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?

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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?

Why I like the Rake/Bluestocking trope

I don’t always like it.  I don’t like it when the rake is just a womanizing jerk.  I like it when the rake likes women and sees them as people who enjoy having a good time (generally merry widows or wives in unhappy arranged marriages or happy marriages of convenience).  He hasn’t found one he wants to settle down with yet, until he meets the bluestocking.

They’re both fighting against the strictures of society.  He accepts her ways because he hates society’s ways.  She craves the knowledge she believes only he can give her.

And yet, they’re also both rebelling in ways that society has prescribed them.  The woman cannot be a rake, she can only be a bluestocking.  The man cannot be a bluestocking and still rebel.  When they meet, she allows herself to indulge in sensuality, and he is allowed to share (and wallow in) his love of whatever academic subject he has hidden from his rakish friends.

They’re smart.  They have intelligent conversations.  They have witty senses of humor.  They share jokes that nobody else gets.  There’s lots of narration about their eyes, which sparkle with intelligence and humor.  They like each other.

They are people that the reader might like to know in person.  Or that the reader might even be, in another world.

And by meeting each other, they are allowed to be even more themselves, not less.  They free each other.  She allows him the ability to settle down and follow his true loves without caring what society thinks.  He allows her the freedom that she can only get through marriage to a husband who does not view her as property (or as a wealthy widow).  And they share many passions.

Fantastic Reads and Where to Find Them

Where to find them:  your local library, bookstore, or our amazon affiliate links.

Fantastic reads:  Here they are!

I’ve been doing a pretty good job at having read the Hugo nominees before the list even comes out; the things I like and the things the voters like often overlap.  I don’t read a lot of short stories but I do read novellas and novels.  For example, I think I’ve talked on here before about how I like Mur Lafferty’s book Six Wakes.  I enjoyed Trail of Lightning and am waiting for the sequel.  We both love N. K. Jemisin.  I own and have enjoyed Liz Bourke’s Sleeping with MonstersMonstress is gorgeous (and violent); Bitch Planet is just what I need.  Both of us on this blog are in love with the writings of Seanan McGuire and I also love to read Sarah Gailey.  Etcetera.

I’ve been re-reading the Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone.  You should read them in the order of the titles, not the order they were published in.  I re-read the first five in quick succession and am now waiting for the newest one, which the author says is the start of a new arc.

#2 got me Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings.  I’m looking forward to reading that.

I loved Witchmark by C. L. Polk and I’m excited to get that sequel next year, too.

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski is a book about sex for women but more interestingly, it’s also a book about stress and how emotions work.  People should read this one!

The Stone in the Skull is the start of a new series by Elizabeth Bear.  Thumbs up!  Yes.

The Price Guide to the Occult is an interesting story about family and magic and secrets.  By Leslye J. Walton.

If you’re like me, you might want to also read Networking for People Who Hate Networking by Devora Zack.  It wasn’t revelatory but it’s worth a library read.

I’m currently enjoying Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just tell you to check it out.

p.s.  I just finished it and immediately put the sequel on hold!

Grumpeteers, got any suggestions for what to read next?

 

Not-so-hot takes on reading fantasy

http://www.unboundworlds.com/2018/05/the-100-best-fantasy-novels-of-all-time/

Is this a hot take?  I’m blogging about a blog post.  (Color commentary from #2!)

Things I have read:

1 (excellent) [#2 agrees], 3, 4 (great, plus the sequel is better), 5, 6 (it’s right in my wheelhouse), 7, 8 [#2 found Eddings’ treatment of his few female characters to be unnecessarily tropey– #2 is secretly proud of what a good feminist she was as a kid], (not 10 but the other one of the pair, which was great), 11, 13 (THE BEST!) [#2 notes that this was what made her start reading fantasy in earnest when Ms. A assigned it in 4th grade], 14 [#2 was kind of meh on this one– Lloyd Alexander would do better about female characters in his later books], 19 (the whole trilogy), 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28 [#2 says, Anne McCaffrey died for me in the third book when her hero tw rape] (I didn’t ever read the third one), 33 [#2:  I swear we read about every single time a character poops, and yet, I read like 5 of these… they go down easy, I guess], 34, 35 (HELL YES), 36, 38 (deserves all the awards it won!), 39, 43, 45, 46, 48 (a lonnnng time ago), 50 (so many times), 52, 53 (more than once), 54 (everybody go read this), 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 (#2 may have given this to me as a gift) [#2:… I don’t think so but I probably made you read all her stuff when I should have also been making you read Edward Eager– I certainly kept a couple of her Chrestomanci books in our room], 61, 63, 65 (I literally got this from my mother) [#2 notes this one was extremely popular sophomore year with all the girls– very unfeminist for something that pretends to be feminist], 66 (and the sequel), 70, 72 (I think?), 73, 74 (was not as impressive as people make out), 75 (ditto!), 76, 80, 82 (these books are soothing) [#2:  borrrrring], 83, 84 (this one plus the sequel; need more!) [#2:  there’s a sequel?!  To the wishlist!], 85, 87 (this series is great), 88 (SO GOOD Y’ALL) [#2:  buy it!], 89, 90, 91 (LOVE IT), 93, 94, 96 [#2: I trudged through this– I find her later stuff more readable], 97, 98 (I think), 99 (this series ate my brain in a good way), 100 (ditto).

Things I started but couldn’t finish:

2 (#2 may have read this) [#2:  I read it the year it came out and recall liking it– what I did not like was the later books in which she slept with her boss and then with her much older mentor YUCK– I’m so glad #metoo has made people realize that is NOT ok], 15, 29, 44, 51 (kept trying, could never do it), 60 (hate that whiny jerk), 62, 71, 77 (tried twice, too dense), 79 [#2:  Wait, for real?  But it’s so good!  Oh, I bet you tried to read it in paperback, which is nigh impossible– check out a hardback from the library.  The print is in different colors which makes it easier to parse.]

Things I haven’t started (yet):

9, 12 (I will probably read this at some point), 16 (currently on my library list), 17 (never heard of it, though I’ve heard of the author), 18 (ditto), 22, 24 (probably will read at some point, just for the lulz), 25 (but I’ve read other things by her), 30 (ditto), 31, 32, 37 (someday), 40, 41 (seems huge tho), 42 [#2:  HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE READ THIS?!?!? I made DH read it, how did I miss you? And 7 day magic which is EVEN BETTER and about a BOOK!], 47, 49 (heard good things about this), 64 (on the list for someday) [#2 I liked it– oddly popular among economists], 67 [#2:  A very quick read, but nice!], 68 (though I have another book by this author on my wish list), 69 (I think– can’t tell from the description), 78, 81 (is on a list somewhere), 86, 92 (is on my shelf right now) [#2:  tell me if it is any good– I love Matthew Hughes and they say he’s a modern Jack Vance], 95 (will probably read at some point).

I read a lot of fantasy and am aware of a lot more.  I read a LOT of fantasy.

Need speculative fiction recommendations?  Ask away!  Have spec fic recs?  Do tell!

What are we reading: Romance edition.

#1 skipped large middle chunks of Patricia Bray then deleted on kindle.  Waste of a dollar.

I enjoyed Poetic Justice by Alicia Rasley enough to purchase it.  There’s no onscreen sex, if that’s important.  It’s a fun caper where the protagonists fall in love over books.  The end is a bit rushed, but there’s also no unnecessary angst.  (The best part though is a glimpse the love affair of the long-dead parents!)  The first in the series is free on Amazon but I haven’t read it yet (update: it was ok, but not worth paying for).  I also haven’t read the second in the series, but plan to…

I tried a couple of Patricia Rice regencies, but I don’t like how the heroes take away the heroine’s agency, even when having agency is a big deal for the heroine and it seems like the resolution should include the hero giving in on that.  We’re talking about things like, I dunno, secretly marrying the women against their will in Scotland where the marriage rules are different and not telling them they’ve been married until months later when circumstances have made it far too late for an annulment.  Or, you know, not stopping sex when the woman is in pain because of his “need”.  UGH.  Or forcing the heroine to have sex as a transaction in a situation where she doesn’t want to, but feels that she has to in order to save someone else.  Not cool.  Her Genius series is a modern set of romances… the amazon reviews complain about it having a liberal agenda, but there are too many uncomfortable racial and homosexual “jokes” for it to truly be liberal… or maybe it just shows how far we’ve come in the past 20-30 years in terms of what’s not cool to say about minorities.  I won’t purchase it, but I think I’ll try the second in the genius series, and later books seem to get higher reviews.  So I dunno… it felt like the books could be really good if they were just updated and the bad parts that used to be more common in this literature were removed.  It’s possible that, like Mary Balogh, her more recent books are less icky because the entire genre has moved away from icky.

Genuinely enjoyed The Heiress Companion, which is an old fashioned (and clean) regency novella by Madeline Robins.  It is no The Grand Sophy, but a pleasant read nonetheless.  Lady John and My Dear Jenny were also pretty good.  Spanish Marriage and Althea were both pretty awful, though in different ways.

Danse de la Folie by Sherwood Smith was also worth buying.  An old-fashioned style regency, if that makes sense.  (Not a bodice-ripper, older than that– more Austen-style.)  Not perfect, but soothing.

We both love love LOVED KJ Charles’ latest, Spectred Isle. The adopted son of Simon Feximal is in it!  SOOOOO GOOOOOOD.  Neither of us can wait for the next one.

In the modern world, #2 read and liked Attachments, which was Rainbow Rowell’s first book. Can you fall in love with someone via email? (Of course.) I think I’ve already mentioned Carry On somewhere on this blog.

Finally, we love books. I loved the little book, Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life. Writing letters to books is a neat idea and maybe I’ll try it sometime.

Get to reading, Grumpeteers! Tell us what’s good in romance.

Books… in… spaaaaace!

Ok, I was listening to this podcast episode about (what else?) books and reading.  One of the hosts, Brea Grant, is a nervous airplane passenger, as am I.  She says that her secret is to read books that are set in space.  She reads books that let her think she’s not trapped in a small metal tube but rather out in the vasty darkness.  I think this is a great idea.

My recommendations are:

(The standard here might be Ancillary Justice, if you haven’t read it already)

I recommend The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.  The sequel is great, but not as space-ish. Not fantastic: The Ship Who Sang (by Anne McCaffrey) isn’t great art, but it’ll while away an afternoon.

Most things in the Liaden series by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.  There are several places you can start, including The Crystal Variation, and/or Fledgling.

Only a little bit in space, but great: Behind the Throne by K. B. Wagers

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi.  Pretty awesome.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.  Oooh! Murder mystery in space. Page-turner-y.

What have you got, Grumpy Readers?