Between Things: Indoor Kids are Still Indoors

A new episode is in the works. Pay’s got plenty of editing to do, so hopefully the Technology Fairies keep their tricks at bay. One lost episode is cute; two would be a sign. In the meantime, here are a few things Adri checked out in the last few months. Let’s get to it shall we?

Woof, this year really keeps going doesn’t it? Well one good thing about quarantine and working from home is more time to catch up on my sky-high To Read pile. This might be the first year I actually reach my goal for the year.

The Wedding Date, The Proposal, and The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

I’m putting these together because they all exist in the same extended universe. I first saw The Wedding Date as a staff pick at one of my local bookshops and was immediately drawn in by the cover. (BTW “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a not a great saying. Any book designer worth their weight will tell you they put in effort to tell you what kind of book to expect. Also a good cover is just *chef’s kiss* Gimme something nice to look at!)

Anyway! I didn’t get it that day because I was shopping for other people (I know; so humble, so selfless), but it’s been on my to-read list for a while. When I finally put in a book order with another local shop a few months ago, I misremembered the title and ordered The Wedding Party, which I soon realized was the third in the series. (I do this pretty much all the time when starting a series. I can’t explain my brain.) I still ended up reading them in order thanks to my local library, but let me give a quick shout out to good romance series writers. It takes a lot of skill to be able to write stories and characters in a way where you can pick up any book in the series without getting confused about who is who and how they are connected. It’s something I wish other genres (fantasy in particular) would do a better job at doing. I suppose you could argue that there is less world building in romantic comedies, but it’s no less skillful.

I enjoyed all three of these books. So far each book in this series has hit the right Romantic Comedy beats with some good ol’ sexiness, but I think The Wedding Party is my favorite so far. Usually, the closer I feel to knowing a character the easier it is for me to cast my Mind Movie ™, and The Wedding Party was the easiest to cast. Decided to take a break for the sake of branching out to other authors for a bit, but definitely plan on getting around to the other ones soon.

Also also, I loooove when cute stories center around BIPOC folks. All the lady leads are Black women and the fellas are white, Latinx, and Black respectively, and from what I gather that continues through the series. Too often in “mainstream romance” when a lead is BIPOC that is The Plot rather than just one aspect of the character. While that can be a good story, sometimes I just want to read a book about people to look and live like me and the people I know. Guillory does a great job of interweaving cultural specificities without it being the dramatic center. Ultimately the center is always the characters as a whole and their love story. And boning. Did I mention there is boning? Because there is.

The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

This is the first non-fantasy YA novel I’ve read in a while, and I really dug it. Alberta and Edie are our titular Black girls, living in a not-so-diverse beach town in California, trying to deal with the dramas of middle school. Alberta is a life-long beach lover and surfer, and going through that phase where it feels like everyone is growing up faster than she is, and starts to feel like she’s dressing and perceived like a baby. Edie is a new transplant from Brooklyn living her best tough goth girl life on the outside, and her heartbreaking sad goth girl life on the inside as she tries to deal with her parents’ divorce and feeling like an outsider in a new town. There’s a mystery woven in to the story that I figured out fairly quickly, and the right middle schooler may figure it out before the reveal too, but I don’t think knowing it takes away from the story. The maze of 7th-grade friendships is really the center of this book.

Another shout out here, this time for stories about alt BIPOC characters. It is sadly still pretty common to be the only BIPOC in an “alt space” (counting how many other BIPOC I see at punk shows is a “fun” pre-show activity), so growing up I would latch on hard any time I read a book or watched something with any sort of cool, weird or alt kid who wasn’t white (Miranda from Lizzie McGuire comes to mind). Anyway! Would’ve loved this as a kid, and enjoyed it now.

Daring and the Duke by Sarah MacLean

OK, so technically, I haven’t finished this book, but I’m including it on the list because I nursed this one for a while before deciding to put it down. I really liked the first two Bareknuckle Bastards books so I was super excited for this one. Like, chomping-at-the-bit-waiting-for-my-spot-in-the-holds-list-to-get-closer levels of excited. Honestly though it took me so long to get through the first third of the book that I thought I just “wasn’t in a reading mood” but I eventually accepted that it was the book, not me.

I don’t know. I couldn’t get invested in this particular pairing. The first two books did such a good job of building Dahlia up as a bad-ass broad, and Ewan as an easy-to-hate villain, that it was going to be an uphill battle for me to want to see them end up together. I know Ewan disappears for a year and comes back a “changed man” and they loved each other since they were kids, but that isn’t enough for me. Maybe I’ll go back and finish this one because MacLean writes a very good boning scene, and maybe there’ll be a proper redemption for Ewan. What I really want though is a spin-off about the romance between Nik and Nora that plays in the background of the previous book. I always root for my fellow queers, especially when tight breeches are involved.

In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk

I’m running out of writing steam, but ending on a high note! Long story short, Lindsey Kelk did not disappoint with her latest book. Another fun, funny, and cute read. It may have also hit closer to home than usual because the lead and her friends are all in their thirties, and while I may never get as nostalgic for my twenties as Ros does, I can relate to feeling like we’re in another transition period and feeling the dynamics of friendships change. Also who doesn’t fantasize about a hot bartender every once in a while? Anyway, I read this one outside in the sunshine during my lunch breaks to briefly distract myself from the politicians trying to destroy our democracy before our eyes. The book was the cool breeze I needed to say the least. Now I’m just waiting for a wrestling-centered Kelk novel. I want to read about a buff broad falling in love! And winning belts!