Michaeline: New Reading! Penric 7, or: “The Orphans of Raspay”

Cover of The Orphans of Raspay with Penric kneeling in the hold of a ship with two girls regarding him with suspicion.

“The Orphans of Raspay”, a new novella by Lois McMaster Bujold in the Penric and Desdemona series, came out July 18, 2019. Image taken from Amazon.com.

A Review in Three Stages

If “The Orphans of Raspay” is your first Bujold: Penric is an archetypical hero, and sharing a mind with an entity is an old and wonderful trope; Lois McMaster Bujold does her trope-twisting magic with both. You won’t have any trouble following the story on this level. This is an exciting tale with a happy ending, and lots of things that go boom. Some people may feel leery about the fact that the Orphans could be sex-trafficked. I’m squeamish myself, but Lois has a light hand, and while I worry about the girls, I know they are going to be fine. The girls are really well done, too. So often, writers turn child-characters into plot moppets, or precocious brats. These kids are essential to the story, and they act like kids. If you like clever tales of adventure, this is well worth a few hours of time. Penric and his demon, Desdemona, are a great team!

For people who have read the Penric series, but not much else:
CAUTION: HERE BE SPOILERS FOR THE PREVIOUS NOVELLAS (maybe).

It’s another Penric and Desdemona! Fabulous!

Let me get the bad news out of the way first: Continue reading

Nancy: Some Love for Women’s Fiction

This past Saturday was Women’s Fiction Day! Don’t worry if you didn’t know and missed it. The celebration doesn’t have to be limited to one day. And if you’re wondering what, exactly, makes fiction women’s fiction and why does it need its own celebration, that’s okay, too. So let’s talk a bit about this often misunderstood and sometimes undervalued segment of the fiction market.

Most visitors to our blog are romance readers. Makes sense, as we 8LW ladies are romance writers. While a few of our followers are die-hard, romance-only readers (and we love you!), many read across a wide swath of fiction. Bonus points if the other-genre fiction has strong female characters with fully-developed inner lives and emotional journeys. If the female characters’ emotional journeys are the central storyline, what you have in front of you is women’s fiction.

Women’s fiction can be written, read, and enjoyed by people of any gender. (Yes, even straight, cis-gendered men can write women’s fiction). The stories can include mystery, suspense, adventure, intrigue, and romance! Some stories include a lot of those elements, and that’s fine. It’s still women’s fiction, as long as the very core story is about a woman’s emotional journey.

If you’re thinking, that’s an awfully big tent, you’re right. Continue reading

Michille: Beach Reads 2019 (and before)

The Kiss QuotientWith the holiday weekend approaching, lots of folks in my area and around the country are heading to the beach. For our non-US friends, Memorial Day in the US is a federal holiday for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is currently observed on the last Monday of May, which means a lot of Americans have the day off (and head out of town or have a cookout). With beaches on the mind, I was thinking about beach reads for this summer. I’m not heading out this weekend but will probably have some time to put my nose in a book. I’m looking forward to the second in Kevin Kwan’s series, China Rich Girlfriend. I read the first, Crazy Rich Asians, recently and, while not particularly well written, it was entertaining so it might be that one next.

Some of my recent reads that I can recommend are: Continue reading

Nancy: Now That’s A Good Book: Behind These Doors

Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of reading Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens. This Edwardian polyamorous romance is one of my favorite reads of 2019 thus far.

Here’s a bit of an open secret of many authors, me among them: when we’re deeply entrenched in own stories, it can be hard to wrap our heads around other books in the same genre. I tell you this because – as I finish writing my fourth historical romance in a row and am about to start the fifth – for a book in the genre to turn my head right now, it has to hit all my HEA buttons. And, boy howdy, Behind These Doors does that. Here are the top five reasons I fell in love with this book.

Exquisite historical detail, deftly rendered. The Honorable Aubrey Fanshawe and Lucien Saxby meet in London in 1906. These men are from different classes and lead very different lives. Part of their journey is observing and learning about these overt and nuanced differences in each other’s lives, and understanding the fraught nature of being bi/poly men in that time and place. Of course, as these characters make these observations, so does the reader, which immerses us in this specific time and place. Continue reading

Jilly: Bujold’s Sharing Knife Books, Old and New

I was super-excited to learn from Michaeline’s post a couple of weeks ago that Lois McMaster Bujold is to publish a new novella in her Sharing Knife universe. I’m a huge fan of the original tetralogy and somehow I never expected her to revisit this story world, so I feel a squee brewing. Yay! Fingers crossed!

The new novella, called Knife Children, should be published later this month. I see from LMB’s Goodreads blog (link here) that it can be read as a standalone, so if you’re tempted to take a look, don’t assume you have to read the original four books first.

That said, if you’re short of something to read right now, and you enjoy engaging, subtle fantasy stories, you could always try Beguilement, followed by Legacy, Passage, and Horizon. I usually revisit these books once or twice a year, so I’ve been enjoying a leisurely re-read this month while I wait for Knife Children.

I’ve also been pondering, not for the first time, exactly why these books fit so well with my personal id list—the tropes, characters, premises and details that I, as a reader, really, really like (click here to read more about id lists).

I’ll try to describe in a fairly generic, non-spoilery way what I enjoy most about the stories.

The books are set in an imaginary pre-industrial country that looks a lot like America. There are typical fantasy elements—romance, a hero with mage-like powers, scary mythical creatures, blood magic, powerful objects, horses-n-swords, success against overwhelming odds—but here the story is so grounded in normality that the fantastic aspects blend seamlessly with the familiar.

Right from the start of the book the hero and heroine’s romance is as inevitable as it appears improbable. Fawn is a dewy eighteen-year-old farmer’s daughter, two months pregnant after a disappointing tryst in a cornfield, who runs away from home rather than be branded a slut. Dag is a fiftysomething-year-old one-armed battle-scarred widower who has nothing left in life but thankless duty. From their first desperate encounter with one of the aforementioned scary creatures, Dag and Fawn rescue one another, and it rapidly becomes apparent to them (if not to anyone else) that their differences make them perfectly suited, empowering them both. Her common sense, logic, honesty and hungry curiosity challenge his idealism and stimulate his talent for innovation, leading him to develop all kinds of hitherto unsuspected abilities.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Author Squee – Louise Penny

It seems people are constantly giving me book and author recommendations – friends, magazines, random people on the internet – they are all responsible for the truly staggering depth and breadth of my TBR pile.  Some of my more persistent friends have recommended particular authors many times, sure that I would enjoy them immensely, yet I’ve never quite gotten around of them.

I blame GoodReads giveaways, RWA conferences, and my (possibly) regrettable tendency to read books I enjoy over and over again, rather than moving on to something new.  I’ve been trying to be better about that.

No, really, I have.

Since I instituted the “at least every other book has to be a new book” rule, I’ve read many, many new stories/authors and found some real keepers.

My current “find” is Louise Penny. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Book Squee – Treacherous is the Night

A while back I ventured over to GoodReads.  Initially I only planned to leave a pre-publication review for an author I follow, but while I was there I found the Giveaways section and threw my hat in the ring for a variety of books, both by authors I knew and by some I’d never heard of.

Sometimes it was the cover of the book that caught my attention and sometimes, less often, it was the little blurb describing the book.    Most were by authors I’d never heard of.  Over time, I wound up with a number of additions to my physical TBR pile, as well as a long list of titles in my GoodReads “Want to Read” list.

When I recently rediscovered the joy of the public library, I armed myself with that GoodReads list and started checking out the titles that I could find.  As expected, some of them fell into the “swing and a miss” category.    A few didn’t even make it past the “I’ll give you three chapters to catch my interest” milestone.  One recent title, however, not only lived up to my initial expectations, it greatly surpassed them.

It was the cover of Treacherous is the Night by Anna Lee Huber that initially caught my interest, but it was the story that had me reading it, buying my own copy on Amazon, and then reading it again, as seems to be my current habit for books I read and like. Continue reading