Top Ten Tuesday: Series Starters


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is top ten new series I want to start. I am so far behind on series books it isn’t even funny. Frankly I get exhausted sometimes by the mere fact that everything seems to be a series (even when it doesn’t need to be!) So here are some sffnal, some YA, and some romance series that I’ve been meaning to check out (or, in one case, waiting not-so-patiently for to be published)

2432721. Brandon Sanderson- Mistborn

2. Brandon Sanderson- The Stormlight Archive

3. Kristen Cashore- Graceling Realm

4. Diana Gabaldon- Outlander

5. Jenn Bennett- Roaring Twenties

6. Courtney Milan- The Worth Saga

7. Max Gladstone- The Craft Sequence

8. Megan Shepard- The Madman’s Daughter

9. Jeanne Birdsall- The Penderwicks (I don’t really read middle grade at all, but these came over my desk at work to be processed and they looked so good, I may have to revise that statement)

10. Deborah Harkness- All Souls Trilogy

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Short Story Sunday: “Casket Girls”


“She was one of the many, les filles à les caissettes, named for the little sea chests they had been allowed for their voyage.”

Casket Girls” by James S. Dorr, published by Daily Science Fiction.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Travel Time


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is ten places books have made me want to visit. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel a bit, but I’ve not nearly been to enough places in this world. Luckily, we have books! Books have taken me so many places. Some I hope to see with my own eyes someday.

681x4541. Stockholm Reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was honestly the first time I’d ever really thought about Northern Europe as a destination. They have GwtDT tours in Stockholm, and I’m so lame, but I kind of want to do it.

2. Dublin I’ve been to parts of the UK, but not Ireland. Can’t say I had any real desire to go there, but then I started reading Tana French. Crime novels make me want to explore cities, I guess.

3. Oslo Another set of crime novels, another European city. This one is thanks to Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series.

4. India oddly enough, it was The Secret Garden that made me first want to travel to India. The India seen through a priveleged white child’s upbringing is problematic, to say the least, but I’ve since read other books set on the subcontinent that make me really want to see it. Plus, I was supposed to go to Nepal a few years ago and I wanted to travel the whole area while I was over there. That never materialized and I’m still kind of bummed out about it.

5. St. Petersburg I have wanted to visit Russia for a long time, but specifically St. Petersburg. I blame Dostoevsky. St._Petersburg_church

6. Istanbul There’s not any particular literary tie to this wish, other than from history books. And They Might Be Giants. But it seems like a pretty awesome place.

7. Rome History, mythology, the seat of Western culture.

8. Egypt Again nothing specifically literary, again lots of history books. I’m fascinated by Ancient Egyptians, and I’m curious about modern Egypt too. If I had a time machine and could only pick one destination, it would probably be the library of Alexandria. (nerd alert).

9. Venice Most recently, Jane and Vincent’s adventures in Valour and Vanity have made me want to explore the canals, but there are lots of great literary references to Venice.

10. New York City in the 1890s, the 1920s, the 1940s, the 1950s, and on and on and on. It was amazing to me, looking over my goodreads lists, just how many books I’ve read are set in New York City. I don’t particularly like New York City, mostly because whenever I’ve been there I feel like I have TOURIST stamped on my head in red letters, like I’m just off the bus from a Midwest farm. It’s so silly, I lived in Boston for years, cities should not do that to me. But New York does. HOWEVER, if I had that time machine, it would probably be a pretty cool place to expore.


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Short Story Sunday: “All Find Safety in the Tomb”


“Even when it’s sunny in Brooklyn, there’s a leaden feeling to the light, particularly in the historic district, where we live.”

All Find Safety in the Tomb” by Isabella David, published by Every Day Fiction.

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Tough Traveling: Dark Ladies


Every Thursday, the Fantasy Review Barn is taking us on a journey through Fantasyland with their Tough Travel Guide. Today’s topic is Dark Ladies.

DARK LADY. There is never one of these – so see DARK LORD instead.

Pfft. We can do better than that.

Turkdel8The White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia) The original bad lady of fantasy, Jadis the White Witch plunged Narnia into a world where it was always winter–and never Christmas! Every villain I wrote when I was young was basically the White Witch, which I didn’t even realize until I was like 20.
Melisande (The Kushiel series) The Dom to Phaedre’s sub, Melisande does some pretty terrible things for power. I don’t remember many of the details (its been a long time), but I remember her as a pretty nasty piece of work.
Queen Levana (The Lunar chronicles) The Lunar Chronicles is undoubtedly my favorite ongoing YA series at the moment. Queen Levana controls the moon with an iron fist, and is scheming to take over Earth as well. She’s a bit flat, actually, but I like over-the-top megolomaniacal villains of that ilk.

Marsilia (The Mercy Thompson series) Queen of the vampires. Nuff said.

Mrs. Coulter (His Dark Materials) Mrs. Coulter is elegant, fashionable, and cruel. All requirements I think pertain to Dark Ladies.

Rhazat (Shards of Time) The last Nightrunner was…not what I wanted it to be. But it did feature a malicious, vengeful dyrmagnos that wore a beautiful woman’s skin and ruled over a kingdom of ghosts. So there’s that.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Character Driven Novels


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Books For Readers Who Like Character Driven Novels. Character is always, always the most important thing to me in a book, but I had a little trouble defining what “character driven” means to me. In the end, I tried to come up with ten books where personality and relationships are more important than the plot or the writing style to me, even if those elements are important too.

173322431. Nicola Griffith- Hild This expansive novel is full of history, religion, and politics, but the center of it all is a complex and incredible character.

2. Mary Robinette Kowal- The Glamourist Histories (series) Kowal started with an almost dangerously cutesy, niche concept but she then used that concept to create Jane and Vincent, two characters and one incredible relationship that ground the series in reality.

3. George R. R. Martin- A Song of Ice and Fire (series) When people want to talk about epic fantasy, they usually gravitate towards worldbuilding, or battles, or magic systems. What GRRM does best, in my opinion, is use inspirations from history to write some of the most compelling characters around. When you think about the fact that every chapter is told from a different close third, and how many characters we see in that close manner, the scope is incredible. The characters are what make that particular world worth it for me. I may not remember all of the details of the scheming behind the Red Wedding, for example, but I will always remember oh my God when that one guy did that one thing. The little (and big) character moments are the most important thing there for me in those books.

4. Suzanne Collins- The Hunger Games (series) You cannot have The Hunger Games without Katniss, and her voice is those books. She’s one of my favorite characters in recent literature. She’s angry, she’s defiant, and then she is broken, and you just root for her all the way.

5. Tana French- Broken Harbour. The best crime fiction I’ve read offers compelling portraits of deeply flawed and beautifully human people, perhaps more so than any other genre. Tana French is the best I’ve found to do this yet, and Broken Harbour is (possibly) my favorite of her books (I’m still debating this). Scorcher Kennedy drives that novel, and most of the other characters in his orbit are equally as enthralling.

6. Jo Nesbo- The Harry Hole series. Again with the crime fiction, again with the deeply flawed people. Nesbo, I think, does it in a more fun way than French (if that is the word I’m looking for, less introspective and more charactery-y) (boy, I’m really going places with this list). Hole is one messed up dude, but the characters around him are fun, vibrant, eccentric, and memorable. The plots are always humdingers, but I definitely read for the characters (even though I know he’s up there with GRRM in terms of putting bodies on the table).

7. Gillian Flynn- Gone Girl. Forget whatever you’ve heard about the twists. Forget the buzz. Forget Ben Affleck. This is a character portrait of (say it with me now:) two deeply flawed people. The identites they present and the identities they hide make for a wonderfully complex and enthralling story.

8. Ann Leckie- Ancillary Justice. 17333324I’m still not sure quite how I feel about this novel. I’m still not sure quite what novel it is. But Ancillary Justice is definitely a remarkable feat of character-building. Breq is a refugee, a lone human on a revenge quest. She used to be an entire spaceship, and all of its crew. She’s not an easy character to define, and she’s not an easy character to dismiss from your headspace.

9. Mary Beth Keane- Fever. This is a great example of the kind of historical fiction I like. It takes an historical figure that most people are at least marginally familiar with (Thyphoid Mary) and uses the facts to dramatize an internal life. Keane does it really, really well with Fever.

10. Anything Rainbow Rowell had ever written, ever. I literally do not know how she does it. Rowell takes lots of dialogue, some pop culture references, and choppy, fast-reading formats and manages to churn out novels that make me feel all the feelings at once. They shouldn’t work (for me, given my reading history). But her characters are so alive, it’s like they could pass you walking down the street. I feel like I know everyone she writes about. Half the time I feel like I’ve been them. It’s amazing, and kind of creepy, and I hope it never stops.


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Short Story Sunday: “Homecoming”


“The locker room is always tense before a game.”

Homecoming” by Senan McGuire, published by Lightspeed.

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Book Rant: I Think We Need a Title Intervention

As a librarian, I see lots of books come across my desk, and lots more titles through catalogs and lists and requests. With so many books, things can get confusing. There are books I’m sure we own because I’ve seen them a thousand times, only to find out we’ve never actually had a copy. There are times when I’m sure a book is already published when really it’s still four months away. There are times when I confuse which author wrote which book. It happens, I’m resigned to it. But then publishers go and do things like this to me:

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On the right is The Furies by Mark Alpert, published in April 2014 by Thomas Dunn Books. On the left is The Furies by Natalie Haynes, published in August 2014 by St. Martin’s Press. One is about troubled teens, one is about witches. Want to take a guess which is which?

Think that’s the only instance of same-title-itis out there? Hah. It’s not even the only instance of books published this year.

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The Visitors, by Sally Beauman published in February by Little, Brown, by Patrick O’Keeffe published in March by Viking Adult, and by Rebecca Mascull published by Hodder and Stoughton.

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Or how about Life After Life, published in both March and April of 2013? That’s a bit more of a distinctive title, but as a reader I still kept forgetting which was the one I wanted to read, so in the end I didn’t read either of them.

Look, I get it. Titles are hard. I usually have way more angst over finding the right words two or five or ten words to title my short stories than I do writing the stories in the first place. But when you are a professional publisher backing a novel, with a marketing department and an editorial team, I’d imagine things work a little differently. Also, I know publication timetables vary, and you don’t necessarily have access to competitor’s catalogs and stuff, but have you heard of this little thing called Google? How hard is it to plug in a title before you put thousands of dollars behind it?

I’m not opposed to books sharing titles. Nothing can be completely original, after all. But when two books sharing a title are published in April and August, or February and March, things can get really, really aggravating.

Not all readers choose their books by author recognition, particularly with debut authors. They may have heard of Kate Atkinson or Jill McCorkle before, but what happens when they go into the store thinking “Oh, I thought Life After Life had a rose on the cover, but maybe it was some other flower?” That reader just got matched with the wrong book. What if they go in to a library asking for a new book called The Furies, wanting to leave with a book they’d heard of about witches, but because they can’t remember the author they end up leaving with a book about troubled teens? An author has lost a potential reader and a potential fan.

Please, publishers. Stop it.


How about you guys? Am I the only one going crazy because of this? Have you ever picked up the wrong book because of a matching title?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Difficult Books


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is top ten books that were hard for me to read.

I’m going for hard in terms of structure and style rather than hard in terms of subject matter, since I actually quite enjoy darker subject matter. In terms of writing and style, if a book is too convoluted or esoteric I usually will put it down. There are some that I’ve gotten all the way through, though, just to say bwah?

121871. Vladimir Nabokov- Ada, or Ardor I love Nabokov. Love him. And I still have barely any idea what this book was about (incest? That’s about all I’ve got.)

2. Virginia Woolf- Orlando I keep wanting to like Virginia Woolf, and I just haven’t gotten there yet.

3. Pasternak- Doctor Zhivago This book really shouldn’t have been so hard for me (love those Russians) but I just found it incredibly boring.

4. Herman Melville- Moby Dick Moby Dick is a book you read to say you’ve read it. Does anyone really enjoy it? (If you do, yay for you!)

5. Stendahl- The Red and the Black A number of breathless reviews hailed this book but when I finally decided to go for it, I found it impenetrable.

6. Bulgakov- The Master and Margarita I read this on the recommendation of someone I that thought was really classy and who I really wanted to be my friend. Don’t do that, people.

7. Haruki Murakami- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle There’s this cat and a well and a dude at the bottom of the well and that’s about all I’ve got.

8. The Book of Margery Kempe The autobiography of an illiterate medieval woman, I read The Book of Margery Kempe translated into modern English, but her thinking was just so different from a modern person’s that the text was dense, unstructured, and really, really difficult to get through.

9. Tennyson- Idylls of the King Subject matter I love, but I just never got into the language of it. There is lots of Arthuriana that I just like better.

10. Milton- Paradise Lost I have never finished Paradise Lost. I’ve tried like 4 times. For some reason I just. Can’t. Do it. Chaucer in middle English? No prob. Milton, unmanageable.


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Short Story Sunday: “Rib”


“How convenient, this loose-fitting thing called a kimono.”

Rib” by Yukimi Ogawa, published by Strange Horizons.

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