Random (but not really)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Happy Hour Books

I had a lovely virtual happy hour with friends, and someone mentioned we needed to note all the books mentioned. Here’s what I have, minus the SF and history books, which I don’t remember.


American Gods (2001) Neil Gaiman
Anansi Boys (2005) Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman –Urban Fantasy

The Wolf at the Door (2018) Charlie Adhara (Big Bad Wolf) — Supernatural fantasy w M/M romance

Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters (2016) Angel Martinez (Offbeat Crimes) — Supernatural fantasy w/ M/M romance

Open for Business (2016) Angel Martinez (Brandywine Investigations)
Family Matters (2018) Angel Martinez (Brandywine Investigations) — Supernatural fantasy w/ M/M romance

Band Sinister (2018) K.J. Charles (Historical M/M Romance) (Georgette Heyer’s Venetia)

Thirteenth Child (2009) Patricia C. Wrede (Frontier Magic) (sub for Alvin Maker series) (Historical fantasy)

The Illiad by Homer

Isaac Asimov, William Gibson (?), Ray Bradbury

Histories of Nixon and some other Republicans.

N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy – The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky (Vince)

Claire North’s “The End of the Day” (David)

Darynda Jones’ Charlie Davidson series

I’m not naming the authors we used to love until we discovered they were horrible people.

I’ll list more as people remind me!

 


Written by Michelle at 6:15 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,UCF  

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Books of February 2020

Even having an extra day, February flew by. Very little hiking this month because it WON’T STOP RAINING, so once more an absurd amount of reading.

So what was good last month? A lot!

Blank Spaces

The Trouble Brewing series by Layla Reyne was almost as good as her Irish & Whiskey series. Imperial Stout, Craft Brew, and  Noble Hops were all fun and thrilling, although lots of boinking.

I finally broke down and purchased Rob Thurman’s Trickster series as ebooks, and   Trick of the Light was just as good as I remembered. 

Because I was talking about it with Michael (and because there was a new book coming out) I re-read Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf, which I enjoyed just as much the second time around.

I’ve found a lot of Ace romances, and most of them were very good. I definitely recommend Upside Down by N.R. Walker, Three Stupid Weddings by Ann Gallagher,  Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox, Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists by Angel Martinez , and  All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher

I even read some comics last month. All were new-to-me series, and I do want to read more of Lady Mechanicka

Here’s what I read by category. The Ace romances may or may not have boinking, so check the tags / categories if you want to be sure.

Mystery, Historical

Owen Archer
The Riddle of St. Leonard’s (1997) Candace Robb Rating: 8/10
A Gift of Sanctuary (1998) Candace Robb Rating: 7.5/10

Trick of the Light
Mystery, LGBT

The Art of Murder
The Monet Murders (2017) Josh Lanyon Rating: 8/10
The Magician Murders (2019) Josh Lanyon Rating: 8/10
The Monuments Men Murders (2019) Josh Lanyon Rating: 6/10
Trouble Brewing
Imperial Stout (2018) Layla Reyne Rating: 8/10
Craft Brew (2018) Layla Reyne Rating: 8.5/10
Noble Hops (2019) Layla Reyne Rating: 8.5/10

Fantasy, Supernatural

Trick of the Light (2009) Rob Thurman (Trickster) Rating: 9.5
Big Bad Wolf
The Wolf at the Door (2018) Charlie Adhara Rating: 8.5/10
The Wolf at Bay (2018) Charlie Adhara Rating: 9.5/10
Thrown to the Wolves (2019) Charlie Adhara Rating: 9/10
Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists (2017) Angel Martinez Rating: 8.5/10
Known Devil (2014) Justin Gustainis (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation) Rating: 8.5/10
The Alpha and His Ace (2015) Ana J. Phoenix Rating: 5/10

The Wolf at the Door
Romance, LGBT

Upside Down (2019) N.R. Walker Rating: 9/10
Three Stupid Weddings (2018) Ann Gallagher Rating: 8.5/10
Blank Spaces (2016) Cass Lennox (Toronto Connections) Rating: 8.5/10
Dine with Me (2019) Layla Reyne Rating: 8.5/10
Arctic Heat (2019) Annabeth Albert (Frozen Hearts) Rating: 8/10
All the Wrong Places (2016) Ann Gallagher (Bluewater Bay) Rating: 8/10
Candy Hearts (2020) Erin McLellan (So Over the Holidays) Rating: 7/10
Save the Date (2017) Annabeth Albert & Wendy Qualls

Romance, Historial

The Winter Companion (2020) Mimi Matthews (Parish Orphans of Devon) Rating: 8/10

Comics

Lady Mechanika Volume 1: Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse (2015) Joe Benitez, Peter Steigerwald Rating: 7.5
Check, Please!: # Hockey (2018) Ngozi Ukazu Rating: 7/10
Mooncakes (2019) Suzanne Walker, Wendy Xu Rating: 7/10

So what good did you read last month? Or did you have decent weather and were able to leave your house?

Written by Michelle at 2:44 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Don’t Yuck My Yum

I read an article that voiced something I’ve seen in so very many sub-cultures: the hatred of things once they become popular because popular can’t possibly be good.

I think music might give the best example, just because I can so clearly hear the things people said about so very many bands.

1. Oh, I love (obscure band). You haven’t heard of them?
2. I saw (now up and coming band) back when they first started.
3. Ugh. (Now popular band) totally sold out. I hate all their new stuff.

Yes, sometimes good bands put out lousy follow-up albums. Some artists change things up and so every album is different which means what you loved about one album may not be in a later album (See: Prince). But usually it was the same music and only popularity tainted it and made it unpalatable.

The same thing happens with books of course (hence the original article catching my attention).

The fantasy books (and mysteries) I love are typically looked down upon because they aren’t “serious literature”. I never believed that about fantasy, though I did look down upon romance novels for decades. However, that was due to my introduction to the genre, which was full of rape, and the fact that I just don’t care for boinking in books, and the romances I came across were full of it. (“UGH. They’re kissing again. Can we get back to the sword-fighting and cat burglary?”)

I eventually got over that, because there were so very many really good stories I was missing out on solely because they were kissing books, although I still skim the boinking bits to get back to the crime solving or whatever.

And of course the same happens with movies. If it’s popular we have to look down upon it for it cannot be “good”.

Whatever. Give me my explosions and car chases and you can watch whatever “artistic” stuff you want. And don’t even get me started about the bullshit that happens at cons with “fake gamers” and “you’re not a real fan if you don’t know every bit of minutia” crap that is almost always directed at females.

The fact is, hating things solely because they are popular doesn’t make you cooler or show better taste. It just means you’re an asshole.

There are plenty of books I’ve hated, and some genres of music I absolutely cannot stand. But the fact that I dislike something does not make it inherently bad, it just means I prefer other stuff. Sure I’ll still complain about how much I dislike opera and I flat out won’t read dystopias because they make me feel terrible. But if you like opera or dystopias: good for you!

If someone has found something that makes them happy, that is AWESOME! We need more happy in the world.

I like what I like. If you don’t agree with me, I’m delighted to discuss why “I hate all those high notes that sound like screeching”. Just don’t try to tell me something sucks solely because it’s popular. Because that’s elitist bullshit and I’m completely uninterested.

Hating Popular Books Does Not Make You Superior: A Lesson Learned

Written by Michelle at 4:32 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Geek,Movies & TV,music  

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Categorical Books: Ace Romances

First and foremost, you might want to read about Ace. Then you’ll probably wonder how Ace romance isn’t a contradiction. The above link may be helpeful in answering that as well.

There are not of explicit Ace spectrum romances, which is why I especially wanted to make note of them. In contemporary romances, there’s generally a discussion of being demi or ace, but in historicals you have to read between the lines. (No one today can say for certain, but my strong opinion is that Sherlock Holmes was ace and aro, so might clarify some things for you.)

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

This is the sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and follows Felicity Montague, who wants to become a doctor. Unfortunately, women are not allowed to be doctors, and her attempts to go to medical school do not go well.

“I’m talking about menstruation, sir!” I shout in return.

It’s like I set the hall on fire, manifested a venomous snake from thin air, also set that snake on fire, and then threw it at the board. The men all erupt into protestations and a fair number of horrified gasps. I swear one of them actually swoons at the mention of womanly bleeding.

Felicity decides to travel to attend the wedding of her previous best friend, but nothing Felicity wants goes as expected, and she instead goes on an adventure.

Your beauty is not a tax you are required to pay to take up space in this world.

Absolutely no boinking here.

Rating: 9/10

  

His Quiet Agent, Merlin in the Library by Ada Maria Soto

Arthur works for The Agency and feels (rightly) that he’s going nowhere. In an attempt to at least have his supervisor know who he is, he ends up befriending the quietest and strangest person in the department.

Arthur looked over at The Alien. It was a Go Away sign, but it was a very specific type of go away sign; it was the kind that said ‘Look at Me Just for A Moment. I’m Weird. If you talk to me you’re going to decide I’m weird and not like me so let’s just save both of us the public discomfort of you feeling the need to reject me.’ He’d used that same trick in high school with copies of The Prince and Art of War. There might have also been some eyeliner involved. He could also remember being desperately lonely and wanting someone else’s weirdness to match with his.

This is a very sweet story, although we learn far more about Arthur than we do about Martin, which is completely fitting with the characters.

Absolutely no boinking here.

Rating: 8.5/10

  

ThawThaw by Elyse Springer

This is the sequel to Whiteout, but is definitely a stand-alone. Abigail is a librarian and loves her job. She is a little lonely (since she is single) but she does have friends who support her.

One night, attending a gala with her friend Nate, she meets a beautiful woman who seems to want to be friends with Abby, but Gabriella is so hot and cold, Abby isn’t always sure Gabriella even likes here.

She read the entire page, first with clinical detachment and then with a strange curiosity that was equal parts Why would anyone want to do that? and How does that even work?

When she did slide her phone into her back pocket, there was a sinking feeling in her stomach.

Could she do the things on that list? Sure. Did she want to? Yeah, if it was what Gabrielle wanted.

There is sexual content here, but it’s mostly off the page.

Rating: 8/10

  

Play It AgainPlay It Again: A Slow Burn Romance by Aidan Wayne

This story is SO SO SO adorable!

Dovid and his sister Rachel are able to make their living as vloggers, with Rachel behind the camera and Dovid the face of the pair. Because Dovid is blind, he is very drawn to voices, so when Rachel finds Sam’s “Lets Play” channel, he plugs it and changes things drastically for both of them.

“Oh, well, actually, I found something very interesting to read? Although a bit… erm…”

“What? What is it?”

“Did you know there’s fanfiction about us?” Sam blurted out.

“What!” Dovid yelped. “You found that?”

It’s so sweet and there is no boinking.

Rating: 9/10

  

How to Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune

Gus is not neurotypical. He lives in a small town and runs the video store he inherited from his father and keeps to himself, although he does like some people, almost against his will.

He took the We Three Queens’ video card, charged them two bucks (even though it should have been four; he told them it was because they were regulars, and that was mostly true. It also was because he loved them deeply and didn’t know quite else how to say it.

Then, the hipster comes to town.

“Hey, followers. Second day in and I met Gustavo Tiberius and his ferret. Check it out. They both have pretty eyes. Blushing smiley face. L-O-L. Hashtag awesome. Hashtag presidential ferrets. Hashtag mountain town adventures. Hashtag—”

So Gus turns to the internet for advice.

That One Friend

We all have them. You know what I’m talking about. That One Friend. Yes, That One Friend who you love dearly and enjoy very much, but who can be a bit on the wild side. Their personality isn’t for everyone. What you might consider bubbly, others might potentially consider undesirable. Before you decide which of your friends is That One Friend, make sure you look inside yourself to make sure that you’re not That One Friend.

It’s a cute story and a funny story but it wasn’t particularly my jam.

There is no actual sex here, but there is a lot of talk about sex and sexuality.

Rating: 6.5/10

  

For Better or Worse by R. Cooper

Javi is a firefighter and demisexual and attracted to me, and the combination of those three things are not easy for him.

Everything looks like friendly teasing if you don’t know what sexual tension is. I get confused.”

The romance is slow, since neither character is sure how the other feels, and Javi is terrible at reading other people’s interest.

There is boinking here.

Rating: 7/10

  

The Rat-Catcher’s Daughter by K.J. Charles is an Ace/Ace romance.

Kissing people gave them the wrong idea, and it was hard to enjoy touching anyone when you were constantly wondering where they’d stick their hands.

It’s also a novella and probably far more interesting to people who have read Any Old Diamonds so I’m not sure I’d recommend it for someone who hasn’t read the previous story.
Rating: 7.5/10

A Gentleman’s Position is the third book in the Society of Gentlemen series, and my least favorite book in that series. It’s not bad, but I have issues with employer/employee romances, and although it wasn’t illegal (being the 1820s) it still kinda squicks me out.

Rating: 7/10

  

That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert

Rae is a divorcee who is something of an enigma to the town–something she enjoys since she’s herself and on her own for the first time in years.

Zack spent years wanting someone to love him and willing to accept sex as a substitute, but after a serious bout of depression he’s been reevaluating his life and come to the conclusion that he’s demisexual. Which is a major reevaluation, considering his reputation in town.

(N)ecessity was the mother of every skill Zach had. Growing up poor with a busy single parent and a missing older brother had led him to learn a lot of practical shit at a very young age. The hard way. And those skills had never been allowed to fade, because once someone identified you as useful, they’d always be around to… well, use you.

There is boinking here.

This is the third book in her Ravenswood series, and you don’t have to read the series in order, as I certainly didn’t.

Rating: 8/10

  

“Pack Up the Moon” by Angel Martinez is the third story in Family Matters.

Charon (yes, the Ferryman) is Ace, but he and Azeban (trickster god) discuss their desired and needs and compromise on how they can make their relationship work. There is sexual content in this story, and definitely in the first two stories.

Rating: 8.5/10

Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists is a novella. Taro has won the lottery, but to avoid the insanity that normally comes with such a win, tells only his immediate family, and then decides to do what he’s always wanted–which is see the world. Unfortunately, he seems to have picked up a ghost and really would like someone to help him deal with it.

Taro is Ace and very used to being misunderstood and fairly resigned to being alone, but spending time with Jack (who is trying to solve his ghost issue) makes him wonder if he really has to be alone.

“Phillip’s an accountant. Or a snooty trust-fund baby. Why are you named after a root vegetable?”

Taro needed three tries to find his voice. “I’m not.”

“Taro? Big purple edible root. What poi’s made of?”

“Oh. No.” Taro finally had the presence of mind to shut the door. “I mean, yes to taro being a plant, but it’s short for Lautaro. My name, not the vegetable. And I was an accountant.”

There is some sexual content here.

Rating: 8/10

I’ve got a number of Ace romances on my wish list, but I am definitely looking for more so please give me any recommendations you have!

Categorical Books

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Categorical Books: Fantasy

After mystery, my favorite category when I was young was fantasy. I re-read The Hobbit just about every year, and in college it was fantasy that sucked me back into reading after I’d all but given it up for the usual college pursuits.

However, I haven’t read much straight-up fantasy in the past decade. Partially because I haven’t been in the mood for it, and partially because most fantasy series tend to be multiple tomes that require re-reading every time a new tome appears on the scene. But there are some books that I will go back to occasionally, for the comfort they bring.

  

SwordspointEllen Kushner‘s Swordspoint doesn’t have any magic, it just exists in a world that isn’t–and never was–our own. This is one of my comfort reads. The book I reach for when I need to escape our current reality.

The falling snow made it hard for him to see. The fight hadn’t winded him, but he was hot and sweaty, and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He ignored it, making for Riverside, where no one was likely to follow him.

He could have stayed, if he’d wanted to. The swordfight had been very impressive, and the party guests and its outcome would be talked about for weeks. But if he stayed, the swordsman knew that he would be offered wine, and rich pastry, and asked boring questions about his technique, and difficult questions about who had arranged the fight. He ran on.

Under his cloak, his shirt was spattered with blood, and the Watch would want to know what he was doing up on the Hill at this hour. It was their right to know; but his profession forbade him to answer, so he dodged around corners and caught his breath in doorways until he’d left the splendors of the Hill behind, working his way down through the city.

  

Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld is one that you’ve probably had recommend to you multiple times. Your really should listen, because he was an amazing author.

Very senior librarians…once they have proved themselves worthy by performing some valiant act of librarianship, are accepted into a secret order and are taught the raw arts of survival beyond the Shelves We Know. The Librarian was highly skilled in all of them, but what he was attempting now wouldn’t just get him thrown out of the Order but probably out of life itself.

OOK!

  

Steven Brust has to very distinct series both set in the same world. The Vlad Taltos series is noir in feel, with the main character who is an assassin and a smart ass. The Khaavren Romances are The Three Musketeers but with fantasy. The first is a page-turner while the second takes delight in word play.

The Serioli, who departed the area to avoid any of the unfortunate incidents that war can produce, left only the name for the place, which was “Ben,” meaning “ford” in their language. The Easterners called the place “Ben Ford,” or, in the Eastern tongue, “Ben gazlo.”

After ten years of fierce battle, the Imperial Army won a great victory on the spot, driving the Easterners well back into the mountains. The Dragonlords who had found the place, then, began calling it “Bengazlo Ford.” The Dragons, wishing to waste as little time on speech as possible, shortened this to Benglo Ford, or, in the tongue of the Dragon, which was still in use at the time, “Benglo ara.” Eventually, over the course of the millennia, the tongue of the Dragon fell out of use, and the North-western language gained preeminence, which rendered the location Bengloara Ford, which was eventually shortened to Bengloarafurd. The river crossing became the Bengloarafurd Ford, which name it held until after the Interregnum when the river was dredged and the Bengloarafurd Bridge was built.

  

Barry Hughart‘s Bridge of Birds is a fantastic historical tale with a main character is both wise man and trickster. And always a delight.

“In my humble village,” Master Li said sweetly, “we grow men so big that their upper lips lick the stars, while their lower lips nuzzle the earth.”

The thug thought about it. “And where are their bodies?”

“They are like you,” said Master Li. “All mouth.”

  

David Eddings‘s Belgariad was the series that returned me to reading fantasy. This is epic fantasy, with his two main series each having five books. The first series starts with the main chracter as a young boy, and we learn about the world as he does, discovering magic and amazement and horror and watch him grow and learn. It also has some of my all-time favorite characters.

“Always do the very best job you can,” he said on another occasion as he put a last few finishing touches with a file on the metal parts of a wagon tongue he was repairing.

“But that piece goes underneath,” Garion said. “No one will ever see it.”

“But I know it’s there,” Durnik said, still smoothing the metal. “If it isn’t done as well as I can do it, I’ll be ashamed every time I see this wagon go by-and I’ll see the wagon every day.”

‘I wish you’d stop using the word “steal.” Couldn’t we just say that we’re borrowing a boat?’

‘Did you plan to sail it back and return it when we’re finished with it?’

‘No. Not really.’

‘Then the proper word is “steal.” You’re the expert on ships and sailing; I’m the expert on theft.’

My TBR pile is excessive, yet looking for the perfect quote makes me want to re-read the entire series again.

  

Guy Gavriel Kay apparently spends years researching various cultures before he writes a fantasy loosely based upon that culture. He does not write quickly, but his books are things of beauty, to be savored rather than gulped down. I actually have to be in the mood to read slowly and thoroughly to read this books, but when I’m in that mood, there are escapes into amazing worlds.

She knows exactly what she wants to say in this letter, how many characters, how much ink she needs. You always grind a little more than you need, she has been taught (by her father). If you are forced to grind again, in order to finish, the texture at the end of your writing will be different from the beginning, a flaw.

She sets the ink stick down. Lifts the brush in her right hand. Dips it in the ink. She is using the rabbit’s-hair brush for this letter: it makes the most precise characters. Sheep’s hair is more bold, but though she needs the letter to seem confident of its virtue, it is still a plea.

She sits as she must sit. She adopts the Pillowed-Wrist Position, left hand under right wrist, supporting it. Her characters are to be small, exact, not large and assertive (for which she’d have used Raised-Wrist Position). The letter will be in formal hand. Of course it will.

A writer’s brush is a warrior’s bow, the letters it shapes are arrows that must hit the mark on the page. The calligrapher is an archer, or a general on a battlefield. Someone wrote that long ago. She feels that way this morning. She is at war.

  

Patricia C. Wrede writes mostly YA, which is possibly why I’ve been good with it–not many tomes here. Frontier Magic is probably one of my favorite series written in the past er…. 15 years. (Yikes.) It’s the story of a Eff, whose twin is a seventh son of a seventh son. But Eff is a thirteenth child, so many unkind family members have told her she is bad luck.

It seemed wrong to me that all the doctors and magicians should put so much work into trying to keep me alive, when if they’d known I was a thirteenth child and bound to turn evil in a few years, they wouldn’t have lifted a finger.

But it’s the world building as much as Eff’s story that is the draw here. It’s a world with magic, where the US hasn’t been conquered past the Mississippi because of the wild and dangerous magical creatures there.

Also, there is lots of science.

“Gathering base data is just as important as making entirely new observations. More important, sometimes; you can’t tell whether something’s changed if you don’t know what it was like to begin with.”

She also wrote Kate & Cecelia with Carol Stevermer which is a epistolary fantasy and just plain delightful.

  

And speaking of science, Marie Brennan‘s A Natural History of Dragons is the scientific fantasy I never knew I needed, and once I discovered it I couldn’t get enough.

Crawling in a dress, for those gentlemen who have never had occasion to try it, is an exercise in frustration, all but guaranteed to produce feelings of homicidal annoyance in the crawler.

It is so real and matter of fact about the things that so much of fantasy glosses over, and that just makes it all the more delightful.

I must warn you that this inconvenient fact of our sex is one of the most vexatious aspects of being a lady adventurer. Unless you contrive to suppress your courses through pregnancy— which, of course, imposes its own limitations— or through strenuous exercise and privation, you will have to handle this necessity in many circumstances that are far from ideal. Including some, I fear, where the smell of fresh blood is a positive danger.

  

Mackenzi Lee is another YA writer and is just barely fantasy in the first book, although the second book most definitely has fantastic creatures. I initially had a hard time liking the main character of the first book, because he comes across as irresponsible, but you quickly discover that his drinks to escape and for all he is a wealthy lord and heir, his life is not and has not been easy.

I want to run away right then but there’s just Percy in the cabin and water on either side, and the person I most want to run away from is me.

I am better than the worst things I’ve done.

  

Garth Nix is yet another YA fantasy series, about a young woman who must take over her inherited position of necromancer who takes care of the restless dead. This is another girl centered fantasy (my favorite) where Sabriel uses her wits and her skills to resolve the issues. I’ve given this book to a LOT of small people in my life.

  

And now for something completely different: Thieves’ World edited by Lynn Abbey and Robert Asprin is pretty much the opposite of everything else in this post. It’s dark and ugly and horrible things happen and almost none of the characters are likable. Yet I will be sucked in and re-read the whole thing and regret nothing.

It’s written by a variety of authors, so the books can be uneven, and every character seemingly competes to be more underhanded and cruel. But it’s a heck of a ride.

Also, it has some amazing passages. Such as this one written from the point of view of a dog.

For a moment she couldn’t see where the tall one was. Then the horses separated, and Tyr whimpered and sniffed the air. She caught the tall one’s scent. But to her horror it did something she had never smelled it do before: it cooled. It thinned, and vanished, and turned to meat.

No matter how many times I read this series, that passage is always a blow to the chest.

  

I don’t read very much straight-up fantasy anymore, but if it’s good I can read just a single book I’ll consider it.

Categorical Books

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Categories: Books & Reading  

Monday, February 10, 2020

Categorical Books: Urban Fantasy

I probably have a slightly different definition of urban fantasy than most people. What I place into this category rarely has vampires and werewolves, and generally doesn’t have boinking. The magic tends to be more subtle (but not always) and the characters are rarely of the superhero category.

Sometimes they’re just stories where the people are magical or perhaps just don’t live in our reality (past or present).

I love Charles de Lint‘s writing. I came across Dreams Underfoot probably not long after it was published, and have eagerly snatched up all his anthologies and most of his books since that point. Most of his short stories are set in Newford, an imaginary northern town, and each story is a glimpse at one or more of the characters who live there: Geordie and Christie, Jilly, The Professor, Meran & Cerin, Sophie, the Crow Girls. So very many marvelous characters who over the years have shown us glimpses into their lives.

Aside from crafting amazing short stories, Charles de Lint has an amazing way of writing female characters. He also writes often about characters who have been badly hurt by the world, yet still have hope and love for the world.

Ellen carried a piece of string in her pocket, with four complicated knots tied into it, but no matter how often she undid one, she still had to wait for her winds like anyone else. She knew that strings to catch and call up the wind were only real in stories, but she liked thinking that maybe, just once, a bit of magic could tiptoe out of a tale and step into the real world.

They work because they make us concentrate so completely that the magic has to pay attention to us. It’s like communion and singing hymns in church. People really do get closer to God because they’re focusing on these rituals and no longer listening to that constant dialogue that goes on inside their heads.”

  

Raven BoysMaggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Boys series is YA, and it is AMAZING.

Let’s start with the fact that the character I kinda dislike in the first book is my absolute favorite by the end of the series. The series is about magic and love and growth and learning and pretty much all the things that go into being a teenager When you are shaking your head at these teenagers you still deeply love them. Even as you are yelling at them to stop making stupid mistakes, you understand why they are making those mistakes (mostly).

It’s beautiful and magical and all the things.

Blue turned it slowly to read each side: hyacinthus, celea. One side was blank.

Gansey pointed to each side for her. “Latin, Coptic, Sanskrit, something we don’t know, and … this is supposed to be Greek. Isn’t that funny that it’s blank?”

Derisively, Ronan said, “No. The ancient Greeks didn’t have a word for blue.” Everyone at the table looked at him.

“What the hell, Ronan?” said Adam.

“It’s hard to imagine,” Gansey mused, “how this evidently successful classical education never seems to make it into your school papers.”

“They never ask the right questions,” Ronan replied.

Also, the audio version is perfectly done.

  

Some (although not all) of Neil Gaiman‘s books qualify to me as urban fantasy, but to me American Gods and Anansi Boys are in this category. There is so much going on in the world just out of our sight, that it would strike amazement and wonder and horror if we caught a glimpse.

I feel like there are few humans who have not heard of American Gods at this point, but I also very much liked Fat Charlie’s story in Anansi Boys.

Shadow’s telephone rang.

“Yeah?” he said.

“That’s no way to answer the phone,” growled Wednesday.

“When I get my telephone connected I’ll answer it politely,” said Shadow.

  

Like Charles de Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman writes amazing short stories. I’d read many of her stories in various anthologies before I came across A Fistful of Sky. That story remains one of my favorite for the characters and the growth and how Gypsum comes into her own powers and learns to both love herself and stand up for herself.

Like the other books on this list, there is magic just under the surface of our world that few people can see, but like everything else, magic is neither inherently good or evil, it is what people make of it. It aggravates me that A Fistful of Sky is out of print, because there are so many girls in my life I want to give this to once they’re a few years older.

“Quit being such a martyr. Do something mean.”

I checked the clock. About twenty minutes after eleven. I couldn’t do math with minutes! But whatever I dropped on her, it would last until around six-thirty, say. “Do you have any plans for this afternoon?”

“Stop stalling!”

“Ultimate Fashion Sense!” I yelled.

That is one of my favorite things EVER.

  

Jane Lindskold has written straight up fantasy, but her urban fantasy is what I like best. Child of a Rainless Year is my favorite of her stories, and is unusual in so many ways–the first of which is that for much of the story the main character is a middle aged woman. She’s not beautiful. She’s not rich. She knows of nothing special about herself, yet she ends up taking a journey of self-discovery and learning that she herself is more than she every could have imagined.

Sometimes we need beauty and grandeur to inspire us to be the best we can be— to remind us of what humans are capable of when they turn their minds to something beyond the purely practical. We have the capacity for art, for beauty. I think we should use it.”

  

Lish McBride has two YA series both of which I really liked. Hold Me Closer Necromancer is about (wait for it) a necromancer. Firebug is about a teenage girl who is a firestarter and an enforcer for the Coterie–even though she’s rather just go to school and be a teen.

Lock stopped and crossed his arms, giving us a look that Ez and I knew well.

“Did we forget to do our homework?” Ezra whispered in my ear.

“Neither of you read the file, did you?” Lock said accusingly.

“I skimmed it.” I said. “Something about collecting money, blah blah blah.” “

I looked at the pictures,” Ezra added.

“There weren’t any pictures.”

This is a favorite category, and I am always looking for more books here, but it’s also a tricky category and I think a lot of these different from supernatural fantasy only by a feeling on my part.

Categorical Books

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Friday, February 7, 2020

Categorical Books: Paranormal Romance

This isn’t one of my favorite categories, but there are some very good books here that I like despite all the boinking. So assume that everything here is chock full of boinking, and that I liked these books despite all the boinking. (If you like boinking books, your list here is certainly going to be much longer.)

Nicole Peeler‘s Jane True series has fae and other magical creatures living hidden in our world. Jane doesn’t know she has a supernatural heritage, she just thinks she’s a bit of a weirdo who stands out in her small town.

I wiped my nose on his shirt. I was snotty from crying and he was already filthy. It wasn’t ideal but he was holding me so tight I couldn’t move my arms.

“Did you just wipe your nose on me?” he asked, finally. His voice was tight with various emotions, but “oh no you didn’t” had clawed it’s way to the top of the list.

“Maybe,” I mumbled, peering up at him.

  

Marjorie Liu‘s Dirk & Steele series is about people who work for a secret supernatural agency and the people they rescue (and fall in love with). Each book focuses on a member of the agency and during an operation they end up finding their true love, which conquers all. The characters appear in each other stories (they are a team) and each book in the series is a stand alone (I know for certain because I read the books in the order I found them.)

  

K.J. Charles has written a ton of M/M romance, but her Charm of Magpies series (and the books tied into it) I particularly like. There is fascinating world building (it’s set in Victorian England). All her books have strong, well-developed characters, and there is often an underlying mystery or external problem to be resolved, and they’re just fun. I also recommend the related short stories, especially A Queer Trade which has 1) two characters who are poor and 2) one character who is black (in Victorian England), which is something I really hadn’t come across anywhere else.

Merrick came in with a bundle. “I beg your pardon,” he began, and then recoiled at his master’s appearance. “What happened to you?”

“Blame Leo. She bled all over me.”

“That’s the Hawkes and Cheney suit!” said Merrick, outraged. “I’ll never get that stain out.”

“I’ll bleed more carefully next time,” Leonora assured him.


  

magic-and-mannersC.E. Murphy has written a lot of different things, some of which I’ve loved, and some that I just haven’t been able to get into. Her Negotiator series has a human woman accidentally become involved with the Old Races. Her Magic and Manners book is a lovely historical romance, only with magic, and I adored it.

“We do not forgive people because they are worthy, Papa. We forgive them because we love them, and because it gives us peace within ourselves to do so.”

  

Jeaniene Frost‘s vampire series (Kat & Bones, Vlad & Leila) are as much paranormal romances as they are supernatural fantasy, but I think they belong here for the world building. And the dialog. One of the things I particularly like about this series is that once Kat & Bones get their issues worked out, they commit to each other and are a team. The Vlad & Leila series was a little more aggravating, primarily because the books tended to end without a lot of resolution. Plus, Vlad is often a jerk.

“Don’t hurt her, she didn’t mean anything by it,” Marty said at once, moving to stand between me and Vlad. I wasn’t about to let him take more abuse, especially on my behalf, so I tried to angle myself in front of Marty. He kept sidestepping me with that damn vampiric speed until it looked like we were engaged in some sort of strange dance.

  

Gail Carriger is a little more complicated. I loved the first book in her Alexia Tarabotti series, was MEH about the third and incandescently mad about the third. She has a parallel series that I want to read because I’ve had friends who like it. But Blameless made me so mad I have been super hesitant.

  

Categorical Books

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