Reading Raves: Author recommendations

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

You know what I love? When an author has a page on their website devoted to recommendations. I’m not saying that this is something all authors should do, but it sure is nice. It caters to my nosiness – what books do you like in the genres you write? Peering at someone’s bookshelves is similar – I want to know what you read, but to have a list of recommendations – I can find out what your favorites are. If I find myself agreeing to an author’s picks I’m inclined to try them out if I’ve never read their books before. I also like how it gives me yet another place to find new-to-me books (as if there aren’t enough places).

The Winter of Enchantment

I have tried out some books based on author’s recommendations on their websites. Sherwood Smith is why I  tried Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Neil Gaiman is why I read The Winter of Enchantment by Victoria  Walker (I read the book before I had a book blog, so the review is only on paperbackswap and goodreads – Goodreads). I  thought The Winter of Enchantment was very lovely imagewise, only OK plotwise, but I’m glad I read it. And  Greensleeves I recommend heartily, but it’s sadly out of print and not cheap to find used online.

Here are some Author Recommendations:

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) Nine Coaches Waiting His Dark Materials Trilogy: "Northern Lights", "Subtle Knife", "Amber Spyglass"

Kristin Cashore recommends Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Cynthia Voigt’s Novels of the Kingdom, Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books, Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, and others.

The Blue Sword The Changeling Sea The Warrior's Apprentice

Rachel Neumeier recommends 14 books including The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip, The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, Cukoo’s Egg, by CJ Cherryh, The Warrior’s Apprentice, by Lois McMaster Bujold, and A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb

Song of Scarabaeus In the Company of Others Foreigner

In 2009, Linnea Sinclair recommended in her fan forums Sara Creasy’s Song of Scarabaeus, Julie Czernada’s In the Company of Others, and C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series and I’ve put those all on my to-read-one-day list.

Howl's Moving Castle The Dark Is Rising (The Dark Is Rising Sequence) Madeleine's A Wrinkle (A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Paperback - May 1, 2007))

Holly Black‘s Suggested Reading List has Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’ Engle, Mary Stewart, Peter Beagle, Tanith Lee, Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones,and Michael Moorcock on it, to name a few (she’s also yet another one who recommends Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia books)

Riddle-Master The Westing Game [WESTING GAME] Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer

Shannon Hale has a lovely long list of recommendations on her website. So many. I love it. She recommends gems like Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy, by Patricia McKillip, and Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, by Tanith Lee. (I must say I like her husband’s recs at the bottom of her list too).

Bitter Night: A Horngate Witches Book Nine Layers of Sky Mr. Impossible

Ann Aguirre sometimes posts about books she loved on her blog, and I pay attention. She’s recommended Diana Pharaoh Francis’ Bitter Night, and Liz William’s Nine Layers of Sky, both on my TBR, as well as Jeri Smith-Ready and intriguing romances with idiot heroes.

The Once and Future King Devil's Cub Moominsummer Madness   [MOOMINSUMMER MADNESS] [Paperback]

Garth Nix also wrote a long list of recommendations (ah, quite delightful), called “Books Remembered: An Alphabetical Remembrance“.  He also has The Winter of Enchantment listed, along with Georgette Heyer, Tove Jansson, Ursula Le Guin and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King (which really should be required reading).

Dull Boy Make Me Yours (Harlequin Blaze) Beastly

Diana Peterfreund is really an author I should be reading since Angie keeps recommending her books and Angie tends to be right (How annoying. Gives my TBR pile grief). This thought is backed up with recommendations that look good, like in her post “Why isn’t Everyone reading…?” where she recommends Sarah Cross’ Dull Boy, Betina Krahn, and oh there it is (again!), the Attolia books. I think she also shares my opinion on retellings (basically I ♥ them mucho).

I know I’ve seen more lists on author’s websites, but let’s stop there. Are there lists that you recommend I look at? Do tell!

Pet Peeves: That name sounds familiar

This has been on my mind for a while: have you noticed that there are a lot of heroines in books with a paranormal slant (YA, urban fantasy, paranormal romance) with similar names? I say this with love, of course (because really the most annoying names are the ones with a million apostrophes – ug), but I feel like I keep seeing the same names used. Here are some examples.

Genevieve/Gin/Ginny/Gwendolyn/Gwen or some variation
Meaning: Gwen is originally Welsh and means “Blessed Ring”.
1. Genevieve (Genny) Taylor from the Spellcracker series by Suzanne McLeod
2. Genevieve (Evie) Scelan from the Evie Scelan series by Margaret Ronald
3. The vampire Genevieve from the series by Jack Yeovil
4. Gwen Gelman of the Changeling series by Elaine Cunningham
5. Gwen Williams (YA) from the Others series by Karen Kincy
6. Gin Blanco from The Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep
7. Gwenhyvar (Gwen) from the Hunters Moon (Chronicles of Faerie) by O. R. Melling
8. Gwendolyn the Timid from Gena Showalter’s Paranormal romance Darkest Whisper

Kat or Cat or Kate or Cate or Katherine or some variation

Meaning: Kate means “pure” and is English in origin
1. Catherine (Cat) Crawfield from the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost
2. Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
3. Katherine Katt (aka Kitty) from Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch
4. Kitty Norville from the Kitty series by Carrie Vaughn
5. Catherine Marais from Melina Morel’s Institu Sceintifique series.

Cassandra/Cassie
Meaning: Cassandra is Greek and means “she who entangles men”. She was given the gift/curse of being able to see the future but no one would believe her
1. Cassandra Palmer from the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance
2. Cassie Roux from Seduced by a Wolf by Terry Spear
3. Cassandra Renfield from Jen Nadol’s The Mark (YA)
4. Cassie from Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (YA)

Other common names seem to be Faithe/Faith/Faythe and some variation, and Eve/Eva/Evie. OK maybe it’s not as much as I thought there was because the lists I came up with aren’t THAT long, but it feels like there are a lot. Am I crazy or what?

Pet peeves: Monster Mash-ups

I’m going to put this under Pet Peeves, although this is more like.. an internal debate.

What do people think of monster mash-ups? What I mean by a monster mash-up is taking a famous piece of literature and splicing and dicing it and inserting things like vampires, werewolves or zombies to it. I think of a monster mash-up as actually using some dead author’s out-of-copyright words and putting in your own.

My first reaction to this idea was : I do not like it. It bothers me. My gut reaction is sort of like “Is nothing sacred?!” I guess I don’t have a sense of humor about it and kind of darkly eye each new ridiculous book that comes out and hops on the bandwagon. When AnimeJune posted a rant pretty much saying “WRITE YOUR OWN FUCKING BOOKS” I couldn’t agree more. Reading her rant makes me cheer.

But I’ve been thinking about it for a while because while I don’t like the idea of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I am ok with modern day retellings of Pride and Prejudice – taking the basic idea of P&P, putting it in a modern setting with your own characters loosely based on the originals. So I think to myself – ah, your feeling side doesn’t like it, but aiie, logical side is wondering if you you are kind of hypocritical.

Damn you, logical side.

In the past week there’s been a lot of brouhaha online about fanfiction. I think it started with Diana Gabaldon’s post calling it “illegal” (although I think fan fiction falls under fair use). I noticed that Diana Gabaldon was OK with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because the copyright for the original work had expired:

“Now, it’s possible to do this without being illegal, if you feel you just can’t get noticed on your own merits (and that being noticed is worth whatever it takes): you just do it with characters that are no longer under copyright. I.e., characters whose author is dead, and has been dead for…it was 75 years, last time I looked (copyright exists for the author’s life plus 75 years). So if the author of your characters died before 1935, you’re home free!

And some writers do this to good—or at least profitable—effect. Note PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, for instance, or the many (many, many, many) imitators of Sherlock Holmes.

I think she’s right that the copyright has expired on Pride and Prejudice (and all the other Austen works) and so people can do whatever they want with it. There’s nothing illegal about literary monster mash-ups, despite what I may feel about them. And yet. I do think that it still feels wrong. Perhaps illogically so. It feels wrong seeing authors taking some dead author’s words, and then putting in their own.  I think that it’s too easy.  I wonder what the dead author would think if someone had taking their words and used them? I tell myself – well it’s not illegal, and it’s not plagiarism because they attribute the work to the original author, and it’s all for fun, so what’s the problem? Yeah. I don’t know. IT JUST BUGS ME SO MUCH! It smarts of plagiarism through legal loopholes!

And then I contemplate how much I love a good modern-day retelling of Austen, and isn’t that essentially fanfiction for sale? They may be using their own characters and settings but they are borrowing from Austen’s plot. Isn’t that plagiarism? Well, they’re taking the idea but not the actual words, but I see that there is a thin line and I may be splitting hairs in saying there is a difference.

Sigh. Anyway, I don’t like monster mash-ups. I do like modern day retellings. I do feel conflicted. Honestly – I want to have an open mind and maybe if I think about this more I will accept the existence of monster mash-ups, but the visceral, possibly hypocritical, part of me just wants the fad to die a fiery death.


What makes me even more hypocritical/confused is that I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in graphic novel format, and because I feel like translating P&P into a graphic novel is different from straight taking Jane Austen’s words, I am more ok with it than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the book. I’m not sure what to do with myself. This is like a crisis of faith.

Reading Raves: Matte and Glossy covers

moon called
There seems to be a debate on what looks classier – a book cover with a matte finish, or a cover with a glossy one. In bookstores here in the U.S,  I see a combination of both on the shelves, but I am not sure what the norm is elsewhere. In my searches about the topic I discovered posts discussing how in Canada, if the book is a trade paperback and glossy, people are more inclined to think that it is self published (apparently because of artist subsidies there, more self-pubbed books are found in bookstores? If the book is mass market paperback, the glossiness vs. matte thing doesn’t seem to matter as much). Meanwhile, I remember seeing a lot of matte or satin finished books in Europe, but I may be wrong. I found comments to the contrary, but I didn’t really spend much time searching. If you know, please comment.

Where do I stand? Give me a combination of matte & glossy! If there is one thing that I have a weakness for, it’s that feeling of smooth against rough and the reflection of a glossy image or embellishment against a matte background, or vice versa. It’s sadly not something I often see in the genre books I read, although I see it more often in young adult books. It just makes me go a little wide-eyed and “Oooh, pretty!” when I see a cover where more than just the art is considered. The extra little something like raised lettering and this finish adds to the experience (and I don’t know if an e-book could ever replicate it). I tell you: be still my beating heart!

I spent some time trying to figure out what this combination was called by the printers, but I still have no clue. Is it Matte with: varnish? Laminate? UV coating? Aqueous coating? The more I googled, the less I knew.

blood of the demonI raided my bookshelves to try to show you my favorite covers, but they are really difficult to photograph. There’s the Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series (the US covers), that have a metallic sheen and Mercy in slightly raised glossy relief. (Cover illustration by Dan Dos Santos, cover design by Judith Lagerman).

Then there is of course the Kara Gillian books by Diana Rowland. The symbols on the cover you can see when you tilt it are so pretty. I just love it! (Cover illustration by Juliana Kolesova, cover design by Dreu Pennington-McNeil)

Other books and series I own with this effect (there are sadly not many. Although I have a bunch with shiny fonts against a matte background, I’m not counting those):

  • The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks (this is a reverse of the usual. It has a shiny cover with the character image in matte)
  • The Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  • Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd anthology


detail of Geektastic cover

Pet Peeve: Sex & Water

Good lord. Today has been kicking my butt. Car troubles plus crazy work = frazzled janicu. I was hoping to have time to work on my review for Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols but it just didn’t happen. And I thought I would do a reading rave first, but the one I was planning needs more research. So here goes with a little ranting.

Sex under water. I read about the hero and heroine getting it on in some underground grotto, pool, river, lake or ocean and all I can think is  “That is just NOT sanitary!” DO YOU KNOW how women are made? And how the thrusting that the guy is doing UNDER WATER is moving STUFF into her? Like.. microbes in the water, or eeee, SAND! *shudder*. Also these scenes don’t usually involve a condom, which is not good, but if there was one, I’m wondering about the risk of it slipping off in the water anyway. It’s a little better when the couple does it on the edge of the body of water, but I’m still thinking about dirt, UTIs or other not fun infections in the private bits. Also: OMG, CHAFING?!

This is what about.com says about Water Sex and Infections:

Having sex in a pool or Jacuzzi poses a higher risk of infection. According to research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, water teeming with microbes can get forced into the vagina. “Sometimes residential (and commercial) hot tubs, pools and Jacuzzis are not chlorinated adequately, increasing the amount of bacteria they contain and the likelihood of an infection. Even if the water has a chlorine level in accordance to government standards, there is still a risk of infection.” Also, “chlorine may disrupt healthy bacteria and change the natural pH in the vagina leading to a yeast infection.”

Having sex in the ocean or a lake can also pose problems. Although these places do not pose chemical/chlorine issues, according to Health & Sexuality columnist, Lisa Hermann, you should “be aware that natural bodies of water have the potential to harbor some unusual bacteria and/or amoebas” which could put a woman at risk for a urinary tract infection.

Women are more susceptible to infections during water sex due to their anatomical differences. This risk includes sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and the added issue of sexual friction (due to less lubrication) that can result in irritation and micro-tears to the vaginal walls. These tears open up a direct route for infections and could increase the chances of catching a sexually transmitted disease.

Do I need to be thinking about this stuff when I read a sex scene? NO!! Please make it stop.

Now.. am I crazy in thinking these thoughts when I read one of those scenes? This is normal right? To think this? Right?

Kitty no!
original kitty image is from here

Ranting and Raving at Janicu’s book blog

Part of being a book reviewer is having opinions. Many of them! And sometimes I feel like I encounter things in books or about books that I either want to rant or rave about but it doesn’t really fit into the context of a review. It feels like something to put in a separate post.

I’ve been storing a few rant and raves so I’m starting a new “feature” in this blog, where I will ramble happily or um.. possibly crazily about something.I’ve been prettying up my wordpress (I changed the font on the header and added a byline), and since I’ve been having fun making pretty things, I made a couple of little banners to signal my rant or my rave.

Reading Raves! Things that make janicu as giddy as a schoolgirl.

Pet Peeves! Things that make janicu a crazy lady on the internets.

ETA: The images I used are Pandora by John William Waterhouse and the image from the cover of The Emerald City of Oz, illustrated by John R. Neill. The fonts are Ozone and Neogrey Medium.