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?

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Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan

Oh man, I'm slipping. I have about 3 books I read recently that I should post about, but… laze, laze. Maybe I can do some shorter ones since I'm being a bum this week.

Warrior and Witch
Marie Brennan

This is the second book in what is so far a duology. I don't think a third book is currently planned – the author's website talks about another series that she's working on, not this one, but there seems to be room for more to happen in any case.

I posted about the first book – Doppleganger here. The premise is this – all witches are born with a doppleganger. This twin of the witch is born without a soul, and killed before she can be exposed to moonlight (and thus receive one). Somehow Miryo's dopplegangler Mirage survived and Miryo was tasked to kill "it" or be unable to control her magic and die. This is is the continuation of the story of what happens when Miryo and Mirage meet – and what they did. A lot of theory and questioning about the witches beliefs occur – about the Void and how it affects witches to travel through it, about the Cousins – their servants (some of them failed witches), the way witches get their powers and changes to how this is tradionally done.

There is a lot of upheaval in the customs of the witches because of Miryo and Mirage, and not everyone agrees with what happened. While most of the witches now believe dopplegangers should not be killed, many believe them to be abominations and disagree. A faction of witches leaves the witch stronghold of Starfall and attack it from outside. War amongst the witches begins. The faction would like to bring about the death of several young girls who are witches and their surviving dopplegangers, and topple the Primes that would protect them. This is an interesting situation because it clearly shows how beliefs felt strongly cause people go to war when they feel that there is no other way to prove that they are right. Both sides do questionable things in order to preserve their beliefs and win the war.

Liked:

1. I thought that illustrating the frustrations of both sides in the war was a huge strength of the book. You can see what incidents cause them to react the way they do and to understand the belief that they are right and those who oppose them are wrong.

2. Another strength was the way that the author managed to shift the focus temporarily away from the main character in a seamless way. It gives us different viewpoints and clues about what's going to happen and how one character is perceived by another (sometimes incorrectly).

Nit picky over:

1. While the story had forward momentum, I think that sometimes the author indulged a little bit too much answering her own what-ifs (what if a doppleganger did x? What would happen to her witch? etc). There were a couple of what-ifs that were answered too quickly in the timeline they occurred. Brennan created this interesting world and an interesting idea with the dopplegangers, but she didn't have to explore every idea that spun off of it. I thought a couple of incidents it didn't quite fit the story as a whole and only served to answer a what-if. I think they could have had their own separate stories, but not in this book.

2. The writing is solid and good, but it lacked something. Maybe it's my own personal feeling, but it felt a little flat because the characters could have been stronger. I knew who everyone was, I knew their motives and their emotions, that was well done, but I needed a little more to care more about them. I think I needed to know more about their personalities so I could get into reading what happens to them – not just their fears which I got, but their joys too. And maybe because of this, the emotional ties between characters felt a little off. Affection between characters – I didn't see much of this, and if I did, it wasn't always believable. This wasn't a HUGE glaring problem - but something I thought when I looked back – that the foundation was there – it just needed more give it kick.

When I think about this author, I would say that if you like Kristen Britain's books, you will like this.

General Feeling: 6 (Solid. Liked), Plot: 5.5 (OK, Liked) Writing Style: 6.5 (Pretty good, lacks a little emotional oomph). Recommended for straight fantasy lovers.

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Doppelganger by Marie Brennan

Doppelganger
Marie Brennan

Doppelganger is the first of two books (the sequel is Warrior and Witch). This is a straight fantasy. I say that because the cover made me think it was urban fantasy. The woman is wearing black leather, kind of an urban look, but I think they just got the clothes wrong. The cover character is Mirage, who is a Hunter – a trained mercenary, and one of the best at what she does. Miryo is a witch and about to take the final test that will allow her to access her full power. Miryo passes the tests for all elements but when she goes through the test for Void – her power goes awry. Miryo can't use her power because somehow her doppelganger (Mirage) survived. Miryo's task is to find and kill "it". Meanwhile Mirage has been hired by witches to find out who was behind the assassination of a fellow witch and she must complete the job or die herself.

I always liked the word "Doppelganger"..and I like the premise of the book because I remember when I first heard what doppelganger meant, the myth was explained to me too – you see your doppelganger shortly before you die. I was a kid so I thought this was creepy. I was also told when you look in those mirrors where you see a million reflections of yourself – one of the reflections is your face when you die.. hmm.. why do kids like to be morbid? Anyway. Where was I…

There was some set up in the beginning of the book that showed how witches operate, the different Paths, their schooling and testing and conversely how the Hunters operate, the different Hunter schools and jobs they are hired for afterwards, while also introducing us to the two main characters. There seemed to be a slight asian influence to the world – witches names sounded Japanese, the Hunter uniform was ninja-like with a mask over half the face, and honorifics for the witches seemed inspired by Japan as well. The warriors on the other hand reminded me a little of gaming characters – with names like Eclipse, Avalanche, Mirage, Ice and Wraith, and belonging to schools named Cloudhawk, Silverfire, Thornblood and Wolfstar. Everyone seemed to worship the same diety though – the goddess who has different aspects which sound a little Wicca – Maiden, Bride, Mother, Crone, and Warrior and which correspond to a particular element for the witches – Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Void. While this world was well thought out and the set up was important, it felt a little slow to me. It is about midway through the book after set up is done and both women learn about the other that things really get interesting, so I would recommend reading further if you feel it dragging because once I got to that point it felt like it had momentum and I read the rest uber fast.  The doppleganger idea, the warrior and witch schools and religion in the world felt original, but the characters and the journeying from town to town needed something to give them oomph because it felt a little flat. A lot of amazon reviewers called it a solid novel and I'd agree.

P.S. I like the way things wrapped up. And I want to read book 2.

This is somewhere between I liked it and I really liked it.. So.. 6.5 to 7 out of 10

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