Books Read 2020: First Half of the Year

So usually I do this as an end of year post, but I’ve read a lot this year so far, so I’m breaking it up.

Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace
You can definitely tell this is by Grace – as much as I love her work, I feel like her writing is starting to get a bit formulaic in thoughts and writing. It had an interesting twist, but definitely not my favorite by her.

Darcy’s Winter Delight by V.L. King
Oh, P&P PWP (porn with plot). Preggers Lizzy, annoying Lady Catherine, random cottage. Fairly implausible plot just to have a lot of steamy D&E action.

Pride, Prejudice, and Pleasure: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jane Austen/Georgette Brown
P&P retold starting at Rosings with plenty of flashback. Original character as a woman who teaches Elizabeth Bennet about sex with Darcy as the teacher … sometimes forced in.

My Darcy Mutates by Enid Wilson
Collection of steamy/sensual P&P shorts … all with lots of sex. Split into three different themes – regency, sci-fi, and modern.

My Darcy Vibrates by Enid Wilson
Same as the above, but with the split themes as past, present, and future.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith
A contemporary retelling of P&P that modified the original plot enough to be interesting … and then ruined it by making the characters also act out P&P for the stage. Seriously?

Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher
Still in the same Clockwork universe and still awesome. Have loved Kingfisher for years and will always recommend. I also love how she doesn’t get predictable and leaves some mystery.

Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise
Highly different P&P variation and one of the more original I’ve read. Quite enjoyable. Ocean voyage, chance meeting, creative.

Mistletoe Games by Jaci Burton
Compilation of three short stories – clearly purchased due to the hockey one. Baby-making baseball one was weird. The surfing one included a threesome/polyamory which is not super common in mainstream romance novels.

Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton
More hockey romance. Same universe as Burton’s other stories. Not NYC-based like most which is nice. However, I still have the same quibble about the absolutely terrible team names in hockey romance novels – they’re completely unoriginal or at the very least belong as a minor league team name and not as a major one.

All Bets Are Off: My Journey of Losing 200 Pounds, a Showdown with Diabetes, and Falling in Love with Running by Betsy Hartley
Great non-fiction book by a fellow Skirt sister (whom I’ve met!) about her weight loss journey and reversing type-2 diabetes. It’s all about the subtitle and all of the mess that comes with it. Super candid and relatable.

Finding My Voice: Tales from IRONMAN, the World’s Greatest Endurance Event by Mike Reilly with Lee Gruenfeld
Tales from the Voice of IM. Teared up. Read it to be inspired and you might want to do this amazing, beautiful, crazy thing they call IM too.

1984 by George Orwell
I’ve somehow avoided reading this until now where I finally decided screw it, why not. Mostly to understand if we’re heading that way like everyone says. Um, no. Not quite (though it’s certainly possible). Also: how the eff do they expect HS kids (or younger) to understand this?

Upstream by Mary Oliver
So many people have recommended reading Oliver … especially with her passing earlier this year. This was a book of collected essays and she really is a beautiful writer. Although screw Whitman.

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
Collected poems. Nature, mostly. I get why she’s popular. The world did lose a beautiful soul when she passed.

Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall
SO GOOD. Better than “Born to Run” in my opinion. Great combination of not only stuff on running and longevity, but also wacky WWII hijinks of a German general kidnapped on Crete.

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon
Part memoir, part cookbook, part guide, all about the South. Fun read and nice insight into Southern culture and Witherspoon in general. Really enjoyed.

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwauachi with Joshua David Stein
Part memoir, part cookbook, all awesome. Racism in the kitchen and being true to one’s self and finding your path.

Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillam Cottom
Powerful collection of essays on the Black female experience. A bit academic (read: big words and jargon), but that’s who she is – an academic – and she writes that truth.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
So good. Helped me better understand terms I’d cringed at before (intersectionality is a good example) and made me think a lot. I also like how she didn’t only talk about Black people when talking about race.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Super interesting look into how poverty and landlords and renting and eviction all tie together to keep people in the shit. Conversation-evoking.

Books Read 2019

I actually read more than last year. Is it still a decent amount of novellas and Pride and Prejudice fan fiction? Yep. Do I care? Nope.

I did read a bit of non-fiction, though, and hope to try to read a little more of that in the upcoming year. Mostly because I have a crapton of it on my to-read list.

Melting the Ice by Jaci Burton
… if there’s a romance novel involving hockey players, I will find it. I *think* this one had to deal with a fashion designer and an old flame who became a professional hockey player, but I don’t quite remember. Clearly I need to reread it.

Shot on Gold by Jaci Burton
Set at an Olympics between a figure skater (mostly her story) and, surprise surprise, a hockey player. Marginally same universe as the prior book as the hockey player in that one is also in this one. Did enjoy. As I do.

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky
I’ve had this one on my to-read list FOREVER and I finally did. I vaguely remember trying to read this a few years ago and failing, but I read it this year. Really enjoyed this one. Great book from the perspective of someone who has worked in the hotel/hospitality industry for years. If you like to travel … read this. Or maybe not – you might see some things about yourself you don’t like. Pro tip: tip the hotel staff.

i can barely take care of myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman
Another one that’s been on the to-read list. Since I don’t want kids, I was intrigued to read about her perspective on it. Definitely more of a comedic book.

Too Gentlemanly by Timothy Underwood
Like most things … started to read on FF.net, found it was published … bought it. I actually don’t really remember this one. Clearly I need to reread it.

What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan
I remember reading Fagan’s initial article on this story (… originally published on espnW, iirc). I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to read the book, but I’m glad I did. Great perspective on females in sport and the pressures they face.

Impulse and Initiative by Abigail Reynolds
Oh look, more P&P fic. Reynolds is a fairly respected published author of the stuff, and I actually found this in paperback at a used bookstore (Bookman’s, in Tucson. GO VISIT THEM). Regency style.

Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds
Modern take on P&P where Elizabeth Bennet is an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Institute on Cape Cod.

The Missing Prince by Timothy Underwood
Magical take on P&P, but definitely not cheesy. Includes an unexpected villain, which I liked.

Mr. Darcy’s Christmas Bride by Elizabeth Goodrich
Quick, fun read.

Mr. Darcy’s Hidden Desire by V.L. King
… while my weakness for P&P fanfic is well known, the fact that it also includes P&P erotica is less so. This is along those lines.

Mr. Darcy is Diverted by Demi Monde
More erotic P&P fanfic. Ahem.

The Hidden Power of F*cking Upby The Try Guys
I remember the Try Guys from their Buzzfeed YouTube videos so when B had this on his to-read list … I kind of stole it first. And liked it way more than he did. Basically, each guy tries something way out of his comfort zone and explains the lessons learned and how you can adapt it for your own life. I can understand why B didn’t like it, but I enjoyed it.

My Alpha, Mr. Darcy by Caitlin Marie Carrington
Erotic P&P fanfic with a touch of fantasy involved.

Mrs. Darcy’s Masque Seduction by V.L. King
More erotic P&P fanfic.

Much Ado About Darcy by Jane Grix
Oh hey, first new Jane Grix title of the year. I believe this is also reminiscent of some Shakespeare, but as I haven’t yet read Much Ado About Nothing … I can’t be sure.

Relentless Pursuit by Kathleen Brooks
Next book in the Bluegrass Brothers series. I think I have one or two more. Clearly I keep forgetting to download them.

A Dishonorable Offer by Timothy Underwood
Sheesh, three by Underwood this year?

In Deep by Claudia Hall Christian
FINALLY the next novel in the Alex the Fey series. Much awaited. Loved as always. I’m a big fan of Christian; the Alex the Fey series runs parallel to the Denver Cereal (which is also amazing – GO READ IT. GO READ THEM BOTH). And, if you live in Denver/Colorado (like I do), you’ll recognize a ton. It’s great.

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
You know I love me some T. Kingfisher. This is T. Kingfisher horror. I read the ebook and then ended up also buying a paperback copy because that’s how you support your favorite authors, friends. I’m not all that much into horror anymore these days, but I had to read this given that it was Kingfisher. Super creepy. Super awesome.

Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher
In searching for The Twisted Ones, I came across this which I apparently missed that she published …? Cute little novella.

Miss Bennet and the Beast by April Floyd
I’ve read quite a bit of Floyd’s work before and I’ve liked other P&P stories that loosely parallel the Beauty and the Beast story. Not the best; not the worst.

A Girl’s Guide to Finding Her Happy Pace by Ashley Wiles
I’ve known of Wiles through her work with Live Feisty (and their Kona coverage). When I heard she was doing an IndieGoGo for a graphic novel, I decided to donate for it. It has a few errors, but overall, it’s a good story. I would recommend this for younger girls – probably 10-18. I might lend it to my sister-in-law who does counselling.

Darcy and Diamonds by Caitlin Marie Carrington
… you know, I only read this a month or two ago and I don’t entirely remember it. Clearly I need to reread it.

Properly Humbled by April Floyd
Purchased in a downloading spree before Mexico. P&P fanfiction.

Darcy and the Wicked Waltz by Jane Grix
Oh, amnesiac Darcy stories. They’re amusing.

Darcy’s Secret Garden by Jane Grix
Definitely a different P&P AU, but enjoyable.

Evenings with Darcy by Jane Grix
Part of that same downloading spree.

Darcy’s Mistletoe Kiss by Jane Grix.
Like pretty much all of Grix’s work, a quick, enjoyable read.

Books Read 2018

I used to be a huge reader. I read all the things, without prompting.

Like most kids, I think it started falling by the wayside in high school and then definitely college (when all your homework is reading, and reading boring crap, your interest tends to wane).

Ironically, finding fan fiction (and, more specifically, Pride and Prejudice fan fiction) helped me find enjoyment in reading again. I also tend to have a bad habit of rereading the same things over and over again … but I guess when you know you like something …?

In any case, I made a pseudo-bullet journal for last year and one of the things I put in it is New Books Read. I made a goal of a book a month. I did hit that, and, in fact, read 24 new books. Quite a few are novellas, but I’m counting them anyway. Here is that list.

Glory Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9-11 Era by Seth Kaplan and Jay Shabat
B had finished this, I started leafing through it … next thing I knew, I was 150 pages deep. Obviously I had to finish it. Helped give me a new good perspective on my husband’s industry.

MOLLY’S GAME: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World by Molly Bloom
I think I decided to read this once I saw the trailers for the film … and when I learned she was the sister of Jeremy Bloom, the skier/CU football player that pretty much every Coloradoan knows … well, I read it. Entertaining read. Still haven’t seen the movie and I’m okay with that.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Think a modern Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Definitely a different spin on the classic story.

Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music by Ann Powers
I discovered this book (one of the few non-fiction pieces I read) thanks to a friend from back in the journalism days, Soraya McDonald. She referenced it in one of her articles and it sounded intriguing enough to find. Very cool take on music’s history.

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick
The continuation of the story from the web serial “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” I was a little obsessed when that came out, trying to plan my lunch breaks at work for when the new webisodes came out, so obviously I had to read this. That series did amazing work with the Lydia Bennet character, and this fleshed it out even more.

Colonel Darcy by Timothy Underwood
Essentially found this on FF.net … learned it had been published … bought it. You’ll notice that quite a few pieces on this list are P&P fan fic. I regret nothing. This one wasn’t one of my favorites.

The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher
T. Kingfisher, a.k.a. Ursula Vernon, is someone I’ve been following for years. I own pretty much all of her adult work, so once this came out, I was of course going to read it. Especially because I remember some of the early works with the characters back ages ago in the LiveJournal days. This was the anticipated follow-up to The Clockwork Boys which came out the previous year. I specifically held on to this for our Italy trip which was painful, but it was well worth the wait.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud
More P&P fan fiction published, in the guise of both sets of characters being rock musicians on tour together. While it did have one of my favorite non-canon pairings (Charlotte Lucas/Colonel Fitzwilliam) and I’ve reread it quite a bit … I have a couple issues with it. Mostly in that Darcy’s band is based off Puddle of Mudd so Rigaud basically put herself in the place of Elizabeth Bennet (understandable) pretty much so she could, in fiction, fuck the Puddle of Mudd frontman – I mean, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Tiny bit creepy? I think the kids call it wank fic. Plus a rock band like that would probably not tour with a band that’s a mix of Sheryl Crow and Michelle Branch. Musically, that really wouldn’t work.

Dressed by Darcy by Beverly Farr
I’ve enjoyed a lot of other things Beverly Farr (a.k.a. Jane Grix a.k.a. Cass Grix) has written those other pseudonyms, so when I found this on FF.net and realized it had been published, I went and bought it. Think P&P in the “America’s Next Top Model” universe. Some things moved a bit too quickly; I don’t think the modern take works as well as her pseudonym’s work in the Regency era, but it was still a fun read.

Paperback Romance by Lizzie Indigo
Definitely needs editing, but Indigo knows this (doing things backward by using sales of the book to edit it). Fun read mixing P&P within the universe of paperback romances (think Harlequin and the like) … but the lack of editing does make it a bit rough to read at times.

Netherfield: Rogue Dragon by Maria Grace
Maria Grace is probably my favorite P&P FF author out there, and I had been eagerly awaiting this final installment of the Jane Austen’s Dragons trilogy. It dragged a bit at times, but it was still well worth the wait.

Bluegrass Undercover by Kathleen Brooks
So I discovered Brooks when I first got my Nook and was downloading random free books. While Bluegrass State of Mind maybe wasn’t the most well-written novel I’d ever read, it sucked me into the story enough to go find the rest of the trilogy and buy them. Bluegrass Undercover is the first book in the Bluegrass Brothers series, which continues the universe. Maybe not quite as good as the original trilogy, but still enjoyable.

Death of a Lobster Lover by Lee Hollis
Was sucked in by the cover at Barnes and Noble. I guess, like most mystery novelists, Hollis has a series and this was just one in the many adventures of Hayley Powell. Wasn’t bad, but didn’t love it enough to want to find more by the author.

Rising Storm by Kathleen Brooks
Next book in the Bluegrass Brothers series.

The 26th of November by Elizabeth Adams
Think P&P meets “Groundhog Day.” Highly enjoyable read. I like Adams a lot as an author, too.

At Darcy House by Jane Grix
One of my more favorite pieces by Grix, actually. (And to clear up from earlier: I think Beverly Farr is the author’s actual name; most stuff she writes under that name are regular romances not in the P&P universe. Jane Grix is her P&P pseudonym, writing typically novella length Regency-set stories. Cass Grix, whose name you’ll see later on this list, is Regency-set paranormal P&P stories.)

Acquiring Trouble by Kathleen Brooks
Keeping on in the Bluegrass Brothers series. I have two more to read … and that will probably come this year.

The Billionaire Wins the Game by Melody Anne
Apparently this was some random free Nook book I had downloaded ages ago but never read. Finally did. Probably will not read again and will definitely not read more within the same universe.

How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald
Trying to get some insight to help me for next year’s tri season. B couldn’t finish this one due to it being pretty dry (which it is). It wasn’t bad … but I’m honestly having trouble remembering much of it right now … which is bad, because I only read it two months ago.

Pride, Prejudice, and Curling Rocks by Andrea Brokaw
I went on a downloading spree pre-Ireland, and this is one of the books I found. Definitely more YA, and I’m pretty sure it was self-published, but it was a nice quick read.

Shadow of Anubis by Adele Dixon
I had remembered reading part of this on FF.net but never finishing it so I was excited to see this pop up in my searching. Think P&P where the characters go on an excavation trip to Egypt.

By Hathor’s Hand by Adele Dixon
Follow up to the previous book.

Dreaming of Darcy by Cass Grix
Fun, quick read.

Swordheart by T. Kingfisher
Set within the Clockwork Boys universe, but after the events of those novels. Looks like it’s the first book of a trilogy, so I’m super excited for that. This ended up being the only book I read in December, and I binge read it in a parking lot waiting for both my nails to dry and my husband to land in Las Vegas on the 31st.

Book Review: The Botany of Desire

I first read Michael Pollan this past year when I picked up The Omnivore’s Dilemna. It was a book both Brandon and I had been thinking of reading and then watching “Food, Inc.” just solidified our desire to read it.

The Omnivore’s Dilemna was awesome … and I may read it again just so I can review it here. However, this isn’t going to be about that. It’s going to be about another tome of Pollan’s, The Botany of Desire.

Brandon checked out The Botany of Desire from the library and I stole it from him because it sounded interesting. Take the synopsis from the back of the book:

Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires – sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control – with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?

As with The Omnivore’s Dilemna, I really enjoyed The Botany of Desire. I adore Pollan’s writing style, particularly his knack of turning a phrase.

My two favorites:
“Sweaty, vegetal, and sulfurous, the place might have been a locker room in the Amazon.”
“… equally disreputable tomato.”

The last one mostly because I love tomatoes and thinking of them as disreputable amuses me highly.

If you want to know about corn sex, go read The Omnivore’s Dilemna. However, if you want to learn any of the following, go pick up The Botany of Desire. Now. For it contains:

– the history of the apple
– the TRUE story of Johnny Appleseed (far cry from the Disney cartoon of yore)
– why tulips became so damned popular
– the answer if you ever actually truly wanted to know what a meme was or how it came about
– the effects psychoactive plants may have had on culture/history of religions/etc.
– how forgetfulness may actually be a *good* thing
– more on how now, after I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemna and seen “Food, Inc.”, any time I see or hear “Monsanto Corp.”, I want to stab something (like hearing how if he wanted to replant his super-special potato sample, he’d be breaking federal law
– why mashed potatoes are all a body needs to survive
– how potatoes were once vastly inferior to wheat
– and so much more

I’m typically a fiction girl (I blame reading too damn much boring non-fiction in college), but I’m really starting to like non-fiction books as they relate to food … particularly if there’s a bit of history involved (marginal history nerd). The Botany of Desire is one such book.