Romance Reads: Wedding Date series by Jasmine Guillory

“I’ve never seen you look at anyone or anything like you look at her. And you’re just going to throw all of that away for some bullshit reason? Because you’re too scared for something real?”
― Jasmine Guillory, The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date is the first book in the Wedding Date series by Jasmine Guillory. I enjoyed this title as it’s a contemporary multicultural romance with one of my favorite romance tropes: fake dating!

Alexa Monroe works in Berkeley as the mayor’s chief of staff. She has a busy professional life, but with her sister living across the country in New York, her personal life isn’t as fulfilled as she wishes it was. When Olivia comes to California for a visit, Alexa is excited and a bit hesitant to see her. Their relationship isn’t the best, but she’s determined to try fixing it. Deciding to visit Olivia at the hotel where she is staying, Alexa is so caught up in her emotions that she misses the attractive guy who is in the hotel elevator with her. Fate intervenes, the elevator gets stuck, and Alexa soon finds herself as a last-minute date to a wedding with elevator guy.

Drew Nichols is a pediatric surgeon in Los Angeles. Spending the weekend in Berkeley for his ex’s wedding festivities is not how he wanted to spend his time, especially since his date wasn’t able to come. Getting stuck in the elevator with the stunningly attractive Alexa Monroe is the perfect distraction that Drew needed. In fact, he is so drawn to her, he asks her to be his last-minute wedding date and his fake girlfriend to the wedding.

Alexa and Drew have more fun than they originally thought they would have had at the wedding. After the weekend is over, the two head back to their high-stress jobs, but soon find that they can’t stop thinking about each other and the good times that they had. Alexa and Drew begin talking and decide to spend more time together with the assumption that their relationship, or whatever they want to call it, is only short-term. This long-distance dating situationship starts to get messier and messier, soon leaving the two to have to think about what they actually want and need from each other.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Wedding Date series

  1. The Wedding Date (2018)
  2. The Proposal (2018)
  3. The Wedding Party (2019)
  4. Royal Holiday (2019)
  5. Party of Two (2020)
  6. While We Were Dating (2021)

I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson

If you like classic rom-coms and stories where hard lessons come with plenty of laughs and inevitable happily-ever-afters, you’ll want to try I’m So (Not) Over You by Kosoko Jackson. Characters leap off the page, warm, diverse, and real, and none of their thorny emotions are swept under the rug; readers will root for Kian as he learns to grow up and love himself.

Kian will be the first to admit his life isn’t going great. His dream of being a journalist seems to be just out of reach, while his younger brother seems to have effortless success. He’s not even doing well at getting over his ex, partly because his ex just texted to ask for a favor…Turns out Hudson never told his parents they’d broken up, and needs Kian to pretend they’re back together for an evening. In exchange, Hudson will put in a good word with a journalism bigwig he knows. Unfortunately, the dinner doesn’t go as planned and Kian finds himself going to a wedding with Hudson’s family in Georgia. Will this be a second chance at love – or a repeat of the worst heartbreak Kian ever had?

I loved reading from Kian’s perspective, because he’s so extra, larger-than-life and full of wit and pop culture references. Watching him embody the modern proverb “If I’m too much, go find less” was empowering and delightful to read, since his attitude and general chaos occasionally caused major disruptions around him. Reading from his first-person POV also meant seeing his vulnerability, insecurity, and deep love for his friends and family. In places the introspection and wildly pop-culture-packed internal monologue is almost too much, distracting from the plot so it feels rushed or uneven (not to mention giving rise to concern that the novel will age rapidly out of relevance) but the narrator’s self-awareness, emotional maturity, and excellent friends balance out the faults to make a very enjoyable reading experience.

If you’re looking for a wild romantic ride, or love 90s rom-coms and Crazy Rich Asians, this is the book for you.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello again Fellow Readers!

Today we launch a new month of the Online Reading Challenge with books that focus on racial injustice, advocacy and civil rights. These aren’t necessarily “fun” reads, but they’re powerful, moving and important reads.

Our main title is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time. Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Also available as an e-book and an e-audiobook.

Also in this month’s Book Flight:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

Also available in Large Print, as an e-book and an e-audiobook.

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson. In 1955, white men in the Mississippi Delta lynched a fourteen-year-old from Chicago named Emmett Till. His murder was part of a wave of white terrorism in the wake of the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared public school segregation unconstitutional. The national coalition organized to protest the Till lynching became the foundation of the modern civil rights movement. Only weeks later, Rosa Parks thought about young Emmett as she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, the Emmett Till generation, forever marked by the vicious killing of a boy their own age, launched sit-in campaigns that turned the struggle into a mass movement. But what actually happened to Emmett Till — not the icon of injustice but the flesh-and-blood boy? Part detective story, part political history, cultural scholar Timothy Tyson draws on a wealth of new evidence, including the only interview ever given by Carolyn Bryant, the white woman in whose name Till was killed.

Also available in Large Print.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father – a crusading local lawyer – risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

Be sure to stop by one of the Davenport library locations for displays with these and many more titles!

Black Genius, in its Own Words

Today I’m highlighting several things I’ve recently ordered for the library that I think will add beauty and insight to our collection – focused on the experience of African-Americans, including full measures of joy, grief, hope, shame, love, and vulnerability. Have your own reading or listening suggestions? Tell us in the comments!

 Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers features baritone vocals and piano accompaniment over eight tracks by black composers, many with lyrics by eminent poet Langston Hughes.

 

 

You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience is an anthology curated by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown, meant to act as a counterpart to Brown’s famous works on vulnerability.

 

 

 

Life, I Swear: Intimate Stories from Black Women on Identity, Healing, and Self-Trust by Chloe Dulce Louvouezo is an illustrated collection of essays inspired by a podcast and telling the stories of prominent Black women’s journeys to self-love and healing.

 

 

 

For more recently-published celebrations of the Black experience, try:

Love in Color by Bolu Babalola, a striking retelling of myths, especially from West Africa, but drawing from folklore traditions around the world.

Black Magic by Chad Sanders, on the resilience and confidence the author gained from navigating America as a Black man, and how it contributed to his career success.

We Are Each Others’ Harvest by Natalie Baszile, detailing and celebrating the past and present of African-American farming, including how American culture has been shaped by these connections to the land.

The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a combination love letter to science and vision for a more inclusive scientific community, criticizing harmful systems which are in place.

Read Until You Understand by Farrah Jasmine Griffin, which dives into historical records of Black genius, from Malcolm X to Stevie Wonder to Toni Morrison, to show the wisdom of Black culture.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is the master of soul searching young adult fiction. Her first young adult novel, Allegedly, was published in 2017. This novel is based on a story that was in the headlines years ago that caught the author’s attention.

Allegedly tells the story of Mary B. Addison. She killed a baby. Allegedly. After the police were called and she was brought in for an interview, Mary didn’t say much. In fact, she didn’t talk. Mary’s situation was very much a trial by media. Since little was being said about the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death, the media drew their own conclusions. A white baby had died while under the care of a black woman and her daughter. The woman went to church while her daughter was only nine-years old. Mary went to trial. The public and the media had all but convicted Mary of the crime and the jury sentenced her.

Mary was sent to baby jail for six years before being placed in a group home. She never came out and said what actually happened, so her fellow prisoners and jailers all treated her as if she was guilty. The group home is bad. Mary lives in a state of constant fear and the other girls who live there constantly torment her. The women in charge of the home degrade the girls and treat them badly.

The only bright spot in her life is Ted. Since Mary is in a group home, she is able to leave for certain things: one of them being her assignment to work at a nursing home. It is at that nursing home that she meets Ted. He sees her for who she really is: a young woman in desperate need for kindness. Ted also doesn’t know Mary’s dark past and she isn’t quite sure when, or even if, she should tell him until she discovers that she is pregnant. With the state threatening to take away her baby, Mary needs to get the truth out about what happened the night the baby died. She won’t lose her baby over something that she didn’t do. In order to prove her innocence, Mary has to fight. She also has to get her Momma to tell the truth.

You see, no one but Mary knows the real Momma. Momma puts up a huge front and since the baby died, she has been born again. She has written out the nasty story of what Mary did and is working to start anew. Mary must get her to acknowledge the truth of what happened that night if she has any hope of keeping her baby and staying with Ted.

This book is also available in the following formats:

December Celebrity Book Club Picks

Jenna Bush Hager has selected The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison for her December #ReadwithJenna book club pick.

Curious what The Bluest Eye is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Pecola Breedlove, a young eleven-year-old black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dreams grow more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife. A powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity.

Want to make sure that Jenna’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

___________________________________________

 

Reese Witherspoon has selected The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia as the December pick for her book club.

Curious what The Chicken Sisters is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Three generations. Two chicken shacks. One recipe for disaster.

In tiny Merinac, Kansas, Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s have spent a century vying to serve up the best fried chicken in the state–and the legendary feud between their respective owners, the Moores and the Pogociellos, has lasted just as long. No one feels the impact more than thirty-five-year-old widow Amanda Moore, who grew up working for her mom at Mimi’s before scandalously marrying Frank Pogociello and changing sides to work at Frannie’s. Tired of being caught in the middle, Amanda sends an SOS to Food Wars, the reality TV restaurant competition that promises $100,000 to the winner. But in doing so, she launches both families out of the frying pan and directly into the fire. . .

The last thing Brooklyn-based organizational guru Mae Moore, Amanda’s sister, wants is to go home to Kansas. But when her career implodes, Food Wars becomes her chance to step back into the limelight. Mae is certain she can make the fading Mimi’s look good–even if that pits her against Amanda and Frannie’s. With a greedy producer stoking the flames, their friendly rivalry quickly turns into a game of chicken. Yet when family secrets become public knowledge, the sisters must choose: Will they fight with each other, or for their heritage?

Reese’s picks are automatically put on hold for you? Be sure to join our Best Sellers Club.

October Biography Pick – We’re Better Than This

The October biography pick for the Best Sellers Club is We’re Better Than This by Elijah Cummings with Jim Dale.

For more information about what We’re Better Than This is about, check out the following description provided by the publisher.

A memoir by the late Congressman details how his experiences as a sharecroppers’ son in volatile South Baltimore shaped his life in activism, explaining how government oversight can become a positive part of a just American collective.

Join our Best Sellers Club  and automatically have selected titles put on hold for you. Want the hottest new release from your favorite author? Want to stay current with a celebrity book club? Love nonfiction? We’ve got that too! Choose any author, celebrity pick, and/or nonfiction pick and have us put the latest title on hold for you automatically. Select as many as you want!

Virtual Book Club – ‘The Mothers’ on September 2nd

On Wednesday, September 2nd at 2pm, Virtual Book Club will be discussing The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Join in and talk about a popular book with one of our librarians. We are using GoTo Meeting which will allow patrons to video chat with the librarian about the book! Information about how to join is listed below.

Want to learn more about The Mothers? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance–and the subsequent cover-up–will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Sep 2, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/274890269

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3122

Access Code: 274-890-269

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/274890269

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Have you ever read or listened to a book that leaves you questioning what you would do if you were thrust into a similar situation? A previous Oprah’s Book Club pick, An American Marriage, left me feeling bereft as the situation presented is entirely plausible. This book’s discussion of how while you may control some aspects of your life, outside forces have the power to sweep in and destroy your best laid plans shook me as I watched the characters’ lives play out.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones follows the lives of Celestial and Roy from newlyweds and beyond. Roy is a young executive, while Celestial is a burgeoning artist just starting out on a new career path. Roy works hard so that Celestial can grow her art. Just married, the two are working on starting their new life together, getting to know each other’s families more, and settling into what they hope will be a long, happy life together.

Stuck in a hotel one night, circumstances converge to tear Celestial and Roy’s happy life to shreds. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Celestial knows it’s not possible that Roy committed the crime for which he was arrested. All through his trial, Celestial and Roy do not believe that there is any way Roy will be found guilty, but lo and behold, he is sentenced to twelve years. Their lives as they once knew them are over.

Celestial was independent before Roy came along with a fierce independent streak that ran rampant throughout their marriage. After Roy goes to jail, Celestial finds it hard to cope and is left at a loss. As a result, she turns to her best friend Andre. Andre was the best man at her and Roy’s wedding and grew up alongside Celestial. Their fierce and close bond sometimes annoys Roy as he feels they are too close to each other. The longer Roy is in prison, the worse he and Celestial’s relationship grows. Communicating through letters and seldom visits, Celestial realizes that the love that once held her and Roy together has begun to dissolve. Celestial turns to Andre more and more as the love disappears and her relationship with Roy shifts.

Celestial and Roy’s new normal is again changed five years into Roy’s sentence. After five years, Roy’s conviction is overturned! He is overjoyed to be released and see Celestial again. He heads to Atlanta ready to slip back into his previous life with Celestial. Little does he know that everything he had before prison has changed and everything he thinks he has has slipped away. This novel is a fascinating look at how each characters’ actions are intertwined, yet outside forces have a way of changing best laid plans. As I read this book, I kept thinking, ‘well just because you want it, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it’. Life will happen however it wants.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I listened to this book on my last road trip and after I returned to work, I discovered that it was one of PBS’s Great American Reads! (Check out the Library for a display of these books or look online for a printable list of all 100 books. You can also vote for your favorite at any Davenport Library location.) I was already trying to read my way through as many of those books as I could,  so I was happy that I had stumbled upon Americanah  and that I could check this book off my list!

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the story of race, identity, and struggling to find yourself both away from home and at home. Ifemelu and Obinze fell in love when they were very young, living in military-ruled Nigeria. Both Ifemelu and Obinze were attending a Nigerian university when a series of university strikes began. Without a solid education and no other real plans in motion, Ifemelu and Obinze decided to leave the country.

Ifemelu decides to leave Nigeria and head to America. She and Obinze work out a plan. Once he finishes school, he will leave Nigeria and come to her. In America, Ifemelu has academic success, but struggles to fit into black America. This novel wonderfully describes the African experience and how it differs between the USA, England, and Nigeria. Ifemelu may have found her way at an American university with academic success, but she struggles with understanding the differences between what is accepted in America vs what was/is accepted in Nigeria. To help her cope, Ifemelu decides to start a blog that talks about race issues in America. Obinze’s life is complicated in a different way. Not being able to head to America, he instead moves to England and ends up becoming an illegal immigrant. His journey is complicated like Ifemelu’s and he struggles to find himself amongst a country that wants to send him back home.

Flash forward years and Ifemelu and Obinze find themselves in the same country again, trying to deal with past resentments, hurt feelings, and denials. Their current lives are under scrutiny as they each try to juggle their foreign selves with accepted culture and identity standards in place in Nigeria. Reuniting in newly democratic Nigeria after years abroad, both Ifemelu and Obinze have issues to work through as they deal with their new selves, the new Nigeria, and the unique relationship/reunited passion between each other and their native homeland. Some issues are spoken, while others lie under the surface only called out when they directly influence others in the open. These cultural subtleties make up a vast swath of this book and the author is adept at bringing them to light. This is fiction with a message, yet the message is conveyed in an appealing and socially conscious way.

This book takes a deep look at race and immigration, specifically the intricacies of race and how that experience is different between the USA and Nigeria. In frequent conversations throughout this novel, readers are given a glimpse into what it means to be black in Africa and what it means to be black in the USA. The author takes readers on a tour of various countries as seen through the eyes of Ifemelu and Obinze. Their life stories play out over many years and many countries as they both struggle to find themselves amongst countries who value the same culture in different ways.

I recommend listening to this book. While it may take you a little bit to understand the accents like it took me, I ultimately felt like it was worthwhile. The accents allowed me to fully engage with the book and realize that I was gaining a glimpse into a culture entirely different from mine. When I finished listening to this book, I realized that if I had read a print copy, I would have lost the accents completely, would have probably given the characters an incorrect accent, or would have imagined the characters with only slight accents. There really is something positive to be said about listening to books with narrators who really know how to correctly portray the characters.


This book is also available as: