Monday, January 25, 2021

Sarah: Reading During a Pandemic

Reading During a Pandemic

While reading is my comfort zone, who can focus while the world burns?  I teach at the university level, so reading above and beyond my normal, for-class material, at times, felt impossible since March.  I had to teach, support students, keep up with my own writing and professional development, and administer a program for first- and second-year students with COVID rampaging in our community and an unhinged president raging on twitter (until it was taken away, thank goodness).

One way I wind down is writing reviews for TBQ.  Reflecting on my reading helps me to enjoy reading on a deeper level.  Stories are an important way to understand the world and stories that center women, queer notions of heteronormative love, and have pleasure and a HEA at their center, help me to know the world I want to live in better.  But I didn’t have the bandwidth to do any reviews.  It weighed heavy on my mind. I crafted them as I tried to fall asleep, but actually writing them was impossible.

As I look over my 2020 spreadsheet, I read more than I thought I did and want to highlight the bright spots of my romance reading this year.

Jackie Lau is the author who I read the most from this year. I am grateful to be on her ARC list and received:

I purchased:

I love Lau’s writing.  Beyond the couple the books revolve around, she is a master at writing about food and friendships in ways that make you salivate for both.  I love that her books all exist in the same universe and characters are part of other stories as minor characters.  I found all of these books to be great, comforting reads.  I fell for each couple, and the angst was low enough that I was invested but not worried about the characters.  I know that Lau has her reader in mind as she writes and it shines in her stories.  If I had to pick a favorite I would probably choose Pregnant by the Playboy for its opening scene alone...HOT!  Usually unplanned pregnancies are not my forte, so writing one that makes me root for the couple involved was a fun read for me.  You should read her entire backlist, they are worth it!

I read two of Rebekah Weatherspoon’s books last year.  Harbor, which I got as an ARC, and If the Boot Fits, the second of her fairy tale retellings.

Harbor is scorching. Vaughn, Chris, and Brooklyn are on fire together. Weathersoon’s writing is evocative and fun.  Her characters explore themselves and their relationships in ways that make them grow and evolve.  She uses the space of her stories to explore grief, trauma, and being human.  While her story RAFE, holds the #1 spot in my heart, Harbor is a fitting ending to the Beards and Bondage trilogy

I saw If the Boot Fits in Target and bought it as fast as I could! It is the second in Weatherspoon’s Cowboys of California series. This was a low angst, fast read for me!  Sam and Amanda’s chemistry was there right from the start.  Sam’s family ranch was the perfect place for them to get to know one another and Amanda's boss name Dru (after one of Cinderella's stepsisters) is the kind of detail that I just eat up.  This was a solid entry for the Pleasant bothers, but I, like many, are not-so-patiently waiting for Jesse’s story.  I am a sucker for quiet giants who think they can’t find connection.  

I read Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering.  As someone who sets aside time every month to write letters filled with fancy handlettering, I loved how central her work as a lettering artist was to the book.  This was also a love letter to NYC, a place I love to travel, but know it will be at least 2022 before I think about returning.  I liked, but didn’t love this book. It was sweet and wonderfully written. I even have a note to myself that I think it would translate well to TV or movies. This book was definitely a slow burn, but I think it was too slow for me.  I was left wanting to know more from Reid’s POV (the book was entirely from Meg’s perspective).  And while that can work, it left me feeling flat about their relationship.  I was more interested in how the letters and art would translate to the screen than a true investment in Meg and Reid and that is a shame.  I also want to balance this with a reminder that I was reading in a pandemic, and maybe some of my loss of NYC travel and other ways I was grieving a changing world could color my perspective.

As someone whose southern family history includes stories of running moonshine, I one clicked Jodie Slaughter’s White Whiskey Bargain as fast as I could! The Meza and the Hawkins families are rival moonshiners and a marriage of convenience between Javier and Hannah will strengthen both their families as they work against a new threat to their respective businesses.  Every part of this book was like catnip: marriage of convenience with a husband who wants to make it work, a strong-willed woman who knows her mind and what she’s worth, a story about Appalachia that is not white-washed...yes, yes, yes PLEASE!  While not as low angst as the rest of my highlight readings, this one was just so good!  Hannah and Javier need one another, but their alliance is shaky at best.  He’s all in and she has to be convinced, but in the end they are better together.  I loved it!

I learned about author Denise Williams on twitter and followed her in a flash.  She, like me, has a day job in academia, and How to Fail at Flirting is her debut novel. Nya Turner is almost through the tenure wringer just as her university is looking at restructuring and the possible elimination of departments like hers.  She hasn’t been in a relationship since her disastrous ex dumped her and left for a prestigious new job, but not before leaving her confidence in his wake.  Her friends challenge her to try something new and Jake seems like just the challenge.  This story was a lesson in watching Nya get her strength and confidence back.  As someone who works at a university, the politics in the background felt oh so real, a little too real for someone who is not on the tenure track.  I liked Williams’ voice and think this was a great debut book!  I was rooting for Nya and Jake even when their relationship seems really hard, they kept fighting, for each other, for the career they wanted, and the chance at forever.  I loved it!

I am reading in 2021, I think it feels easier, but my semester starts next week so we’ll see!  Here’s to hoping for an uneventful 2021 so I can fall deeply back into my reading world.

~ Sarah

Thanks for this post, Sarah! I know many of us have also been struggling with reading during all of *gestures wildly* this.

What books have been keeping you company lately?


No comments :