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.

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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

Michille: Summer Reading Lists

Research Isn't Just for HistoricalsAlternative title: Like our TBR Piles Aren’t Big Enough

I’m going to piggy-back on Nancy’s post from Memorial Day Weekend, which is generally viewed as the unofficial start of summer. In my county, we are in the midst of another one – high school graduation week (there are 7 high schools in the county) – so the summer starts for them now. Only two of these lists are specifically romance but most include at least one. One surprise is that there is very little overlap on these lists. Usually there are a couple of books that are on everyone’s list. Not this year, except maybe Circe – that’s been on a couple. Continue reading

Jilly: Evaluating Also-Boughts

What’s your most tried-and-tested method of finding new authors to read? Do you ever use Amazon’s also-boughts?

I’m always checking out new search methods and new-to-me authors, but lately my selections have been especially hit-and-miss. The problem is that “I’ll know it when I read it” is not really searchable. I’m looking for a combination of qualities rather than neat pigeonholes like settings or subgenres.

I like upbeat stories with happy endings, romances or books with a strong romantic subplot. After that it gets tricky. I want heroes and heroines with intelligence, agency, and emotional depth. I love stories where strong characters deal honestly with one another, especially when that’s difficult. I prefer confrontation to secrets or lies or withholding information. My fave authors write series with strong communities. I actively seek out humor and kindness. I enjoy voice, but not when it tips over into look-at-me writing. I love a good sex scene, but only if it moves the story. I’ll try most subgenres.

I believe the Zon is one of the most powerful search engines in existence, but while it’s awesome at identifying reverse harem cowboy stories (not kidding), the search box is not my friend.

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Nancy: Summer is for Lovers (of Books)

Here in the US, the three-day Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff of the summer season. Yes, the official first day of summer is nearly a month away, but in most of the country, temperatures are already rising, vacations are on the calendar, and list upon list of summer reading recommendations are splashed across newspapers, magazines, and various and sundry corners of the internet.

Most of us here on the blog are avid, year-round readers, so we hardly need an excuse to pick up more books. But it is fun to check out curated lists and find some books that are hot and trending, cool and refreshing, or just downright emotionally satisfying. This weekend, in between family cookouts and sipping mango margaritas, I came across some lists that have put me into a book-buying frenzy. The side effect of this is, of course, that a reading frenzy will soon ensue. #readerproblems Continue reading

Jilly: Aliens or Werewolves? Why?

If you were stranded on a desert island or snowed up in an isolated cabin and you could have only one novel to read, would you choose shifters or aliens? You don’t know the author. You don’t get to see the cover or read the blurb, you just have to choose a sub-genre. Fantasy/urban fantasy, or sci-fi?

My question arises courtesy of an explanation I read this week on Ilona Andrews’ blog. Like many of their fans, I am super-excited about their current Innkeeper serial, a novel posted in free instalments every Friday.

Sweep of the Blade is a courtship story between Maud, a human who was previously married to an asshat vampire and has sworn off the species for good, and Arland, a swoon-worthy alpha male vampire of aristocratic lineage who’s unshakeably in love with her and makes no secret of it. He persuades her to accompany him to his home planet, and high-octane high jinks ensue. The story features hierarchical, militaristic vampire dynasties in space, family politics, deadly conspiracies, and some serious arse-kicking delivered by Maud and her young daughter, Helen. It’s clever, moving, funny, exciting, and kind.

Apparently fans have been writing to the authors to squee about the story and to ask why they don’t quit writing their other series so we can all have more Innkeeper. Among a handful of reasons, Ilona offered this explanation:

Innkeeper is a SF at its core. Aliens are a harder sell than werewolves. 🙂 A lot of people who would actually like Innkeeper, if they gave it a shot, read the description and walk away from it because it has Science Fiction elements.

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