Moar reading diary

Hm, looks like yesterday was our five-year blogaversary.  Whoops!

What have we been reading lately?  A selection:

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev — picked up on the recommendation of a commenter.  The female lead is painfully naive at the age of 24, but she has pluck and gumption.  I like the complexity of the characters.  The male lead is a bit of a dork, but I promise there’s a happy ending with lots of happy family.  You should read it!

— More books in some urban fantasy series I’m reading.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.  Parts of this book are fascinating in the descriptions of the creatures who love books and the bookish city they live in (and under).  The characters are dinosaurs, gnome-like things, giant talking worms, sentient books, etc…. and YET none of them are female.  My score: plus one for whimsy and bibliophilia, minus three for sausage-fest.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan (which #2 also read and really liked).  Very cute romance with smart heroine.  I heard about it on a podcast.  An apparent happy ending, then complications.  Then a REALLY happy ending!  Note this is a bit more sordid than most of the regencies we recommend (it dips its toe into “Victorian” literature not just “Long Regency”), but it doesn’t go into graphic detail and the sordid events are in the past.  This book is a bit special because there are a number of times it takes a standard Regency trope and then resolves it sensibly or realistically rather than the way it’s typically resolved.  I kept going, I know what’s going to happen now, but oh, it didn’t, that is so much more sensible/realistic than what normally happens.  (Also the sex scenes are different than the standard formula a lot of these books use.  They illustrate character and provide growth for the couple.)  UPDATE:  We should have noted that this one is FREE FOR KINDLE.  Because it is like CRACK and she knows you will end up getting more in the series.  AT FULL PRICE.  At the AIRPORT.

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato.  Heard about it on Scalzi’s blog.  Enjoyable and I’ll read the next one.  Steampunk/romance/adventure and the heroine is a healer.

#2 has been clearing out some unread books in her bookcase in preparation for her trip, mostly by reading them or giving up on reading them and putting them in the to send/donate pile.  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson was ok but not a keeper.  Definitely a library book– worth reading once and never again (#1 has read two of these from the library).  A number of the “detective-midwife” mysteries that my mom left last time she visited didn’t make the cut because they’re too sordid for my delicate sensibilities.  Likewise a number of best-selling book-club books that my sister passed on didn’t make it either because they were too sordid (The Thirteenth Tale) [Hey, #1 liked The Thirteenth Tale! #1 has a higher tolerance for sordid.] or because they were boring (The Possessed).

Two library duds by Mary Balogh.  First comes marriage was really clunky and in sore need of editing (she would tell rather than show, then show in addition to the previous telling).  The hero was also kind of a jerk.  The ideal wife was much better edited, but really stretched believability to the point of cracking and threw in a random gratuitous rape near the end (not a rape scene, but a completely unnecessary rape to illustrate a point that had already been made multiple times and was dealt with as an aside by everyone involved– very poor form).  Sometimes she writes amazing work and sometimes you just have to wonder what she was thinking.  We suspect the quality of editing may have something to do with it, unless the 2009 copyright on the former novel is a lie.  (The 1991 initial copyright may have something to do with the latter’s flaws.)  OTOH, A Matter of Class was a delightful novella, and At Last Comes Love, the third in the Huxtable series, was much better than First Comes Marriage (granted, it also has rape in it, but at least isn’t so blase about it).

In related news, I gave Carla Kelly a second try, and Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career was far better than my first attempt at reading her.  The ending was still pretty ridiculous– Kelly seems to think she needs to pack in unnecessary drama at the end when a simple conversation would suffice.

One surprising book that turned out to be a keeper is a 1940 YA book (library discard) entitled The Fair Adventure by Elizabeth Janet Gray.  Despite the cover and title, it is not actually an Adventure book– I was expecting spies or treasure or something, but nope, it’s a slice of life coming of age book.  It is about a girl from the South who has just graduated valedictorian from high school and more than anything wants to go to (a renamed) Bryn Mar. It’s full of her relatives saying sexist things.  And yet… Despite being decades earlier than the wonderful Dinny Gordon books, it has a lot of the same themes (though not as good on race issues) and is quietly subversive.  Worth a read!

 Anything you want to add to your reading list, Grumpeteers?  Anything we should add to ours?


16 Responses to “Moar reading diary”

  1. Linda Says:

    I forgot that I used to have The Thirteenth Tale on my reading list so I just added it back. I’m curious about what you mean by sordid, though. Care to elaborate (without providing a spoiler)?

    I just finished The Duchess War, too. I can’t recall how I ran across it it as recommendation but I liked it, too. Now I’m reading the The Wild Marquis which is a bit different than the usual formulas, too.

    I’ve checked The Upside of Stress out of the library because I heard the author interviewed on NPR and thought I should learn how to better cope with stress…but I’m too stressed to read it right now. :-/ I seriously only have brain capacity for the simplest things these days. Too.Much.Work!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I read the wikipedia page on it. I don’t think I cannot spoiler it, but think of the most sordid thing you can think of that is one word, and it’s probably in the wikipedia description of the book.

    • Marcy Says:

      It’s… very much a modern version of a Gothic novel. It explicitly mentions books like *Jane Eyre* and *Wuthering Heights* several times, though often just as the main character’s favorite books. But since a wife in the attic wouldn’t be surprising at this point, it has to do other dark things to provide the “Gothic.” There’s one scene that’s just… really GROSS, physically, to imagine. Other things… yeah, spoilers. Sorry, don’t know if that helps at all.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Some of the more negative amazon reviews note that despite the author’s protestations, it is far more similar to Flowers in the Attic than it is to Jane Eyre.

      • Marcy Says:

        Heh. Flowers in the Attic I haven’t actually read, but that makes some sense. Author’s protestations, negative reviews, similarities, and all. I’d also say, though I don’t remember Wuthering Heights in detail, it’s closer to Wuthering Heights than Jane Eyre. At the least in some of the structure… Though in The Thirteenth Tale you’re more invested in the frame story, and its main character and her story gets a LOT more attention. Which helps with the resolution, but, you know. Only if you can get that far. And I can easily see it not being worth it to some people, no blame there.

        (Even without the sordid, Wuthering Heights is probably the only book I’ve ever read that made me say, “All these people are insane!” that I still enjoyed reading, rather than wanting to throw it across the room. The frame story MC in Thirteenth Tale helped with that, too, but… yeah, I could see it not working for everyone. Again, even if there weren’t anything sordid.)

      • Marcy Says:

        Make that *get a LOT more attention. Later added “its main character and” and forgot to adjust…

  2. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD Says:

    I’m waiting on the library’s copy of the latest Charles Stross book! Also The Gospel of Loki.

    I liked The Duchess Wars too. Read some Guy Gavriel Kay lately- excellent bedtime reading in that it was not in any way interesting enough to keep me awake. Also went through all the thriller/horror novels by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire). I don’t normally read zombie books or disturbing stories about parasites but I really enjoyed them and they didn’t give me nightmares! Protagonists mainly female, no rapey anything ever, really interesting stories. The mad scientist and crazy guard characters are a little same-y between the series but if you don’t read them all in five days it might be less annoying.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We <3 Seanan McGuire and probably should branch out into her other books too.

    • monsterzero Says:

      The Annihilation Score is pretty good. Superheroes! Supervillainy! Microscopic demons eating tiny holes in your brain! Now I have to go back and re-read the Laundry books starting from the beginning.

      But first I have to finish Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. Spoiler alert: the first four words are “The moon blew up…” BOOM. Only 880 pages to go.

  3. kt Says:

    You people have corrupted me. On your recommendation I read a Courtney Milan book and then I read another then another then…. I’m at 8, the entire Brothers Sinister series and some more. And some late nights. The Suffragette Scandal had me cheering. I loved the bit about emptying the Thames with a thimble (the difficulty of fighting for justice, for instance the right to vote). If GamerGate made you angry, “Scandal” is a good fictional reminder of history. A lot of people hated the Countess Conspiracy but having known the bitterness of a thwarted intellect and the artificial rules of academia it made sense to me. I loved the chromosomes and the twists in the story regarding authorship! And most recently I read “Trade me” by Milan — her first contemporary novel. What would it be like if two students at UC Berkeley traded lives? One’s the heir to a cooler fake version of Apple, one’s the daughter of Falun Gong refugees.

    Yep, I’m blaming you. I’d basically never read a romance novel in my life until this. To be fair, I have now tried to read a few others and very few authors compare to Courtney Milan. She does take every standard trope and give it a twist. (Sarah MacLean has some good ones about gambling; haven’t found any other definite-winner authors.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, I bought I think 4 Brother’s Sinister books/novellas AT THE AIRPORT even though it meant I had to figure out how to use the internet through the kindle webpage which was not easy at all on my old kindle. I kept going… just one more, then I’ll stop. I just got Proof by Seduction on hold from the library and I fully intend to pick it up after dinner.

      Romance novels are relatively new for me too… Georgette Heyer and not having enough brain for harder stuff has made them ideal.

      Balogh is mixed, but we’ve been loving her Survivor series (see previous books discussion)– so far they have all been excellent, starting with the Proposal, though the Escape is probably still the best.

    • Rosa Says:

      I am halfway through the Duchess War. On Kindle. From our library. Because i can get the books instantly without leaving the house and they are automatically returned when due and never get overdue. OMG.

      I like Milan but I wouldn’t have gone looking for these Brothers Sinister books if not for a rec here, I think.

      kt if you think you might like contemporary romances, though Milan is hard to follow, I’d recommend Jennifer Crusie’s “Lie to Me” or “Fast Women” or “Bet Me“. As far as I’m concerned, Bet Me is the perfect pure romance novel. The other two are romance novel/murder mysteries.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        You can get it for free on kindle forever from amazon.

        I like murder mysteries with romance! (Cozy murder mysteries are my mother’s escape mechanism and she always leaves a bunch whenever she visits.)

      • Rosa Says:

        well i think i might read the whole Sinister series this week, which makes the library still a better deal. I just hit Duchess War yesterday is all. I’m letting myself read a chapter of Milan after each section of The Half Has Never Been Told because I can only take so much slavery history at a time.

  4. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I also read The Duchess War recently and really enjoyed it. I have also recently discovered that I can borrow Kindle books from my library and that is amazing.

    • kt Says:

      Yup — loving the library Kindle downloads. Since I’ve been trying to slim down my library at home in order to change around furniture in the living room, the library Kindle downloads have really facilitated the aforementioned Courtney Milan binge.

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