In which #1 and #2 discuss Billy the Bookcase

#1: I bought a bookcase and a floor lamp.

#2: Exciting. Well, the bookcase is exciting. Bookcases are full of adventure, similar to boxes.

#1: Billy the bookcase says hello.

#2: Hello, Billy!

#1: Billy is currently downstairs in DH’s car, but we will bring him up in a bit. He’s too much for me to handle on my own. :-)

#2: Ha!

#1: I mean, he’s even taller than DH.

#2: ooh

#1: 79″ bay-bee

[Time passes]

#1: Billy is having a lie-down in the living room until I rearrange my bedroom a bit to fit him in (hah)

#2: Oh my.

#1: bow chicka bow-bow

[More time passes]

#1: last night I made Billy :-)

#2: I’m not sure if that sound vaguely sinister or vaguely dirty. I’m going to go with sinister given your Hogwarts house. Billy is now part of the Slytherin Mafia. Billy is like your accountant now– he does the books.

#1: I screwed him up against the wall.

#2: Oh jeez.

#1: Later I’ll fill him up.

Show us pics of your books, Grumpeteers.  We’ll drool in appreciation!

 

Haunting the Middle-Grade Library Stacks

#2 likes to read Regency romances when stressed.  I like them too, but I can’t read a lot of them in a row.  In the worst of my stress and anxiety, I found myself gravitating to the middle-grade stacks in the local library.  Soothing.  Here are some books:

The Anastasia series by Lois Lowry.  I love these so much!  Anastasia, Absolutely… One of my favorites is Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst (hilarious hijinks).  I have read the whole series at least once or twice.  They do have an order, but it’s not important to me.

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda.  The beginning of an adventure series with two kids in peril, based on Hindu mythology.

School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough.  A kid learns that not every super-human is a hero, and not all heroes or sidekicks are what they seem.  Happy ending!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman.  Beautiful and also a happy ending.  What happens when people find out that your brother isn’t… like everyone else?

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier.  Very pretty and moving graphic novel about family, love, ghosts, and culture.  Read it!

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill.  Another graphic novel for younger kids.  Princesses can do all sorts of active things.

I read all of Zilpha Keatley Snyder when I was young.  Turns out, she kept on writing while I grew up, and I found a bunch of her newer stuff (ca. 2008) on the shelves.  Try finding magic and friendship in The Unseen.

Grumpeteers, do you read any children’s books for comfort?  Which ones?

Ask the Grumpies: Where to learn economics?

Leah asks:

I’d love to learn some basic econ. Where’s a good place to start that is not too arduous but is also accurate?

I know there are a lot of Econ for laypeople books out there (Freakanomics being the most famous), but when people ask me this question I always stick to two textbook recommendations.  The first is the Intermediate Microeconomics by Robert Frank called Microeconomics and Behavior.  The second is Public Finance by Jonathan Gruber.

I love Frank because he discusses microeconomics in a way that contrasts how the rational person would behave with how people actually behave.  This I think makes the theory more believable and more powerful.

Public Finance I really think ought to be taught in high school.  If you want to understand the role for government, it is a must read.  So much of what is going on with healthcare right now violates basic economic principles and after reading about adverse selection, you, too, will understand why.

Note for these that you do not at all need to buy the most recent edition.  The 1998 edition of Frank is fine for understanding the basics.  The first edition of Public Finance by Gruber is still a fantastic read.  Get whatever is available and cheap.

What economics tomes/videos do you recommend, Grumpy Nation?

What are we reading?

Most of Ruth Ann Nordin’s stuff is pretty bad– heroes trapping women into marriages by kissing them against their will in public.  Not cool (also not believable–this regency world has different rules than most).  Oddly most of her heroes are otherwise sweet usually virgins.  But taking away a woman’s agency is still awful.  One exception that was readable (this hero accidentally traps both himself and the heroine into marriage) but not buyable was a most unsuitable earl.

Carole Mortimer is really into spanking.  All her heroines seem to be naughty naughty girls.  Many of her books seem to start out with plot, then just kind of forget to have any substance after the spanking.  I am embarrassed to admit that I read 5 of them in one day– more novellas than novels and not very good at that.  Kind of like eating 5 regular somewhat stale Krispy Kreme in one sitting.

I read the highest rated Christi Caldwell, To redeem a rake, so that you don’t have to.  Amazon has been pushing them on me for years and no library seems to carry them.  It was fine.  Meh and derivative with lengthy repetitive parts that dragged.  A library read if you were bored and if libraries carried it, which they don’t.  I’m trying to decide whether or not to delete it from my kindle.  It doesn’t “spark joy” but I’m sure I will have forgotten it entirely by the time I am desperate for reading material on a delayed flight.  Still, wouldn’t rereading Candice Hearn for the 20th time be a better use of my time?

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles definitely sparks joy.  Unputdownable even though it is episodic.  Wonderful.

the marriage gamble is rather sweet.  Marina Oliver’s books that I’ve seen are a bit dated and a little slow, but I do not regret reading them.

I enjoyed Rules for Reforming a Rake by Meara Platt (not to be confused with a similarly titled more excellent book by Sarah MacLean).  If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, this one is not for you.  Suspension of disbelief FTW!  All the books in the series are pretty enjoyable– not perfect books, but the family of young women and their suitors are fun to get to know.  I think I may buy the set.

Couldn’t finish any of the Ella Quinn I tried.

I did enjoy The Mysterious Marquess by Eileen Ramsay, though not enough to buy.

I liked the latest Lenora Bell, Blame it on the Duke, though not as much as I liked the second in that series, despite the bluestocking/rake pairing which is one of my favorite tropes.  It was a bit thinner than her earlier two works.  I don’t regret buying it and I will no doubt read it again.  Again, Lenora Bell is most fun if you don’t really care about historical accuracy.

What have you all been reading?  Any great summer reads to recommend?  Also:  What am I going to do when I run out of the alphabet in my regency ebook sweep?

Book review: A Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles

A Gentleman’s Position is getting its own review because it is the best regency romance I have read in a long time.  It is new and different and thought-provoking and very Courtney Milan.  I loved it so much!

It’s actually the third book in a series, but I read it first since Sarah Maclean’s recommendation caught my eye.  It is the best book of the three (unless you prefer the second which is also extremely good and explores sub/dom relationships) and I think the other two books are actually better for having read this one first, so long as you don’t mind spoilers.  (And if you’re reading regency romances… you probably don’t.)

What makes this book special?  Well, it’s about a male/male relationship in Regency London.  It does an amazing job of exploring the very real problems that people in this situation in this time period had, as well as class conflicts and how to pull together a relationship under these constraints.  The conflicts are real conflicts that sensible people in too realistic situations might end up with.  It also plays with standard romance tropes in a new setting that makes them all the more ridiculous in the standard male/female setting given the very real reasons they keep the two heroes apart in this setting.  Oh, and there’s a clever heist (technically a swindle) and I love clever heist books.

The two main characters don’t include a standard female trope in male body (or worse, tired Regency stereotypes that include the word “mincing”), but instead are two standard Regency heroes with slight tweaks to fit the setting.  Richard, the aristocratic hero, is your standard responsible lord of the manor trope (usually seen paired with either a manic pixie girl or with his sensible childhood friend as they keep a manic pixie out of trouble).  Here he’s the spare rather than the heir which allows him to remain unmarried without the duty to procreate.  Cyprian, his valet, is usually seen as the bastard brother of nobility (often working as his brother’s confidential secretary) or the whore’s bastard who now runs a gambling hell.  He is a superior Jeeves style valet in this book, but with far more ambition than to work for someone like Bertie Wooster.

There is explicit sex, much like the kind you’d read in a modern male/female Regency, and I guess it’s pretty vanilla given the biological differences in a male/male pairing?  (The other two books have heroes who are a bit more adventurous, and so are a bit more risque, particularly in the second book, and I’m only on the first chapter of the second book right now.)  (update:  still more risqué)

The minor characters are also interesting, and reading the previous two books in the series is like reading the back stories of old friends.  If there’s any complaint it’s that the book is a sausage-fest with very few female characters (oddly, at least two women are named Euphemia), but that’s forgivable given the circumstances of their segregated society and the illegality of homosexuality during this time period.  [Update:  Having read many of her other books, this is the only series that is a sausage-fest– the Magpie series, the Sins of the City* series, and her stand-alones have a lot more women as minor characters.  Also, all maiden aunts are named Lucie.]

This book is a great exploration of love against constraints.   I normally dislike love stories between an employer and an employee, but so does our hero, Richard, and figuring out how to make things work in that setting is a large part of the story.  How do you get equality in a society that wants to keep you apart?  Both heroes are incredibly likable and reading about their struggles reminds the reader of the very real struggles of GLBT couples today.

Also, the book is a lot of fun.  Especially the second half when everything comes together.

Strongly recommend!

*After writing the first draft of this review I went on a massive KJ Charles binge.  An Unseen Attraction in the Sins of the city series is the only one of her books available right now that isn’t a light-hearted regency.  It fits more in the gritty late 19th century murder/suspense genre than the long-regency romance genre.  The heroes will not end unscathed and some of the pain will be heartache.  Her magpie series also has magic and definitely fits in the 19th/20th century magician genre. (She has more books written than are currently available, but one of the companies that published her books has gone out of business so she’s going to re-release as self-pub ebooks in the near future.  I will read the rest of her Magpie books at that time!)

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What are we reading

scandal by the ton:  none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, and the author isn’t big on authenticity, but this book was still pretty funny

Elizabeth Cole’s zodiac series– These are really good, and as of this typing, the first one is free!

life is too short to waste it reading about heroes who kiss unconscious strangers.  Lack of consent is Not romantic.  (Skipping too many books here.)

how to marry a royal Highlander by Vanessa Kelly was fun and amusing.

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay adorably reminiscent of Boy Meets Boy

Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean was just bad.  It started out with a promising first two chapters and then became boring and repetitious.  Heroine yells at hero.  Hero thinks to himself he’s not good enough for her because he’s just a sexy hunk of man-meat.  They do something stupid.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Either this needed to be a novella or she needs a MUCH better editor because she doesn’t seem to realize she’s already had characters have that exact same conversation in a previous chapter.   It had a lot of potential.  They could have gotten together earlier on without the angst and had half the book be a heist… this would have been in line with some of her fallen angel series.  But no.  BORING boring boring with two characters who don’t seem to like each other except for each other’s bodies.  I am so glad the library had this and I didn’t make the mistake of buying it.

Kay Michaels has a series called the alphabet Regency Romances.  These are none of them great and are of varying quality.  The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, The Playful Lady Penelope, and The Haunted Miss Hampshire all share a mildly amusing side character who only talks in quotations.  None of these have particularly sympathetic characters– you would not want to be stuck at any of the house parties or be raised by any of the couples, and everybody is pretty two-dimensional, but they’re still somewhat amusing.  Oddly, the Wagered Miss Winslow was actually pretty good with sympathetic characters and a reasonable plot.  I almost skipped it entirely because I hate wagered women books, but in this case she’s not actually wagered… it’s more complicated than that and completely reasonable.  Also, after reading Scot in the Dark it really hit the spot as the couple does get together (mentally and emotionally as well as physically) before the end of the book and spends the rest of it working together for a common goal.  The Belligerent Miss Boynton is worth skipping.  The best parts of it are stolen whole cloth from Heyer and the rest is kind of like Taming of the Shrew and the heroine’s agency is pretty much taken away and then she seems just fine with it for no good reason and then an ex-mistress becomes murderous for no good reason.  So meh.  The Lurid Lady Lockport was surprisingly good.  It’s a forced marriage book and is a bit questionable in terms of the husband’s beliefs about consent (the heroine is never assaulted, but he thinks about it) but the plot and puzzle mystery and side characters were remarkably interesting.  I found myself wanting to know what happened next and stayed up a bit too late finding out.  The rambunctious lady royston was an imitation of one of the worse Heyers with a bored 30-something getting together with a TSTL 17 year old.  Only with even less likable characters than in the original Heyer (where at least the heroine was sympathetic).  The mischievous Miss Murphy also worth giving a miss.  The hero is a jerk and there’s way too much focus on virginity as a woman’s source of value and power.

Kasey Michaels has later work as well, which is more modern–sort of balogh with a sense of humor, and a little suspense.  I really liked Then Comes Marriage, the third in a trilogy, and it is worth reading the second just in order to get the full enjoyment of this third book.  I skipped the first due to feeling meh about the plot and ratings (update:  read it, it was fun, but not necessary to enjoy the first two– a good library read).

Enjoyed Unspoken though it ends on a cliffhanger.  (#1 notes:  It is a trilogy and the third book gets mixed reviews– we haven’t read the next two books yet.)

Books for #2’s DC1

After this post, I searched through my library history and my memory to see if I could come up with anything appropriate for #2’s kid, who I know a little bit…

Has zie read Tom’s Midnight Garden? I think it’s YA but it’s older, from maybe like 20 years ago.  (Answer:  Yes.)

We decided that Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho is too grown-up for hir so far.  Ze’s not really into romance (yet?) and that lets out a lot of books like Jane Eyre.  Ze’s also not that into animals; didn’t like the Redwall books, probably won’t like the James Herriot books (but I do!).

I wonder if zie’s old enough for Nine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber Book 1)?

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is a perennial recommendation, which ze has already read.  I remember liking Interstellar Pig, so ze’ll probably try that.  Ze read and liked Hoot by Carl Hiassen.  Sherlock Holmes stories are classics.

I suggested the series that starts with Peter and the Starcatchers, but #2 vetoed it because she hates Peter Pan.  However, #2 wonders if maybe ze’s old enough for The Three Musketeers.

I recommend the Amulet series of graphic novels (the first one is The Stonekeeper), but fair warning:  the dad dies immediately.  I think I’m on book #5 right now.

The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix is on #2’s to-read pile, but she might move it to DC1’s pile instead.  I like those.

To both #2 and DC1 I recommend The Mountain of Kept Memory by Rachel Neumeier, which is fantasy adventure with no romance.  I recently enjoyed it a lot.

More suggestions from me…

You could try out The Wizard of London by Mercedes Lackey (which is not the weird kind of Lackey you don’t like).  Too young for Flavia de Luce?  If ze liked Harry Potter, you can try Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.  I don’t remember enough about Huntress by Malinda Lo. You could try The Ruby in the Smoke: A Sally Lockhart Mystery by Phillip Pullman. (Has zie read the His Dark Materials series?)  The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison might be a bit dense for zir, but #2 might like it if you haven’t read it yet.  It’s good; was nominated for many awards.

You could try Saving Kabul Corner by N. H. Senzai.  I don’t know if The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter is too old for zir or not.  But #2 should read it!  The third book in the series is out now.

Come Fall by, I think, A. C. E. Bauer?

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang?  That seems to exhaust my library history… at least as far as DC1-appropriate books.  Some of the books I read are definitely NOT for kids!

What’s good, Grumpeteers?