“How to Fail at Flirting” by Denise Williams

In recent years whenever the winter holidays begin to roll around, I find myself turning to romance, watching those cheesy Christmas romances on the Hallmark channel and reading a bunch of romance novels (which for me usually means just two). That was the case in 2022. And because I’d been battling reading slumps throughout the year, I was more than happy to be reading, interested in, and completing the two romance books I picked up, How to Fail at Flirting being one of them.


GENRE

Contemporary Romance

SERIES

n/a

PUBBED

2020

Goodreads summary

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check… almost.

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“Ring Shout” by P. Djèlí Clark

This novella received a lot of praise when it was published, and I can see why. However, I procrastinated on reading it myself until it popped up as a pick for my book club. I expected to love it — and normally I would — but unfortunately, the reading experience didn’t go as I’d hoped.


GENRE

Horror, Fantasy

SERIES

n/a

PUBBED

2020

Quick summary

Set in early-1920s Macon, Georgia, during the Prohibition era, Ring Shout is about a young woman named Maryse Boudreaux hunting demonic members of the Ku Klux Klan with her two friends.

The demons are attracted to the hatred that fills members of the Ku Klux Klan, and they were able to cross over to this world during a ritual that took place in November 1915, when The Birth of the Nation (a real and controversial film) was shown. Only a few people have the ability to see the demons, which disguise themselves as White men and are all members of the Ku Klux Klan.

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“Best Served Cold” by Joe Abercrombie

Emily of Embuhleeliest and I are working our way through Abercrombie’s First Law books; we completed buddy-reading this one in December. I liked the books in the First Law trilogy, but this one, a standalone novel set in the same world with some familiar characters, wasn’t as appealing.


GENRE

Grimdark Fantasy

SERIES

First Law

PUBBED

2009

Quick summary

As the title suggests, Best Served Cold is a story of revenge. The famous and talented female mercenary Monza Murcatto and her brother Benna were betrayed and murdered by their employer and close, somewhat trusted, associates. However, death didn’t take to Monza despite her being thrown down a cliff (or mountain, someplace high). Angry and bent on revenge, Monza gathers up a group of misfits — the Northman Shivers, self-important poisoner Morveer and his assistant, a former member of the Inquisition named Vitari, the once-famous mercenary and now drunkard Cosca, a killer with a love of numbers called Friendly — to hunt and kill the eight men (I think it’s eight… or was it seven?) responsible for her murder, which includes Duke Orso, father of the new queen of the Union.

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“Kissing Galileo” by Penny Reid

Once again the romance mood hit as the Christmas holiday rolled in, and I found myself watching and reading more romance stories than I usually do (like two books, lol!). One of the books I picked up was the second novel in Penny Reid’s Dear Professor duology, as Reid is shaping up to be one of my favorite romance authors.


GENRE

Contemporary Romance

SERIES

Dear Professor, book 2

PUBBED

2018

Quick summary

The second novel in the Dear Professor series focuses on Emily Von, a smart college student who works as a lingerie model. One day her research methods professor visits the shop where she works and sees Emily while she’s modelling a lingerie set; however, Victor Hanover did not realize that the model was his student.

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Books I DNF But Didn’t Chat About

I do a roundup of books I did not finish (DNF) every now and then because I often otherwise don’t chat about them. I don’t often give up on books (although I wish I did) and unlike most people, I sometimes rate books I DNF if I’ve formed a strong opinion about them or have developed strong feelings about what I read.

I usually do a full review for those I end up rating to explain the reason for the low rating, but for others, like those below, they fall into this roundup of reads.

Previous DNF roundups:


John Constantine, Hellblazer, Vol. 1: Original Sins by Jamie Delano & Rick Veitch, illus. by John Ridgway, Alfredo Alcala, Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake, Brett Ewins, & Jim McCarthy

GENRE

Horror

SERIES

John Constantine, Hellblazer

PUBBED

1988

QUICK SUMMARY

I managed to read all of Hellblazer #1 and #2 and part of #3 before giving up. The first and second issues focus on John Constantine helping out a friend with a hunger spirit. The friend had travelled to an African country and accidentally picked up the spirit there when trying to help a tongueless child. Realizing he’s way out of his league with this spirit, he tries shipping it to Constantine after first trapping it in a bottle. But the spirit gets loose and starts infecting people in NYC who begin gorging on food despite seeming more and more malnourished. Using his friend, who’s addicted to heroin, as bait for the spirit, Constantine works with Papa Midnite, voodoo priest and crime kingpin, to trap the spirit.

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“Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie

I picked up this one because of the movie, starring Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, and Kenneth Branagh, who plays Hercule Poirot. I get the impression that they’ll make a series of Poirot movies, which I’m glad for as I’ve enjoyed the two out so far. Just liked with Murder on the Orient Express, I was motivated to read the book after seeing Death on Nile. I wanted to experience the story in its original format and am glad to have enjoyed it that way too.


GENRE

Mystery

SERIES

Hercule Poirot Mysteries

PUBBED

1937

Quick summary

As the title suggests, this story takes place in Egypt. Hercule Poirot is on vacation, on a cruise on the river Nile. When he boards the boat, he’s approached by Linnet Ridgeway, a wealthy young woman who’d recently married, about a job to help her and her husband.

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“The King of Crows” by Libba Bray

Here we are at the last book in the Diviners quartet, a YA series I’ve been enjoying since 2019, managing to read a book a year with Rachel at Life of a Female Bibliophile.

So far, I’ve enjoyed each book in the series more than the one that precedes it. But after completing the third book, Before the Devil Breaks You, I became worried that the last book wouldn’t measure up to the previous books and successfully wrap up all the plot threads. Well, now that I’ve completed the last book, it certainly wasn’t the reading experience I hoped for or expected.


GENRE

YA Historical Fiction; Paranormal

Series

Diviners, book 4

Pubbed

2020

Quick summary

The King of Crows picks up immediately after Before the Devil Breaks You. Will and Mabel are dead. Jake Marlowe is gaining more influence and painting the Diviners as threats to society by posing the deceased Sarah Snow as some sort of saint. The Diviner Crew are at a loss and are running out of options on how to figure out their powers and defeat the King of Crows.

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“The Shadow Saint” by Gareth Hanrahan

I picked up The Shadow Saint based on Aquavenatus’s recommendation. She’d commented on one of my posts saying this second book in the Black Iron Legacy trilogy is worth checking out and is more of a world-building book, which got me curious. You see, I was conflicted about continuing with the series. I liked the first book, but there were some faults that didn’t make me too eager to continue with the story. But the story stuck with me, because I love fantasy stories about gods and religion, and Aquavenatus’s recommendation was just the nudge I needed to give it another chance. I’m glad I did.

Thanks, Aqua!


GENRE

Fantasy

Series

Black Iron Legacy, book 1

Pubbed

2020

Quick summary

spoilers for the first book

“The Ishmeric pantheon is always in flux, always changing as the gods of one island rise in prominence, or one god metamorphoses through sheer madness into some new aspect.”

The Black Iron Legacy trilogy is set in a world that is drowning in a war fought by gods through their saints — the humans they choose to serve as their avatars. It’s said that the gods have all gone mad, which has brought on the Godswar. All the countries are involved in the war, except Guerdon, which is playing both sides — because it’s profitable.

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“Beard Science” by Penny Reid

Finally, a book I completed fairly recently. This time back in August.

I consider myself a fan of Penny Reid’s books, the Winston Brothers series to be exact. I’ve since read two novels from the series, this one being the third. The Winston Brothers series are contemporary romance novels about the love lives of the Winston family in Tennessee. The family consists of many brothers (I forgot how many) and one sister. Their mother passed by the time the story starts, and their father is in prison, I believe. He was mixed up in the local biker gang, the Iron Wraiths, which so far has made an appearance in the three books I’ve read, affecting the family members in some negative way.


GENRE

Contemporary; Romance

SERIES

Winston Brothers, book 3

PUBBED

2016

MY THOUGHTS

This third book focuses on Cletus, the third eldest Winston brother (and no, the series does not follow the siblings in order from eldest to youngest) and my favorite Winston so far. Basically, Cletus was going about life as usual — plotting the downfall of someone who did him wrong or plotting the potential downfall of someone who would probably do him wrong — when he got caught doing something illegal by the Banana Cake Queen, Jennifer.

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“Last Argument of Kings” by Joe Abercrombie

Here I am, just now reviewing this book while I’m nearing the end of the standalone novel that follows it — Best Served Cold.


GENRE

Fantasy

SERIES

First Law, book 3

PUBBED

2008

MY THOUGHTS

Last Argument of Kings is grimdark fantasy and the last in the First Law trilogy. It picks up after the events in the second book, Before They Are Hanged, but I’ve since forgotten exactly what that means since the books have all melded together in my mind now. One thing that stands out about the starting point in this, though, is that Bayaz and crew (Ferro, Logen, Jezal, Quai, and Longfoot) are just returning to Adua after their journey abroad in search of “The Seed.” (Goodreads)

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