I am WAY behind. I have a stand-alone review planned for my favorite book of the year and another group review for a series on the way but I needed to knock these out and get my count down a bit. How the gracious did I get so backlogged. Let’s take these one-by-one because they really don’t have a whole lot in common.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Reading Red, White & Royal Blue earlier this year turned me around a bit on romance novels as a whole, so I gave Chloe Brown a chance it might not have gotten previously, and was pleasantly surprised. Going in with low expectations is probably good for me with books I don’t anticipate being my type. Chloe Brown, living with chronic pain, has built a life for herself that is fairly self-contained. Her family does their best to understand and support her but still want her to get out there and live life a little bit, so she seeks to do that in the most her way possible – by building a To Do list. This brings her directly into contact with her apartment handyman, Red, nursing his own hurts. It’s a sweet take on “enemies to lovers” and how attentive to and in tune with her Red is is GOALS. How well Chloe knows herself is wonderful and fully realized, even if it sometimes has her building walls that work against her own interests. And the awkward (for me) fade-to-blacks are thankfully minimal.
Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell
Watching The Crown, the character I was most fascinated by was Winston Churchill’s wife and I was reminded that she had piqued my interest in The Darkest Hour as well. Turns out, Clementine is really the only biography dedicated to her, but it is a very thorough one. The book really tries to do her justice as an individual and as her own half of a very significant partnership. She was his biggest and cleverest champion when support for him was at it lowest and deserves much more credit than history gives her.
Winston Churchill, the embodiment of British courage and resolve, receptacle of the nation’s fire and brimstone, took his strength [General Hastings] Ismay witnessed, “from Clemmie.” Ultimately he did recognize that his greatest achievements would have eluded him but for his wife’s unflinching belief and guidance… She shored up his inadequacies, moderated his extremes and stopped him from making countless mistakes.”
She is of course also not without her faults and Purnell tries to cushion the blow, but the Churchills were largely, well, pretty bad parents and it strikes me that they may have not wanted to be parents, but between society’s expectations and the lack of birth control, there were really no other options. Overall a very thorough and very good book.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
This one kind of damaged my newfound interest in romance novels, it felt like a bad stew of cliches. Wedding planner ditched at the altar three years later forced by circumstance to work with her almost-brother-in-law and the whole thing is backed by a Big Lie that means they have to do a lot of pretending. It is set where I live which gave it a few extra points but also somehow there was never traffic so strike one for anything resembling realism. I finished this one because it was short.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
I was very hesitant to read this one. The book summary references it being “brutally honest” about trauma and violence and like isn’t the world rough enough right now? The good news is that the Vuong is a very gifted writer and the story has momentum to carry the reader through the rough spots. Written as a letter to his mother, this is the story of a narrator only called Little Dog as he lives with his mother and grandmother outside New York City. They immigrated as a family from Vietnam, his mother the wartime daughter of a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier (married and consensual – sex work is briefly discussed but sexual violence is not) Little Dog tells his story of his first love, one that takes a hard, unexpected turn towards the end. It’s a story of immigration and assimilation and homosexuality and no it isn’t an easy read, but it’s worth it.
The Deep by Rivers Solomon
This book has an absolutely fascinating premise that unfortunately falters in an execution that seems to favor style over substance. Yetu is the historian of her people, the descendants of pregnant African women thrown overboard from slave ships bringing their stolen people across the Atlantic. The children are born breathing underwater but their trauma is too much to bear and in the societies they form, one is selected to remember the history for all of them. There are a lot of really, really cool ideas here about generational trauma and different responses to it and sharing pain versus keeping it to oneself, a lot of worthy topics, but in the end I felt like more time was spent playing with language instead of themes.