Forbidden

A few weeks ago I was catching up on podcasts while driving to my parents and Jeff and Rebecca from Book Riot talked for a long time about romance authors and the lack of diversity in romance. This piqued my interest, and decided to read one of Beverly Jenkins’ novels. I’m trying to read more diversely in terms of author and protagonist (but mostly #ownvoices), and also genre. I’m doing a lot better with #ownvoices than I am with genre, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to combine both.

I also decided to use a Jenkins novel for the prompt “a best seller in a genre you don’t normally read.” And let me tell you, it was difficult figuring out which books exactly are best sellers. Everything says, “Beverly Jenkins, USA Today bestselling author,” but I could never find out which books were bestsellers. So, I went with one of the most recent publications: Forbidden.

Forbidden follows Eddy and Rhine (who apparently was briefly introduced in another novel way back in the 80s) in a booming mining town in Nevada post-Civil War. Eddy is determined to make her way to San Francisco and start a restaurant but finds herself alone and close to death in the desert. Rhine is a scion of respectability and money in town, but he harbors a deep secret. Rhine was born a slave, the result of abuse between the slave owner and his mother, and is now passing for White. Rhine rescues Eddy and instantly feels drawn to her, but in order to be with her he must sacrifice all he has worked towards.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of Jenkins’ writing style, I like how seamlessly she weaves history in with the plot. The last few pages are full of notes and bibliography, so she clearly did her research. I’m also ashamed to realize just how little I know of postbellum history, aside from the highlights featured in textbooks.

Through Smart Bitches Trashy Books I found an interview with Jenkins from Jezebel and I thought this bit was most illuminating:

You’ve talked a little bit about what draws you to the nineteenth century—why does the postwar period to the end of the century interest you so much as a writer?

There was so much going on and it’s not a typical time that we know about, regardless of what race we are, and I think the more we know about each other the better off we’d all be. And it also has its parallels with the twentieth and the twenty-first century. Because right after the Civil War you had those great gains with Reconstruction—this huge amount of Black men in Congress and representatives through the states, you had the lieutenant governor in Louisiana, you had Black folks in positions of power and businesses and colleges going up. And then when Reconstruction died in 1876, everything started to unravel. You had the rise of the Klan and you had the Redemption period. And lynchings and blood and death and destruction. And folks said we’ve got to leave the South. They moved into places like Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, California. Which is where I set my very first book, Night Song, in one of those Black townships in Kansas.

In the ‘70s you had African Americans retaking their places in Congress and in the Senate and in local elections. So there’s a parallel in us rising and then the ‘90s and stuff started to sort of peter out again. It’s an up and down cycle. Great things happening in both centuries, both bittersweet.

Overall, I really enjoyed the experience reading Forbidden and am definitely going to check out another of Jenkins’ books.

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Rich People Problems

I discovered the Crazy Rich Asians series well after the second book came out, and devoured them in days once I got them from the library. That’s the advantage to coming to something (be it a TV series or book series once all parts are available). I did not think Kevin Kwan would write a third book, but once I knew a third was in the works, I immediately began impatiently waiting. Lucky for me, I was approved to read an Advanced Reading Copy through NetGalley!

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Once I started reading Rich People Problems I realized I’d forgotten a lot of what happened in the first two books. This is what happens when I read too quickly. However, Random House has the family tree available on their website and Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the first two books with character descriptions.

Despite needing some refreshers on character connections, reading Rich People Problems felt very familiar, but in a good way. I love Kwan’s writing style and the humor he exudes. Generally, I’m a sucker for footnotes, and I love Kwan’s. Although reading footnotes on an e-readers is obnoxious. Also, when most authors try and describe fashionable people, or what their characters are wearing, it sounds like a What Not to Wear episode. Kwan, on the other hand, makes me believe Astrid is as fashion forward as she is portrayed. I also really enjoyed re-connecting with Astrid. She is by far my favorite character in the series. Learning more about Su Yi and the history of Singapore was a nice surprise. I wish I knew more about the area’s history and culture. Lastly, Eddie and Kitty were just as annoying as always. Which was perfect.

Popsugar Reading Challenge: A Book Involving Travel

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A Book that is set more than 5000 from your location

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A friend of mine from grad school posted on Instagram that she was approved for a NetGalley copy of Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan and I decided I had to try as well. I am so pumped about the third installment of Crazy Rich Asians! Anyway, once I got into NetGalley (it had been a while) I poked around and found a few more books that might fit into my goals of 1) reading more juvenile books this year and 2) could fit the PopSugar Reading Challenge checklist. One of which is Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George.

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The story centers around orphaned mouse Mona who finds herself carried away in a storm and finds refuge in a fantastical hotel called Heartwood Hotel. Readers meet sweet woodland creatures (like Mrs. Prickles the cook, Tilly the squirrel maid and owner Mr. Heartwood the badger), go on brave adventures with Mona, and learn about Mona’s family and past.


One Goodreads reviewer compared Heartwood Hotel to The Wind in the Willows, and while I see his point, I disagree. Mostly because the writing and characterizations are lacking. While Heartwood Hotel is no The Wind in the Willows it is a sweet and enjoyable read. I foresee those who like Critter Club and Puppy Place and The Saddle Club snapping these up. The fact that the book is an ARC and already a “book one” tells me publishers are also seeing the connections.

The E-(book/audio) Dilemma

E-book and E-audio books are fantastic! They are how I listen to the vast majority of my audio books and how I read most of the books on my honeymoon. However, they have some issues.

Where I live and work the majority of library systems work reciprocally. For example, you might live in the bounds of system A, but border system B, and work within system C. As long as you have a library card from system A, you can register your system A card with systems B and C and use their resources. EXEPT for e-resources (book, audio and zinio). This can be annoying because system C might have a bigger e-resource budget and can purchase more items, which you are unable to access. It all has to do with taxes and system budgets etc, which rationally makes sense, but we don’t usually think rationally at all times.

That’s issue number one.

Issue number two also makes rational sense, but in the world of Netflix and Spotify, patrons want immediate gratification. For my point to make sense, let me rewind… My husband finished A Game of Thrones on our last day of the honeymoon. Perfect timing, until our final connection got cancelled and our rescheduled flights the next day got delayed (seriously never fly with me). Anyway, I found A Clash of Kings in Overdrive and showed him how to download the book to his phone and I told him how in 3 weeks it would disappear, so he needed to read it fast. The first thing he said is “I can just download it again though, right?” Well, kind of… as long as nobody else has it on hold you can… This concept made no sense to him for a while, given my pop culture examples above. How many people do you think are watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix at any given time? Who knows, but it is a lot! Surly, if Netflix can make the resource available to everyone at any given time, the books should be available too. Since I haven’t done a whole lot of research on that particular subject, I decided to do some and find out why the systems work so differently (although, the main one is each subscriber pays for Netflix as opposed to taking advantage of a free system like the library).

Basically, it comes down to book publishers being a much more conservative breed than music and TV/movie producers, and the fact that publishers want you to buy their books. Therefore, they’re going to make it difficult to access in non-traditional ways and, according to K. T. Bradford, “publishers have decided to force libraries to treat e-books like paper books, so only one person can check them out at a time. The library can only check out as many copies of an e-book as they’ve purchased or licensed from publishers. Seems like an antiquated way of going about things, right? It gets worse. Publishers also decided that since e-books don’t wear out the way paper books do, they need to put limits on how many times a title can be lent before the library has to buy a new copy.” Finally, Jason Illian writes in Entrepreneur, “unlike music subscription services, like Spotify, where a user can consume hundreds of songs a day, the average ereader is lucky to get through one book a week or even a month…Conclusion? It’s hard to throw a game-changing party when people show up only sporadically and don’t want to pay a cover charge.”

Admittedly, the articles I referenced are not the most up to date, but I felt they explained the issues most clearly, and as far as I can tell, there aren’t any major changes, aside from Oyster going out of business.