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?

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

What I Did for Love: A Novel
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

OK if you've been following me on twitter, my quest for this book has taken a while. What I Did For Love is popular, really popular, in my library system, and it was a good month and a half before I could get hold of it. The reason why I wanted to read it was the 70 page excerpt of the book that HarperCollins had up on it's Browse Inside feature.

The Premise: This story is about Georgie York, a famous television actor. She's most famous for her starring role as Scooter Brown, a feisty young heroine in the wildly popular sitcom Skip and Scooter. Her costar Bramwell (Bram) Shepard was Skip, the responsible son of the Scofield family and who always took care of Scooter whenever she got into trouble. In real life however Georgie was a responsible, well brought up kid, while Bram was the bad boy who came to the set drunk and disorderly and ultimately was the cause of the show going off the air.
Now Georgie is all grown up, and fodder for gossip magazines. Her marriage to famous movie star Lance Marks has just broken up in a very Brad/Angelina way (with Georgie as a spurned Aniston), and she hasn't had a hit movie for a long time. Her young crush on her costar Bram has withered away a long, long time ago, and now she just actively dislikes him.  Their paths cross in Las Vegas, and after an unfortunate incident which left them both incapacitated, Georgie finds herself married to Bram. In an effort to make lemonade out of lemons, Bram and Georgie agree to pretend the wedding was planned. This gives Georgie a way to save face against her ex-husband, and Bram a way to show his respectability.  After all, if America's Sweetheart Georgie agreed to be his wife, he can't be that bad, can he? Of course they both have a hard time convincing the people around them, including Bram's surly young punk housekeeper Chaz and Georgie's emotionally cut-off father Paul.
My Thoughts: I thought this was really well written and I could see why it was in high demand. I read most of the book in one sitting and just zoomed through easily. The dialog was especially humorous, with many laugh out loud moments. I truly liked the banter between the main characters, their give and take was well written and the romance wasn't taken over by sex early on. No purple prose either. And I really liked the secondary characters who played large roles (Georgie's father, her assistant Aaron, Bram's housekeeper Chaz). There are also a couple of other secondary romances which I also liked which good because sometimes I find secondary romances more cheesily done than the primary one.  I'm not really a big romance reader, and I'm not as sensitive to some of the romance cliche's that I'm sure romance readers are used to, but I still noticed some things that I've heard people rant about in contemporary romances. For instance, we keep seeing characters from other books (or their grown-up children) and I couldn't care less about them. I think we see people from Glitter Baby and other books here, but I haven't read much SEP to tell and so they were just extraneous people to me and didn't add much to the book. There was also an epilogue with the happy family, including precocious kids, which I also noticed in Match Me if You Can. I've decided I'm not a fan of this.
These things lowered my enjoyment of the book, but I could live with them. What really didn't make this book a home run was two things. First of all, I never understood one of Bram's terms to the marriage – he has to have sex, because he just can't go without months of no sex. And Georgie doesn't really question the believability of this (is this just a given, he HAS to have sex)? So that was weird and it put me off a bit in terms of believing the story. The second thing was the ending and the way Bram declared his love. I honestly thought "What was that?" when I read it. Bram, after acting like an ass, suddenly *realizes*, very dramatically that he loves Georgie, and then he chooses to tell her through metaphor. Which Georgie accepts. Sorry, it didn't work for me at all, it was too hokey and unbelievable, and as the last thing in the book, it stuck in my head.
Overall: Really close to wowing me and being one of my better reads for the year, but doesn't quite make it because of the ending and my inability to suspend belief in the romance. But still a really good read with great banter and secondary characters, so worth an afternoon for contemporary romance or SEP fans. For an idea if you will like it, I recommend reading the excerpt.
Review at Bookbinge (I agreed with their 4/5)
Haiku at Dear Author (they gave it a C)

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Match Me if You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Match Me If You Can
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I was in the mood for a HEA on saturday and I'd never read a Susan Elizabeth Phillips book (something that I heard should be remedied), so I picked up Match Me If You Can on a whim.

Here's the premise: Annabelle Granger is a vivacious redhead who is starting off in the matchmaking business in Chicago. The business used to be her late grandmother's but Annabelle is modernizing it and changing the name to Perfect For You. She just needs a big name client to help spread some buzz – that's where super sports agent Heath (The Python) Champion comes in. Through Heath's searching for the perfect wife, and Annabelle's connections to some famous footballers and their wives, gives her an in to speak to Health about hiring Perfect For You.

Thoughts: At first I found Heath to be a bit unlikeable but despite a few jerky moves, his overall motivation seemed honest and he did acknowledge his mistakes and felt guilt over them.  Health had a strange notion of the perfect wife – refined, intelligent, beautiful, but at the same time willing to be his slave and raise his kids without complaint. His ideas were all about image and his life plan, which stems from wanting to shed his beginnings as trailer-trash, living with a drunk father and no mother, only an endless parade of his father's girlfriends who always ended up leaving. Of course Annabelle is the one for him, but he didn't really realize it. In the meantime they spend a lot of time together, and Heath began to grow on me. His teasing of Anabelle was fun because she gave as good as she got. Annabelle was an interesting character, I had a harder time really pinning her down, I wish I had more time in her head. Sometimes she's vulnerable and insecure, but other times she's confident and articulate.

There were a lot of secondary characters (some from previous books), and also a secondary romance which I liked as much as the primary one. Some of these characters I really found interesting (Dean Robillard, Portia, Bodie) but some of the cameo characters I wasn't as interested in. A couple of characters I could have done without, for example Annabelle's ex. His story felt like a red herring that didn't really add much other to have something for Annabelle to have a complex over. It felt out of place to me, because I didn't think her that deeply affected by it, but perhaps this is splitting hairs. 

Overall: This was a fine read. Funny in places, good happy ever after with hero doing some decent repenting and being raked over coals, and good interaction between characters. I also liked how the romance built up slowly and you could believe these two fit together. But it didn't quite do it for me. I have to say that it's one of those times where I can see others loving this book but something didn't work for me personally. I can't put my finger on it really. Maybe the overall plotline just didn't excite me? Maybe it was a couple of odd phrases that jarred me (guinea fowl breasts? use of the word 'spunk'?) that may not even be noticed by others. Maybe it was my mood?  I feel like I will very likely find a SEP book that I will love (I really want to read her newest release), but this didn't quite get there.

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