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!

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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?

Ask the grumpies: What music do you enjoy?

Leah asks:

what music do you enjoy listening to? Do you like going to concerts?

#1: I sometimes like going to concerts, although I often find them more trouble than they’re worth. I have many and varied musical tastes.  Bagpipes are the best.  [Really, she loves bagpipe music.]

#2: I like pretty much all music EXCEPT techno and most country (though I’ve gotten better about hating country living in the South for more than a decade). I still really hate techno. Anything that is super repetitious without variation drives me crazy after a while. I just can’t handle it.

I do not like going to concerts where the audience spends a lot of time standing. That really gets up my fear of crowds. I find most orchestra concerts dull because music without word seems like background music to me. I like operatic concerts and enjoyed the Boston pops when they had a guest I liked.

#1: here’s an incomplete list of music I really like listening to:

  • ’90s hip-hop
  • Missy Elliott
  • Salt-n-Pepa
  • Jackson 5
  • Katy Perry
  • Beyonce
  • Rihanna
  • dubstep
  • One Republic
  • Hamilton mixtape
  • musicals (incomplete list:  A Little Night Music, the Music Man, Guys & Dolls, Tick Tick BOOM, The Secret Garden, City of Angels, Into the Woods)
  • Gilbert & Sullivan
  • Bagpipes
  • Hildegard von Bingen
  • Waverly Consort
  • Owl City
  • Lady Gaga
  • Michelle Branch
  • U2
  • Dr Dre
  • MC Frontalot
  • [Jonathan Couton, Paul & Storm, John Roderick and the Long Winters]
  • Blackstreet
  • Lindsey Stirling
  • Taylor Swift
  • Adele
  • Madonna
  • Nikki Minaj
  • No Doubt
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Handel
  • J. S. Bach
  • some of Mozart
  • anything sung by Bernadette Peters
  • Sondheim
  • Kanye West (don’t love him but he’s a very talented musician)
  • Metallica
  • almost all ’80s music
  • power ballads; hair bands
  • AC/DC
  • a capella music
  • Pentatonix
  • Straight No Chaser
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Apocalyptica
  • Def Leppard
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Angels & Airwaves
  • En Vogue
  • O.A.R
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • TMBG
  • madrigals
  • Renaissance music from all over the world
  • Naughty by Nature
  • The Corrs
  • The Scorpions
  • Flogging Molly
  • the Moana soundtrack
  • Tears for Fears

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?

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?