~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Monday, September 13, 2010

Recommended Reading, July–August

I’m thinking of starting a semi-regular post here (ideally once a month, but it could easily slip) recommending things (books, short stories, possibly even non-fiction) I’ve read and thought were awesome. Of course, I’d love to know if anyone reading this would be remotely interested in something like that…  :-)

I want to make something clear from the outset: I am not a reviewer. I will not be reviewing books. I’m a writer; my job is to write. If I were a reviewer, then I would be honor-bound to talk about things I didn’t like as well as things I liked. I will not do that, at least not in a public forum. I may talk privately (and by that I mean conversation; I’m leery even of e-mails, which can be forwarded) about a book that I personally thought failed. (For example, there’s an award-winning book that I still intend to try again to read, because I want to understand why it’s award-winning, that some of you have heard me rant about because certain details are insanely wrong and I threw the book across the room on my first attempt to read it.) The bottom line is that these are my colleagues, these are people I work with even if I never meet them or engage directly with them in some form. I give them the respect I would hope they give me, as a fellow colleague and writer.

So what this is, is stuff I’ve read that I think you should read because I loved it. If you don’t want to read it, groovy. It may not be to your taste. I’ll try to explain why I liked it. That’s all.

‘kay? ‘kay. Onwards! Here’s what got me fired up in July and August:

“Fair Ladies,” Theodora Goss, Apex Online. Strangely, I had to look this one back up to remember why I loved it. And I was drawn in once again…. Theodora Goss has a way of writing stories that you just believe happened; her details are…believable is the best word I can come up with. It’s a story about a person, and about a country. That’s a difficult balance to achieve; usually stories are small or big, but this one manages to be both.

Arcadia Falls, Carol Goodman. I’ve made my adoration for Carol Goodman’s books clear here, I think. Are they all perfect? No. I’ve loved some more than others. But they all are the type of book I love, and are hard to find. They’re Gothics in the sense of isolation, of thick atmosphere, of mystery, of dread. One might call them supernatural mysteries now, but labels, blah blah blah. Arcadia Falls takes place in upstate NY, not quite as upstate as where I grew up, but close enough to be familiar. I suspect I loved this one for its Arts and Crafts cottage as much as its atmosphere and slowly unfolding truth about the past. Goodman has tread these themes before, to the point that I was figuring things out before I was intended to. But this is the type of book where the journey, for me, is more sweet that the goal. Just because I figured out the secret doesn’t make the immersion into the place and people less compelling. I’ve been reading Goodman’s books from the library, and I think I need to buy them for my own library so I can indulge again and again.

Rosemary and Rue, Seanan McGuire. I read a fair amount of urban fantasy, and while I enjoy it, it’s the type of thing that rarely stays with me. It was a fun ride, but once I’ve finished the book, I don’t remember the characters; in other words, I wasn’t invested in them as real people. (That’s not a negative, per se: the same is true for thrillers. I’m reading them for the wild ride, not for the lasting impact, and that’s okay.) So I was surprise when Rosemary and Rue proceeded to rock my world. I believed in October (Toby) Daye, I liked her, and I cared about her. McGuire doesn’t make things easy for her character; in fact, I gasped more than once at how much shit she put Toby through. Although I knew, given the genre, that Toby would be alive at the end, that didn’t at all mean that Toby wouldn’t be damaged and irrevocably changed by the end. Hell, that happens in the first few pages—and that’s not a spoiler, just an acknowledgement that this book will grab you by the throat from the get-go and not let you off the roller coaster until the end. This series is now on my automatic To Buy list.

Bite Me, Parker Blue. I was pondering a Kindle, and my friend Shanna offered to loan me hers, as it wasn’t thrilling her the way she wanted it to. One of the books she had on it was Bite Me, and it was, of the options, the most interesting-sounding, so I started reading it in bits and snippets when I wasn’t reading everything else that’s piled around here. What I found was that I kept finding excuses to pick up the Kindle and read more (which proved to be a major point in favor for the Kindle, as it was easy to throw in my purse or carry around the house). I’m not a fan of vampire books per se; I’m not against them, but I don’t seek them about because so many of them are been-there-done-that or just outright twee. The heroine of Bite Me is very Buffy-esque (and I loved Buffy, so I was wary), but without the support network Buffy builds around her. Oh, Val starts building that network—my favorite is her hellhound, Fang (you’ve gotta read the book to experience the wonderful snark of Fang, truly!), but she’s young and nervous the way you’d expect and believe a Young Adult heroine to be, even if she’s a vampire slayer. Among other things….

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