Jasmine Guillory writes contemporary romance novels that mostly take place in Oakland, not far from where I live. The places are familiar, the characters are a delight, the situations are vaguely ridiculous but not unbelievable, and I am in the bag for her books.
The Wedding Party is the third in an ongoing series, each focused on different characters. In this case, it’s an enemies-to-lovers plot that takes place between Maddie and Theo, the two best friends of Alexa, from the first book. The action takes place while Alexa and Drew are planning their wedding – so it’s nice to get updates that the happily-ever-after ending from the first book, The Wedding Date, continues to be happily-ever-after.
Maddie and Theo don’t like each other, but the have a spark of chemistry one drunken night and then it just sort of spirals into them actually falling in love. You know how it ends. It’s a romance novel. You’re probably reading it because you want the reassurance that these not-too-screwed-up people are going to have their happy ending, and there will be some dumb decisions and drama along the way to keep you entertained. The Wedding Party delivers exactly what it promises.
Queenie is a fiction book that has been described as a Black Bridget Jones. I don’t know how true that is, but it does take place in London and Queenie is in her twenties, has a strong group of friends, and she does make a lot of bad decisions.
I actually had a lot of problems getting into this book, and I ended up putting it down. The book was well-written, and the fact that I couldn’t get into it says a lot more about me than it does the book. I’m older and have less patience for some of the drama that happens in your twenties. I may have rolled my eyes a couple of times.
Do I recommend Queenie? Absolutely. Was it for me? Nope.
Alyssa Cole writes enchanting romance novels. A Prince on Paper is about a man, Johan, who is a step-brother to a prince and Nya, a former finance minister’s daughter. Their relationship is fake, in theory, to give her an excuse to leave the country and him an excuse to keep the attention off his younger brother. It goes as you would expect a romance novel to, with them falling in love for real.
Her Reluctant Royals series is fun and well-written and I appreciate that none of her characters are ever jerks. If you’re looking for a romance novel, this one isn’t going to change your life, but it’s fun and enjoyable and charming. Sometimes that’s what you want from a book.
The Nickel Boys is the story of Elwood Curtis. It is the early 1960s and he is a fan of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr – it appeals to his innate sense of right and wrong and if he can just keep doing the right thing, everything will be fine.
It’s not. He, while trying to get to his college-level classes that he is taking whilst still in high school, hitches a ride with someone who’s just stolen a car. He gets sent to a reform school, Nickel in the book, but based on Florida’s Dozier School for Boys. Elwood becomes friends with Turner, a boy who has come back for his second time.
Their friendship is good and realistic and also a metaphor for how to live responsibly: do you always stand up for what is good and right (Elwood) or do you do what you have to to get by (Turner)? What is the better way to live? The book is not always clear.
It also brought home the precariousness of being Black in the South during and before the Civil Rights Movement, and not for the first time. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Emmett Till, you know how precarious life was for Black Southerners. But I mourned for Elwood and his intelligence and his promise, getting sent to a reform school where terrible things happen because he hitched a ride with the wrong person.
I read The Nickel Boys in one sitting, basically, getting up only to eat dinner. The prose is good and the story is tight. Highly, highly recommended.
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? is a collection of short science fiction stories by NK Jemisin, who I had never read before.
The introduction to the book, which talks mainly about how she became a writer and the importance of short stories in that development, made me realize something. Her quote: “How terrifying it’s been to realize no one thinks my people have a future.” I am embarrassed to say that this book made me understand how not having people of color in science fiction means the reader could think all those people are just gone from the world in the future. That’s 100% bad and not OK.
The stories, though. The stories are amazing. I loved The City Born Great, about how cities around the world, when they develop enough energy and culture from the people living in them, are born into their own thing. New York is the city in question in this story; Sao Paulo, Paris, and Lagos are just three cities who were born in the past. Los Angeles will be next. Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters is a story about a man living through what seems exactly like Katrina flooding New Orleans, except there are dragons and the floodwaters have woken up the Haints, who want to destroy and eat everything. Tookie and the winged lizard fight it to save their city.
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? is highly recommended. I’m looking forward to reading more from NK Jemisin.