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?

 

 

Advertisements

What are we reading? Light romance.

I continue wading through everything Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle (they’re all the same person).  I have found that the Arcane/Harmony series gets better and better the more of them you read because she adds all sorts of great inside jokes that you start picking up on.  I can see why she’s able to charge $9/kindle book for that series.  Fortunately most libraries seem to have them all.

(#2 adds: I’ve been really digging the Krentz contemporary books in the Arcane Society series.  I’m trying to read the whole thing in order.  #1 has read them out of order and that works too, but she’s definitely planning on trying reading them in order on the reread.  If only they weren’t so expensive!)

While Krentz’s stuff from the 90s is really forward and could have been written in this decade in terms of gender equality and lack of rape (disclaimer:  it seems like any time there’s a mental institution, there’s a past attempted rape, and a few of her historicals have back stories with a bad guy talking about raping one of the minor characters, but not actually ever coming into contact with her, generally because he dies a painful death on his way up the stairs, and in the contemporary Secret Sisters he actually does manage to drag the protagonist out of her house in the prologue before dying a painful death), but her 1985 book Witchcraft, while not anywhere near as bad as any of the Baloghs from the 1980s, really does fit into the crappy alpha male taking away the heroine’s agency theme.  Thankfully she stopped doing that decades ago!  (In her later stuff, sometimes the alpha male hero will attempt to take away the heroine’s agency, but will fail completely because she’s an alpha female.  More often, though, they talk it out and come to joint decisions.)

Finally got off the wait list at the library for Crazy Rich Asians.  It’s great!  One thing I wasn’t expecting were all the helpful footnotes with translations and cultural explanations for things.  Update:  Man the B-story is STUPID.  Soon I’ll start the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend.

#1 got Rafe the Buff Male Nanny and it was as advertised.  Everyone except the ex-husband all behaves so sensibly!  It does kind of end abruptly with an epilogue that ties things together, but I guess if it didn’t she would have to manufacture some unnecessary drama, so this is definitely better than that alternative.

What are y’all reading, Grumpeteers?

Do you want to read about a buff male nanny?

I didn’t think I wanted to read this book.  I almost never read contemporary hetero romances.  But I found this author’s twitter and the book seemed delightful.

Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny, by Rebekah Weatherspoon (from The Ripped Bodice bookstore!)

It also gave me the chance to try out our library’s new way they’re doing ILL.  Hence, this chat log:

Me: much as I feel silly about the title… I really do recommend RAFE: A buff male nanny. One thing I like about it is that neither of the main characters is hiding a deep dark secret that could change everything if only they knew . . .

#2: The employer-employee thing isn’t squicky?

Me: I didn’t find it squicky but YMMV.  One reason it wasn’t squicky was cuz they put it out there before he got hired. Like he said, “I’m really attracted to you, but I promise I will never let it affect how I care for your children. Knowing that, do you still want to hire me?”

#2: That’s better than her saying that.

Me: Yes. In fact she didn’t admit she was attracted to him for a little while after (although she was!). *And* he never did let it get in the way of loving those little kids.

The next one she’s writing is the best friend’s story, which we just get a hint of at the end of this one. I really want that one.
Like one of the last lines in the book, after it’s all happily ever after, 2 years later, is the best friend sending a text to the heroine.
The other characters show up in other books of hers, as romance series tend to go. But I want to read Xenia’s story next.  The author’s note at the end says that the others will eventually get their happy-ever-afters, too.

#2: Nice

Me: It was remarkably un-angtsy, all things considered. Like when the woman gets angsty, she texts her friend, who cheers her up.

#2: Yay

Me: also they both have good relationships with their parents. Their family relationships aren’t simple, but these days they’re pretty good!
There is an awful ex. Don’t worry about him too much though.

SO…. give it a shot. Has anyone else here read this book or this author?

What are we reading?

Boxing Day is for reading books!  Here’s a fantastic list of good books, if you don’t have enough to read.

I don’t usually like rehashes of Pride and Prejudice, but Lady Bridget’s Diary: Keeping Up with the Cavendishes by Maya Rodale isn’t really a rehash of the book so much as a splicing of a bunch of Colin Firth media together (the P&P is definitely the BBC miniseries version, complete with fully-clothed dousing). She even names her hero Colin Fitzwilliam Wright Darcy. It’s very tongue and cheek and definitely not historically accurate. A library check-out, but I think probably not a purchase. It’s hard to say. Silly and enjoyable.  The rest of the books in the series were ok but not great.

(Another book is Pride, by Ibi Zoboi, along the same lines.)

Other Maya Rodale books were not worth even trying.  The Tattooed Duke was terrible.  Bad in the #metoo movement, repetitive, unlikable main characters, nobody realizing that a married woman doesn’t own her own property except the dumb villain… so much that doesn’t make sense.  The entire writing girls series also terrible… boring, TSTL, at least one unlikable main character in each.  A great idea with a terrible execution.

In contrast, I’m in the middle of Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh which is another take on the female gossip columnist (here she owns the entire gossip sheet), and so far 27% in it has been enjoyable… meandering but I’m in the mood for a little meandering.  (Though I am going to skip the second in that series because the amazon reviews says the hero is a creepy stalker who doesn’t take no for an answer, which, ugh.)

I liked In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz Carlyle enough to buy my own copy (though it was only $1.99, so no real hardship).  It’s a nice take on the hardened hero gets amnesia in a near-death accident while the heroine nurses him back to health trope.

If you can handle a Christmas novella after Christmas, A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews was lovely.  Soothing.  Sadly, the book the library had available, The Lost Letter, was one of those where if the Hero and Heroine ever talked with each other instead of constantly jumping to conclusions and then running off the book would be 3 pages long.  You’d think after it happened once they’d have you know, figured it out.  I’m curious about her other books, but not enough to pay to try them given that they’re mostly tropes I’m not crazy about.  (I did buy A Holiday by Gaslight before reading it which was a total impulse purchase, and I am glad I did.)

Note to self:  stop trying to read Balogh reissues.  They are ALL full of rape.  Just stop.  The new stuff is good but make sure it is genuinely new.  (Most recent indiscreet)

#2 really liked Not Even Bones, by Rebecca Schaeffer.  It’s too violent for #1 to read, though.

I (#2) would also like to recommend the Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal.  The first one is The Calculating Stars and the second one is The Fated Sky.  The third one is in progress, dunno the expected pub date.

I also recommend The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe.  First in a contemporary series about the mythical Tufa people, who live and keep to themselves in Tennessee.  Until 20-year-old Bronwyn Hyatt becomes an accidental war hero in Iraq and returns to her hometown with all the pomp she never wanted.  I think I would call this speculative fiction.  I’m waiting on the second one from the library.

I recently liked Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang, but I can’t remember if I talked about it on here already or not.  I think I didn’t.  It’s weird and has a happy ending.

What have you been reading, Grumpeteers?

Books I’m getting people

This post is a follow-up to our earlier post about what we were getting people… I wasn’t done shopping yet!

Books I’m getting people include but are not limited to:

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Treat Your Own Neck

Hogfather; Soul Music

Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent: Abridged Edition (Penguin Classics) by Alexander von Humboldt.  N.B.: You really want the Penguin abridged edition on this one.  The unabridged is like 2000 pages of him talking about measurements.

(I’m not getting anyone this book but maybe I should!)

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler, by Ryan North

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight

Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams

The Spanish version of Petunia: the Girl who was not a princess

Lies my teacher told me

Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

BONUS!  A podcast recommendation: Our Opinions Are Correct, in which two speculative fiction writers talk about SciFi.

So what books are you getting people?

What are we getting people for Christmas this year?

DC1:  A set of trick decks for the stocking (DC1 is really into card and coin tricks),

DC2:  Spanish coloring book,  a set of 5 field notebooks and a wellspring flip note (DC2 is really into drawing and list making and notes)

BIL1:  Anti-hero, for the king, and into the breach.  I am told these are steam games.

SIL1:  Usually we get SIL books off her amazon list but this year we only got her Binti:  Home and instead got her the first Timestories game off her wish list because DH really enjoys Timestories.

nephew 1:  A meccano microid and a minecraft plush pig from his amazon wishlist.

niece 1:  We renewed her subscription to the Braille of the Month book club.  Apparently they’ve really been enjoying it.  (The nonprofit provides the books at less than cost, so we also gave them a donation– what a great program.)

BIL2:  We never know what to get for him, so we generally just give an amazon gift card.  This year is no exception.

SIL2:  She had a bunch of stuff for work, mostly craft paper, on her amazon wishlist, so we got that.

nephew 2:  He’s easy to shop for because he’s a similar age to our DC2 and has similar interests, so we got more Magic Treehouse books (our DC2 is not a fan, but our DC1 was, and they were a big hit last year), bad kitty books, and a book of facts that DC2 really enjoyed.

niece 2:  She’s a bit harder because we have to remember what we gave nephew 2 at that age (not to be confused what we gave the other niece and nephew).  Generally we make a list and then ask SIL2 if there are duplicates.  This year we got Go Dog Go, Put me in the Zoo, Big Dog Little Dog,  Sneeches, Green Eggs and Ham, and one fish two fish.

MIL:  Life has gotten easier since she got a wish list!  We got her the Michelle Obama memoir and a non-crisping ninja foodi (so.. basically an instapot?) that is backordered on amazon and may not get there until after January.

FIL:  An instant food thermometer and a gift certificate to Cabela’s.

Sister:  She’s been doing a lot more cooking lately and asked for a bread book, so we got her DH’s current go-do– Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno.  I would call this a recipe book for the advanced beginner.  It has a lot of really good information (with pictures) about different types of bread, ingredients, and multiple techniques before it gets into the recipes.  It’s not a coffee table book with rich histories like Home Baking, nor is it a trendy artisan bread in 5 min a day, but we learned a lot of techniques from it and it’s got a lot of variety and almost all the recipes we’ve tried have been excellent.  (Exception:  DH notes on the soft pretzel recipe:  THESE ARE NOT PRETZELS, need baking soda.)  We don’t know what else to get her– she has said she will think about what she wants.

Mother:  The local bookstore in her town went out of business, so I guess it is back to Amazon gift cards.

Father:  I’ve given up here.

For #2 I got her a bunch of excellent books off her wish list including three for kindle that I sent her right away because Amazon sucks for gift giving via kindle (stuff stays on the wish list so you might end up with two people buying you the same thing).  I got her Deception by Amanda Quick, KJ Charles’ retelling of the Prisoner of Zenda, and Band Sinister.  The other stuff is still a secret.

 

#2 says:  This year, as with most years, it’s an Icelandic-style bookflood for me.  Though I still have to figure out what to get for DH.

What’s hanging around on your Kindle?

(… or other e-reader?)

A copy of Jane Eyre; Persuasion; Northanger Abbey; Carmilla; Middlemarch; Barchester Towers; a Jeeves book.  Father Brown mysteries by G. K. Chesterton.

Several books from the Liaden universe by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (Fledgling).  Lots of short stories by Seanan McGuire.

Almost everything K. J. Charles has ever published!  Romancing the Werewolf by Gail Carriger.  Amethyst by Lauren Royal.  (#2 thinks she deleted Amethyst, but she loves the Temptation series, especially the Consent is Sexy parts of Tempting Juiliana, even if sometimes that heroine is pretty silly– note that the first in that series is still 100% free for kindle and a good read/reread)

Serpentine by Cindy Pon.  At least 1 collection by John Scalzi.  The Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido.

Random fantasy novels that I got a deal on:  The Native Star by M. K. Hobson; Not Dark Yet by Berit Ellingsen (I don’t remember reading this but apparently I did; I have no memory of it); The Final Formula by Becca Andre (tried to read further in this series but petered out); Ghosts of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani.  Here’s me talking about some of this before.

The Amsterdam Assassin series by Martyn V. Halm.

Several books by Martha Wells (Wheel of the Infinite; City of Bones; etc.). (#2 has all of these in paperback because her hardbacks from high school disappeared for some reason… maybe her BIL ended up with them?)

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk.  A romance novel I haven’t read yet that I heard about on a podcast.  Novellas by Tiffany Reisz.

Most of Sarah McLean’s Rule of Scoundrels series (A Rogue by Any Other Name), plus some Courtney Milan.  (Some of the Milan has nifty behind the scenes commentary throughout!)

Assorted detritus, short story collections, un-great romance novels, terribly-written fantasy (although I’m trying to delete most of this stuff).  [#2 only keeps very good and great romance novels on hers– even the sub-par Heyer got deleted.]

A couple of the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold; I have most of them in paper books instead.

Here’s some earlier posts on this topic, with links to mostly free or in a few cases inexpensive stuff.  (#2 has literally hundreds of books on her kindle– btw, did you know you could get Shellabarger and Sabatini books for free on your kindle?  #2 had no idea that Sabatini wrote so many boring terrible books in addition to classics like Captain Blood, Scaramouche, and The Sea Hawk.)  (#1 still prefers paper books.) (#2 does too except for traveling which she does a lot of, thus the need for more ebooks.  I’m pretty sure my sister ended up with my Sabatini hardbacks.)

We’re gearing up for holiday reading [and conference trips]… be sure to click our “books” tag to see all kinds of things we’ve read and loved in 2018 (and before).

That oughta keep me occupied for a while!  Whatcha got, Grumpeteers?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: , . 8 Comments »