Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Stay with Me (Strickland Sisters 1) by Alexandria House 

Title:Stay with Me (Strickland Sisters 1)
Author:Alexandria House
PublisherPink Cashmere Publishing
Publication Date:May 16, 2017
Publisher's DescriptionTwice unlucky in love, natural hair vlogger, Angela Strickland, has settled into a life centered around avoiding men and relationships like the plague. Unwilling to risk another broken heart, she resigns herself to being a perpetually single woman.

Corporate man and self-professed womanizer, Ryan Boyé, doesn’t believe in relationships or love and thinks anyone who does is a fool. But there’s just something about Angela Strickland he can’t shake…

When these two cross paths, their attraction to one another is undeniable. Will they find that the love they’ve both evaded is exactly what they both need?
My rating:*****

I’ve now read several books by Ms. House and have enjoyed each one more than the book that came before it. I found her previous works to be greater than the sum of their parts, and this book was no exception. The combination of a female protagonist who has been hurt before and has since sworn off relationships and a male protagonist who goes through women like a sick person through tissues is familiar, but the depth that the author gave Angie and Ryan are what make this book stand out from a crowded field.
I was particularly impressed with the richness of the secondary characters. I know that some table-setting was in order, as both of Angie’s sisters will get books of their own further down the line, but Renee and Nicky were interesting on their own merits. Angie’s parents’ dynamic explained a lot about the choices that the sisters made in their lives, and I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for the older Stricklands, as well. Ms. House did an excellent job of revealing her characters’ backstories in a believable way; it never came off as being overly expository but still managed to provide a welcome glimpse into the events and people who shaped them.
This book satisfied my soul. As much as I enjoyed watching Ryan realize how much he liked Angie, I liked seeing Angie turn him down even more. She didn’t come off as being too cool for school, because she’d liked Ryan from Day 1, but she also didn’t abandon her common sense the first time a hot guy approached her. Angie felt like the antidote to every too stupid to live heroine who abandons all her principles and common sense at the sight of a hot guy. It was fun to watch a cautious thinker fall in love with the type of guy she was sure would hurt her worse than her previous boyfriends had. I appreciated Ryan’s evolution over the course of the book. It wasn’t rushed, and it felt like a believable progression. There’s no instalove here, thank goodness.
I loved LOVED LOVED LOVED (did I mention I LOVED) that Angie was a vlogger who’d started out doing hair videos. I will watch a twist out tutorial or wig review YouTube video at the drop of a hat, and that being Angie’s job felt like a shoutout. Moreover, I loved that Angie had 4C hair. As a black woman who wears her hair natural, or under a wig if I’m feeling lazy (so you know that my hair is almost always under a wig), I appreciated that Ms. House gave her character what seems to me to be the least celebrated hair texture.
If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read this book for free. Then, once you’ve read and loved it as much as I did, you should buy it because it’s only $2.99 and people need to support good writers so they can keep writing us enjoyable books.

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Manna Tree by Savannah J. Frierson

Title:Manna Tree
Author:Savannah J. Frierson
PublisherSJF Books LLC
Publication Date:November 15, 2016
Publisher's DescriptionA night of celebration ends in tragedy, shocking Cole Patterson to his core. Cole's brother breaks his promise not drink and drive and causes a fatal accident with three casualties. Guilt compels Cole to stay and greet the victims’ family, shouldering his brother’s guilt since his brother was no longer there to do it himself. Yet when he sees Margot Reed, something other than grief and guilt fills his soul.

If Margot never sees the inside of a hospital emergency room again, it will be too soon. She barely registers the haggard, yet expensively tailored man trying to give his condolences, her attention completely on the sole survivor of the wreck—her brother. The hospital machines are too loud in her ears, and she nearly collapses under the weight of her sorrow. But Cole is there to support her that night, and he doesn’t seem inclined to ever stop. Margot can’t bring herself to mind, either.

Can people brought together by mutual sadness find their way to happiness and joy, or will grief and guilt be too much for them to bear?
My rating:****.5

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Ms. Frierson is a new author to me, but I saw the blurb on Amazon and was happy to find out that this book is available through Scribd. I read it in one night and was only sad that I finished it. I really liked seeing how the romance Margot and Cole’s romance unfolded. Sometimes, when authors have characters get together in the wake of traumatic events, I find the stories hard to connect to. That wasn’t the case here; I appreciated that Ms. Frierson never went for easy answers or cheap melodrama, and clearly gave careful consideration to her characters’ situations. It was refreshing to me, how much depth the characters had, even those who one might be predisposed to love or hate upon first mention or appearance.

Margot, being both black and several years older than him, didn’t initially believe that Cole could be interested in her. I loved how much Cole appreciated Margot’s differences and life experiences and made a place for himself in her life and heart. Aaaah!!! I’m swooning just thinking about it. This was one of the most satisfying interracial books that I’ve read. I didn’t come out of it feeling like either character was fetishized, and appreciated that they could have frank conversations about their differences without harping on them to an unbelievable degree.

I now want to read everything that Ms. Frierson has ever written! This is just the book to get me out of a rut caused by reading too many terminally silly books in too short a timespan.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

Author:Tina Fey
Publication Date:April 2011
Publisher's DescriptionBefore Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)
My rating:****.5

I bought the audio version of this book, which was read by Tina Fey herself, and I am really glad that I did. While I’m sure that I would have enjoyed this book regardless, the audio version made the experience feel more like listening to a friend than just  reading something. I found her insights on being a woman and the person in charge very interesting, especially in light of the experiences she shared about having worked for others. I’ve never given too much thought about what it’s like to be a female working in comedy, and this book was eye-opening for that information alone.

While this book was laugh-out-loud funny, it was also a little heartbreaking at times. Ms. Fey has had to put up with some truly outrageous behavior throughout her career; it’s amazing to me that, at this point in history, any industry can be so blatantly sexist (because I’m not sure how much has changed since her Second City and early SNL days). It’s also interesting to hear hear agonize about the coexistence of her career and family in a way that I don’t think would even occur to many males in a position similar to hers. Tina Fey is a really smart, really strong, insanely funny person, and I’d recommend this book to pretty much anybody.

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Things I didn’t know

I’d never heard of March Madness-type book tournaments until I caught wind of DABWAHA (voting starts today – squee!). It was a total revelation to me. I don’t know why this revelation didn’t prompt me to see if there were others, though, because there totally are. Just think of all of the geeky brackets I could have been making all these years!!!

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Pretty awesome news for libraries

There’s a lot to be afraid of these days in the world of libraries, and cuts are happening all over. That’s why I was happy to some good library-related new for a change.

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