Yet more books

I read a couple of books by Jasmine Guillory, The Wedding Date and The Proposal.  She does a fantastic job on the meet cute and has really adorable epilogues.  But the last 2/3-3/4 of these books are such painful if only they talked to each other … then they’d realize it was all a big misunderstanding.  Especially the they really like each other but are afraid to say anything after they’ve spent a good portion of the book having sex.  (Also:  with sex scenes she’s too detailed for PG-13, but also just cuts stuff out so it never actually gets steamy.  Pick a lane!  Cut out earlier or go through with the entire thing.)  So… I think she needs to figure out how to put conflict or substance in her books– maybe wacky hijinks (her intros would make fantastic movie material), or really cool projects that aren’t just about the relationship (see The Boyfriend Project) or just make them a ton shorter (see Jackie Lau).  Still, she’s selling well so who am I to tell her what to do.  It’s just… the intros are so GOOD I wish the entire novels could follow through on their promise instead of being boring and disappointing (with a little adorable bon-mot at the end that is as good as the beginning).

Read Red, Royal, and Blue also had a great start and dragged in parts, with a very wish fulfilling ending.  It’s set in a parallel universe with a slightly different royal family (Prince Charles is instead daughter Charlotte and next in line for the throne), and Trump did not get elected in 2016, and did not even run.

Then I’ve been rereading the entire Miss Marple series and the entire Hercule Poirot series (I get David Suchet talking in my head– such a perfect perfect Poirot).  Miss Marple has anti-semitism and racism I didn’t remember.  Many of the books have occasional use of the n-word (with respect to Indians, not African-Americans, who they call “Black slaves” . . . ), which I thought had been struck from the American editions of the book and replaced with the word Indians or n— or just replaced entirely (see:  And then there were none) back in the 1960s, but…apparently not all the current kindle versions.  Also the early books have so much with young women conniving to get doting older husbands instead of those age differences indicating power differentials and controlling husbands.  And Nemesis is really disgusting with the lengthy diatribes about how all rape accusations are false accusations (one wonders what rapist Christie was friends with…)–I’m pretty sure middle school me just put the book down at the first such diatribe, but middle-aged me is pushing through.  And the Miss Marples are a very interesting study of how Agatha Christie treats the subject of hired help and people of the lower classes over the decades she wrote the Marple stories.  She definitely becomes more egalitarian.  Of course, her mysteries also become much more sordid.  I haven’t gotten to my favorite Miss Marple yet, the last one, Sleeping Murder.  (“With hands… like monkey’s paws.”) [Update, still excellent, though some small anti-Semitism I didn’t remember and you might miss if you’re not reading closely]  And of course, she provides us modern folk with a reminder about how important the MMR vaccine is in an earlier Marple.  All those anti-vaxxers could use a read of… well, I can’t say which because it is a plot point, but the movie version is even more creepy and compelling.  There are a LOT of Agatha Christie books.

Read Cousin Cecilia by Joan Smith.  It was a pleasant old-fashioned regency romance about a matchmaking miss who ends up with the man she’s trying to thwart.  I will probably read more of her once I’ve finished the Christies.  I’ll probably do a run through of the Sayers again sometime as well– I think my last read through was in graduate school.  (#2 owns them and reads them much more frequently– I generally use the library, though I did at one point have a book of Sayers short stories, I think including the one with their kids.  Not sure what happened to that book.)

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall was tremendously funny.  Even if you don’t like romances, this was a hilariously funny novel.  I literally kept laughing out loud.  It was so hilarious I made my DH read it even though he almost never reads romances (unless I force him) and I caught him laughing out loud at least twice.  I mean, I have not laughed so hard so honestly since Summer of 2016.  I’d say it’s a B+ romance interwoven throughout an A+++++++++++++ British-style comedy.  The side characters are gut-bustingly funny.  The social commentary is droll.  The little repeated gags really do get funnier every time.  It is BRILLIANT.  I am scared to read any more Alexis Hall books because what if my expectations are too high, as regression to the mean would suggest?  But I’m going to try them anyway because even a fraction of funny would probably be great.  DH and I both want a second book in the universe set with one of the second hero’s friends (we’re not picky about which, we just want to see more of them in their natural environment, with the heroes of this book as minor characters who do cameos.

Tried Indexing by Seanen McGuire but just could not get into it.  Not light enough (not that brutal murders are fluffy, but Agatha Christie is rarely difficult even when you don’t figure out whodunit).  It would probably have been a decent read back in 2015, but not for me today.

DC2 has run through all the Rick Riordan presents and has loved them.  Now I’m going through the Newbery winners/honorees starting with the most recent year, basically checking another year’s out each time zie runs out.  Zie seems to like them as well, even though a lot of them are difficult books about difficult situations.  (“Why are all immigrants to the US girls?  Are there ever immigrants to the US written about in kids books about boys?”– I don’t know, DC2, I don’t know.  Similarly, DC1, I don’t know why white boys need a white boy or a dog to die to come of age, white girls need a horse to die or to fall in love to come of age, black girls need a black boy to die to come of age, and black boys need to be accused of killing a white woman or have some other jail sentence to come of age.  Tropes can really suck, DC1, they really can.)  I feel like a lot of the Newbery winners from my childhood didn’t really stand the test of time.  Like… I haven’t reopened The Indian in the Cupboard, but just looking at my old copy makes me cringe.  I mean maybe it’s not as bad as I’m imagining, but I suspect it is worse.

I reread Redshirts because some random comment somewhere made me think of it and feel like rereading it.  Still good!

The Rainbow Cat and other stories was so lovely.  I had dug this up on gutenberg (free) because of the short story of the princess who couldn’t cry, but the rest of the stories were lovely as well.  A soothing balm.

I know this is pretty soon after the last books post, but don’t we all need soothing books?  Don’t we all need something to keep our mind off things?  Well, maybe not everyone, but definitely this one does!

What is soothing you?

Books books books

Read Bramble and Blood and really enjoyed it– the first chapter is pretty clunky, but by chapter two the writing is smooth.  The world building was really neat.  I liked it so much that I immediately bought Birdsong and Bone which was also excellent.  Then I bought Shadows and Souls.  These were a nice break from the maybe too predictable stuff I’d been reading lately.  (Note:  The third book had a completely unnecessary Pathos death.  Disappointing, given the second one made a different choice about another potential Pathos death.)

I returned Destiny’s Embrace unfinished because ugh… the hero force kisses the heroine who his mother has employed as his housekeeper on the first day that she meets him after they get into a verbal argument.  I am just OVER “heroes” kissing women they barely know without consent, and doubly over “heroes” kissing the heroines they employ.  Kissing strangers is not normal and kissing employees is harassment.  The book didn’t get better after that, so I gave up.  Which is a shame because the set-up was interesting.  (I’m willing to give some leeway for the hero and heroine being in a working relationship while falling in love if the author can make it work in a way that’s not squicky– not the case here.)

Chance of a Lifetime by Jayne Ann Krentz was similarly terrible, by which I mean the hero force kissed the heroine he has employed as his housekeeper on the second day she meets him after they get into a verbal argument.  I wish the first goodreads review had been on amazon– I wouldn’t have bought it!  I’m considering recycling the used copy I have instead of passing it on.  I need to be better about checking all reviews, though in fairness I thought this was from 1994 (Krentz was mostly better by then, so long as it wasn’t a Stephanie James reissue), but it’s actually 1987.

Merry Inkmas was similarly irritating though not quite as bad.  I did finish it, but I deleted it off my kindle.

Lady Osbaldestone’s Plum Puddings was better than the second in the series (which I do not regret reading and have not deleted, but definitely dragged a bit) but not quite as good as the first.

Death Beside the Seaside was another fun Lady Hardcastle.

A Delicate Deception was a nice meandering book, though the ending seemed kind of abrupt.  It would have done well with a five years later epilogue, though I know that sort of goes against the message of the book.  Still… life does go on, and it’s nice to get a peek into the happily ever after.  I assume they’ll show up in a future book as minor characters but by then I’ll have completely forgotten who they were.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was pretty good except for the heroines losing each other for no good reason.  I hate it when the drama has to be achieved by sensible characters not talking things out.  The end was a bit wishful, but still nice.

I liked the novella One Bed for Christmas.  IIRC this also had some stupidity drama, but it was resolved much more quickly, and in a way that’s more realistic– sensible characters had sensible friends who told them to stop being dumb.

The Magician’s Angel was a good library read but I didn’t feel the need to buy– very much a novella.

I reread Lord Perfect and decided to buy it.  I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t the first time around.  (Maybe because it’s overpriced for an older kindle book and we were on half salary at 2x expenses at the time?)

I impulse bought My Fake Rake and wish I hadn’t.  It took all my favorite tropes… and then was just kind of dumb.  It would have been an ok library read if I didn’t have better stuff, but I think I may have deleted it off my kindle.

Devil Take me was a great selection of m/m short stories.  Some of them were astonishingly good.

I bought a series of four super silly m/m novellas by Jordan Castillo Price.  They probably weren’t worth what I paid for them, but they hit a silliness spot that I needed.

Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk was fun.  I find most of Hawk’s books just really easy to read, even though they’re not entirely predictable.  I’m hoping for more omnibuses to be available in the future.  You can already get some of their series in omnibus form, like SPECTR, the complete first series, which is a steal at $4.99.  Did I say that in the last books post?   Must not have– it’s been a long time since the last one of these posts!

Charmed and Dangerous was fine, but not as good as Devil Take Me, even though many of the authors were the same across the two anthologies.

I can’t remember what I thought about the Duke I tempted by Scarlett Peckham.  Obviously this feature needs to be done more frequently.  I think it had some unnecessary angst, but… I can’t actually remember.

I do remember that A Rogue by Night and Night of the Scoundrel, both in the Devils of Dover series were delightful, though I do think there was more that could have been done with the hero in Night of the Scoundrel– usually the mysterious King in these books is given a full novel finale rather than a short novella with a Mary Sue heroine, but that’s an interesting direction to take the trope.

Gilded Cage by K J Charles was wonderful!!!  Not anywhere near the mindflip as the first book in the series, but I think the simpler nature of this book nicely parallels the differences between the two different Lilywhite boys featured as heroes in the two books.  There’s also some nice followup to the characters in the rat catcher’s daughter short, which is an excellent read.

Flowers in the Storm by Laura Kinsale was Gawdawful.  Just don’t.

I think I liked Lady Isabella’s Ogre by Emily Larkin.  I read it way back in October though!  I bought it before I read a huge dud of hers, and haven’t bought anything else from her.  I wish the library had more of her stuff so I could try before buying.

What are you reading?  Anything you recommend?

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for books with dragons (and other fantasy creatures) in them

Steph asks:

I found Marie Brennan’s “Natural History of Dragons” series through your recs, and I’m also 3 books into the Temeraire series – both of them are super fun! Do you have any other favorite or recommended books with dragons? Do either of you have a favorite fantasy creature?

We’re so glad you asked!

I’m partial to griffins myself.  And werewolves.

Herewith an incomplete list of dragon books I’ve read.  These are only the ones I definitely recommend (there are more, but not as good).

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede.  The first in a series, and the best one.  (The second is fine too, but the third and fourth go into dumb tropes.)

The Lightning-Struck Heart by T.J. Klune

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton

Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series (my mom and I are both on book five!)

Dragons Love Tacos

Jhereg by Steven Brust (can be read as a standalone or as the first in the series)

The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit (so cute!)

The Lotus War trilogy by Jay Kristoff.  Starts with Stormdancer.  Strong female protagonist in a Japan-like dystopian steampunk setting.

I read Havemercy by Jaida Jones so long ago that I don’t remember it.  Ditto for Bitterwood by James Maxey.  Sorry not a lot of details here.

You should (re)read The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

Readers, what else ya got for Steph’s question?

 

 

The year of the oxygen mask

My current goal is to make 2019 the year I finally find my oxygen mask.  You know, “make sure your own mask is on first before helping others”?

Background:

In October 2016 I was having a very stressful time and then election day hit.  It did not go well for feminists.  Fortunately I had recently started therapy again and was still on one psychiatric medication, but I got an additional one at the suggestion of an excellent psychiatrist who is unfortunately hard to get hold of and who doesn’t take my insurance.  At the time I was working with a group that researched (among other things) health in Latinx communities, and I am White.  I was chicken and called in sick to work the day after election day.  Then I pulled myself together.  You know how politics has gone since then.

A week later, my beloved father-in-law died unexpectedly.  Most of 2017 was spent in mourning.  In 2017, our cat almost died several times and then did die (we have new ones now!), and my beloved grandmother died just before Christmas (she was very old, and the heart of the family), and my other grandmother’s dementia got the best of her.  Her body is still walking around, but she’s away with the fairies.  There were a few months where our apartment seemed to have contagious depression.  My sister’s husband was laid off in a really dickish way in mid-December of 2017.  Friends were sad and anxious.  Far-away family struggled with finances, finding my grandmother a nursing home that would take her (achieved in 2018!), and my beloved aunt got very very sick in early to mid-2018 and perforated her bowel from the stress of it (surgery, months with an ostomy bag, weight down to less than 90 lbs.).  My cousin almost died and had to have emergency brain surgery the night of Christmas Eve 2017, causing his father my uncle to miss his own mother’s funeral.  In 2017 and 2018, my father got diagnosed with something potentially scary (he’s fine now, but has an occasional midnight panic attack), my sister struggled with infertility, my mother-in-law and her whole family grieved and mourned, I quit my job and got another (where I have a good boss), and so did my partner.

Going into 2019, I have just recently, like in the past few months, started to feel like I can even take a breath.  2018 was something of a dumpster fire, but it was also the year of the gradual, eventual turnaround for people I care about.  We might be ok now; I just need like another 6 months of nobody dying and I’ll be able to brain again.  Come on, just make it six more months!

It’s been a struggle, folks.

Finally Finding the Oxygen Mask in 2019:

I’m against New Year’s resolutions.  I suck at them.  I decided to try doing small but good things for myself each month in 2019.  (I got the idea for the first one from Lifehacker.)  Doing a big thing, or even a couple medium things, is totally outside my capacity for now.  I hope that by doing these small things, I will be substantially less cranky by the end of 2019.  I will also stay on my meds and in therapy.

January:  Don’t spend money except on food (or toilet paper).  I thought this was going to be easy but it turns out I already messed up in the second week of Jan., and barely noticed!  The point of this challenge is mainly to *notice*.  I’ll keep working on it.

February:  Go on Patreon and sign up to support at least 2 creators whose work I appreciate.

March:  Eat down the pantry and freezer.  Defrost those noms.

April:  Clean up my damn room.  Put stuff away and keep it clean-ish.

May:  Information/news break.  Absolutely no clicking on twitter links or links that look like they might be irritating; use facebook only for the one (closed) group I’m in.  [#2 will keep you all in links :)]

June:  Moar blogging! [#2 WOOOOO!!!!]

July:  Eat more delicious fruit & local veg.

August:  Eat more delicious fruit & local veg.

September:  Deeply Rest.  Still figuring out what this will mean, but I came up with this phrase that sounds appealing.

October:  Focus on reading for enjoyment.

November:  Absolutely no news exposure from any source. [#2 will keep you all in links :)]

December:  Focus on reading for enjoyment.  Don’t go anywhere.

#2 notes:  Those of us with oxygen masks can help carry the load for those who are finding theirs.  There will be important actions to do in 2019!

Do you plan to improve self-care in 2019?  How?  Or do you have a routine that’s working for you?