Nona the Ninth

by Tasmyn Muir
First sentence: “In the dream, he told her the words about where he took his degrees his postdoc, his research fellowship.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: September 13, 2022
Review copy snagged from the publisher when it came in.
Others in the series: Gideon the Ninth Harrow the Ninth
Content: It’s violent and sweary. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Things you should know:

  1. It’s MUCH better if you read Gideon and Harrow right before reading this one. Seriously. I spent so much time trying to remember things, I finally gave up, found a Wiki, and spent time looking up things to remind myself. If you remember stuff from the previous two books, you will better understand and grasp what is going on in this one.
  2. It’s the …. cheeriest? possibly.. of the three so far. Nona is an endearing character and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her, Pyrrha, Cam, Palamedes, and all the new characters we met.
  3. I have no idea what the heck happened in the last 1/4 of the book, and I’m not sure I care that I didn’t know. Truthfully: upon reflection, all the pieces were there, I just didn’t catch them. (See, #1.)
  4. Muir blew my mind in the best. way, and I am utterly impressed with her world-building, with her character development, and just the way this story is unfolding.
  5. Bring on Alecto. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

Audiobook: Bookish People

by Susan Coll
Read by Alexa Morden
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some mild swearing and a couple of f-bombs. There is also mention of suicide. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

A co-worker – the current Children’s Coordinator at the bookstore – turned me on to this one, saying: It’s super accurate, including down to the vacuum cleaner that won’t work. That was enough for me.

The basic plot: it’s one week at an independent bookstore in Washington, DC (not Politics and Prose, though) where everything seems to go wrong. The owner, Sophie, is having second and third thoughts about running a bookstore and just wants to hide away in the hidden room behind the sports section (I think?). Clemi, the event coordinator, has booked Raymond Chaucer, a notorious poet who is basically known because his wife killed herself. Clemi, however, thinks Chaucer is her real father. In between all that is a lot of rain, some pretty weird and funny customers, and a vacuum cleaner that just won’t work.

it’s particularly silly and fluffy; there’s really not much depth or growth here But the author must have some experience with working at a bookstore; there was a lot of insider baseball from Shelf Awareness (which is more like an industry newsletter, not a blog) to receiving and stocking books (though they order a LOT of books) to those weird customers who show up at author events. In fact, it was the author event, where one attendee just started rambling about spotted owls, that had me howling in laughter. I know those people; I have had those people at events I have run.

The narrator was particularly delightful and engaging, doing voices (I particularly liked her voice for Summer), and basically keeping me engrossed in an increasingly silly plot.

So, not a deep or moving book, but it was good for a few laughs, which I enjoyed.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher
First sentence: “There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: there is some death by murdering and mild swearing. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Mona doesn’t consider herself a wizard. After all, all she does is small magic – like make bread rise or gingerbread men dance. But when a girl turns up dead in her the kitchen of her aunt’s bakery, she soon discovers that someone is out to get her (and all the other people who do magic in her town). And, since now of the adults in Mona’s life seem to be doing anything, she and her friend (the brother of the dead girl) soon decide to challenge the powers that be and make someone listen.

People have been recommending this to me for a while now, and I guess I just felt that Now was the time to read it. I mean, who doesn’t love a possibly sentient sourdough starter named Bob? But it was also more than that: it was about inclusiveness, about finding one’s power, even if you think it’s small, and about making and keeping friends. It’s very sweet I get why Kingfisher self-published it: it’s not really an adult book, but it’s not really a YA one either. it sits in that publishing no person’s land, where if you like the sort of thing – baking, slight mysteries, magic, etc – you’ll probably love this book.

I fell on the love it side, and I don’t regret that at all.

Audiobook: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

by Gabrielle Zevin
Read by Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, on-screen instances of some pretty unhealthy BDSM, and some violence. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

For reference about the title.

It’s really kind of hard to sum this on eup. There is a plot: Sadie and Sam are friends as children, they fall out and meet again as students at MIT And Harvard respectively, and end up making video games togethre with Sams roommate, Marx. But that doesn’t really do this novel justice. It’s really about friendships and all different types of love, and the relationships we make and break and make again. It covers about 40 years, and all the ups and downs in Sadie’s and Sam’s life, set against the backdrop of the games that they have made together over the years.

It didn’t always work for me; I found it to drag sometimes, and at other times I was bored with where the story was going. But in the end, I found it to be sweet and touching, and quite insistent that romantic love, at least as we all think about it, is not the Best Thing Ever, that people can live and thrive with other relationships in their life. It was definitely refreshing in that sense.

And the narration was quite good. She didn’t always do the voices, but I was able to follow the story.

And the narration was lovely. She didn’t do all the voices, but the writing was good enough that I could usually tell who was talking no matter what.

I didn’t absolutely love it, but I really liked it.

Audiobook: Counterfeit

by Kirstin Chen
Read by Catherine Ho
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There was some swearing. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Ava Wong has lived a safe life: the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she chose the safe occupation (lawyer), married well (he’s a doctor) and has a child (he’s two), and is living a “good” life. Except, she’s supremely unhappy. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s former roommate at Stanford. She is a woman of the world and has developed a counterfeit scheme where she buys knock-off designer bags from China, purchases the same designer bag and returns the counterfeit to the store, selling the original on eBay for a discounted price. It’s made her, well if not millions, then at least a good living. She sees Ava’s unhappiness, and invites her into her world. The whole book is framed as Ava’s confession to a dective, having been caught out in the scheme, and is taking the fall. Except: is she?

To be honest: I wasn’t all that invested in Ava or Winnie’s story. I liked parts of it, and Ho kept me entertained, but I didn’t really feel connected to the story. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable (stick around: part 2 makes part 1 worth it), but in may ways, I felt like it was Rich People Problems, which are very uninspiring right now. . So while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that great either. At least it helped fill the hours at work.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

by Elle Cosimano
First sentence: “It’s a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty a.m. on any given morning.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is swearing, including some f-bombs, talk of sexual assault, and (of course) death. It’s n the mystery section of the bookstore.

Finlay Donovan’s life is falling apart. Recently divorced, she is spending so much time taking care of her own children that she can’t finish the mystery book she’s supposed to have already had into her editor. Her ex-husband (and his fiance) is no help; he begrudgingly helps her bills when they get too big, but he’s had his lawyer file a motion for sole custody of the kids (even though he doesn’t really want to deal tih the everyday grind of raising them). Nothing seems to be going right.

Then, at a meeting in a Panera with her editor, a woman overhears her talking about the plot of her new book and mistakes her for an assassin. She hires Finlay to off her husband, offeringto pay enough to cover Finaly’s bills for quite a while. Finlay is determined not to dot his (she’s not a killer after all!), but when she’s checking the husband out, he accidentally ends up dead (seriously). Everything goes off the rails after that, with Finaly’s former nanny (who had quit because Finaly’s husband was sexually harassing her) getting in on the deal, and the two of them attempt to figure out who killed the husband while keeping the cops off their trail.

I needed something fluffy that wasn’t a romance, and this definitely delivered. It’s an incredibly smart and funny book, full of twists and turns, while also being a critique of how we look at motherhood and single/divorced moms. It was a lot of fun and the plot was good enough that kept me guessing.

I’m glad there’s a sequel so I can enjoy Finlay some more.

Audiobook: Flying Solo

by Linda Holmes
Read by Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s swearing, including a couple of well-placed f-bombs. There is also off-screen sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Laurie grew up in a small Main town, and couldn’t wait to get away. She didn’t return often, and once her immediate family moved away, there wasn’t much reason to return. That is, until her Great-Aunt who had no children of her own, passed away. Suddenly, it became Laurie’s job to go through Aunt Dot’s house and get it ready to be sold. Once there, she discovers a wooden duck in a blanket chest, and that starts off a chain of events that leads Laurie to a greater understanding of her aunt. Along the way, she reconnects with her old boyfriend, Nick, who is recently divorced.

I liked that this was a less-than-traditional romance. While it’s still about people falling in love, it features a heroine who called off her wedding because she didn’t feel right about it. She’s nearly 40, she’s she’s a larger woman; Holmes mentions “size18” and “larger body”. Laurie is a woman who knows that she wants to live alone and that maybe being married isn’t for her. She’s bucking societal norms, not doing things the way things are “supposed” to be done. I really really appreciated that. And honestly: it was this embracing of non-traditionalness that made the book a really good one for me.

Whelan is still a delightful narrator; she makes the listening experience super engaging and enjoyable. I will have to listen to her read more! In short: thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Spear

by Nicola Griffith
First sentence: “In the wild wast, a girl, growing.”
Support your local independent bookstore: by it there!
Content: There’s some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

One of my co-workers sold this to me by saying “It’s Arthurian legends, but gay” and honestly, that’s all it took. Griffith is taking the world of King Artur, planting it in 6th-century Wales, and making one of the knights, Peretur (or Percival) a woman. It’s familiar (to those of us who have gone through Arthurian obsessions), and yet, it’s also new. Making Peretur a woman updates the myth without sacrificing its ancient origins. I adored Peretur, and the journey she went on, from growing up in the wild with her mother to her quest to become a knight of KIng Aruthur. Her kind heart and fierce nature were balanced so well. I felt that Griffiths’ writing gave the book an ethereal quality, making it seem like a story that’s being told around a fire. It’s short, so I felt like Griffiths was able to get to the heart of the matter, without there bieng a lot of extra.

In short, It was exactly everything I wanted from an Arthurian tale.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting

by Clare Pooley
First sentence: “Until the point when a man dying right in front of her on the 08:05, Iona’s day had been just like any other.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some swearing, including some very well placed f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Iona has been a magazine advice columnist for 30 years. She has a routine, and she sticks to it She gets up, rides the train into the city and works, and comes home. She is happy with her life the way it is. That is, until the day it all changed. It starts with a man chocking in front of her and spirals out from there: she has trouble at the magazine, she’s “too old” and out of touch. But she also makes connections with these fellow commuters, whom she only knew by the nicknames she gave them. Suddenly , they have names, and problems, and she has a purpose. But it’s not just a book about Iona. While she is the axel on which the wheel of everyone’s lives turns (as was very helpfully pointed out by a inor charaer), it’s also about the lives of the people Iona comes to interact with. It switches perspectives, giving us the background on a few of the characters, as they, too, go through changes.

Oh, I adored this book. I loved Iona – she is a fantastic character, so full of charm and wit and life — but I also loved the way Pooley explores all the little ways that people are and should be connected. It was charming, it was funny, and I was thoroughly touched by Iona and the lives of the others in the book it made I was absolutely delighted by this book, and I wish there were more so it wouldn’t have to end.

The world needs ore Ionas in it, and I hope that maybe I can be one. Someday.

Audiobook: Yerba Buena

by Nina LaCour
Read by: Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is some talk of drug use, some prostitution, off-screen sex, and swearing including f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Emelie and Sara are two women, both at odds with their life. Emilie has been in college for seven years, changing her major five times, and has yet to graduate. Sara ran away from home at 16, without finishing high school when her best friend (and lover) was found dead in the river. She spent years working her way up from the bottom to become a respected bartender. When she and Emilie first meet, though, it’s an instant spark, but at the time, Emilie is having an affair with the owner of a restaurant. When they do connect, things don’t go well. In fact, that’s the whole point of the book, I think: Emilie and Sara have to become their own individuals before they can successfully become a couple.

I think that’s the whole point of the novel: it’s much less a love story than it is a growing-up story. Both Emilie and Sara have pasts they need to reconcile with and futures they need to figure out. Yes, they are ready for a relationship, but maybe not quite ready enough, which gives the whole book an air of the bittersweet to it. I adore LaCour’s writing and the way she makes characters come alive. It also helped that Whelan’s narration was incredibly engaging.

Definitely a good book.