What are we reading

do not recommend sweetest scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt.  What could be a fun story is ruined by graphic details of sexual abuse when the heroine was a child.  Very 1980s and destroys the fun.  Also lazy on the part of the author. :(

Also do not recommend Only Beloved, Mary Balogh’s odd end to the otherwise cozy Survivor’s series.  Really she should have just made it a novella or have it run through the rest of the series with the hero and heroine as secondary characters.  Then she could have cut down the boring repetition of the cozy middle aged folks falling in love and removed the stupid sordid back story (which she telegraphed early on) and the stupidity of the heroine’s life being put unnecessarily in danger by the icky villain.  The part that fits with the rest of the series drags.  The “excitement” part doesn’t fit with the rest of the series given its ickiness.  At least Balogh seems to have given up rape in the past decade.

how the duke was won by Lenora bell was fun ($1.99 on kindle!).  Recommended only if you’re good at suspending disbelief and don’t get caught up on historical accuracy.  It is a bit of The Bachelor Regency Edition.  Her voice is similar to Sarah MacLean’s.

one night in London by Caroline linden dragged and was just kind of boring.  A good editor would have cut it down by at least a third.

christmas revels four regency novellas by Kate Parker, Louisa Cornell, Anna Allen, and Hannah Meredith was fun.

Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas was great until the last couple/few chapters.  She just did not stick the ending.  The book would have been a lot better if she hadn’t decided to do the Elizabeth Hoyt thing and drag out the secondary story into the second book.  Or maybe she could have handled that better without putting unnecessary drama in.  Ugh.  C’mon, stick the landing.   Still, I guess I’ll be reading the second in the series even if I no longer plan to buy the first.  At least our red state library seems pretty stocked with romances even if it has pretty much nothing else in adult fiction so I’ll still be able to try before I buy even though I won’t get off the wait list in time in Paradise.

The first Ribbon Ridge book by Darcy Burke, also not worth it.  This is a modern romance (free on kindle).  Without spoilering too much, the hero has issues and really needs a therapist before he can be in a relationship and it’s bizarre that the heroine doesn’t get creeped out about him acting like a creep most of the times they meet (really only the first meeting is him not acting creepy).

Read the first three Shelly Adina books.  The first one is free for kindle, but it’s really like the first part of the second book, and has some boring bits to skip through plus you have to suspend a lot of disbelief.  The second book is excellent and well worth having read the first.  The third book is just not very good (thankfully it was a library book).  I’m wondering if the fourth book is as good as the second or if it’s boring with bad stuff happening like the third…

Ugh.  Got any recommendations for books that are light and don’t have super creepy heroes?  Also please no rape, incest, child molestation, etc.  *SIGH*

Ima reread To Say Nothing of the Dog now.

Revenge of What-are-we-reading

… a partial list.

Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older.  I like this kind of book, and I liked this one.  I’ll read more by him.

Kage Baker’s early The Hotel Under the Sand.  A delight!  #2 should read it.  #2 owns it, but it is an oversized paperback or maybe even hardback and is back at home.  Definitely when we get back!

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers.  The third in a trilogy something about girl assassins in the Middle Ages.  I liked the love interest in this one.

Taking a (possibly permanent) break from Ngaio Marsh, I reread Tommy and Tuppance (first one available free from Gutenberg).  The second and third were delightful as I remembered, but I did get a pricking of my thumbs when picking up By the Pricking of My Thumbs and had a bad feeling about it– and indeed, my subconscious correctly remembered that it was pretty sordid (also I had flashbacks to Miss Marple playing the Tuppence role in one of the video adaptations).  I’m feeling leery about the last one.  Though looking at wikipedia, that’s where I got the Gates of Damascus poem that I liked so much I memorized it.  “Pass not beneath oh caravan, or pass not singing.  Have you not heard the silence where the birds are dead, yet something pipeth like a bird?”

Romancing the Earl by Darcy Burke.  Fun in the style of The Toll-Gate but with sex.  :). To Seduce a Scoundrel was also good.  After that it kind of started going downhill.

Super You by Emily V. Gordon.  I heard about this nerdy self-esteem book and wanted to see if it’s good.  It’s pretty ok.  Give it a try if you’d like to be nicer to yourself.

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi.  A strange and interesting novel about a girl who is kind of haunted.  I think I have Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird on my to-read list, and I’ll get to it relatively soon.

What’s on your To-be-read list?

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What should we listen to during a long upcoming road trip?

So far our best listening experience has been To Say Nothing of the Dog.  It’s unlikely we’ll find something else as amazing as that.  We also enjoy Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and The Splendid Table, but in short doses.  DH listened to Lincoln: Team of Rivals during one trip, but I found it mildly annoying.  DC1 liked Alcatraz books by Brandon Sanderson, and they’re ok, but not that compelling.  The first Iron Druid was pretty interesting, but they’re getting too dark for me and also there’s way too much sex for comfortable listening with the kids in the back.


  1. It doesn’t have to be interesting to children, but it does have to be appropriate for children listening (age 4 and age 9).
  2. We don’t really want tragedy or senseless violence etc.  Something upbeat or uplifting or funny would be better.

Any recommendations?  What do you listen to on long drives?

What are we reeeading

When previously we discussed books, #2 had recommended Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School.  #1 now vehemently recommends this book as well.  Sooooo good.  DC1 also loved it.

Speaking of DC1 and books about magical schools, both DC1 and I have really enjoyed the The Ever Afters Series by Shelby Bach, about a fairytale after school program.  I couldn’t put the second book down, though I had to put the third book down from time to time because, like with Harry Potter, that’s when stuff gets real.  We have the final book on hold at the library.  (Currently reading!)

I’ve started reading Elizabeth Hoyt.  Her books are fine, but it is true they are a bit repetitive.  Probably best not to read all of them in a row, but to just pick out the best or to take long breaks between.  Check out, don’t buy.  Think late 18th century batman complete with revenge motives.  Lots of batmans with lots of different revenge motives (including the standard dead parents) and different Arthurs and different aristocratic super villains.  Also, for some reason, dogs.  Duke of midnight was going fine until an attempted rape of a minor character whose sole purpose was as a macguffin and to show the good character of a male character, and shortly after the hero roughly shakes the heroine until it hurts her.  Ugh.  The next book in the series has a minor female character beaten to death (in the past) as another macguffin (also as character development for the heroine and another villain).  And after that Dearest Rogue has rape of a minor female character (in the past) as macguffin and character development for the hero!  Also attempted rape of the heroine.  Good grief, can’t she come up with any other way to drive the plot or develop character?  But if you don’t mind the violence-against-women-as-macguffin-and-character-development trope…

This Rake of Mine by Elizabeth Boyle was great fun if you can completely suspend your disbelief and ignore historical accuracy (the main complaints in low star reviews).  If you think of it as a farce it’s fun!  Though about 3/4 of the way through there’s a couple of spots where the author obviously ran out of time (and the editor didn’t fix it) and told rather than showed.  Not great literature, but no sexual violence against women!  Along came a duke though was super boring and I skipped most of the middle.  That could have used less writing.  Her highest rated, the viscount who lived down the lane was fine but could have used editing.  I think I will not seek out the rest of her stuff.

Tried a Lisa Kleypas, specifically Dreaming of You, but she is REALLY into attempted rape as a trope.  I mean seriously, lady.  Also so much gratuitous stupidity.  I can buy the matchmaking lady inviting the hero and the heroine to a house party without them knowing about the other, but inviting the woman who sent the goons who scarred the hero’s face (that the heroine shot in the first chapter) to the same house party when you’re trying to set the hero and heroine up and you know that the villain will try to kill the heroine if she knows that the hero loves her…  That’s just causing drama for drama’s sake.  There was a better way to arrange that (and one that wouldn’t, you know, involve yet another attempted rape on the heroine).  *Sigh*

Meanwhile, back in #2 land, I finished Tam Lin by Pamela Dean.  This book is for you if you liked The Secret History by Donna Tartt.  It’s good, but long, and there’s quite a lot of the main characters talking about poetry and analyzing plays and quoting things at each other.  I’m on Volume 2 of Gotham Academy.  I’ve been catching up on Maria V. Snyder and some very naughty books and stories that can’t go on this blog.  I’ve also  caught up (almost?) on Ilona Andrews, and read a bit of nonfiction.  My current read, which I love so far, is Nevada, by Imogene Binnie.  At the start of the book, the main character works in a huge used bookstore and her life is kinda bad.  I sense that big changes are coming.

What are YOU reading, Grumpeteers?

In which I DGAF

This post contains swearing.  It’s behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Incorporating minorities in fiction (even if you’re not from that minority group)

This is done very badly most of the time.

One thing I’ve noticed while reading project Gutenberg books– the books that stood the test of time are more likely to not have minorities (including Jewish — you would know who early mystery writer Anna Katharine Green was as well as Doyle or Christie if she wasn’t so anti-Semitic) than to have them.  That’s because books by the same authors that have minorities often include extremely offensive stereotypes, and somehow those books haven’t gotten reprinted.  Rare is the 100-200 year old book that can have a minority and treat said minority with respect.  (Though some much earlier literature seems to do a better job for some racial minorities.)  This existence of offensive stereotypes is even true for early feminists who get the gender thing right– they can’t make the jump to nonwhites.

But the world isn’t white.  As fiction reflects reality, fiction should reflect that fact.  Even in historical fiction.

#2 and I have had several discussions about Loretta Chase, who is a great author *except* when she includes Egyptians or Indians or, presumably other British colonial subjects (just like Mary Balogh is great except in her early books where the hero doesn’t take no for an answer).  She’s got the woman are not chattel thing down, but her view of Indians and Egyptians comes straight out of British Imperial literature.  She’s got the White Man’s burden and every single stereotype from 19th century British imperialism.  She’s obviously done extensive reading of white authors of the time period.  So have I, for that matter.  But it grates.

(And it is embarrassing that we haven’t always noticed these trite stereotypes– the superstitious lazy Egyptians, the Indian servant willing to give up all for his/her mem-sahib, savages burning widows on the funeral pyre.  We don’t think we can go back and reread Elizabeth Peters because we’re pretty sure she uses a number of these tropes.)

I recently re-read the wonderful Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect (seriously, buy this entire series) the same day as I failed to be able to stomach Chase’s Sandalwood Princess.  Chase read imperial white authors for her inspiration.  Her minorities are not real– they are figments of racist 19th century imaginations.  The same kinds of books that are not standing the test of time today and will be even more likely to die off in the future as more people cringe while reading them.

Milan, instead, read autobiographies of Indian lawyers in England during the 19th century.  Her characters ring true.  Real historical research means reading about people in their own words in their own time periods, not white people’s perceptions.  Especially when white people writing in that time have every reason to justify subjugation of entire bodies of people.

So if you’re an author and you want to include minorities in your historical fiction, and you should, find people from that time period– they exist.  Listen to what they say, and not what white people who want to keep them subjugated say about them.  Because what white people in the time period say only tells you about white people in the time period, no matter who they are talking about.

Do you have any recommendations about authors who do it right?  How about for under-represented people in their own words?

What are we reading: Mostly still regency romance…

The new Sarah MacLean, the Rogue Not Taken was a huge disappointment.  Heavily stealing from a specific Heyer (along with some other extremely tired tropes), except in the Heyer the heroine was a lot younger so it was easier to believe her naivete about the world, and the Heyer has, you know, character development.  It’s got funny bits, but mostly it’s the hero and heroine bickering with each other and being jerks to each other and not telling each other the truth or really talking at all and then suddenly it’s the end and a forced resolution. Also lots of telling, not showing.  She has done a lot better.

The new Loretta Chase, Dukes Prefer Blondes, on the other hand, was delightful!  Very much like a Courtney Milan book, actually (without actually stealing).  I wonder if she read the Brothers Sinister series and thought, maybe I should try something like this.  It definitely works.  It’s the fourth in the dressmakers series, but doesn’t require having read the first three.  It does have a lot of hero and heroine bickering, but in a very different way than in the MacLean and they know what each other means (as does the reader) as they bicker, and there’s character development and stuff.  It’s like I wouldn’t want that relationship, but I can totally see how theirs works, whereas with the MacLean it’s like, uh huh, sure this would happen and/or last.  Unfortunately I also read a couple more kind of racist early Loretta Chases (there’s even a post in the drafts about 19th century Indian characters in Chase vs. Milan that I should really finish and post).  #2 thinks I should give up on her, but her non-racist stuff is good, so I don’t know.  I keep hoping, that, like Balogh who no longer uses rape as a plot device, she’s learned over time and won’t have racist stereotypes anymore.  (And if I gave up all authors who have racist stuff, I’d have to never reread a Jeeves and Wooster because the Wodehouse that didn’t get reprinted is horrific.)

Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins:  Meh, the prologue was violence.  The first chapter was boring.  Didn’t finish.

Did we mention Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James?  This one was really really good.  Lots of fun and sexy too.  We both loved it and think it’s worth purchasing.  Very much recommend.  Not sure about the other Eloisa James books though– some of them have fallen flat and one of us has a bit of trepidation about the adultery in some of her more popular books (update:  the adultery didn’t turn out to be a problem so much as the fact that that entire stupid series was inspired by EJ seeing her irl infertile friends do anything to have a baby, and they don’t have IVF during the long regency and most of the characters are too stupid to live).  I also really liked A Duke of Her Own which is a prequel to Three Weeks.  If you have any Eloisa James recommendations, let us know!  I did just read American Duchess, and it started out well, but then got stupid in the middle and then the last half was all, “when will he say he loves her”– at least she didn’t have to get into a carriage ride accident this time, though I was *sure* that was going to happen given his parents died in a carriage ride accident and that’s how like 2 other books I’ve read in the past week or so resolved.  I think I’m at a point where I need to read me some novels that have actual you know, plots, in addition to the romance, like Heyer’s Toll-Gate or Milan’s Brothers Sinister series.  Maybe it’s time to turn from regencies to cozy mysteries…

Julia Quinn has just been terrible.  I tried three books and they all started out strong and then just kind of fell apart in the last half.  She doesn’t know how to end, or maybe runs out of time or desire to edit.  For example, How to marry a marquis was ok but mediocre until the attempted rape scene at which point it went downhill considerably.  On top of that, amazon and goodreads tell me she doesn’t seem to realize that when the heroine physically prevents the hero (who she has gotten drunk for the sole purpose of seducing) from removing himself from her body in the hope that she will conceive the child that he has told her he does not want, that is still rape.

Mary Balogh continues strong with her books written in say the last 15-20 years.  I’ve been cranking through the “Slightly” series about the Bedwyn siblings.  They’re pretty good.  Not necessarily worth buying (and maybe a little repetitive here and there), but definitely worth the read.  Her earlier stuff is still pretty hit or miss with creepy “masterful” heroes and servants being raped for no reason (also rape as backstory yuck).  I am so glad that rape is no longer “in”.

Stephanie Laurens has been pretty inoffensive so far.  Read two of her Cynster books, which were fine though read like early novels.  Her somewhat later book, All About Passion, about friend of the Cynsters, has much better pacing.  Most of these seem to be mysteries, but the mystery is pretty weak.  Still, having a plot right now is saving books from having the stupid, “why won’t he say he loves her until her carriage is overturned” lack of plot in far too many of the books I’ve read lately.  If you like lots of sex scenes and long sex scenes, then Stephanie Laurens is for you.  All About Passion has the benefit that the lengthy sex scenes are also varied and interesting.  (I, um, may have learned something new, which is a first for me with romance novels.)  I also like her novellas in both It happened one night and It happened one season collections, each of which also feature reasonably a good Balogh novella/story and a lovely Hern short story.

What have you been reading?