Pet peeves: derogatory names for genres

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

Man it is hard to muster up some blogging mojo this week, but if one thing fires me up it is this: ridiculous nicknames for genres that essentially put down the people who read them. Am I wrong in thinking the people who COME UP with these names have never read the genre they’re generalizing?

“bodice-ripper” – I don’t recall the last romance I read with an actual bodice in it, nor the last one where a bodice was actually ripped. This name irritates me so much. And everyone uses it. People I know use it and I wince. I know it conjures up covers like the one above, but romance is a genre that encompasses a lot MORE than that.

“Mommy porn” – Thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey, this awful label has suddenly appeared out of nowhere to describe.. whatever Fifty Shades is – light erotica? I don’t know, I just know I hate the term. Yes, lets define a genre with an assumption of who is reading it. And I don’t think “porn” is the right word there either.

I’m trying to think if there are terms like this for other genres that AREN’T usually associated with female readers, and all I can come up with was the one time I saw someone call SF&F fans “airship captains” and not in a very nice way. Hmm. There’s also the people who say they only read “real books” about “real people”, as opposed to fake books about fake people.  Am I missing some annoying little turns of phrase?

Reading Raves: Author recommendations (part 2)

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

A little while ago (Gasp! Almost two years!), I did a Reading Rave post about how I love book recommendations by authors. I like a good list of recs, and in that post I found recommendations by Kristen Cashore, Rachel Neumeier, Linnea Sinclair, Holly Black, Shannon Hale, Garth Nix, Ann Aguirre, and Diana Peterfreund. I thought it would revisit the idea with some MORE recommendations.

More Author Recommendations:

the land of green ginger by noel langley once upon a time by a. a. milne the dolls house by rumor godden
Franny Billingsley lists her favorite books as a kid in her FAQ. These include the funny (like The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley and Once on a Time by A. A. Milne) and the more serious (like The Doll’s House by Rumor Godden and Mistress Masham’s Repose by T. H. White). I have not heard of any of these, but they all look charming and old-school in a good way. I’m very curious.

a college of magics by caroline stevermer fall of a kingdom by hilari bell
Tamora Pierce is the official QUEEN of recommendations. I hit the motherload on her site when I found.. am I counting this right? THIRTY? lists broken down into categories and year! Looks like Chachic pointed this out to me the last time I did this author rec post and I guess I forgot. Anyway – mind happily blown! There’s Recommended SF/F for Teens, Gifted 8-Year Old Booklist, The So Not White Medieval Europe Booklist… it goes on and on people. I’m focusing on her Ultimate Ever Fantasy List at the moment, where I’m eying Caroline Stevermer’s A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, Fall of a Kingdom by Hilari Bell, The Gods In Winter by Patricia Miles, A Sorcerer’s Treason by Sarah Zettel, and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, but there’s so many more books on here.

the spellman files by lisa lutz lord of scoundrels by loretta chase Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
Susan Elizabeth Phillips recommends “Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Laura Kinsale’s Flowers in the Storm, Jill Barnett’s Bewitching, and Pam Morsi’s Simple Jess” in the historical romance genre. She’s a “big fan of Kristin Hannah, Patricia Gaffney, and Sarah Bird”, enjoys the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz (looks interesting to me), and Margaret Watson, Cathie Linzand, and Jayne Ann Krentz in the romance genre. She reads non-fiction as well and has some recs there too.

the magicians and mrs. quent by galen beckett dealing with dragons by patricia c. wrede blood and iron by elizabeth bear
Marie Brennan has a lot of fantasy recommendations on her site (if you go to this link, her list is clickable – each title takes you to her review). I agree with her recs that I’ve read, like War For the Oaks by Emma Bull and Sunshine by Robin McKinley, but there’s a lot here I haven’t read that I’m interested in, like The Magicians and Mrs Quent by Galen Beckett, Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, and Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear.

the drowning girl by caitlin r kiernan the lies of locke lamora by scott lynch Throne of The Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Speaking of Elizabeth Bear, she has book reports on her blog where she recommends Caitlìn R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and its sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, and more.

the game of kings by dorothy dunnett moomin the catalogue of the universe by margaret mahy
Juliet Marillier answers a question about influences in her FAQ with a list of some of her favorite books: “these include the Lymond Chronicles (Dorothy Dunnett), John Crowley’s Little, Big, a young adult book called The Catalogue of the Universe by Margaret Mahy, and Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which examines the power of story in terms of women’s psychology. And Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books!”

Phew! That’s a lot of recs. Any books up there you agree are good books people (and maybe me in particular?) should read? Any lists I missed and should be aware of?

Pet Peeves: eBooks only available in one format and one place

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

It is currently my review policy not to accept self-published books for review, but if I’m interested enough, I will go buy a self-published book.

What’s driving me crazy is I’m noticing that sometimes an eBook is only available in one place, in one format. Usually this one place is Amazon, and in their .azw format, which is incompatible with oh, most of the other eReaders on the market. Now, I don’t know anything about how difficult it is to sell your book elsewhere and provide different formats, but as a customer, I really don’t care. That’s a lost sale. I’m NOT going to buy a Kindle if I already have an eReader that isn’t a Kindle. And I’m not going to read the book on my computer or phone or some other device because I have an eReader to read my eBooks on! It doesn’t make sense to me to download something and then NOT read it on my eReader, so I won’t do it. I’m not going to go trying to convert an .azw file into what I want – I heard Calibre could do it but stripping the DRM is illegal, so there’s that pickle.

Limiting a customer’s choice of format and expecting a customer to jump through hoops in order to read a book is wildly optimistic, given all the other books I could be reading. It’s even more optimistic when you are a completely new-to-me author, and thus a risk in the first place.

Please, please, if you are self-publishing an eBook, make sure that you reach more readers by making it available in different formats! And while you’re at it, if you’re offering your book for free or discounted on Amazon, consider making the same offer for the other formats too, because that’s another rant.

Bookish Gifts

This is a post that I wanted to do last year, but I got lazy. Seeing as it’s November, and the Book Holiday blogger swap has begun again, I finally got around to showing you some shiny pretty bookish things. Really, it’s an excuse for me to window shop on the web. (Click on images for bigger versions).

1. Tillybloom bookmarks ($13 each) 2. Miniature books 3. Book Journal ($15) 4. Penquin Hardcover Classics ($20 ea) 5. Jane Austen action figure ($8.95) 6. Spineless classics (from £39.99) 7. Sterling silver block letter initial necklace ($72)

8. read sign ($42) 9. Penguin Classics mug (£7.95 and up) 10. Oh for a Book print ($25) 11. I like Big Books bag ($14.95) 12. Eat, Sleep, Read shirt ($29.99) 13. Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classics ($18 ea) 14. Penguin Threads ($16 ea)

15. Pride & Prejudice vintage subway print ($50) 16. Book Book case ($79.99-$99.99) 17. A Book Lover tee ($20) 18. Kindle/nook cases (from $45) 19. White Rabbit ring ($7) 20. Nook Tablet ($249) 21. Kindle Fire ($199) 22. We’re All Mad Here necklace ($22) 23. Books tote bag ($16)

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Magic Slays
Ilona Andrews
I pre-ordered the signed edition of this book from Powell’s ages ago but it took me some time to get to it once I got the book. I just didn’t want to make the experience go too soon! This is one of my favorite UF series and is book 5. If you haven’t started this yet, I highly recommend that you do (read at least the first two books):
Book 1: Magic Bites – Goodreads
Book 2: Magic Burns –
Book 3: Magic Strikes –
Novella – Magic Mourns in Must Love Hellhounds anthology –
Book 4: Magic Bleeds
***** This review has spoilers for earlier books, read at your own peril!  *****
The Premise:  Kate Daniels has quit the Order and gone into business on her own, backed by Atlanta’s shapeshifter Pride.  Unfortunately she didn’t leave the Order on good terms and they’ve done all they can to sully her reputation. Business is so slow it’s non-existent, and Kate has been twiddling her thumbs for months. Then two things happen. First, a vampire escapes the control of its navigator, and Ghastek asks for Kate’s help to contain it. Then a member of the Red Guard hires her to look into the disappearance of an engineer and applied magic-theorist along with the project he was working on. These are both simple enough assignments on the surface, but much more rides on Kate understanding whats really going on.
My Thoughts: Whenever I start a Kate Daniels story, I expect to be pulled into a high action melee spiced up with a bit of romance courtesy of the Beast Lord. In this aspect, Magic Slays delivers exactly as promised. Once chapter one begins, Kate is back to business. Disaster strikes when a vampire gets loose and then Kate finally gets a job, but it seems too simple a job for the Red Guard to be paying her to do it. Of course it isn’t long at all until Kate is up to her elbows in trouble, but the difference here is that this job requires more finesse than Kate has shown in the past. Magic Slays has a more restrained Kate, who tries to use more investigation than muscle.
The story is also a little different because Kate’s life is different. This book has the same Kate, but she’s no longer with the Order nor does she live alone in her Atlanta apartment. Now she lives in the Pack stronghold, and her day-to-day frustrations include her status within the Pack, trying to start up a business, and mentoring a group of teenaged misfits, including her own ward, Julie. This makes Magic Slays the first book in probably the next chapter in Kate’s life, and for that reason I found it very different from the rest of the series, but in a good way. This feels like a “turning point” book. It feels like Kate finally has self-made family around her, and I also felt like Kate is beginning to make concrete plans for the final confrontation she’s been heading towards throughout the series.
In the romance front, things are also different. For the longest time, Kate has been dancing around a romantic entanglement with Curran, but now they’re in a committed relationship. Things aren’t completely stable however. Usually when there is a slow burning romance over a series of books, the magic can disappear once a couple finally gets together, but that isn’t the case here. I thought that the way Curran and Kate’s relationship progressed in Magic Slays made it one of the best books I’ve read with a couple after they finally hooked up. I loved that things were still being ironed out, that they were still learning how to live with each other, and that they both still had insecurities. They’re happy, but at the same time, they’re human and this book reflects that. I loved that they’re both essentially the same characters and being together doesn’t change who they are. They still have the same back-and-forth relationship after they’re together but we know that they love each other.
Overall: Another great installment. I don’t know how many ways I can say the same thing after I read one of these books, so just imagine me pressing this book into your hands, nodding enthusiastically. If you haven’t read this series…seriously, read it will you? I think the last one I read always ends up being my favorite.  The great draw for me is the mix of great worldbuilding (a post-apocalyptic Atlanta, flooded by waves of magic and technology), action, and romance, but what elevates it even beyond that is a snarky brand of humor that’s used judiciously. Smiling because of Kate’s exchanges with Curran or best friend Andrea? Now that’s real chicken soup for the soul.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook – positive
Angieville – positive (“Crunchy Kate goodness at its best”)
One More Page – positive
SFF Chat – positive
Calico reaction – 8 (Excellent)
Fantasy Book Cafe – 8/10
Smexy Books – A
Lurv a la Mode – Four scoops (out of 5)
One More Page – positive
Fiction Vixen – A
Babbling about Books, and More – B+

Reading Raves: Red Riding Hood Photography

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

When I was looking for Little Red Riding Hood pictures last week I was overwhelmed by how MANY they were. These are ones from photoshoots based on fairytales.

Eugenio Recuenco

Into the Woods: US Vogue Sept 2009.

Photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott via Persephone Reads
(do click the link, lots MORE of this one)

Dakota Fanning in Vanity Fair, Jan 2007. Photographed by Karl Lagerfeld
(link has huge images)

Eva Mendes for the 2008 Campari Calendar

Jade Rodan from America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 6:”The Girl That Kissed the Roach”

Reading Raves: Red Riding Hood Illustrations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

I cannot BELIEVE how many pictures of Little Red Riding Hood there are online! I could do TWO posts about it. Actually… I think I will.

Walter Crane

“Red Riding Hood” (1865) by John Everett Millais

German Post, 1962

Tyler Garrison

George Sheridan Knowles

James Sant

Paul Woodroffe

Jesse Willcox Smith

Vanessa Elms

Warwick Goble

American McGee concept art (Luis Melo)

American McGee concept art (Ken Wong)

Nao-Tukiji Saikusa

[many many more images!]

Deborah Harkness on her book, A Discovery of Witches (w/ Giveaway)

I’m currently reading A Discovery of Witches (coming out February 8th), and hopefully my review will be out sometime next week. In the meantime, I have something special today: a few words about the book from it’s author Deborah Harkness. Viking has also generously offered a copy of the book to giveaway (US and Canada only), so be sure to scroll down for the details after reading her words.

Why does a history professor decide to write a novel about witches? It’s a good question!

Writing a novel is a mysterious process and many of my life experiences went into A Discovery of Witches. One of my favorite books as a child was Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The history of alchemy and magic caught my interest as an undergraduate, and I’m still fascinated by these subjects today. And, once upon a time, I discovered a lost alchemical manuscript—although it was not (so far as I know) enchanted.

A Discovery of Witches tells the tale of a reluctant witch named Diana Bishop and her discovery of a long-lost alchemical manuscript at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. There, Diana meets Matthew Clairmont: a geneticist who happens to be a very old, secretive vampire. Witches and vampires are traditional enemies, but Diana and Matthew grow closer as they try to puzzle out the manuscript’s significance. Their search for answers takes Diana and Matthew from Oxford, to his ancestral home in France, to her family’s farm in upstate New York. But they are not the only creatures who want to solve the mystery of manuscript, and their fellow daemons, vampires, and witches frown upon their unorthodox relationship. Are these just old prejudices, or is it something more?

Our culture’s renewed obsession with witches, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night has been fascinating to me as a historian. I’ve gone from needing to explain what alchemy is to having my students all nod wisely whenever Nicholas Flamel is mentioned. Parents have confessed that they’ve been staying up late to read their kids’ copy of the latest Harry Potter. Our reading habits reveal that even grownups need a little magic—with the limitless possibility, unpredictability, and even chaos that inevitably comes with it. My goal with A Discovery of Witches was to write a fairy tale that was mesmerizing but spoke to adult issues and concerns. I tried to create characters who were strange—yet strangely familiar. Many of us will recognize ourselves in Diana, who has so much power but is afraid to use it. Others will empathize with Matthew’s inability to let go of his 1500-year past—even though we have less of a past to worry about! And still more will wonder, while riding the train or sitting in a meeting, if that strange creature opposite just might be a daemon or a vampire.

It it’s magic you need this winter, I hope that you find some in A Discovery of Witches.

Giveaway details:

1. Email janicu[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES GIVEAWAY, and with “please enter me” or something like that, and that should be it.
2. One email per person please.
3. This giveaway is US and Canada only
4. This contest ends one week from now: midnight EST February 1st.

For a second chance to win, along with an excerpt of the book check out this post at Fantasy Book Cafe!

Reading Raves: Beauty and the Beast Illustrations

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

I finished Beastly and I’m writing up a review for it, but because I’m visiting my parents I keep getting interrupted mid-thought (hmm).  So while I edit my review here’s some lovely Beauty and the Beast inspired images that I found online.

Angela Barrett

Annie Leibovitz for Vogue Magazine (via Once Upon a Blog)

Rebecca Guay


Marianna Mayer

Allen Williams

George Barr

Eugenio Recuenco

Hilary Knight

Anne Grahame Johnstone

Pet Peeves: Spines in

Ranting & raving is something I do periodically on this blog. Look for the “rants and raves” category for past rants and raves.

This has been a peeve for a couple of years. I think that’s how long it’s been since I started noticing  bookshelves in certain furniture catalogs with the books shelved spine in. There is uniformity and the furniture can stand out.  This makes sense when you want a consumer’s attention to be on the furniture, not to be distracted by what’s on it, but this trend in decorating is annoying otherwise:

  • Unless you know all your books and where they go by heart, or you are going to have a hell of a time finding a book.
  • There is no way a guest could come in and discover a book.  No way to have a conversation about a book on those shelves.
  • It implies that a books function is as a design element rather than to be, you know, actually read.

Images are from Apartment Therapy. I am pleased to see from the comments that I am not alone in my dislike of the spine in thing.

A trend in the same vein, (but at least you can label the books in this case) is wrapping books in covers to display them: