // Library
Date Read: July 19, 2017
Grade: C

I could have done without the multiple editions put in the same book. I didn’t particularly want to read the same thing more than once in a sitting. The poetry was good, and I wish there were more prevalent editions of this work.

Note: I read a very rare edition from 1947 that I checked out from my library.  The links provided lead to different editions.


The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


10

The Game of Boxes — Catherine Barnett
Genre: P // Year: 2012 // Length: 80 // Format: PB // Library
Date Read: July 20, 2017
Grade: B-

I only sort of liked the poems in the first section, but the one in the middle, “Sweet Double, Talk-Talk” (37-60), was just beautiful.  I think I’ll check out Barnett’s other work at some point.

 

 

Favorite Poems/Lines:

  • Endless Forms Most Beautiful
    • “Chorus [The mothers keep promising]” (25)
    • “Chorus [We thought it was safe]” (29)
    • “Hangman” (32)
    • “Chorus [Everyone asks what we’re afraid of]” (18)
    • “Chorus [So who mothers]” (34)
  • Of All Faces
    • “Sweet Double, Talk-Talk” (37-60)
    • “Soliloquy, ii” (66)
    • “The Beautiful Optician” (67)
      • She had my mother’s hands / but she was not my mother.
    • “Still Life” (72)
      • The woman leaning against the window / is she here or across the street or far away? / It looks like she’s already given herself to the world.
    • “The Modern Period” (73)

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


11

Unicorn: The Poetry of Angela Carter — Rosemary Hill (Editor)
Genre: P, EJL // Year: 2015 // Length: 108 // Format: HC // Library
Date Read: July 21, 2017
Grade: C

Although I liked a few of Carter’s lines, I didn’t care for the poetry as a whole.  I did, however, like the way she incorporated the idea of “living as performance.”  I especially loved Hill’s quote: “Who controls whom, who is writing the drama and who is the actor (58)?”  I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the concept because I find it to be true every day.

Favorite Quotes (Hill):

  • “An historian’s life is spent looking backwards and inevitably there comes a moment when, in the rearview mirror, as it were, you glimpse a familiar figure who is your younger self passing into history.” (Preface, xi)
  • Who controls whom, who is writing the drama and who is the actor?” (58)

Favorite Quotes (Carter):

  • Let us go out and assemble our pieces. (3)
  • The smallest things are not the least marvelous. (11)
  • Alone as I was, / lonely, I was. (12)

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


12

Scattered at Sea — Amy Gerstler
Genre:  P // Year: 2015 // Length: 77 // Format: PB // Library
Date Read: July 21, 2017
Grade: D

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really connect with this one.  It has some nice lines, like “Is a child an exegesis of parental texts?” in “Childlessness” (24) and “Try, for once in your life, to really / wake up. // Refill with clean, soapy water” in “Penance” (68-69), but there’s not a single poem I think I’ll remember a week from now.  I’m not sure I like Gerstler’s voice.

Favorite Poems/Lines:

  • “Kissing” (8)
    • Kissing references a text that no longer exists, which we try to conjure back / into existence by kissing.
  • “Womanishness” (15)
  • “Bon Courage” (17-18)
  • “Childishness” (24)
    • Is a child an exegesis of parental texts?
  • “Penance” (68-69)
    • Try, for once in your life, to really / wake up. // Refill with clean, soapy water. (69)

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


13

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude — Ross Gay
Genre: P // Year: 2015 // Length: 102 // Format: PB // Library
Date Read: July 22, 2017
Grade: F

In short, I didn’t like this book. Mostly, I didn’t like the style. There weren’t enough punctuation breaks, so the lines ran into each other and the rhythm got lost. There wasn’t a single poem, or even a single line, that I liked. I don’t understand why this won awards, to be honest.

 


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14

Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations — David Ferry
Genre: P, IT // Year: 2012 // Length: 115 // Format: PB // Library
Date Read: July 22, 2017
Grade: C+

I felt that the translations took away from the original poems. I found myself comparing Virgil’s and Ferry’s words and styles.

 

Favorite Poems/Lines:

  • “Found Single-Line Poems” (4)
    • Found Poem: We’re all in this apart.
  • “One Two Three Four Five” (5-6)
  • “Your Personal God” From Horace, Epistles II.2, lines 180-189 (17-18)
    • Your personal God, whose countenance changes as / He looks at you, smiling sometimes, sometimes not.
  • “In the Reading Room” (28)
  • “Coffee Lips” (31)
  • “At a Bar” (35-36)
    • “Be learnèd in that art, / What is my name and nature?” (23-24)
  • “In Despair” Cavafy, “En Apognosi” (85)
  • “Looking, Where Is the Mailbox” (85)

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


GRAPHIC NOVEL


15

Nimona — Noelle Stevenson
Genre: GN, YA // Year: 2015 // Length: 266 // Format: HC // Library
Date Read: July 9, 2017
Grade: A-

This was really cute and fun.  I love how it delivers the debate of what is “good” and what is “evil” in the form of an accessible graphic novel.  I really like the artwork–that’s often what determines whether or not I pick up a graphic novel at all, so I’m glad I liked this one’s, or else I wouldn’t have read it.

And this book gets bonus points because Noelle Stevenson is just so freaking cute. Look, I don’t make the rules.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “What if I cut off your arm right now?  Then you’d see how fast the Institution would cast you aside.  Just like they did me.”  “You wouldn’t.”  “No, I wouldn’t.  And I’m the villain.  What do you suppose that says about you?” (99)
  • “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.  Science is stupid.”   “Now, there’s no need to say hurtful things.” (120)

The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


NON-FICTION


16

The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful — Yumi Sakugawa
Genre: NF // Year: 2017 // Length: 208 // Format: PB // Own
Dates Read: July 27-30, 2017
Grade: A

This is such a lovely little book.  I would give it 4 stars because it has more information on cooking than I’d like, but I can’t really detract from my review for that.  I felt so happy reading this, and I even bought a copy, even though I originally got this from the library, because I know I’m going to reference it often.  The best way I can describe this is that it’s Pinterest in a book.  And it’s wonderful.


The Book Depository | Amazon | Library | Goodreads


NON-FICTION & SHORT STORIES


17

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories — Marina Keegan
Genre: NF, SS // Year: 2014 // Length: 208 // Format: HC // Library
Dates Read: July 12-31, 2017
Grade: C+

I read books by dead people all the time.  But it’s rare that those dead people are so similar to me and in the same generation.  That made reading this book hard.  I saw myself in Marina, so it was almost like reading my potential work from beyond the grave if that makes any sense.

I didn’t really care for the fiction, but that’s no surprise since I don’t usually like short stories–there’s just not enough room for development or plot for me.  The nonfiction was hit or miss for me.  I actually found the introduction and the eponymous essay to be the most affecting pieces of the book for me, again for that reason of seeing myself in them.

Favorite Quote: I worry sometimes that humans are afraid of helping humans.” (153)


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Whew, I did it!

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