Hello, my lovelies.
Back to Sundays. I woke up early this morning, and I have a TON to do, so I decided to not procrastinate and just write this one right now. Also, I started this blog to fangirl over books, and boy do I have some books to fangirl over this week. But we will get to that.
Today, there will be some experimental cooking going on. Our friend Lowell is coming over for lunch and games, like he does a couple times a month. I always cook for us, and use these Sundays to sometimes try new things, and this Sunday is no different. I found this focaccia recipe on Tik-Tok and I had to try it—I mean, LOOK AT IT!
I’ll be making some spaghetti carbonara to go along with it, and I am given to understand that Lowell is making a pie. Plus the lovely roomie bought a new game. A game she thinks I won’t like, but still. A new game!
So, here’s a question. What fairly mundane things makes your heart happy? For me. I like having a freezer full of ice cream. Just…gives me peace.
Also, it’s Mother’s Day here in the US, which is a holiday fraught with anxiety for many. Complicated maternal relationships are…well, complicated. I am one of the lucky ones who has a mom that loves me fiercely, and supports every crazy scheme I have ever come up with, who loves my friends like she birthed them, and who has never met a stranger. I am not sure if unborn souls get to choose where they land, but I would choose her over and over again.
But to all the folks who have lost their mom, who are estranged, who are not moms themselves but maybe want to be, who might wish for today to just…go away, well… I’m also holding space for you today and sending you a great virtual hug.
Not kidding about that last part. I give great hugs. ❤️
I read ten books this week, bringing my Goodreads total to 116 of 175, 55 books ahead of pace. I had only read six through Thursday, but then I fell down a rabbit hole of A.M. Johnson and I have barely crawled out, y’all.
I’ll talk about the rest of these books in a minute, but I really want to do a little author spotlight on Amanda Johnson cause…she is stunning. Really stunning.
So I read the “For Him” quad beginning on Friday. I read the first three books throughout the day and into the evening. When I finished the third book, I did something that I have literally not done in 23 years.
I wrote a fan letter. It’s only the second one I have ever written (I wrote to Robert Downey, Jr. after his Ally McBeal flameout in 2000, telling him that I understood that he didn’t want to be told what to do, but that if he managed to kill himself, I would be, you know, personally devastated. I like to think that I’m the reason he got clean. 😂).
But I digress.
I wrote a letter to Ms. Johnson telling her that her work had overwhelmed me, because…damn. It had. These books…
So, we are set in a “connected universe” where the main characters of all the books are sometimes loosely and sometimes quite tightly connected. But it would not be outside the bounds of possibility for all of these eight men to be at the same dinner party, or birthday party, or wedding. They all know each other, some better, some less well…but they are all certainly friendly, if not best friends. I found this setup to be more believable than the books where it’s a series of brothers who all find love, or a hockey team who all find love. In these books, the relationships feel completely organic, completely destined, completely real. There was not a single false note *anywhere* in this series. Nothing felt forced. All of the emotions were genuine, and I felt…I guess mesmerized is not too strong a word, considering that I spent the day Saturday re-reading all four books. And I may have re-read parts of the first two books again today.
So, here are our players. In the first book we start with VERY estranged college sweethearts Wild and Jax, who are attempting to reconnect after nine years apart. Wild is an author who has been in an on-again/off-again relationship with his literary agent, Anders, for years, but they both know that they are each others’ consolation prize, and that the relationship will go nowhere. Jax, deeeeeply closeted in his small town, is attracted to Ethan, but also knows that he can’t move forward until he finally gets closure with Wild.
Book two picks up a couple years later, as Ethan returns from a broken relationship with humanitarian Chance, and takes a job at Anders’ literary agency. Ethan and Anders’ story broke me in all he best ways. They are both so hurt, so closed off, so damaged, and watching them heal each other was a damn privilege.
Book three returns us to the literary agency, where one of Anders’ agents, recently-divorced Donovan, takes a job teaching ONE creative writing class at a local college and promptly falls in love with one of his students. The object of his affection, Parker, is a non-traditional student, having served several years in the Air Force just prior to his matriculation. Donovan is bi but met his ex-wife so young that he has never really had a chance to explore a relationship with a man, so the power dynamic is interesting. Yes, Parker is his student, so there is a power imbalance there, but Parker really takes the lead on the relationship, so the power imbalance feels…well, a little less imbalanced. I loved watching them fall in love.
Finally, we return to Ethan’s ex, Chance, as he moves to Atlanta to take over the management of Pride House, a shelter for LGBTQIA+ youth. Parker has volunteered at Pride House for years, and in this book, drags his very outspoken, quirky, flamboyant bestie, Marcos, along to help with costuming for a play they are putting on. Marcos and Chance are oil and water, and their dance is so much fun.
When I wrote to Amanda, I told her that the thing about these books is that they are full of fucking joy, and I stand by that. As I was reading them, I literally clapped and laughed out loud so many times that I lost track. The families that support our heroes are flawed, and real. The humor is dead-on the way that I talk to *my* friends, and the support systems that we build as adults—our found families—felt so real. I love these people so much and I can’t believe that our time together is finished.
This morning, having read the books through twice and l returned to favorite parts a third…fourth…fifth time, I did something else that I *never* do…I bought the damn books. These are all KU, so I would have had access to them forever anyway, but I wanted to own them.
I’m not kidding when I say that I am actually even considering hard copies. If you know me at all, you will know what a THING that is for me.
So. Amanda Johnson, y’all. Read her. Seriously.
What else did I read? Serious Trouble was a pretty forgettable Nerd/Jock college romance. Changing the Rules was book one of a hockey series that I may return to—this one was a coach/player relationship, so it had that ‘forbidden love’ dynamic that I am a sucker for. Adore/Worship/Communion was supposed to be a duology about a deeply-closeted televangelist and the man he rescues quite literally from drowning in the sea. I liked the first two books just fine, but the third book was tacked on and I didn’t like it nearly as much. It felt like a cash grab from an author who had a really good two-book series and was trying to stretch very little remaining story into an unplanned third book. Should have been a bonus extended epilogue.
And Ambiguous was a story of a sexually-ambiguous, fashion-forward rock star who falls for the lawyer who is in charge of enforcing his contract with his label. I read this one blind, and was about a chapter in when I was like…wait. This is Harry Styles. Sure enough, I flipped to the afterword where it was confirmed that the book was inspired in total by watching Harry’s Falling video:
Now, my unhealthy obsession with Mr. Styles is well-documented, so I tore through this one. It’s not quite Harry fan fiction…the main character is his own person, sort of, but it is an imagining of a person that Harry Styles certainly could be, based on what he has said in interviews. So, it was a fun amuse-bouche for the Styles fans among us.
And if you aren’t a fan of Harry Styles, for goodness sake—WHY NOT?!?
So that’s all from fangirl central, where it smells like breakfast. Till next week, be safe, wear your masks and find something that brings you joy. There WILL be a quiz.
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