Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Authors


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Authors. This has actually changed quite a bit over the past year or two. A few authors got demoted and I fell head over heels for some others. So I guess “all time” is really relative for me.

Also, there are not ten. I have some auto-buy authors not on this list, and I have some favorite debut authors that may move on to it as they (hopefully) write more. But to be an all time favorite is to be in rarefied company.


1. Lynn Flewelling

Lynn Flewelling is the first “grown-up” fantasy author I read. I still remember going into B. Dalton (oh my god–remember B. Dalton? I am so old) when I was a freshman in high school and walking out with The Bone Doll’s Twin based solely on it’s creepy cover. I’ve read her books more times than I can count, to the point where they just scream “comfort read” to me. Flewelling was the first author I read who wrote m/m romantic plotlines, and it was the first time I realized that I wasn’t weird for liking that. She was the first (only) author I ever dared write a fan letter to—and she EMAILED ME BACK. Fifteen year old me was starstruck. I think at the moment she is focusing on other things than writing, but I really do hope one day she writes more books, because I will be first in line for them.


2. David Mitchell

Like with Lynn Flewelling, I remember the exact circumstances of the first time I read David Mitchell, down to the texture of my bedspread. The book was McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, the story was “What You Do Not Know You Want,” and when I finished, I closed the book and stared off into space for a good long while because I was wrecked. Mitchell is, quite simply, a master. No living writer is as good with words as he is.


3. Fyodor Dostoevsky

I had a very influential history professor who told me that Crime and Punishment was the best novel ever written, and so, for a time, it was for me. I’ve become more nuanced in how I judge things and learned to create my own criteria without relying so much on outsiders to influence my value judgments…but I still really love Dostoevsky. There is hope beneath his bleakness that will always appeal to me. (And I will never, ever forget reading Demons in an airport while waiting for a plane and having a conservative woman loudly berate me for devil-worshiping.)


4. Vladimir Nabokov

Another favorite Russian. I have not finished my survey of Nabokov yet, because I like to linger over his books and it takes a long time for me to digest them. He’s a master of language and wordplay.



5. Tana French

I read all five of Tana French’s books in less than nine months. I just vacuumed through them. Her grasp of language and characterization mixes with incredibly dense, twisty plots and makes magic.


6. N. K. Jemisin

I’m not reading nearly as much fantasy as I used to, especially longform. Of those authors I do read, Jemisin is hands-down the best. I love her worldbuilding and her characters


7. Courtney Milan

I still kind of can’t believe a romance author is on this list. But Milan’s books really changed how I look at that genre. They’re sexy and smart, they always make me laugh, and they’ve opened up a whole list of other writers and books to me.


8. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Oh, wait, you thought there were only gonna be two Russians on this list? Please. Petrushevskaya’s work is exquisite, and vital and raw, and I eagerly await each new translation.

That’s all I’ve got this week. There are plenty of authors who could make the list, and maybe will one day, but these are my desert island authors, the ones I wouldn’t want to have to live without.

Who are yours?


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Short Story Sunday: “Pretend Blood”


First line: “Marla got into Past Lives through Sal.”

Pretend Blood” by Margaret Atwood, reprinted by The Independent.

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Short Story Sunday: “The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History”


First Line: Judy Garland, dead.

The Heat of Us: Notes Toward an Oral History” by Sam J. Miller, published by Uncanny Magazine.

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The TBR Pile Challenge

One of my goals for 2015 is to get some of my TBR pile pared down. It’s not easy. I am constantly putting limits on how many new books I’m allowed to buy, and then breaking them. Then I just look at the overburdened shelf and sigh, because how am I ever going to read so many books?

So in an effort to get some books off my shelves (and my ereader), I’m going to try Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge. I’ll be reading and reviewing these throughout 2015, and linking back here.


My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1 Carol Rifka Brunt- Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012)
2 Scott Lynch- The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)
3 Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland (2013)
4 Charles Belfoure- The Paris Architect (2013)
5 Diana Gabaldon- Outlander (1991)
6 Elizabeth Wein- Code Name Verity (2012)
7 Annabel Lyon- The Sweet Girl (2013)
8 Kristin Cashore- Graceling (2008)
9 Wendy Webb- The Fate of Mercy Alban (2013)
10 Justin Cronin- The Summer Guest (2004)
11 Laura Moriarty- While I’m Falling (2009)
12 Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone (1868)

1. Alissa Nutting- Tampa (2013)
2. Kelly Braffet- Save Yourself (2013)

My Progress: 4 of 12 completed/ 4 of 12 reviewed. 



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Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

3236307Title: Graceling

Author: Kristin Cashore

Rating: 3 stars

Middle-of-the-road reviews are the hardest ones to write.

Negative reviews are the easiest. This is an upsetting thing to admit for a person who basically tries to be nice, but if there’s an element of a book, be it style or characters or plot, that I don’t like, it is easy to tear that book apart. Being balanced and fair and not going overboard can present their own challenges, but I will never run out of words.

Glowing reviews are pretty simple. Either I flail and gush and implore you to go out and read this book immediately, or I am able to hold myself back just enough to rationally dissect and discuss what I think makes a read so great. Again, I never run out of words.

But a middle-of-the-road book? One that doesn’t have great faults, per se, but just feels kind of…flat? That’s hard. Because how do we talk fairly about things that don’t inspire passion?

Which is all a very long way of saying that Graceling, the fourth book I read for the TBR Pile Challenge, was kind of…just okay. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. And I struggled trying to figure out how to put that into words.

It took me a long time to read Graceling. Weeks. (It doesn’t take me weeks to read anything). I just could not get interested. It took me almost 100 pages to really feel invested in the novel, which is about 90 pages too long, and by that point I was not looking forward to any marathon reading sessions or book binges to finish.

Lady Katsa is born with an extreme skill called a Grace, which makes her extremely adept at fighting. At first a pawn of her uncle, a king, Katsa breaks away from him and starts on a journey with her lover, Prince Po, to learn more about her Grace and save a kingdom from dangerous, mind-controlling enemy.

I think I was initially wary because Katsa is the Super Special Girl. The one who doesn’t have female friends because, psh, girl stuff, and who is alluring and attractive to every male in existence because of her Super Special Magic Eyes. I feared a love triangle. I feared a makeover scene. YA tropes have made me weary, and wary, and for a long time the text didn’t give me anything to alleviate that.

It did get better. I got to liking Katsa after a while, and Po. There was a lot of harrowing scenes when Katsa took charge of the princess Bitterblue, and while she pieced together the fact that her Grace was not exactly for fighting and more for making her Pseudo-Medieval MacGyver. Then a middle-aged badass lady pirate showed up, and I was incensed. Why couldn’t we start with the middle-aged badass lady pirate? Why did I have to sit through whiny teens for so long? And then the long-built-up confrontation was resolved in about three paragraphs and I was left blinking, wondering what the hell the rest of the book was supposed to be about.

I think it was the worldbuilding that made Graceling feel most weak to me. I just could not get lost in this world because it felt…flimsy. And it’s very odd–there’s no science to this, and I feel like a weirdo to even be bothered by it, but the names of things felt deeply, deeply stupid. I have sat through some really strange fantasy worlds with really strange names. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these that I can point to, but they all just felt off to me. The countries–Nander, Wester, Estill, Sunder? Just call them North, West, East, and South if that’s what you want to convey. All the capitals are just “some dude’s name” city– Randa City, Birn City, Thigpen City. I longed dearly for a possessive of some kind. And the humans names were even weirder. Something about it all just threw me out of the story every time I came across a new character. It is such a strange, nitpicky thing to be bothered by, but it bothered me nonetheless.

Are these reasons to hate a book? No, and I didn’t hate it. Do lots of people love Graceling? Yes. Is it okay to be indifferent to a book, even when lots of people feel passionately about it? Sure. It just means that the mysterious alchemy of fiction didn’t mix for me in this case, which is kind of a bummer, but there’s always another book on the list to look forward to.

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Short Story Sunday: “Stone Hunger”


First Line: “Once there was a girl who lived in a beautiful place full of beautiful people who made beautiful things.”

Stone Hunger” by N.K. Jemisin, published in Clarkesworld Magazine.

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March Round Up



In March I read 14 books. This particular bit of insanity, as opposed to last months, is due to anxiety. Anxiety: when you can barely leave the house and don’t like to remember that you are an adult, hey, at least there’s fiction.

Lots of short story collections this month. Stuck to my goal of doing one nonfiction and one for the TBR challenge. Participated in one read along, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before.

Reading Diversity

Three of the authors I read this month were male, eleven female. All, to my knowledge, were white. I am not doing particularly well on the author diversity front at the moment.

Three of the books included QUILTBAG characters in some form, but one in a way that pissed me off so much that I almost threw my nook off the balcony. It was Kerry Greenwood’s Cocaine Blues and I was really disappointed and angered by it. The main character was a sexually liberated woman in the 1920s which would have been fantastic, if Greenwood didn’t decide that she needed to contrast that by having an asexual villain, who of course was presented as evil specifically because she didn’t like sex. If only she was a lesbian, the heroine mused, wouldn’t that be so much better than her being an evil, sexless prude?

Yeah. Won’t be reading any more of that series.


It’s been a pretty flat month for writing because I’m anxious about some things. I submitted one story and have not finished anything. I’m writing every day but it’s usually only a sentence or two. I’m way too much in my own head right now.

Novel 2 is at about 25000 words and sort of stalled. 25-30K words seems to be where I stall on large projects, pretty predictably. I’ll get through it but I’m annoyed. And also predictably, since I’m sort of stuck on Novel 2, I’ve randomly decided to start notes on another long project idea from my idea folder. I like the beginnings of things. I’m still not so good on the follow through.

TV Junkie

I’m so sad about Vikings, guys. First Siggy and then Athelstan. It was beautifully done, but that doesn’t mean I’m not wrecked about it.

The Americans continues to amaze. Scandal continues to piss me off. (If I have to see Fitz and Olivia give each other one more longing glance I’m going to hurl). And I’m waiting not-so-patiently for Mad Men and Orphan Black. That’s about it on the TV front these days.


Sometimes I go to the Movies

Not often. It’s expensive and rarely worth it; truthfully I don’t even like watching movies at home all that much. But this month for my best friend’s birthday I took her to see Cinderella. That is far from my favorite Disney cartoon so I didn’t particularly have high expectations, but for what it was, I ended up adoring it. And what it was was glitter and butterflies and a gorgeous ballroom scene and costume porn and Richard Madden’s dreamy eyes filling the screen for inordinate amounts of time. All wins in my book.

Mix Tape

The Americans got me on a Fleetwood Mac kick so thanks. I’ve also been listening to a lot a lot a lot of Van Morrison. That’s about it for the month of music, nothing particularly new or exciting.

That’s it this time around. I am ready for April and spring.


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Top Ten Tuesday: Fresh Books


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Books You Recently Added To Your To-Be-Read List.


227296641. Elizabeth Wein- Black Dove, White Raven

Code Name Verity just blew me away and then I saw the synopsis of this book and I was just like…now. Gimme now.

2. Holly Black- The Darkest Part of the Forest

Likewise, I added this one to my TBR the second I finished The Coldest Girl in Coldtown cause holy crap.

3. Y.S. Lee- A Spy in the House

A new-to-me author, I found this title on a list of feminist fiction if I remember correctly and it sounded great.

4. Brett M. Rogers- Classical Traditions in Science Fiction

Found through an excerpt/essay about religion in Battlestar Galactica. How could I not add it to the list?

228897665. Nele Neuhaus- The Ice Queen

I need a new crime series, and ones that lead back to World War II and Nazi crimes always catch my interest for some reason.

6. Ken Liu- The Grace of Kings

This one’s a no-brainer.

7. Rob Dunn- The Man Who Touched His Own Heart

I obviously have a very personal interest in heart surgery, and this history is either going to fascinate me or reduce me to a panic-attack-puddle. We’ll see.

8. Roxane Gay- An Untamed State

I really, really, really still need to read Bad Feminist, but I am also interested in reading this novel.

9. Rashad Harrison- The Abduction of Smith and Smith

A former slave and his former master’s son are shanghaied. This sounds all kinds of interesting.

10. Kate Bolick- Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

Someone close to me recently called me a spinster, and I almost hit him, because he definitely meant it derogatorily. I have a feeling this is a book I will be pushing on everyone soon.



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Short Story Sunday: “Limestone, Lye, and the Buzzing of Flies”


First Line: “The summer we were twelve, nobody asked my best friend Tom and me to wear bike helmets, because it was 1989.”

Limestone, Lye, and the Buzzing of Flies” by Kate Heartfield, published by Strange Horizons.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Nostalgia


The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top 10 Books From My Childhood (Or teen years) That I Would Love To Revisit.

Until recently, I actually used to do this fairly often. Some of these are books I’ve read dozens of times, well out of my childhood. But over the past few years that’s tailed off, so I need to get back to my rereading.

28391. Elizabeth George Speare- The Witch of Blackbird Pond

2. Katherine Paterson- Bridge to Terabithia

3. Ellen Raskin- The Westing Game

4. Natalie Babbitt- Tuck Everlasting

5. Madeleine L’Engle- A Wrinkle in Time (this was one of my mom’s favorites and it didn’t quite connect with me when I read it, I’d love to see how I feel about it now)

6. Susan Cooper- The Dark is Rising

7. Meredith Ann Pierce- The Darkangel

8. Tamora Pierce- all of the Alanna and Daine books

9. Phillip Pullman- His Dark Materials series

10. Louisa May Alcott- Little Women (actually, I’ve never finished this one! So one day my resolution is to do so)


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