Library Haul

After talking with #2, I decided to reread My Antonia.  I’d forgotten about the racism (#2 has been having this problem with books she read as a child as well– how did I forget?).  Also, having grown up somewhere with hot summers, I completely don’t believe that whole “it’s hot but we didn’t really notice it, and summer is totally beautiful” bunk.  Heat stroke is real, and not fun.

Anno Dracula.  It was ok.  A little bit too proud of itself.  I wanted to know more about the 400-year-old female vampire.

The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters (vol. 1).  Just two English guys being nice to each other, gossiping, talking about books, and how much they like each other.  Soothing and cheerful.  A good read before bed.

The Gates of Sleep, one of Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series.  Turns out I had already read it and I just kept forgetting.  It’s the sleeping beauty retelling.  The heroine triumphs through her own internal fortitude, aided by love of her family and friends.  A good popcorn read with a happy ending.  Get it from the library.

The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.  Took a chance on this one because it looked interesting.  (Was it worth it?)  Yes.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.  Not just a description, a philosophy!  The Blogess deals with her mental illnesses by writing funny things.

#2 read um… some more Loretta Chase, which continues to be mixed.  She does recommend Last Night’s Scandal and so far she’s enjoying the Dressmakers series.  She found Balogh’s Simply Unforgettable to be irritating with one of those a single serious conversation would have  ended the book a lot earlier tropes.  So much dragging.  Also, the heroes’ persistence would be scary if he were the villain.  The other books in that series are great though.

Long-distance book and bonding club

My mother-in-law texted me that she loves me and misses me.  We both love to read, so she suggested that the two of us have a book club!  We could each read the same book and discuss it once a month.  I said that it would have to incorporate drinking wine, as that is a key feature of book club.  We agreed that we will both drink (possibly the same) wine while discussing.

We’re in different time zones, but we both have MLK day and Presidents’ Day off, so those will be our first two meetings.  Yay day-drinking for the two of us lightweights!  Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere, including possibly in one of our time zones.  Time is TBA.  The first book will be The Library at Mount Char.  She recently loved it and I’ve been wanting to read it, so we’ll discuss that in mid-January.  I’ve heard only great things about it.

I’ll update and let you know how it went!  She really is the sweetest.

 

What did we read over Thanksgiving?

Earlier I read A Darker Shade of Magic by V. S. Schwab.  I enjoyed it: YA fantasy about multiple Londons existing simultaneously.

I also liked Orbital Resonance by John Barnes:  teen nerds in space.

I’m loving the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling).  I can’t put them down and have stayed up way too late reading, also sometimes reading before work and almost being late.  Number two is The Silkworm.

Then we had a long weekend and I read a lot.

Mira Grant’s series about bloggers vs. zombies (Feed, Deadline, Blackout) are each around 600 pages in paperback.  I read the first two over Thanksgiving, along with some graphic novels.  I loved them, but they’re too violent for #2.  I still haven’t gotten to the third book in the series.

Lady Killer, continuing my trend of reading comics featuring strong women.

Lumberjanes #2, in which the girls earn their “Friendship to the Max!” badge.  Also dinosaurs.  You don’t need to have read the first volume to enjoy this one.

I really just love reading books very, very much.

#2 reread Seducing an Angel, not realizing she’d already read it even though she read the others in the series and was sure she hadn’t read the brother’s story yet when she most recently read the cousin’s story (in fairness I read the paperback ages ago not realizing/not caring it was part of a series and it looks nothing like the hardback).  It is sometimes fun to read books out of order and then you get a completely different feeling for them reading again them in chronological order when you know all of the characters.

Also, if you want a free kindle book, #2 enjoyed Daisy’s Aunt.  Yes, the plot is ridiculous (“Victorian melodrama”-lite), and if you’re looking for Mapp and Lucia you’re not going to find those levels of mean-spiritedness (even the villain is treated benevolently by the author), but E.F. Benson’s biting sense of humor definitely shows itself here and there, particularly in descriptions of the country estate.  And some of the main character’s dialogue, and some of the ridiculous minor characters.  Light and fun with little bits of devilish writing that make you take a second look and highlight with a little smirk.

What do you love doing very, very much?  Alternately, how do you approach series?

In which we read some more

What are we reading these days?

Heresy by S. J. Parris.  First in a series of historical mysteries starring (the later-burned-as-a-heretic) Giordano Bruno.

Paper Girls #1 by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, & Jared K. Fletcher.  You know how paper boys deliver the morning paper on their bikes?  Some of them are girls.  And some of those girls have seen some weird, creepy, unnatural stuff around their town.  Number two is out now!

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu (incredibly excellent ending!).  Highly recommend, yes.

First Second Press (:01) is really killing it with their publications these days, I tell you what.  I also have The Undertaking of Lily Chen out from the library.  Unfortunately I ended up not liking any of the main characters very much.

What’s #2 reading?

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett.  This one doesn’t flow as well as the general Discworld– it feels like it’s missing a final editing, which it most likely did.  Things that would, in previous volumes, be more subtle are a bit more heavy-handed and overt.  Things that would previously have been more streamlined stand out as clever short vignettes.  But I still like it very much.  The messages are good.  The commentary important.  And, importantly, I feel like it is a fitting ending for our relationship with Ankh-Morpork, as we usher it on into the next long-century saying our final good-byes to favorite characters.  Ankh-Morpork will move forward into the future, even if we are no longer watching.  If the last Tiffany Aching is as good, then I will be happy.

So we’ve got this Loretta Chase thing going, but we can’t really fully recommend her.  Like… Lord of Scoundrels was a little problematic but a huge page turner.  Mr. Impossible was entertaining and had a great pair of main characters… but… the author used every vaguely racist Empire Cliche when dealing with the people of Egypt; it’s painful to even think about listing them.  Knaves’ Wager was a disappointment– a hodgepodge of other romance novels and characters and tropes but still managing to be dull.  She relied on the tropes too much to fill in the romance without actually showing things (like the hero says, “you’re too X to be trapped in this kind of marriage” but nowhere in the book up to this point has she shown herself to be X to the hero, not once)– it was pretty weak tea and I wish I hadn’t succumbed to the $2.99 kindle fee.  Most of the rest of her work seems to rely on the hero not taking no for an answer.  Which the heroine is secretly fine with when he is rich and titled.  The only difference between the hero and the villain in one of her books is that the villain is bad with money!

Lame.

Two more quick ones from #1:  I finished Secondhand Souls from Christopher Moore.  You probably need to read the first book before you read it.  And I’m in the middle of The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, which so far is excellent.  The very best part is the official Utterances from the AI.

Read, Grumpeteers, read!  What do you have on tap?

 

What are we reading?

So it turns out that our readers were 100% correct that The Suffragette Scandal is the best of the Brothers Sinister books.  The final short story is also worth reading as a nice coda.  Her Turner series is also pretty good– it was touch and go there for a little while with Unclaimed, but I should have trusted that Milan would turn the Prostitute With a Heart of Gold meme on its head.  Unraveled is excellent (and only 99 cents!).

I continue to enjoy the Lady Emily books by Tasha Alexander.  Currently on book 2.

Only a Kiss by Mary Balough was pretty disappointing.  Not up to par with the rest of the books in the survivor’s series.  Lady Imogen’s character doesn’t really seem to fit the character in the earlier novels and is only superficially explored.  The hero is kind of a jerk (and a pale imitation of a specific Heyer hero, though I’m not remembering which one off the top of my head).  Formulaic without heart or soul.  (I also tried reading 3 more of her old books but so much rapity rape and hero not taking no for an answer… at least with her more modern books she’s learned the sexiness of consent.  Thank goodness modern romance novelists no longer seem to think that “no means yes over-rule me” is acceptable.)

The memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (free on kindle).  I found out on a long plane flight recently that I *hadn’t* read all the sherlock holmes stories, I still had one book in the unread folder in my kindle.  No idea how I missed it.  Anyway, this is the book with the dog that didn’t bark.  But it’s also got a nice little story about a woman who doesn’t trust her husband that has a surprisingly good moral.  Go Arthur Conan Doyle!

if you read edenbrooke as a parody of regency romance, it is excellent and hilarious.  If you take it seriously, it is horribly written, irritating and repetitive.  (Twirling?  Really?)  She does name her heroine after the irritating sister from sense and sensibility.

Was also somewhat disappointed with Bet Me by Jessica Crusie.  The heroine is really likable but I think forcing food on someone who doesn’t want it is almost as bad as telling someone she shouldn’t eat it.  Also, no means no.  I hate it when the hero is allowed to not take no for an answer.  Whether it’s physical relations or donuts.  That’s just not cool.  Trust people to have control over their own bodies and listen to what they say about them.

Also a little disappointed in Prudence.  It’s ok, but I think I won’t actually be buying a copy after I return the library book.  :/  Also the first chapter of the library edition is just swimming in typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors, though that seems to be limited to just the first chapter.  Very odd.

Lots of long plane flights, jet-lagged reading in bed at weird times, etc.  What have I read?

#2 gave me Serpentine by Cindy Pon, which I read on the plane and now I’m waiting for the sequel.  Easy to read and page-turning.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.  This is a series of high fantasy novels, each of which is well over a thousand pages.  I can only get through them on kindle on long long trips.  Good stuff, very evocative.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase.  A podcast recommended this (and #2 got it for me as a wedding gift) and I liked it!  Hot.

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig.  For fans of Richard Kadrey (which I am).

I think that’s all I read on the trip, besides several guidebooks.  Oh, and a book of short stories that was only ok.  And lots of crossword puzzles.

Other reading has included Chapelwood by Cherie Priest.  Squee!  Love this stuff.

I have a million books on deck, so exciting.  If only I didn’t keep having to go to my job!

Moar reading diary

Hm, looks like yesterday was our five-year blogaversary.  Whoops!

What have we been reading lately?  A selection:

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev — picked up on the recommendation of a commenter.  The female lead is painfully naive at the age of 24, but she has pluck and gumption.  I like the complexity of the characters.  The male lead is a bit of a dork, but I promise there’s a happy ending with lots of happy family.  You should read it!

— More books in some urban fantasy series I’m reading.

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.  Parts of this book are fascinating in the descriptions of the creatures who love books and the bookish city they live in (and under).  The characters are dinosaurs, gnome-like things, giant talking worms, sentient books, etc…. and YET none of them are female.  My score: plus one for whimsy and bibliophilia, minus three for sausage-fest.

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan (which #2 also read and really liked).  Very cute romance with smart heroine.  I heard about it on a podcast.  An apparent happy ending, then complications.  Then a REALLY happy ending!  Note this is a bit more sordid than most of the regencies we recommend (it dips its toe into “Victorian” literature not just “Long Regency”), but it doesn’t go into graphic detail and the sordid events are in the past.  This book is a bit special because there are a number of times it takes a standard Regency trope and then resolves it sensibly or realistically rather than the way it’s typically resolved.  I kept going, I know what’s going to happen now, but oh, it didn’t, that is so much more sensible/realistic than what normally happens.  (Also the sex scenes are different than the standard formula a lot of these books use.  They illustrate character and provide growth for the couple.)  UPDATE:  We should have noted that this one is FREE FOR KINDLE.  Because it is like CRACK and she knows you will end up getting more in the series.  AT FULL PRICE.  At the AIRPORT.

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato.  Heard about it on Scalzi’s blog.  Enjoyable and I’ll read the next one.  Steampunk/romance/adventure and the heroine is a healer.

#2 has been clearing out some unread books in her bookcase in preparation for her trip, mostly by reading them or giving up on reading them and putting them in the to send/donate pile.  The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson was ok but not a keeper.  Definitely a library book– worth reading once and never again (#1 has read two of these from the library).  A number of the “detective-midwife” mysteries that my mom left last time she visited didn’t make the cut because they’re too sordid for my delicate sensibilities.  Likewise a number of best-selling book-club books that my sister passed on didn’t make it either because they were too sordid (The Thirteenth Tale) [Hey, #1 liked The Thirteenth Tale! #1 has a higher tolerance for sordid.] or because they were boring (The Possessed).

Two library duds by Mary Balogh.  First comes marriage was really clunky and in sore need of editing (she would tell rather than show, then show in addition to the previous telling).  The hero was also kind of a jerk.  The ideal wife was much better edited, but really stretched believability to the point of cracking and threw in a random gratuitous rape near the end (not a rape scene, but a completely unnecessary rape to illustrate a point that had already been made multiple times and was dealt with as an aside by everyone involved– very poor form).  Sometimes she writes amazing work and sometimes you just have to wonder what she was thinking.  We suspect the quality of editing may have something to do with it, unless the 2009 copyright on the former novel is a lie.  (The 1991 initial copyright may have something to do with the latter’s flaws.)  OTOH, A Matter of Class was a delightful novella, and At Last Comes Love, the third in the Huxtable series, was much better than First Comes Marriage (granted, it also has rape in it, but at least isn’t so blase about it).

In related news, I gave Carla Kelly a second try, and Miss Grimsley’s Oxford Career was far better than my first attempt at reading her.  The ending was still pretty ridiculous– Kelly seems to think she needs to pack in unnecessary drama at the end when a simple conversation would suffice.

One surprising book that turned out to be a keeper is a 1940 YA book (library discard) entitled The Fair Adventure by Elizabeth Janet Gray.  Despite the cover and title, it is not actually an Adventure book– I was expecting spies or treasure or something, but nope, it’s a slice of life coming of age book.  It is about a girl from the South who has just graduated valedictorian from high school and more than anything wants to go to (a renamed) Bryn Mar. It’s full of her relatives saying sexist things.  And yet… Despite being decades earlier than the wonderful Dinny Gordon books, it has a lot of the same themes (though not as good on race issues) and is quietly subversive.  Worth a read!

 Anything you want to add to your reading list, Grumpeteers?  Anything we should add to ours?

In which we talk about good books that are great to read

#1:  BTW, *all* of the Survivors’ Club books I’ve read so far have been delightful.  It is a fun fun series.
#2:  I stayed up late reading The Escape.  It was so good!  I was impressed with how Balogh managed to work everything out neatly at the end of The Escape.  Not TOO neat and tidy, but everything turned out in the end!

#1:  right now I’m knee deep in the first one I think the Escape’s been the best so far, but I seriously enjoyed the first two.
#2:  who gets together in the first one?
#1: Hugo, Lord Eames.

#2: Big ups for disability representation. I was impressed.
#1: YES! and she’s obviously done her research on the disabilities, even the mental health ones, which you will see in Flavian Lord Ponsoby’s story
#2:  excellent.  He has the stutter, and doesn’t Hugo have the PTSD? At the end of The Escape is a short story called “The Suitor” about Vincent, too.
#1:  Hugo mostly came to terms with his disability in the 7 years between leaving the war and the book starting. But there’s another mental health story that rings really true in the first book
#2: Excellent.
#1: You know I’m going to have to get the series.
#2:  Phillippa Dean is supposed to go marry Vincent the Viscount, but her heart is set on old flame Julian Crabbe…. CAN TRUE LOVE WIN THE DAY?
#1:  oh man oh man.  We meet Phillippa Dean at the beginning of Vincent’s book and her engagement is mentioned in his book near the end. They’re all so good. Vincent is a good guy.
#2:  well we already know who Vincent marries

#1: Get The Proposal (Book 1) next that’s the one I am thoroughly enjoying.  It also has a lot of commentary on class and culture and some signs of the end of the victorian age. The only thing it’s lacking is more stuff about agriculture.  I mean, it talks about agriculture, but doesn’t get into the weeds like I like.  Heyer does a good job getting into the weeds there.
#2:  if you want long tracts about agriculture you can always read Anna Karenina
#1: ugh, no thank you
#2: so many cabbages
#1:  I wrote a paper in college on Emma in the midst of an agricultural revolution
#2:  you are delightfully nerdy
#1:  My prof was especially impressed with me noticing that the only time Harriet says anything sensible is when she’s talking about agriculture.
#2:  you are one smart cookie.
#1:  That semester I was taking three classes that spent large portions of time on 19th century England.  Only my math class was exempt.
#2:  in college I wrote snarky-ass papers about how much I liked the characters in the V.I. Warshawski Novels by Sara Paretsky.  Especially Lotte, the Austrian Jewish doctor who performed free safe abortions
#1:  I have not read Sara Paretsky
#2:  I dunno that you’d like her. Chicago-based private eye VI Warshawski solves mysteries. If you like detective novels they’re good.
#1:  My mom left a bunch of similar themed books here the last time she stayed.  They haven’t been light enough for me to want to get into them
#2: yeah, they’re probably not fluffy enough for you right now
#1: it must be a sub-genre, mystery novels with abortion doctors in them.  My mom left one series about a historical midwife who solves crimes, I think.  They’re all just a little bit sordid
#2:  oh, hunh.  I didn’t know that.  This character’s main trait isn’t that she does abortions though, it’s that she is a great friend
#1:  mostly they seem to be early 20th century.  Wait, does this have an Australian mini-series based on it?
#2: no
#1: have you seen that?
#2: not that I know of anyway.  What series?
#1: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries I think set in the 1920s.
#2:  no, these ones are later than that
#1:  we saw two episodes and it was really high quality but too sordid for me
#2: these [Paretsky] ones are like in the 1990s
#1:  ah, the ones my mom left are all 1920s-1950s
#2: and I think (IIRC) that the friend is not specifically an abortion doctor, just that she knows how to do abortions and so she does them (in addition to other doctoring).  The VI Warshawski ones are like 1990s. If I’m thinking of the right series, she goes rollerblading.
#2:  hunh! Never heard of those but it does look like lovely production values
#1:  I suspect you will love it.  Australian.  Really interesting because the upper-crust all have British accents, but the normal people have Aussie accents.
#2:  actually I think I have heard of the book series but not read them
#2: I will probably enjoy that, you’re right

#1:  I want to read the stories of some of these other characters too [in the Survivors’ Club].  The glimpses of backstories are so interesting that I’m certain there must be another series that gives them full attention.  I love the way Balogh has created an entire world and we see people in it multiple times.  Even if there are still more young attractive dukes than could ever be possible.  I wonder what book is Lily’s story
#2: mmm delicious dukes
#1: this one has a lovely way of showing the same scene from both the hero and the heroine’s perspectives. Aiee, I just hit the part where the reader is firmly convinced that they’re perfect for each other.  Balogh is CLEVER.

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