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Books I’ve Read

(A) means I listened to it.
(RR) means I re-read it.
(P) means I read it on paper.

I link titles to Powell’s Books if they carry them. I will often link to an edition other than the one I read. If Powell’s (or another non-Amazon site) doesn’t have it, I will link to Amazon. These are not affiliate links.

I also put this information into goodreads.com. You can find me there with my gmail address (the.karend). In addition, I’ve been playing around on the StoryGraph beta site and updating there, too. If you’d be okay with me following you, email me. I’m here over there.

< < 2019

January 1, 2020 to Now: (latest finished on top)

The Royal We, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This made me cry more than once, both happy and sad tears.

Magic Binds, Ilona Andrews
Rather grim, despite there being a celebratory event at the end.

Magic Stars, Ilona Andrews
I might have enjoyed this more if I better remembered what happened in the full length book that preceded this in the series.

Project 333, Courtney Carver
For a book about paring your wardrobe to 33 items (including pairs of shoes!) for 3 months, this has a lot of non-wardrobe content.

The Duchess Deal, Tessa Dare
I read this one out of order, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Through the Storm, Beverly Jenkins
Picked this one up based on a mention in the author’s notes that followed the text of her Forbidden that I finished recently. I may have learned more about this period of U.S. history (end of the Civil War and Reconstruction) from this romance novel than I did in school.

Middlegame, Seanan McGuire
I almost stopped reading this when the first chapter was titled “Book VII: The End” but then I remembered Star Wars and kept going, all the way to the actual end. It took me a while; time travel is not my favorite thing, and I was often not clear on what was going on, but every so often I’d find a passage that resonated—like “People who say ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ don’t understand how words can be stones, hard and sharp-edged and dangerous and capable of doing so much more harm than anything physical.”—and persist.

Dreams of a Dark Warrior, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
The Fated Mates podcasters call this arc of books in the Immortals After Dark series “Torture Island”, and that’s apt. Lots of darkness here.

The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby
Very good historical survey of the history of racism in the US and discussion of how churches and religious leaders took actions (or failed to take them) that got us to where we are now. I liked that the book concluded with suggestions for actions from very small to very large.

Forbidden, Beverly Jenkins
Well written historical centering Black characters. Does follow the not unusual plot device where a lot of things happen all at once right near the end of the book which is not my favorite but I coped.

The Governess Game, Tessa Dare
I picked this up based on a mention in the Fated Mates podcast, but wonder if I got the wrong governess title as plot point mentioned in the recommendation was absent from this book. No matter; I enjoyed this one enough I’m going to look for the others in the series (this was book 2).

The Ladies’ Room, Carolyn Brown
I want to say this is low angst, but there are definitely events that happen that aren’t. Still, the overall feel is warm and nice and cozy and I just dove in and paddled around in that pool ’til I’d finished the book.

Shards of Hope, Nalini Singh
This did make me feel hopeful. Much needed right now.

Algorithms of Oppression, Safiya Umoja Noble
I struggled reading this and almost gave up more than once. I’m interested in the topic but the writing about it here was dense with what I’m thinking is academia-ese, and that’s not a language I am fluent in. Sentences like “The language and terminologies used to describe results on the Internet in commercial search engines often obscure the fact that commodified forms of representation are being transacted on the web and that these commercial transactions are not random or without meaning as simply popular websites.” made my head hurt trying to figure out what the point was.

Demon from the Dark, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
Ah, the darkness really descends in this one. This re-read didn’t make me like it any better. Still two (or is it three?) more books to go in this arc.

High Achiever, Tiffany Jenkins
A quick read. I couldn’t help but wonder how her story of addiction and jail time would have come out if she were not white. The author doesn’t seem to reflect on that at all, nor does she share some parts of her recovery that I think would have added to the depth of this memoir.

A Shock for Master Angus, Clair de Lune
Another BDSM novel that was mostly about not particularly kinky sex. The ending didn’t resonate with me at all, either.

Sweep with Me, Ilona Andrews
It was nice to be back in this world, though since this is a novella, it was too short a visit.

Club de Fleurs: Jenna, Rose Nikol
I got this because it’s from the same publisher as my favorite BDSM author , Tymber Dalton. I did not like this book nearly as well as any I’ve read from Ms. Dalton. It seems to be trying to represent the real world but presents characters doing things that don’t seem to be realistic and definitely in some cases things that would be irresponsible in the real world but letting those go by uncommented on. Now, maybe I am just ignorant. Perhaps there really is a country-wide network of BSDM clubs (light on BDSM, heavy on not particularly kinky sex) that have a coordinated ban list and security teams that can provide 24/7 surveillance of women (without their knowledge, I might add).

The Exceptional Negro: Racism, White Privilege, and the Lie of Respectability Politics, Traci D. O’Neal
This book draws on prior works in the field and goes on to expand upon them. The author shares some personal stories of her experiences with racism which I found to be a very valuable addition to the text. I also liked that she gives some actions to consider taking, both for Black families and white people who want to be allies. Disclosure: Growing up, I was friends with the author; we were in the same high school graduating class and though our paths diverged after that, we are still in touch on social media to this day.

If I Live Until Morning: A True Story of Adventure, Tragedy, and Transformation, Jean Muenchrath
This could have benefited from tighter editing and proofreading. Still, it’s a compelling life story. For me, it was something of an exercise in not judging, and trying to understand why the author made some of the decisions she did. I appreciated that opportunity. By the end of the book I was moved to tears. I bumped my rating up to compensate for those who bumped theirs down due to their dislike of non-Christian spirituality.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
I wasn’t sure about this at first but ended up really liking it. There’s some stuff in it that was hard for me to read and some stuff I identified strongly with. I’m glad I stuck with it instead of stopping when it wasn’t the light/funny/quirky book I’d expected based on some blurbs I’d read.

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
I think this is well written and well edited. I didn’t tug at my emotions the way I think it might have if I’d read it before The Silence of the Girls.

Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir
It’s dark. It’s got some interesting characters. Even after nearly 500 pages, I don’t have a great sense of what’s going on in this world or why the activity that makes up most of the book was set up the way it was. I was very disappointed at what happened to the character I found to be the most interesting, which I suppose is a sign the writing does have power, if I was affected enough to be mad about what happened.

Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson
I loved this book so much I read nothing but it until I finished (I usually have three, sometimes four, books going at once).

Pleasure of a Dark Prince, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
This one felt like a bit of a slog to me during parts of the plot … so much of that tedium could have been avoided.

White Fragility, Robin J. DiAngelo
I know there’s been pushback against this book recently. I was already reading it when I saw some of those articles/posts and was finding some valuable insights, so kept on and finished. I don’t think it should be the only book on racism one reads. I do think it could be a good entry point to the subject for some white folks. Unfortunately, the ones who most need to upgrade their understanding are super resistant to this information. I don’t know how to solve that.

Network Effect, Martha Wells
This latest installment in the Murderbot series is a full novel rather than the novellas that made up the earlier offerings. It doesn’t feel padded at all unlike some series where the books get longer but the stories aren’t really bigger. I enjoyed this a lot and stayed up late to finish it. I’m already excited to read what comes next, though I’m not sure that book has even been announced yet.

The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory
A rare contemporary that didn’t have me frustrated by thinking “who acts this way in real life”. Sure, there was some non-communication and lack of communication that was frustrating, but that’s part of how these things work, and there’s plenty of that going on in the real world, too.

A Life in Stitches, Rachael Herron
This was so good. So sad at times, true, but a good kind of sad, if that makes sense.

A Roll of the Dice, Tymber Dalton
This is a nice, fairly low angst story about a couple entering their empty nest years and figuring out what comes next. Spoiler alert: it’s BDSM. I liked that this seemed realistic.

Dirt, Bill Buford
I would have like this better if the author were single, because I kept getting annoyed at how little engagement he seemed to have in raising his young twin sons, instead leaving them with his wife in NYC during the week while he worked at a restaurant in Washington DC; at least when they got to France he’d come home at night and did seem to spend at least a little time with boys. I would love for his wife to write a book about this time in their lives. I was also distracted by wondering how these adventures were funded … was the book advance so large as to allow them to afford to keep a place in NYC while they also paid for a place in France? All that said, the cooking and food parts were interesting; I’ve experimented with changing the way I crack eggs as a result, and I might very well read other things from this author.

Deep Kiss of Winter, Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter (P, RR)
Re-read so it would be fresh when I listen to the Fated Mates episode that discusses the first novella. The second story made me wonder if I should try one of the full length books in that series, which somehow I haven’t done in the almost nine years since I read this the first time.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby
I’m making myself a note to re-read this sometime when the country is less fraught (please let there be a time when the country is less fraught), because I feel like my background level of anxiety was too high to enjoy the humor in this volume of essays. I did enjoy reading them, and found a fair bit I could relate to (I think it helped that I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago so had some familiarity with the places). I’ll look for other books by this author, though might wait until I’m in a better headspace for them.

The Warlord Wants Forever, Kresley Cole (RR)
Okay, yes, this story is included in Playing Easy to Get, which I did just read, but that was the original version. This version is the “remastered” one, in which some sections were changed. I felt I should read this while the old one was still fresh in my mind. The events are the same, just a few have a different flavor now. The most striking was the first time the main characters have PIV sex; that’s changed to be much less brutal. This is now marketed as the first book in the Immortals After Dark series, which I don’t love because the novella length doesn’t allow for enough worldbuilding in my estimation. I think reading it after the first book like I did originally is the way to go.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez
This looked intimidatingly long on my e-reader compared to things I’ve been reading lately, but turned out a lot of those pages were footnotes and index so I did manage to finish it before my library loan expired. Reading it made me angry that we still have so far to go towards gender equity. This is well researched (hence all the footnotes) and provides examples from various countries, not all majority white, which I appreciated. I didn’t appreciate that there was no mention of transgender, intersex, or non-binary people; perhaps the author found them inconvenient in the way she asserts many researchers find women inconvenient for their studies and thus excluded them (if they thought of them in the first place).

Playing Easy to Get, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jaid Black, and Kresley Cole (P, RR)
Looking back at my notes from the first time I read this in 2007, I see my opinions have changed. The Kresley Cole story is still my favorite, but the Kenyon has moved into second place thanks to the premise of the Jaid Black story being even more objectionable to me now that I’ve learned more about consent over the years. The novella length meant needed worldbuilding was left out of Black’s story that might have redeemed it somewhat but I’m skeptical enough that I’m not planning to look into other books in that series.

The Craft of Love, EE Ottoman
A sweet novella with a quilting heroine and a hero of a type that’s way underrepresented in romance. It was was right up my alley (someday I’ll quilt again).

Exit Strategy, Martha Wells
Nicely wrapped up the story begun in the previous installment in the Murderbot series. I’m looking forward to reading the new one when I get to the top of the library hold list.

Optimists Die First, Susin Nielsen
This felt similar to Dear Edward in that it has young characters faced with tragedy. I didn’t find it quite as moving or absorbing, though.

Rouge Protocol, Martha Wells
Still enjoying reading these novellas. This one seemed slightly less standalone than the previous ones. It ends at a logical place, but with less wrapped up than I’d hoped.

Sapphire Flames, Ilona Andrews
Picking up three years after the novella that preceded it in the series, this has the same heroine. She’s now in her early 20s rather than late teens so this installment has more adult content (not as much as the first books in the series, though). The plot hit some very similar beats to some of the earlier books, which I think means I need to take a break from this series, which is convenient as the next book isn’t even due out until late this summer.

Artificial Condition, Martha Wells
The continuing adventures of Murderbot. Just as enjoyable a read as the first one.

Diamond Fire, Ilona Andrews
I didn’t read anything about this before I picked it up, so didn’t realize the main character in this novella is different than the earlier novels in the series. That was fine but makes this more YA than the other books.

In the Shadow of the Valley, Bobi Conn
Another hard for me to read memoir. They get written by the survivors, the ones who don’t get completely ground down by their circumstances, so that gives just enough hope that I don’t feel completely wrecked after I’m done.

All Systems Red, Martha Wells
This was so good. It’s a novella yet it felt complete. The main character is both recognizable and not of the world I know. I was hooked early on, with lines like “It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering…”

Kiss of a Demon King, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
Zipping along through my re-read of this series. There’s a scene that hints that the hero is homophobic; I’m not sure I read it that way the first time through or if I read it right this time or if I’m just hyper sensitive now.

Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
This made me cry and also feel oddly hopeful. It also sent me down a rabbit hole of reading about Air France 447 which I’m not sure was the best choice I could have made after I finished the book around 3 a.m.

Girl, Woman, Other, Berndardine Evaristo
I had a false start with this book a while back, when I just couldn’t concentrate on keeping track of the characters and the unorthodox writing style rankled (these are both me problems, I know). But I gave it another go and was in a better state of mind to receive it and ended up enjoying it. I still think I missed some connections between characters but overall I enjoyed the glimpses into the lives of so many women who led different lives from mine.

Sins of a Wicked Duke, Sophie Jordan
I’m getting lots of recommendations from the Fated Mates podcast, which I’m slowly catching up on as I re-read the Immortals After Dark series. This was one of those recommendations, and I enjoyed it. Yes, when examined in the cold light of time to write something about it, I can see it has problems, but at the time I was reading it, I didn’t notice them, I just enjoyed the story.

Dark Desires After Dusk, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
It’s been almost 12 years since I read this the first time, so I don’t remember if the next book has the update that would have been in the epilogue I was wishing for about this couple.

Living with Lead: An Environmental History of Idaho’s Coeur D’Alenes, 1885-2011, Bradley D. Snow
I want to learn more about the history of this part of the country I’ve chosen to live in, so grabbed this doctoral dissertation turned into a book about the mining district that’s a couple hours from my house. It’s well researched, for sure. I didn’t find it as engaging as some nonfiction (Mary Roach’s books come to mind) but that’s to be expected given its back story as an academic paper.

Shield of Winter, Nalini Singh
Somehow it’s been years since I read a book in this series. It wasn’t because I’d stopped liking them or because I’d caught up and had to wait for the next one. I don’t know what happened. Regardless, I’m back to the series and enjoyed this one. Unfortunately, I think there are only a couple more to read.

Sweep of the Blade, Ilona Andrews
On a real Ilona Andrews kick here. This book in the Innkeeper Chronicles has barely any inn in it at all, and that was just fine with me, as I liked learning more about this main character and love her spunky halfling daughter. After I finished, I almost immediately went back to re-read some favorite scenes.

Wildfire, Ilona Andrews
I devoured this one in big chunks. Not everything gets resolved in this installment but neither does it end on a cliffhanger, so I was fine with that. I didn’t appreciate a small spoiler for the next book in the preview for the book after that which was included in the version I read; wish I’d skipped that bit but it’s not this book’s fault.

The Last Bathing Beauty, Amy Sue Nathan
I liked the “Catskills of the Midwest” setting in Michigan (even though when I lived in that state, I spent very little time exploring this part of it). There are definitely echoes of Dirty Dancing. Some of the plot was predictable, but there were a few turns that took me by surprise. I felt sad for the main character at times but the way the story was told, splitting between her at 18 in 1951 and her in her 80s, I didn’t get swamped by it.

Dark Needs at Night’s Edge, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
My attitude regarding the plot on this re-read: Sure, why not. That could happen.

This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
It’s no secret that time travel plots often make my head hurt, but I went ahead and picked this up anyway due to some reason I no longer remember (a great review in a magazine maybe) and am so glad I did. It feels like one of those books that either grabs you or doesn’t, and it grabbed me. I didn’t understand a lot about how things work in this world, but instead of frustrating me, I embraced the mystery.

White Hot, Ilona Andrews
Reading this was something like watching a Marvel movie, just with more sex. It’s cartoony enough to be escapist, which is what I need now.

Cleanness, Garth Greenwell
Reading this was like having dream; the images were sometimes disturbing, sometimes mundane, and the plot was indistinct.

Magic Shifts, Ilona Andrews
It’s been over two years since I dipped into this world; I felt like I mostly remembered what was going on. Lots of peril but set in a world different enough from our reality that I could read it without feeling stressed. This particular installment didn’t advance the overall plot lines of the series a whole lot but that’s okay; that’s to be expected in a longer series like this one.

The Day of the Duchess, Sarah MacLean
I wished for fewer flashbacks (or at least chronological flashbacks) as I sometimes had trouble figuring out where in time we were. I liked many of the supporting characters. Found the repeated communication breakdowns between the main characters frustrating; I’m sure I was meant to but it just wasn’t what I was in the mood for. I usually like epilogues but this one stretched my credulity too far. There is one very lovely scene in an unusual setting, and I’m glad I read the book for that alone.

Without a Summer, Mary Robinette Kowal
If I’d read this at a less fraught time (meaning not in the midst of a pandemic), I might have enjoyed it more. It wasn’t escapist enough for me right now, though it is well researched and well written. It continues the movement that took place in the previous book in the series away from domesticity and toward involvement in violent events in the larger society. Right now, I’d rather be immersed in personal drama and the arcane details of the type of magic that exists in this fictional world.

Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
Still re-reading the series, still being surprised by plot twists I’d forgotten.

Red, White, and Royal Blue, Casey McQuitson
I almost stopped reading this, as it gave me anxiety for the main characters and made me sad thinking about the country we could have had. In the end, I persisted and am glad I did.

No Rest for the Wicked, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
Continuing my re-read of the series. It’s been enough time that I don’t remember all of the plot lines. In my first read, I didn’t like the heroine so much. I didn’t feel that this time.

The Pale-Faced Lie: A True Story, David Crow
Another book that was hard to read not because of the writing but the subject matter.

A Hunger Like No Other, Kresley Cole (P, RR)
I was inspired to re-read this due to finding the Fated Mates podcast.

A Scot in the Dark, Sarah MacLean
At least this one had the hero being dumb instead of the heroine, I guess. Didn’t enjoy as much as the first one but still enough to want to continue the series.

Shades of Wicked, Jeaniene Frost
It might have been better for me to re-read at least some of the Night Huntress series before I read this, as when the characters from that showed up here, I got only faint glimmers of recognition.

Glamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal
I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first in the series, probably because of the shift in focus from family/personal matters that the first book had.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente
I read someone describe this as a cross between Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth, both of which I enjoyed greatly when I was younger. I didn’t enjoy this greatly. Perhaps I am too old and impatient now for such whimsy and meandering and nonsense. I hope not. I hope it’s just that this particular whimsy and meandering wasn’t a good fit for me at the time I read it.

Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg
Makes a great case for the importance of social infrastructure. I wish I felt more hopeful that things will improve in those areas in the US but seems we’re moving in the wrong direction in most cases.

The Rose Hotel, Rahimeh Andalibian
This was hard to read. Not because of how it was written (though a time or two I did lose track of when things happened as the telling jumps back and forth in time) but because the events were so painful … and I wasn’t even living them like the author and her family did. I very much appreciated the look into a part of the world I will never experience.

Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal
I’ve followed the author on Twitter for quite a while and figured it was past time I should read some of her work. This is Jane Austen-esque but with domestic magic. I found it charming.

(not an official book yest but I read a draft of friend’s novel here)

Burn for Me, Ilona Andrews
Another Ilona Andrews series I didn’t come upon until now. I liked this one, too.

The Rouge Not Taken, Sarah MacLean
I liked it, especially the first two thirds when the heroine was on the road, sometimes with, sometimes without the hero. I plan to read the next one in the series.

The Red Scot, Twyla Turner
I like curvy heroines (this one is a size 16, I believe, which is still smaller than the average woman but bigger than most romance leads). I like diversity. This book had both. I do not like sloppy copy editing (such as many many extraneous commas and some synonym errors) or heroines who deal with trauma by not going to therapy but staying stuck in fear for over a decade. This book had those, too, plus some internalized misogyny in the bargain.

The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker
I think this was well written, and I appreciated the telling of this story from another perspective, but I needed to read it in sections with breaks in between to read lighter things because I found it grindingly depressing for most of the story.

One Fell Sweep, Ilona Andrews
I couldn’t wait to read this installment after finishing the previous one. It did not disappoint. Sure, it stretches credulity at times, but since there’s magic involved, I can handle that better than when very improbable/very coincidental things happen in stories set entirely in our reality.

Sweep in Peace, Ilona Andrews
I’m really liking this series.

Maid for the Billionaire, Ruth Cardello
I read this because it was free. It did not sell me on reading the rest of the series.

Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown
This felt real to me though it was fiction. I so want to know how the main character made out later in her life.

Idaho, Emily Ruskovich
I recognized the places in this book; I travel through them myself. The author gets the setting just right. The story is unsettling and jumps back and forth in time which didn’t bother me as much as that device usually does.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
, Sarah Smarsh
My family had its struggles so some of this felt very relatable. I appreciated the author’s insight into the American Dream.

Next in Line for Love, Harper Bliss
I read this around the same time as Heartland, which is maybe why I found the characters somewhat annoying, as they were doing rich people stuff that poor people can’t do or suffer consequences if they do.

The First Girl Child, Amy Harmon
I think this was well written, but it left me feeling sad.

Isn’t It Bromantic?, Lauren Baratz-Logsted
I don’t remember when or why I put this on my Kindle, or why I thought it was a good idea to get book two of a series I haven’t read book one of, but here we are. Maybe if I had read the first book, I’d have a better understanding of why the hero has married someone he seems to not know very well, which I found annoying as a plot device. If you don’t know what music someone likes, you haven’t dated them long enough to get married is my position. Both hero and heroine do unlikable things. It’s told first person from the hero’s perspective in an easy, breezy, jokey style which is not for me. On the plus side, the copy editing was pretty darn good.

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