An overly long justification of some questionable library purchases

Published October 23, 2014 by Shannon

Of all the things I imagined writing about when I first started seriously book blogging back in 2007, defending the Twilight franchise was not one of them. I think I’ve told the story of how I discovered Twilight before, but I’ll share it again. My sister cornered me and read the first three chapters aloud to me.

“Neato,” I said to myself, because that’s how nobody talked in 2006. “I can’t wait to go back and finish this excellent coming-of-age story about a young girl who has to adjust to living in darkest Washington and dealing with her prickly dad. It’ll be like all those YA books I read as a kid, only updated for modern readers.”

When Edward was introduced, and continued to dominate Bella’s every waking thought, my interest in the book dissipated. I mean, if I wanted to read paranormal romance, even back in 2006, I could find a lot more stuff out there, most of which contained appropriate amounts of smut. Twilight didn’t even work for me as crack, because sparkly vampires aside, it was mostly just boring.
Skip to several years later. When 50 Shades of Grey was published, I dismissed it out of hand. After all, I could go read some Harlequin Presents if I really wanted to read about alpha-hole heroes and terrible relationship dynamics. I could find badly written BDSM on Literotica for free, even. I did read all of the recaps Jenny Trout wrote of the series, and that convinced me they were really not for me. But I couldn’t seem to stop reading the criticism of both Twilight and 50 Shades.

I really liked Jenny’s take on 50 Shades, because I thought it was pretty ballsy of her to snark like that about another author’s books. Plus, the recaps were funny, and they came from a romance writer, so there wasn’t any of the subtle condescension I’d encountered in a lot of the 50 Shades material I’d seen online.

Since my abortive attempt to read Twilight, I have successfully read a lot of feminist theory as well. One of the things I’ve taken away from what I’ve read is that sexism isn’t always horrible and flashy and obvious. Often it’s quieter and more insidious. It’s finding myself on one of my favorite communities online having to read yet another screed by some know-it-all nerdy dude in his early twenties who used “Twilight” as shorthand for “awful writing.” It’s listening to other women say things like, “I mean, I like romance, but ugh, Twilight, amirite?” It’s being one of those women myself. It’s realizing that Twilight and to some extent 50 Shades can be the shorthand for “stupid romance that girls like.”

Lately I’ve been reading Anne Jamison’s excellent Fic, which is a brief overview of a few moments in fannish history. Jamison is a literature professor who’s taught courses on fanfic, and she devotes a lot of time to the Twilight fandom, including the pull-to-publish phenomenon, and what she’s written has really intrigued me. Some of the fics she used to teach actually have been pulled to publish, but she points out that they were doing interesting things with the source material that made them worthy of analysis.

Which is why I checked out several of them from the library: Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Bastard, Sylvain Reynard’s Gabriel’s Inferno, and I shelled out money for Shay Savage’s Transcendence.. I’m curious if I’ll find any of these works derivative or transformative. (I’m particularly excited about the Reynard piece because he’s a man and I’ve been promised actual Dante and fewer marriage contracts. Also, the Savage is about a cave man who can’t speak and the time traveler who loves him. Sounds delicious.)

Jamison’s book has made me think a bit more on my position about fanfic with the serial numbers filed off. It’s not quite as easy as changing some names to make a buck, and it’s not as if alternative universe fanfic didn’t exist before Twilight. (Hello, Uber Xena… which provided a struggling bisexual wee Shannon with her first taste of healthy and sexy lesbian relationships.) So I can’t entirely say it’s always wrong. I can be dismayed that 50 Shades entered the cultural zeitgeist instead of something I find less problematic, but, I mean, Twilight didn’t give me well-rounded characters. Maybe these ficcers turned pro writers can at least improve on that score.

I don’t know how this will go. Or even if I’ll end up reading any of these books. But I’m kind of excited to see what happens.

Review: Into the Arms of Morpheus by Jessica Nichols

Published October 3, 2014 by Shannon

So yes. I do exist. And my good intentions about writing a blog post explaining about how this summer the inspiration to blog wasn’t there went out the window.

I did, however, agree to participate in a blog tour. They will probably never ask me again, but hey, I’m posting!

Just a caveat: The editor of this book is actually a friend. In case that makes a difference. She does know I’m writing an honest review, though.

Into the Arms of Morpheus

I’m not sure that I would have picked up Into the Arms of Morpheus by Jessica Nichols on my own. After having read it, I’m still not entirely sure how I’d classify the experience.

Here’s the blurb:

Sylvia has always harboured a solitary obsession with Morpheus, the Greek God of Dreams. She’s brought it with her from her adolescence in a village of Northern England where she grew up, to the university in Manchester where she now studies.
Nyx is the Goddess of Night, and has spent the centuries stewing in an ancient, unrequited love. Not easily pleased, her attention is drawn to a voice chanting its devotion and desire for her, and she seeks the source of it.
She is not the only god playing in the realms of men, however. When the God of Death and Morpheus himself become aware of this new devotee, the stage is set for the gods to secure their worship, or for a mortal to become one of them.

The Good: If Jessica Nichols hasn’t spent quite a bit of time in Manchester, I certainly wouldn’t know it. I found the description of the setting evocative. This isn’t the sort of story that you could transplant to somewhere else and have it work out. It’s always refreshing to read a book that is so centered in its sense of place.

The plot also goes in a direction I didn’t expect. I really thought, based on the blurb, that I had the book pegged. Sylvia would be our good-girl heroine, and Nyx, being a female with power and also the goddess of night, would be a slutty bitch. We would be supposed to root for Sylvia’s sweet, angelic purity to triumph over Nyx’s slutty girl with power. That’s not what happens. In fact, Nyx is easily the most fascinating character in the book, and I admit to waiting eagerly for her POV. I also thought there was genuine chemistry between Nyx and Sylvia, and I was really hoping something would come of it.
The writing style also works well for the book. It’s dreamlike, and I felt as if I was glimpsing images rather than really understanding what was going on. At first, this bothered me. (Ask me my thoughts on the virtues of linear storytelling… I’ll tell you at great length.) But as I read further, I’m not entirely sure she could have told the story any other way.

The Not so good:

I never got a sense of the characters, and particularly Sylvia. As I’d feared, she comes across as something of a Mary Sue, and people are drawn to her because of her incorruptible pure pureness. In fact, cleansing and purity are always associated with her. This makes her, quite frankly, a little boring. Also, being mortal, she’s not very proactive. Everything that happens to Sylvia is a direct result of someone else’s actions. Plus, she’s devoted to Morpheus because… I was never clear on that, but my impression was that she thought he was cool. Of course, Morpheus being the god of dreams, she practices her devotion by… sleeping a lot. Which is exactly as exciting as you think it is.

Naturally, though the slut-shaming didn’t take the form I expected it to, it was still somewhat pervasive. Nyx and Sylvia are forgiven much by the text, but every other woman is shown to be weak. The one male POV we get regularly is quite the misogynist asshole, although of course Sylvia’s pure pureness is totally different from all those other slutty whores. Honestly, seeing this sort of thing written by a female author makes me incredibly sad. Why must we denigrate all other women who aren’t the designated protagonist? What did those other women do to deserve that?

My other major quibble with the book is that there is dreamlike and then there’s simply unclear. I’m still not sure, as I said, that I could tell you exactly what happens in the course of the novel. I know it basically ends happily, with Sylvia being less bisexual than I would have liked, but if I were to write a book report for a grade in which I summarized the whole story, I’m not sure I could. Which is troubling, because it’s not that long.

I’m not sure who I’d recommend this to. It’s a fairly short read, though I’d argue it’s not all that quick. It’s a different take on dark fantasy than I’ve encountered before. I’d probably read something else from this author. (Preferably something with more smut, because I bet her erotica is awesome.) This book isn’t to my particular taste, but it might appeal to a reader willing to delve deeper into the text than I was, and whose inner feminist is less loud than mine.

My grade: A C.

Writing Hurdles

Published July 27, 2014 by Shannon

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of nudges from the universe poking me and demanding to know why I’m not writing. It started when I read a book recently with such awful characterization (there were not only one but two self-insert Mary Sue characters) and literally thought, “I am a much better writer than that.” I’ve also come to learn that Seattle is a font of awesome writers. I just have to, you know, find them.

But there have been things that I keep stumbling over, excuses that I know are just that… excuses. They range from the ones even I know are lame, (“Where is the tiiiiiiiime?”) to the spazzy (OMG someone else wrote about a chupacabra shapeshifter, that means I can’t write my chupacabra shapeshifter romance anymore!) But the one I find myself struggling with is the fact that I’ve taught myself bad habits about the kind of feedback I like to get.

For the better part of the last 15 years, i’ve been role playing online, in freeform collaborative storytelling ventures. It’s through the gaming that I’ve learned a lot about characterization and plotting. But the downside is that I’ve learned to expect almost immediate feedback in response to my writing, in the form of people taking my ideas and putting their own spins and characters onto them. As I try to write more by myself, without that more immediate feedback, I find myself flailing. I want to talk over every minute aspect of the story I’m writing with someone… anyone… to try to figure out if I’m on the right track.

I’m trying to figure out how I can make myself write more consistently and still get some of that feedback as the process goes along. I am also having frequent conversations in which I reassure myself that everyone’s process is different, and this is mine, and if my friends are tired of hearing about the foibles of my characters, they’ll tell me. i know a lot of writers don’t talk at all about their projects until they’re done, and I’m not sure I’d, say, post my thorny plotting issues on my blog, but I can’t be the only one for whom this is a thing.

I’ve considered that I might find it a useful exercise to write fan fiction (although honestly… I don’t know what fandoms I’d even write for), or else try to serialize some fiction on a site like Wotpad. I’m a little hesitant about that because I’d want to make sure I was far enough along in a project that I wouldn’t end up abandoning it when life got busy.

I don’t have any solutions. I suspect this is an ongoing thing that I’ll struggle with until I figure out what works for me. In the meantime, I guess I have no excuses. Back to writing!

Obligation reading

Published July 23, 2014 by Shannon

I’ve been having an issue lately. Though I don’t have many books I’m obligated to read, there are certainly some. And I’m not reading them. This even includes voluntary obligations, like the Rifter.

I took on running a book club this year for an organization I’m passionate about. I should not have done this, for a variety of reasons that aren’t related to anything except my personality.

So I’m feeling really rebellious. There are books I should be reading, even books I have promised to read, and I just don’t want to. At all.

I will get a Rifter post up soon. But it falls under the category of obligation for me. Luckily, it is the shortest of my latest batch of obligation books, so I’ll probably finish reading it first.

I think what makes this batch of books harder to get through is that many of them I’m anticipating to be horrible. The book club I shouldn’t have volunteered to lead is reading something that is marked as religious fiction, which I do feel somewhat obligated to at least attempt. The one I go to for work next month is reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which, if it is secretly awesome, I would love to know that, but basically it looks like a giant pile of things that annoy me. And our Book Hoarders book, though it was my suggestion, has not grabbed me yet.

In the meantime, I plan to keep with the strategy I’ve used before-mix in pleasure reading with the obligation stuff and hope the “I don’t wannas” go away.

Review: Grabbed by Vicious by Lolita Lopez

Published July 17, 2014 by Shannon

Grabbed by Vicious (Grabbed, #1)

There’s something that captivates me about alien captive romances. They appeal to me in a visceral way that I know is extremely problematic. Nine times out of ten, I will read a book with this premise, and either give up in disgust (Hello, Sharon Green, with your book that had an exchange like, “[Warrior dude] rolled me over and raped me. Then we ate breakfast.”) or I read to the bitter end and deeply, deeply regret doing so.
So when I learned that one of my trusted reader friends read and loved all of the Grabbed series by Lolita Lopez, I was cautiously optimistic. My friend and I had a Twitter exchange that went something like:

Me: “Should I read these?

Her: “Totally. The first book is as nonconsensual as it gets. And there are female friendships.”

So, because I am nothing if not a sucker for cracky ebooks, I bought the first one, Grabbed by Vicious and started it with some misgivings.

Here’s the blurb:

Hallie has never run so fast in her life. One of the frightening sky warriors from the warship Valiant is hot on her heels and intent on capturing her as his bride. He takes her down, places his collar around her neck. With one word, he claims her.

Mine.

Born and bred for the military, Vicious has spent years rising through the ranks. Hallie is his reward, the beautiful sprite ensnaring him with a glance.

Despite her fear of Vicious, Hallie surrenders under his skillful hands and mouth. If she’ll submit, he promises pleasure and comfort. After a lifetime of hardship, his offer tempts her greatly.

One night with Hallie and Vicious feels his protective instincts flaring. He’ll do anything to make her happy and keep her safe, even if that means surrendering his heart. Though he intended to master her, Vicious realizes it may be his sweet Hallie who masters him.

Inside Scoop: Our heroine endures trials and violence with strength equal to that of her warrior mate. (She also witnesses F/F play, and endures a collar and light BDSM. Fortunately she likes that part.)

After that huge setup, it will not surprise you if I tell you that I loved this book. It’s not perfect (the pace slows down a lot and I’m not sure it needed to be quite so long), but I feel like it was meant for a reader like me.

First of all, this is a heroine-centric story. In many ways, Vicious is less interesting than Hallie. He’s got a typical romance-hero past, and is basically a giant teddy bear. He is a walking male fantasy, a care-giving alpha who protects Hallie and wants to make sure she’s always happy. A few side characters remark that he’s awfully whipped, and he kind of is. But he’s the kind of female fantasy that works for me, even with the J. R. Ward-esque name.

Hallie, though? She reacts the way heroines usually don’t in this kind of book. Oh, she tries to avoid being captured, but once it happens, she tries to make the best of it. She’s on a giant space ship. It’s not like she can go anywhere, and after Vicious seduces her, she quickly learns he won’t harm her. There were no ham-handed attempts to escape, nor were there shrieking hysterics. Also, her reaction mirrored mine when she learns Vicious’s name. She actually has the “… huh? WTF,dude?” reaction that I experience every time I read a speculative romance with silly names.

Hallie’s a sweet, domestic goddess sort of woman. She also has a past that is much more colorful than Vicious’s. And she’s interested in social justice. She wants to make life better for the women that have also been captured by Vicious’s people. I love that the times she actually gets herself into trouble were because she did something for other people.

There is BDSM play in this book, although not much of it. The first few scenes do flirt a little with dubious consent, but by the time Hallie has her first orgasm, it’s made explicit in the text that she wants everything to happen. I never got hit with the whiplash of wondering where the hell her enjoyment was coming from. I was never made uncomfortable by the text, and I thought Lopez explored some interesting dynamics in the bedroom.

This is the kind of story where the heroine may be submissive in the bedroom, but outside of it she has her own agency. She and Vicious are also fairly vanilla, with a little kinkier play thrown in to spice things up every now and then. The next book plays with more explicit BDSM themes, and as I’m reading it now I’m appreciating that Lopez is writing about very different people with very different kinks. At least this way I know the formula won’t be dull or repetitive.

As I said, the book isn’t perfect. The writing feels very contemporary, and some of the phrasing is repetitive, and Lopez loves to make sure lots of verbs have their little adverb friends to play with. There’s also a big misunderstanding that occurs toward the end of the book that made me sigh and roll my eyes. Mostly, I thought the romantic conflict was over too quickly as well, though I don’t really know what I’d have wanted instead.

For all that, though, this is some delicious book crack. It worked extremely well for me, and I was sad to see the book ending. I’ve begun reading the second book in the series, and it’s started out very well. If things continue, Lolita Lopez is definitely going to be an author to watch.

Final Grade: B

Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Published July 8, 2014 by Shannon

Oh, look, I remembered to look at the Top Ten Tuesday prompt on actual Tuesday. This meme comes courtesy of Broke and Bookish

Blogging Confessions

1. I really hate that gifs have become the way we express ourselves on the textual Internet. Finding and posting book covers is a good 40% of why I don’t review everything I read. Just getting past coding in the URL for a picture I can’t even see is sometimes more than I want to deal with.

2. I wish I were better at reading challenges. I can never remember due dates, or even what I signed up for. Every time I think about Wendy’s TBR Challenge I sigh wistfully and promise myself I’ll participate, but the date always slips my mind.

3. I’m so glad my regular commenters aren’t authors. It’s not that I wouldn’t welcome author voices, but even though I follow a bunch of authors on social media, the fact that they wrote books I love still intimidates me. I don’t consider myself a fangirl, but sometimes i worry that the authors who know how much I fangirl them don’t think I’m capable of having real conversations.

4. I do not always believe authors when they say they want honest reviews. When I google you and I see that you have reviewed your books on Goodreads, (sometimes modestly only giving them 4 stars like that’s supposed to prove your humility) I immediately don’t trust you not to come back with a scathing comment if I dare to give your book less than an A.
5. While I don’t consider myself one of the cult of nice shiny happy reviewers who never have a mean thing to say about anyone, there are some reviews I just don’t want to write. If I have had coffee with an author, I immediately feel uncomfortable writing about them. I worry that, if I go to romance conventions and actually do this more than twice, I will soon be left not reviewing anybody, because see also 4.

6. I am an aspiring writer. I don’t know if I’ve ever brought that up here. But I am working on edits for a paranormal romance I co-wrote with one of my BFFs. We are likely to self-publish it, and I will fail to market it effectively because I will be instantly afraid all my blogging friends will hate it.

7. I don’t use an RSS reader. All the blogs I follow are on live journal feeds, and I have an LJ for the specific purpose of reading my blogs. Even then, I often forget to actually check it, and end up going to people’s sites regularly.

8. Sometimes I miss group blogging. I would love for people to write guest posts for me, or to take on other reviewers. But more, I like the freedom to post as much or as little as I like without having to manage someone else’s posting schedule, too.

9. Sometimes a book will strike me as so amazing and spectacular that I can’t bring myself to finish because then it will be over. This is something I have to fight in myself. (Most recently, Victoria Dahl’s Close Enough to Touch has hit me that way. I love the heroine and her snarky thought processes so much, but even though I know there are other books in the series, leaving Grace is something I’m reluctant to do.)

10. According to my Goodreads shelves, my most read genre is contemporary romance. I mock contemporary romance all the time, but it does seem that I reach for contemps when I want a light, comforting and fluffy read. Maybe I just need a lot of those lately.

Rifter Readalong: Servants of the Crossed Arrows

Published June 29, 2014 by Shannon

Servants of the Crossed Arrows (Rifter #2)

I know it’s been nearly three weeks since we last visited these characters. This probably explains my somewhat tepid reaction to these chapters. But we’re here now, so let’s get moving. As always, there are spoilers everywhere.

When we last left John, Laurie and Bill, they’d been hiding in the woods for eight months in a show of being the least proactive characters ever. But hey, John met Ravishan, so that was OK. Anyway, the cliffhanger scene in the last book involved John meeting a group of bandits, including a talking dog, who were planning to kill a young man who was supposed to be an Ushiri candidate–the Ushiri being the priests that can eventually open the gates between Basawar and our world.

John, against the protests of Bill and Laurie, goes to warn the convoy escorting the nobleman to expect an ambush. They’re skeptical, but eventually send John along to verify the ambush. It’s a slaughter, with the noble family–the Bousim family, to be specific–coming out victorious. In the course of battle, John saves the lives of Alidas, the Bousim soldier he was riding with, and Saimura, one of the bandits.

John and his companions are brought back to the Bousim estate. After a tense conversation with Lady Bousim, who thinks they are from the Eastern Kingdom, John meets up with Pivan, the military leader for the Bousim clan, who charges John with bringing the Ushiri candidate up the Thousand Steps in the side of a mountain that lead to the temple of Pashir and his priest training. John has no choice but to agree, so he and the boy, Fikiri, begin the journey, which they complete successfully. We end the John POV chapters as John runs into Ravishan and they exchange more sexy banter.

Meanwhile, Kahlil has been taken in by a group of mercenaries, lead by Alidas. It becomes clear that Kahlil is a lot farther forward in time than John et al. are, because Alidas is definitely the same guy John met, but older. Anyway, Alidas gives Kahlil an assignment. he’s supposed to prevent the assassination of Jath’ibaye, a warlord from the north who has become prominent. Kahlil takes an undercover job as a runner for the Lisam household. As he finds out about elicit plans, he discovers that there is someone else who can manipulate the Gray Space as well.

I have to be honest with you guys. I was not interested in much of John’s storyline. He continues to be fairly reactive, and to be honest I find him a shitty friend. The few conversations here between him, Laurie and Bill were hard to read, because I found myself being more on Bill and Laurie’s side of events. Here they are, trapped in a world that isn’t their own, with Bill being actively very ill, and instead of trying to find a way out of the situation, their friend who got them here in the first place is swanning around the countryside being one with nature and flirting with young, hot priests. Then, when John does get them under the protection of Lady Bousim, he immediately leaves them in a volatile situation without telling them why. He has good reasons for what he does, but considering that Bill and Laurie wouldn’t be in dire straights if it weren’t for John, I feel like he owes them more than, “Gosh, well, I can’t tell them I’m leaving because it’ll be better for them.” I have to believe Bill and Laurie do serve some plot purpose–and it’s been hinted at that Laurie has power–but right now I find myself resenting the way they are written as the millstones around John’s neck.

The Kahlil chapters are much more interesting to me. Now that I understand that he’s some 20 years further ahead in time than John is, I’m left with lots of questions and theories. Kahlil is also a fairly reactive character, but since his memories have been shattered, I think that’s more reasonable. I can understand and sympathize with his struggles. I also find myself curious. The text seems to be implying that John = Jath’ibaye in the same way that it’s implying that Kahlil = Ravishan.

As to the romance, considering I spent most of the time I was reading being vaguely impatient with John, and since there were no real developments on that front, I don’t have much to say.

Lastly, I loved some of the side characters. The brash runner Fensal really appealed, as did Pivan, the military commander, although honestly that probably had a lot to do with the fact that he was willing to tell John he was being an asshole.

I haven’t fallen in love yet. I can see that the writing is very good, and if I’ve connected enough to the characters to find their tics annoying, that says something. But this installment rated a pretty solid C.

What did you guys think? Hopefully, y’all liked this part better than I did.

Another reading goal not met

Published June 25, 2014 by Shannon

So I read five out of Andrew Lang’s twelve fairy tale books, but I have to throw in the towel at book 6. On the one hand, The Grey Fairy Book draws from wider cultures than the standard European. On the other hand, a lot of the stories are rambling and I encountered a nice dollop of outright racism and antisemitism. Since I’d like to spend time not hating the entire fairy tale genre, it’s time to pack this one in.

Still not rifting

Published June 23, 2014 by Shannon

So last week I went to Boston and had a great time at a work conference. This weekend I mostly relaxed and read the Internet, but was feeling fine. Then today my body remembered it had breathed circulated air and sent me flashing neon signs that I was going to get sick. I wanted to catch up on work, though, so I did go into work. This was not one of my finer plans, because now I feel even worse.

TLDR: No Rifter post today. I’m going to try to write one sometime this week, but if I don’t, it’ll be because I was laid out flat with a cold.

What I’m reading

Published June 22, 2014 by Shannon

I wanted to touch on a few of the books I’ve been reading. None have left me feeling a strong urge to write complete reviews, but I have a few scattered thoughts.

  1. The Protector’s War by S. M Stirling. Second in the Emberverse series. I really, really love that one of the major characters was a deaf woman who was allowed to kick ass. Stirling certainly includes plenty of women. That said, there were pacing problems I didn’t notice the first time through.

  2. Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown. This was a surprisingly engaging self-help book. I discovered it while cataloguing, and pretty much devoured it. She acknowledges that we all have areas in our lives that we need to work on and none of us is perfect at being an adult. Also, she got me to start making my bed every morning, so there’s that.
  3. Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price. I didn’t think I’d like this one nearly as much as I did. It’s a paranormal mystery, and it totally works because the narrator, Victor Bane, is an engaging character. I wanted to take him home and give him cookies, but respected his competence. Kind of an unusual feat in M/M. Anyway, I will be back for more.
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey. I read this on Renay’s recommendation. It’s a space opera with an engaging culture. The characters were interesting if a little archetypal, and there was a distinct lack of the ladies. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I realized while reading this how uncomfortable I’ve gotten with books featuring character death. I pulled through and I’m glad I did, and I’m excited to read the sequel, but I did look at spoilers to see who would survive the book.
  5. A Meeting at Corvalis by S. M Stirling. A good way to end the first trilogy of the Emberverse. Except for all the pitched battles, which made me yawn. I do wish he hadn’t dropped at least one of his character romances. One moment the characters weren’t together… then they were. You’ve got to give me more to work with here, dude. Other than that, I enjoyed the reread and intend to begin the second trilogy soon.
  6. The Little Country by Charles de Lint This was one of the seminal fantasy novels of my growing up. I like to reread it every few years. It’s hard to write about it objectively, because it made such an impression on me. However, I’d forgotten more than I realized. And now I want to go visit Cornwall.
  7. Rebel by Cheryl Brooks. I love this series beyond all reason, bad writing and silly world-building and all. This volume isn’t out yet, but for some reason it was up on Bookshare, so I took advantage. I love that Cheryl Brooks consistently writes lovely beta heroes, and the “I am unworthy of the heroine” internal conflict is one that gets me every time. I really could have done without the threatened rape of the hero by an ape-like gay alien though. Ugh. That is a trope that I could cheerfully never again encounter.
  8. Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend. I listened to this on Audio while I was on a plane. It was a perfect length for a long flight. I really like Arend’s sensibilities, and I love that her heroines know what they want. She did a good job of hooking me with some of the other heroes, although I’m sort of skeptical about the next book, because the hook didn’t quite work. That said, this is Vivian Arend. She’ll probably win me over in that case, too.
  9. Witchling by Yasmine Galenorn. My book on the flight back. The blurb for this urban fantasy series really does the book no favors. The writing is also a tad clunky–complete with requisite physical description of the heroine dropped in at the beginning–but I really loved the characters. I’m willing to forgive a lot to read books about competent women who work together and genuinely care about each other. The relationship between the three sisters was just lovely. I also like that Galenorn’s doing something unusual with the urban fantasy love triangles–Camile has two love interests, and she’s not ashamed about wanting to pursue them both. I can see where this will create conflict, but it’s not of the “pick one already, Jesus” variety. I’m pretty optimistic that the series will get better as I read the other sisters’ books.

And here, let’s have a bonus DNF:

Blinded by Sight by Osagie Obasagie. This book got added to our collection recently. The researchers surveyed a bunch of blind people and came to the radical conclusion that blind people do experience race. I wanted to read more about the studies, but this is not a book aimed at me. As a blind person, I do not need a university grant and peer-reviewed journal articles to inform me that my peers can be as much assholes as anyone else. I’m glad the book exists, and it’s certainly a piece of the conversation we should be having about race, but I think I’m going to bow out.