Posts Tagged With: Reading

Interterm Reading List, 2016

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I’m in a weird place with the seasonal reading list.  My other school was on semesters, and the students just got back.  That means it should be time for a winter interterm reading list, right?  But the new school I’m working at is on the quarter system and it’s all wonky.  The students are already back.  This means I’m all fouled up.

So… I will post the interterm list and then another when the quarter ends, I guess?  We’ll see.  I like using this system because it’s so easy to figure out when I should post things.  End of semester?  Do a book list.  Nice and simple.  We’ll just have to make it work on the quarter system.

Here are the books I’ve read so far this December/January:

  • Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish by Eloisa James – a little bit farciful for my tastes, but I felt a palpable relief at getting into James’ writing after having read such terrible Christmas books before this one. She knows what she’s doing, and she’s doing it the fun way.
  • A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh – I actually liked this one quite a bit. The premise was original and the family was hilarious.
  • Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp – So fascinating. I love hearing about the lives of the von Trapps, and this one was from a very different perspective of the ones I’ve heard before.  Agathe remembers much more about their early childhood and there are amazing pictures. Way worth it if you’re a Sound of Music fan.
  • Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede – The character development was wishy-washy and it read like a D&D Campaign. Sometimes I don’t mind that with Wrede’s Lyra novels, but this time it bothered me a bit.  I think I would have appreciated it more if the story line and characters were stronger.  Still a solid book, though.  She writes well.
  • Much Ado About You by Eloisa James – Ah, and now we move onto romance novels with embarrassing names. Good book, though.  Interesting premise, I loved the relationship between all the sisters, and I couldn’t at first tell who the hero would be.  That’s a first for romance novels for me.
  • Kiss Me Anabelle by Eloisa James – Continuation of the 1st book, and still almost as good as ever although it does feature a stopover in a hovel that I think could have been skipped. Even though Anabelle is the heroine, Imogen sort of steals the show for a while.  I didn’t mind.
  • The Taming of the Duke by Eloisa James – Finally an Imogen novel, and it’s as amazing as you would think it would be. Also bonus points because you have no idea at first who she will get together with.  She’s such a spitfire.
  • Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James – I think that of the 4 Essex sisters, Josie is most like me. This book had lots of the fairy tale about it, too, so that was nice.  I think this one might have been my favorite of the 4.
  • Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay – I read Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightly last year and fell in love with her writing.  This one is just as compelling as you watch Lizzy and Jane figure out their relationship, watch Lizzy fall back in love with cooking, and get to care about all the other patients at the clinic.  It seemed more likely than Knightly, too.
  • Faking It by Elisa Lorello – Even if the writing wasn’t overly telling and the premise silly, I would have been mad at this book. It commits the carnal romance novel sin of not getting the guy and the girl together at the end.  She gets together with a different guy (who, while very nice, is NOT THE RIGHT GUY).  No, just no.
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell – My new favorite author. (!!!) Vowell was the voice of The Incredibles’ Violet, and is obsessed with all things macabre American History. She’s hilarious, makes the greatest connections, and throws a ton of good history in for good measure.  I’ll be reading everything she’s ever written, please.
  • It’s Just a Jump to the Left by Libba Bray – I know it was a short story, but I’m not really sure what changed for the Leta between the first and the last except that she was left wholly alone at the end of it. Your understanding of her situation changed, but she didn’t.  Still a good read, with Bray’s amazing writing to pull you right in.
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck – OH, so good.  I am an Oregon Trail junkie, have played the game a bazillion times, am a bit familiar with the history of it all, and have fallen in love with this book.  I desperately want to learn to drive a mule team and take them over the trail to Oregon.  Please say I can? Also, this has spawned much other reading.  I have Narcissa Whitman’s letters coming on Interlibrary Loan soon.
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A Reading Challenge

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Things have been a bit crazy here, so I’m sorry for the late post.  I’m leaving my job for a new one, and I have been insane wrapping things up, getting thank you letters written, and finishing the baby blanket for my now former boss (who is due in April).  I am excited for the new chapter of my life, though.  I’m sure I’ll write about that soon.

But in the mean time, I have some bookish goodness below.

I’ve decided to do a reading challenge this year in addition to reading 100 books.  There were a ton floating around on Tumblr, and I felt the longing to be participatory.  Besides, I read SO MUCH romance last year that it was really a travesty.  I usually branch out more than I did in 2015, and I think this challenge will get me reading in genres that I don’t automatically turn to.

After perusing all the ones available, I finally decided on this one from Stxry Books  http://www.stxrybooks.com/post/136388267660/stxrybooks-you-can-download-the.  It comes with a fancy printout version and everything, and also includes Poetry, Short Stories, and Graphic Novels – all of which I tend to avoid.

I’m also gonna do the thing where books don’t count for more than one category.  Like, I could put “The Diviners” in Book by a Female, Filled to the Rim with Magic, Scared to Read in the Dark, Involves a lot of Mystery, and Dark and Mysterious cover.  But I will only choose one for purposes of counting it under the challenge.

So here’s what I’ll be reading in 2016. There are only 31 of them, so I’ll still be able to read silly books to my heart’s content.  I’ll let you know how I do:

  • A book you bought long ago, but still haven’t read
  • A book with a character who is similar to you
  • A non-fiction book on something you’ve always wanted to know more about
  • A book by a female author (Lizzy and Jane, by Katherine Reay)
  • A book you never got to read in 2015
  • A book that will be a complete mindfuck
  • A book filled to the rim with magic (Daughter of Witches, Patricia C. Wrede)
  • A book you’re scared to read when it’s dark out
  • A book of which you liked the movie, but haven’t read the novel
  • A book that makes you want to visit the place it’s set
  • A book that’s on fire
  • A book that makes you want to be a villain
  • A classic you never made time for
  • A book that shows a different point of view
  • A book with short stories
  • A book that involves a lot of mystery
  • A book about a person who inspires you
  • A book that makes you want to be a hero
  • A graphic novel
  • A book of poetry
  • A book by an unfamiliar author (Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowel)
  • A book published in 2016
  • A book with a dark and mysterious cover
  • A book from a random recommendationalist
  • A book with a surprising love element
  • A book with lots of mystical creatures
  • A book that reminds you of another season
  • A book no one wants you to read
  • A book you own that is the most beautiful thing you’ve seen
  • A book that makes you a complete mess
  • A book you started but never finished
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News and Book Reviews: Christmas Romance

I had carefully crafted a thing on Romance Novels for Christmas that I wrote for today, but I got some AMAZING news last night that I want to share first.  Bewildering Stories has included my story in their “best of the quarter” list – the Quarterly Review.  I also received the Order of the Hot Potato.  Meaning that the honor of inclusion was hotly debated by the editors.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not, but I’m going with excitement that people are discussing my work.  🙂 Also, not bad for my first really published thing.

This was the nicest Christmas present.  Thanks, Bewildering Stories!

And now on to Christmas Romance:

Romance Ladies

I got it into my head that I wanted to read some Christmas Romance over the last few weeks.  The best part about this silly genre is that there are themed things all over the place. Christmas romance of the good kind is prolific if you’re just wanting a sweet falling in love story.  Isla and the Happily Ever After; Carry On; Landline; Dear Mr. Knightly; I could go on…

But what I wanted was a good ol’ Historical Romance Novel with all the tropes that are a part of that genre.  The hot men, the witty women, the tension, the manor houses, the Christmas decorations.  It turns out that this is a VERY hard thing to find.  There’s a lot of stuff out there, certainly, but I was having a hard time stumbling into the good stuff.  I read about a bazillion things, and I finally found some books that would keep my season steamy.  The list is below, so you don’t have to suffer through bad Christmas romance like I did.

I suppose I should also explain something.  I hate Novellas.  I know – blasphemy.  My former English professor would be aghast.  But the main reason I like romance novels is to live in another world for a while.  And “for a while” doesn’t tend to exist in novellas.  There are exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between.  So I also tried to avoid all short story collections and novella collections, although I didn’t do it completely.

Here is the list of what I read.  If you have any other suggestions, PLEASE send them along.

Buy Immediately:

Christmas Ladies: 3 Full-Length Holiday Regencies (Windham Series) by Grace Burrowes:  This is a collection of 3 Christmas novels that were all collected into one e-book.  They’re all full length (!!!) and very well done with plenty of Christmas goodness in with the romance goodness.  I LOVED the first one, and am in the middle of the second.  Best part is that they’re super-cheap right now.  You can’t beat the bargain, and the 3 novels will keep you occupied until Christmas comes at this point.

Worth it:

An Affair Before Christmas (Desperate Duchesses, Bk 2) by Eloisa James: I always love James’ stuff.  I don’t quite know why, but as soon as you delve into that first chapter you just know you’re in the hands of a master.  That was more evident to me after reading all the bad books before this one – it visibly felt like a relief to read the first paragraph.  The beginning of the book and the end are all the Christmas you could desire, but the rest of it takes place outside the season.  Still a fun romp and an excellent novel.

Mostly worth it:

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas: The story moved quickly and the ending felt too unfinished, but otherwise the book was excellent. Modern, so be warned.

A Wallflower Christmas (Wallflowers, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas: I mean, it features the trope where the guy keeps going even after the girl has said no.  And it does it repeatedly.  But otherwise this book was excellent, with Christmas tree decorating, some Dickens, and a well done story line.

Under the Mistletoe (Signet Eclipse) by Mary Balogh: A collection of 5 novellas.  They’re all good, but I’m not really sure why they decided to put all of these together.  In a lot of cases, the stories are so similar that they sort of blended into one another for me without distinction.  I would read The Best Gift and Playing House, and then forget the other 3.

Not worth it:

A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale:  I found myself cringing so often at the writing, and at the main character’s attitude toward things.  Like, your life isn’t complete unless you can have children and that’s your only aim in life?  Give me a break, kid.  Interactions between her and the hero also felt awkward and forced a lot of the time.  I did finish it in short order, so that’s saying something about the story arc itself, I think.  But I would skip this one in favor of something less maddening. Also a modern tale.

All links are affiliate links.  Happy reading!!

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Fall Reading List, 2015

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Well, it is  Finals Week here in college-land.  That means that it’s time for me to post my seasonal reading list.  These are all of the things I have read between July and now, and how I felt about them.  Fair warning: my romance novel habit has become encompassing.  They’re just so fluffy!  When I don’t want to read angsty things, I find those do the trick so nicely.  And I can’t not read.  For as long as I can remember, I have never not been in the middle of something, unless I’ve just finished something.

Yeah, I know.

But the good news is that you get to benefit from my insanity.

I hope you are shaping up to have a Jolly Holiday.  Or have had a Jolly Holiday (since Hanukkah is over…).

The Official Fall Reading List:

  1. Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Hill Smith: I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t a fan of her novels or of history.  It’s basically a rough draft surrounded by a WEALTH of cool information.  Needs a bit of determination to get through, but it’s 100% worth it in every way once you do.
  2. A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett: A collection of his non-fiction essays and talks. It’s good.  His wry wit shows through clearly, and he has interesting things to say about his Alzheimer’s.  Ultimately, it’s mostly fluff and opinion.  But it’s good, funny fluff, so…
  3. Rising Strong by Brene Brown: Holy crap. I always feel like her stuff is life changing, but I feel like this one brought me a greater understanding of what’s happening with me. I’ve been a bit depressed for a long time, and it feels like I found the key as to why and how to get out.
  4. When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Fairy Tales) by Eloisa James: Not as good the second time around. I mean, I still liked it.  But the first time I read it I felt like Piers was great and the story was so fresh.  This time his demandingness was a bit much, and Linnet is SO naïve.
  5. A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James: So much better the second time around I think. I liked it the first time, but the second I fell head-over-heels for the prince.  Add in rats of dogs, horrible wigs, and an awesomely innapropriate Godmother, and it turns into a very fun romp.
  6. Romancing Mister Bridgerton (Bridgertons) by Julia Quinn: Knowing the surprise ending didn’t ruin it for me at all the second time around, which was nice.  I do like the Bridgertons and all the silly they come with.  Colin and his perpetually empty stomach being one of them.
  7. Minx (Avon Historical Romance) by Julia Quinn: You know, I liked the book. I did.  But it fell into that uncomfortable territory for me where the main hero was a bit too forceful for comfort.  Despite that, Henry really is the best sort of girl and it was fun seeing her get the hero into a pigsty, among other things.
  8. Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn: Yeah, it was a cute premise and all but I found it a bit cheesy. I still maintain that the Bridgertons are her best work.
  9. Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn: Two childhood friends find out they have a bit more in common when he suffers a deadly injury and has no one to nurse him. There’s a lot of horrible woundiness that I skipped through – the hero gets gangrene and it’s rather descriptive about the treatment.  But otherwise great.
  10. Three Weeks With Lady X (Desperate Duchesses) by Eloisa James: A bit less salacious than it sounds. I liked this one a billion times more the second time around.  The hero is such an ass, but he’s such a handsome, principled ass.  Also, the quippy letters he and Xenobia send back and forth are hilarious.  Bonus points for neither of the main characters growing up rich.
  11. The First Frontier: The Forgotten History of Struggle, Savagery, and Endurance in Early America by Scott Weidensaul: Full of really frightening pioneer stories during the colonial eras, but an interesting read nonetheless. I felt like I got a better idea of some of the fiction books I used to read as a child (Calico Captive being one of them).
  12. The Arm of the Starfish by Madeline L’Engle: You know, I like this sort of espionage world she operates in sometimes. She does it fairly well.  I think her strength is family relationships, and there’s very little of that in here; but it’s still a compelling thriller, even if it’s a bit predictable.
  13. What Happens in London by Julia Quinn: Again with the names. And I seem to be in an espionage mood.  But this one was EXCELLENT.  Very fun and unpredictable.  Although maybe her loose ends weren’t wrapped quite as nicely as I’d like them to be. Proposal at the end was perfection.
  14. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: a re-read that I’m finding less captivating the second time around. Perhaps because I know what’s coming and I’m not super excited to get to the soul-crushing parts of it.  You have to love Lola, though.
  15. Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black: a super-gritty and dangerous delve into Faerie Land in the middle of modern day. Kaye finds out she’s a changeling when she moves back home to New Jersey when her mom’s boyfriend gets murderey.  She also becomes the target of a sadistic queen when the queen’s knight Roiben falls for her.  There’s weird human neighbors and much intrigue.  Amazing book.
  16. Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale (Modern Faerie Tale) by Holly Black: The sequel to Tithe, and just as crazy as the first. Kaye finds herself trapped between faery wars when Roiben gives her an impossible quest, and the Seelie queen tries to use her against him.  Where has this series been all my life?
  17. Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley: In her fabulously frantic yet real-life voice. It gets a little too much sometimes, especially by the end.  But I do love the outcome of the book so much.  Once Lois is older it starts to feel like actual life again, and it’s nice to watch and be in. Keep with it!
  18. Asking Styles: Harness Your Personal Fundraising Power by Andrea Kihlstedt: A little shorter than I wanted, but ultimately it made me feel like I could make this fundraising thing work for me despite my shyness and lack of teeth. Which I think was the purpose.
  19. How to Marry a Marquis (Avon Romantic Treasure) by Julia Quinn: I liked this one a LOT. I know I said I go to romance novels to escape, but this one dealt with poverty well.  A sweet where the heroine fell for the property manager, who was really a Marquis in disguise. I would recommend, and will probably re-read at some point.
  20. A Night Like This by Julia Quinn: It was the usual thing.  And the usual thing when done by Julia Quinn is awfully well done. It’s weird, because there wasn’t anything I can pinpoint exactly that I didn’t like, but it just didn’t stick with me like some of her others.  I liked it, but I would recommend others first.
  21. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown: I don’t know why Brene Brown is so amazing for me, but she really is. I thought that Rising Strong was helpful, but I feel like after reading this one I have a whole new understanding of how to become a better, more resilient person.  I also think I have a better handle on why and how others around me are making the choices that they are.  This one felt so do-able. I feel like EVERYONE should read it.
  22. Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel by Katherine Reay: Oh, so good and sweet and awful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I love Sam so much.  She feels like a real girl, taking refuge from her bad social skills in books and always on the verge of dropping out.  Every small good thing that happens to her feels like such a triumph.  And the ending – !!! – wow.  That’s all I’ll say.  But this might be a new favorite of mine.
  23. Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson: I basically spent the entire time trying not to break out in a belly-laugh when I was reading during my lunch hour or next to Brian as he slept. I love Jenny SO MUCH.  This book is messier than her first, but it doesn’t seem to matter much for enjoyment.  In fact, it may be funnier than her first, the sometimes (okay always) awkward ramblings serving the subject matter so well.
  24. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: is it bad that this is fanfiction for a series that never existed, and yet I want ALL THE BOOKS RIGHT NOW? It’s perfect, in a way that satisfied all my Harry Potter longings, with much steaminess included as well.  Baz is such a shit, and I’m head over heels for him. For all of them. “So Good” doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel about it. Maybe asdfjkl;!!!!! will?
  25. To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn: Good, although a little ridiculous at times. I mean, she lives in his bathroom for a week or so… I don’t know.  It just didn’t seem likely.  But funny and quippy and full of good romance like most of Quinn’s stuff.
  26. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: Oh, quite good. I felt like Will’s journey didn’t quite come as full circle as I’d like, but overall it was a good book and unlike anything I had read before.  It dealt not just with boys and body image, but also what happens when friends grow apart.  Worth it.
  27. Landline: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell: I forget how much this one slays me. She gets that whole “married too young” relationship right, and I see so much of Brian and I between the covers here.  I don’t think I’d ever try and convince past Brian not to marry me, though.
  28. Thornyhold (Rediscovered Classics) by Mary Stewart: I wanted my Nano novel to feel a little like this novel.  It’s one of my favorites of all time, and definitely a comfort book.  You have to love the animals, and the house just for Gilly, and her romance with Christopher.  So great.
  29. Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones: Another story I’d like my Nano novel to feel like. It’s totally different than Thornyhold, but also not.  There’s witchcraft and a magical house that becomes a home.  There’s a little bit more of the fae in this one, though.  Another favorite.
  30. Rose Cottage (Rediscovered Classics) by Mary Stewart: I thought this book was a bit like Thornyhold, which it sort of is, but it’s not really a homecoming book so much as it’s a home-leaving book. At least for most of it.  It didn’t help much with Nano, but I enjoyed it all the same.  Another comfort book of mine, with a very puzzling mystery right until the end.
  31. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel by Susanna Clarke: I picked this up because Neil Gaiman told me to (through an online article – not in person, sadly.) I’m finding it pretty slow going. It starts off as an older novel would, with much telling and exposition.  But I like the characters and it’s an interesting premise.  I even like the fact, a bit, that it feels older than it is.  I’m going to stick with it and see if I don’t love it later.  Because this is the sort that you LOVE or don’t.  Nothing in between.
  32. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I’ve been wanting to tear apart a couple of books and see if I can’t learn something about the structure of them. This one was a 50-cent wrecked paperback that I bought at the local Thanksgiving rummage sale, so it was perfect.  The tearing-apart stuff is going well, and is SUPER interesting.  Did you know that Jane isn’t even mentioned by name for, like, almost 3 chapters?  I’m trying to figure out why Austin would do that…
  33. The Lady Hellion (Wicked Deceptions) by Joanna Shupe: Pretty darn good, of the regular romance variety. I picked it up because it was named best of the year, and I think it deserves the crown. The PTSD of the main character was a bit of a twist, as was the total spunkiness of the heroine.
  34. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: Yes, I’m reading it again less than 3 months after I finished it the first time. This just shows you how obsessed I am.  My phone background is now Simon and Baz looking smoldery at each other. ❤  If you haven’t, you need to go read it NOW.
  35. A Wallflower Christmas (Wallflowers, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas: I almost liked this one. I just have such a hard time with heroes who won’t take no for an answer, even if the heroine is really enjoying it – and this one was FULL of that.  But the arc of the story line was good and the writing was excellent.  I won’t read it again, although I might look up the other “Wallflower” books.
  36. A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale: The writing was, well, less than good. Her main character felt wooden, and played into a lot of female stereotypes that I hate (she’s nothing without a family of her own?). But there was something about the story line that wouldn’t let me put the book down, so there’s that.
  37. Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas: Her writing is so good, with the cinematic description you usually find in literary fiction.  The book went way too fast for my liking, though, and it didn’t feel resolved enough at the end.  Still probably the best of the Christmas novels I’ve read this month.
  38. Stranger in My Arms by Lisa Kleypas: Aside from a bit of disbelief that the main character wouldn’t confront her husband with the main problem but instead run to crappy relatives, I would consider this a pretty perfect romance novel.
  39. Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones: I usually LOVE a Diana Wynne Jones book. Even “bad” ones are typically great when compared to other authors.  But for some reason, I just couldn’t get into this one.  Maybe it was because the zaniness was so fragmented among worlds/characters?

All links are affiliate links.  Happy reading!

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Some Thoughts on Romance Novels

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I usually keep a reading list of whatever I’m finishing, but I am here to confess that my reading list has been less than honest lately.  I’ve been binge-reading romance novels for the last 2 months now, with not a whole lot else stuffed in between.  I’ve been loath to admit it, so I’ve been leaving it off the list.  Why, you ask?  Oh good, I was hoping you would.  I’ll tell you.

Well, I mean… Regency romance novels with all the sex in them are definitely considered some of the worst kind of beach smut by a lot of people.  I get that, but I don’t think that’s the entire reason I hate to admit that I read them (although as a self-professed book snob, perhaps that’s some of it).  I DO advocate for reading everything and for judging a book by it’s intended merits.  Romance novels are fun.  The real reason I’ve not wanted to say anything , though, is because I am a girl who has always prided myself on being a little weird.  But if I’m a 33 year-old married lady who isn’t particularly happy with life in its current state (Why have I not received a six figure book deal yet?  Oh, it’s because I haven’t finished writing the book, you say?  And even then, that sort of money is a total pipe-dream?), I may also be a giant cliché.  Okay, I’ll just embrace it; I’m almost certainly a giant cliché.

But I’ll live with it.  That’s how much I like romance novels.  I am willing to be labeled ordinary for reading them.

There has been a TON of scholarship on why women like the romance genre, but I’m going to add my non-scientific thoughts on it.   I like them because they’re the best kind of escapism.  It’s really that simple.  For example:

There are no money problems.  Or if there are money problems, it’s because one or the other of the protagonists is hiding their vast fortune.  Or is about to be left a vast fortune.  Or is about to have an amazing idea for an invention that will earn them a fortune.  In a romance novel, no one ever spends the evening going over the finances and crying.  There is no dismay at how bad the electric bill has become in the wake of the 100-degree heat.  No cars or carriages ever need repairs that are unaffordable.  No one shops at the thrift store, the dollar tree.  They don’t have to worry about deciding where to eat, or where to spend date night, or if there will even be a date night.  Just have the cook make whatever you want! Attend the ball, or the theater! Characters buy libraries and entire wardrobes in one fell swoop in these things.  Characters buy and furnish entire manor houses in one fell swoop.  It’s relaxing.

And then… There are no job problems, because no one works.  Everyone has a title or a vast fortune, so there is no day job to make ends meet.  If you are female, your job is to dress yourself in awesome clothes, read books, and drink tea all day while waiting to be seduced or chatted-up by a VERY handsome (and often smart) man.  You can attend balls and theater performances if you’d like.  If you are a man, your job is to gamble, talk horses, tie a mean cravat, and go to the club while chatting up a lovely lady of your choice.  Bonus points for tight pants and sheer manliness.  People have professions if they want them or are good at them, but they work for themselves.  There are no crappy bosses.  There is no sacrificing time with your loved ones because the boss needs you to work overtime.  There are no assignments that make you want to tear your hair out with boredom.  No one ever has to decide what they want to “be when they grow up,” because what they’re going to be is independently wealthy.  It’s lovely.

Put that together with settings of fantastical manor houses, pretty dresses, and bleak yet beautiful countryside and you have something that is just the perfect place to escape to.  It’s so unlike my current American life of offices and cars that it’s almost like reading fantasy.  Now if only we could do something about the sappy, cringe-worthy titles.  That is the only thing left to reconcile… I can’t tell inquirers that I’m reading “Three Weeks With Lady X” with a straight face.  I just can’t.

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I Need Diverse Books

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I have decided that I’m reading only books by non-white authors this summer; and only books I haven’t read before.  I realized that, although I don’t try to be exclusive, most of the authors I frequent – my favorites – are white women.  Nothing wrong with being a white woman who writes books (after all, I am one).  But summer is for stepping out of the usual, am I right? (I’m right)

I’ve been following the We Need Diverse Books movement online.  I know the reality is that diverse books only get made if diverse books get bought.  Therefore I will buy some (hence the “haven’t read before” rule). I’m also hoping that by reading only non-white authors I’ll learn something new.  Yay for learning new things.

I usually get through somewhere between 20-35 books over a season.  I have a lovely little list going on at Goodreads, but I’m posting my thirteen Must Reads below (I started with ten, and then had to keep going).  It’s been sort of a challenge to find things because I’m not thrilled with literary fiction; I like genre much better and YA or Fantasy in particular.  Recommended reading lists for those genres are few and far between.  But I digress.

Below is my list.  If you have any others you think I should definitely put on there, please, PLEASE let me know.  I have read the Great Greene Heist, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, How The Garcia Girls Got Their Accent, The God of Small Things, some Virginia Hamilton, some Laura Esquivel, and much Sherman Alexie, but anything else is (probably) fair game.

  1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  2. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson
  3. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  5. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renaee Ahdieh
  6. A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison by Paul Jennings
  7. My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
  8. Mules and Men by Zora Neale Hurston
  9. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  10. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  11. Written In The Stars by Aisha Saeed
  12. For The Record by Charlotte Huang
  13. An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay

See, I read all of these titles and I get REALLY excited for those students to graduate and for the summer to officially start.  Commencement is this weekend, so SOON. (!!!)

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An Explanation of Beach Smut

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I talk about Beach Smut on the blog sometimes, and it dawns on me that this is a term much like “Space Chicken” – my family uses it and everyone else has no idea at all what we mean.  (Space Chicken, by the way, is a supermarket rotisserie chicken in a plastic dome.  All ready to go into space in its own little ship).  But Beach Smut is an important thing to know about.

To qualify as Beach Smut, a novel can have no redeeming informational value.  It has to be for fun only.  No thoughts or deep meanings required.  Only feels.  If you’d never tell your English teacher about the book, but you’re LOVING it anyway, you’re probably reading Beach Smut.  In short, this is a genre that’s perfect for when you’re sitting and sunning yourself on the beach.  It’s vacation if you’re sunning yourself on the beach.  No high thoughts, morals, or meanings allowed.

I consider Twilight to be the pinnacle of the Beach Smut genre, although there are others just as good.  It’s a quick read, a little salacious, with plenty of Vampire/Werewolf drama.  It’s easy to identify with Bella, and it’s hard to take seriously.  There are four whole books, so you don’t even have to think hard about what you’re reading next.  Perfect.  Dive right in.  Others that qualify are Kiera Cass’ Selection series, any Anne McCaffrey novel, and things labeled “Aunt Dimity.”  I’m sure you can think of a host of others.

We all read them.  And their quality has to be judged differently from that of more serious books, because the aim of the author is different in writing them.  You can’t fault Twilight for not being The Fault In Our Stars.  It isn’t fair to either book, and it isn’t fair to either author.  They’re a totally different thing and they each have a valid place in the world.

So there you have it.  And when I rave of the Beach Smut merits of a particular book, you will know what I mean.

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Oh, Amazon…

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So it turns out that not only is Amazon blocking Hachette (http://online.wsj.com/articles/amazon-hachette-e-book-pricing-battle-continues-1407708761), but they’re trying the same shit with Warner Brothers (http://mashable.com/2014/06/10/hachette-warner-bros-amazon-lego/) and Disney (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/amazon-takes-the-muppets-off-the-shelf/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&smid=tw-nytimesbits&_r=2&). Umm, I don’t know how you expect this to end guys, but I predict that it won’t go well. In addition, Amazon has sent out a letter to all their self-published KDP writers asking them to write to the CEO of Hachette and complain (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/orwell-is-amazons-latest-target-in-battle-against-hachette/). Another really bad idea, I would imagine; even if they had gotten their literary references correct. Amazon is now putting people like me (who just want to read a damn book, or sell a damn book) in the middle of this thing. It’s like running to mommy when the big kid tries to take your lunch money, except that Amazon is supposed to be the mommy in this situation. 

I am shaking my head over here. Also, I’m angry.

Frankly, I don’t care how I get my stuff as long as I get it. I liked the fact that Amazon is easy to use and all in one place; I can click a single button and the thing I’ve ordered arrives. However, all my stuff is no longer in the same place or will arrive reliably. Shannon Hale is with Hachette. Amanda Palmer is with Hachette. JK Rowling and Stephen Colbert are with Hachette. I LOVE the Muppets.  I really don’t like getting dicked around because two giant corporations can’t get it together and make an agreement. I don’t think that Hachette is blameless, but I do think they’ve played the PR game better. And really, for me, the whole thing is about access. I don’t care how Amazon and Hachette resolve this thing, I just want to be able to read what I want to read. I also don’t mind paying a little more for that privilege.

So basically, this post is to say that I’m done. Amazon obviously can’t give me the customer experience I need. I love that Kindle app on my phone, but did you know that Kobo also has a reading app? I downloaded it last night and I already love it. Their prices are not that different from Amazon, and I was able to preorder both Shannon Hale’s “A Wonderlandiful World” and Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” with the click of a single button. It loads faster than the Kindle app, too, and they give me fancy badges for reading stuff! There is also a little green bookmark that goes into your page when you sign out. Next, I’m going to try Powell’s (http://www.powells.com/) or Vroman’s (http://www.vromansbookstore.com/) for all my physical book ordering needs. There is also the fabulous Barnes and Noble, for the large and established factor.  I’m not going without stuff to prove a point I don’t care about, Amazon.  Maybe if you had gotten that George Orwell quote right… (Okay, not even then).

In the mean time, I wish both Amazon and Hachette luck in figuring this whole thing out. Now excuse me while I go enrich Wil Wheaton’s stock in popcorn by buying a huge bowl for myself. I’ve figured out a way to get my books like I want them and I no longer have a stake in the game. Now the travesty can unfold for my amusement.

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Interterm Reading List

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It is officially the end of Interterm this week. The students are back, regular classes are in session. That probably means that I should post my reading list for this school season. Yes, I’m not in class anymore. Still, I’m working at a college and the year seems to divide itself naturally into these sections. The reading list is smaller than the others, I’ll admit, but Interterm is short. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, here is my official Interterm reading list with reviews:

1. Consider The Lobster – David Foster Wallace: His writing is excellent, but I can’t get over the conviction that he’s embellishing the truth for a better story. I’ve caught him in a few.

2. Elizabeth The First Wife – Lian Dolan: Super smutty like promised, but a bit contrived. I still loved it because the girl and the guy get together in the end. I’m terrible that way.

3. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding: So excellent, with an endearing and neurotic main character you just have to love.

4. Lives Like Loaded Guns – Lyndall Gordon: The life of Emily Dickenson and her family. Heartbreaking, makes me glad I’m not a Victorian woman, and impossible to put down.

5. The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published – Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry: Lots of interesting stuff to ponder. Makes me think that a lot of my instincts about just putting my writing out there are right.

6. Power of Three – Diana Wynne Jones: One of her best, I think. You know it’s one thing and then it morphs into another entirely. Clever and fun. I couldn’t put it down.

7. Shadows – Robin McKinley: Written from the 1st person POV of a rather gushy high school girl, but that’s its only flaw. I am otherwise IN LOVE with this book.

8. Nine Coaches Waiting – Mary Stewart: Oh another that I have re-read to death. It’s Raul mostly, I’ll admit, but the setting is beautiful, the suspense heartbreaking, and the end perfect.  So perfect!

9. On Writing Well – William Zinsser: In the absence of teachers, I have books… this confirmed a lot of my already held assumptions and clarified a bunch of questions. Clever read, and helpful.

10. Beauty – Robin McKinley: Loved all but the very end. Happily Ever After doesn’t quite satisfy when the rest is so sophisticated, and when I had such a deep affection for life pre-Happily Ever After.

11. Pegasus – Robin McKinley: It’s ½ a book, and it ends SO traumatically. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful setting and a beautiful concept. I’ll be picking up the next ASAP, please write fast! 🙂

In other news, my book list is stacking up horribly fast, no thanks to Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals. For the first time in a long time, my to-read list is more than ten books long. I’m in the middle of Inkheart right now, far enough in to know that I love it, but not far enough to have more of an opinion than that. Then there is In Cold Blood, a book about German fighter pilots and how they felt about working for Hitler, seven romance novels (hey, it is February…), Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter, and Tom Zoellner’s new book about trains. I have a feeling I’ll be adding sequels to that as well. It’s overwhelming. I practically need the smaller commute I’m seeking, just for the extra reading hours. That is also a story I’m sticking with.  We’ll see how it goes when I post Spring’s reading list…

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Summer Reading List:

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I usually try to keep a summer reading list.  I work year-round these days, so I’m not sure why a summer reading list is different than any other season.  For some reason it seems appropriate, though.  It’s fun to look back and see what you thought, what you liked and didn’t.  I was a little bit of a slacker this summer.  I didn’t read nearly as much as I usually do, due to afghans, no lunch breaks, summer school, and Hulu, among other things.  Still, I think it’s a pretty respectable list.  I started keeping track the week I graduated.  Chapman starts school next week (in which I’ll finish Archer’s Goon), so summer is officially over. 

  1. Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery (Read a thousand times before, and love)
  2. Anne of Avonlea – L. M. Montgomery (Ditto for all Anne novels…)
  3. Anne of the Island – L. M. Montgomery
  4. Anne’s House of Dreams – L. M. Montgomery
  5. The Blue Castle – L. M. Montgomery (Okay, maybe ditto for all LM Montgomery novels)
  6. Beauty Queens – Libba Bray (Hilarious mash up of the Miss America pageant and Lord of the Flies)
  7. Don Quixote – Miguel De Cervantes (Not at all like I thought it would be.  Much funnier, in a winky ‘you get the joke’ sort of way)
  8. The Thirteenth Child – Patricia C. Wrede (Alternative history, magic, and the frontier? Yes!!)
  9. Beyond the Great Barrier – Patricia C. Wrede (Continuation of the above.  Not as good, really, and ends on a cliffhanger.  Boo.  Still debating on whether I’ll read 3)
  10. The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (I’m now convinced I need to find someone to do this with me.  The letter game becomes a magical novel set in Regency England)
  11. The Grand Tour – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (And now they’re both married!!!  I admit this is smut, but I like it anyway)
  12. Spindle’s End – Robin McKinley (Sleeping Beauty kicks ass in typical fairy tale setting)
  13. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (Another re-read.  Eleanor’s silent heartbreak is why I keep returning, I think)
  14. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman!!! Need I say more?  It was better than any of his other things, and this is saying a LOT)
  15. Make Good Art – Neil Gaiman (Art book that oddly reads like he spoke it.  Brilliant.)
  16. A Matter of Magic (really two novels put into one) – Patricia C. Wrede (Oh, why do I love these things so much?  It’s smut, but it’s such FUN smut… This one has a coming out party!)
  17. On Being Ill – Virginia Woolf (Wow.  Short read, and highly recommended)
  18. A Safeway in Arizona – Tom Zoellner (Also another wow.  It’s so much less political and much more human than I thought it would be, and I loved every bit of it.  Heartbreaking in spots, and a lot to think about)
  19. Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories – Flannery O’Connor (I realized that I just don’t like her.  A lot of it is about southern racism in the 1950s and I just don’t understand and can’t empathize.)
  20. The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years Later – Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (The letters continue.  They all have children now!!!)
  21. Arthur – by some lady from Scripps College (I can’t decide if I find her argument that Arthur was real compelling because it is, or because I so want Arthur to be real)
  22. Four Queens – Nancy Goldstone  (Makes me very glad I wasn’t a woman in the middle ages, and yet I can’t put it down.  It’s gripping)
  23. Archer’s Goon – Diana Wynne Jones (Reminds me much of The Game, but more satisfying.  Not as well-written a book as Dogsbody or Fire and Hemlock, but infinitely fun and funny like most of her work.) 

I had hoped to get to these, but didn’t.  On the to-read list (and checked out of the library, so it will be soon):

  1. The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley
  2. Kung Fu High School – Ryan Gattis (a former teacher of mine with such an amazing command of craft)
  3. The Big Drop: Homecoming – Ryan Gattis
  4. Chalice – Robin McKinley
  5. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss (because it was recommended as a must read)
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