July 2014 reading list

Books I’ve already talked about
Picture Book Monday
Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly
Alchemy of Fire by Gillian Bradshaw
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I also re-read all of Laura Florand’s books in preparation for this guest post
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Exiles at Home by Hilary McKay
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (and I shared some favorite quotes on Tumblr)
A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith–on this read, the judgement of the other girls annoyed me a bit
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Other books
Deliverer by C.J. Cherryh: I don’t remember this book. All of the Bren Cameron stories are starting to meld together a bit. I enjoyed it, because I’ve found the most recent books in the series to be excellent, but I couldn’t tell you which one this is to save my life.

A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner: My friend B. recommended Rose Lerner to me, and specifically A Lily Among Thorns, since she knows I like Cecilia Grant’s books a lot. And yes, I did very much liked this one! It’s a more grounded version of Regency romances–not a duke or a marquess in sight (well, one or two, sort of). I had to strain my credulity a tad at the end, but I was happy to do so.

Princeless, vol. 1 by Jeremy Whitley: Graphic novel about a black princess who takes off with the dragon that’s supposed to be guarding her tower. If you sat up and said, “ooh!”, then this is for you. While I didn’t feel that it went very deep, I really liked the thoughtful commentary on families and narratives and choices.

The Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay: I’ve really enjoyed Kay’s sweeping historical fantasies in the past, especially the Sarantium duology. Many of the same elements are present in this one, but I didn’t personally feel all that invested in the characters, and I felt somewhat irked by the way the incidental peasant appeared, had their entire life summed up (significant events occurring only in proximity to the main characters, of course), and was dismissed.

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson: Historical fiction about the Blue Plague (cholera) epidemic in London in the 1850s, and the scientific advances that led to its halt. Unfortunately, characters and plot take a back seat to Historical Details. I ended up wishing that this had simply been non-fiction, since it would have been much more engaging without also trying to be a story.

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones: I apparently have never reviewed this book here! In fact, I’m not entirely sure if I’ve read it before. It’s a bit of a weird one, but as the story of a blended family learning to live with each other. There are some attitudes about corporal punishment that will likely read as old-fashioned to many people; I noticed them, but they didn’t jolt me out of the story, personally speaking.

Major Crush by Jennifer Echols: Brandy read this one recently and I realized that although I’ve read almost all of Echols’s other books, I hadn’t tried this one. It definitely reads as a first novel, in retrospect, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Certainly not the strongest of her books, but if you’re looking for an entertaining romance, it’s one to check out.

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A tour of my bookshelves

One of the joys of living in my own place is having the room to spread out and unpack all of my books. Some of them have been in boxes for four years! Some I recently acquired and had been in stacks on the floor of my bedroom. Now that I’m moved in and have acquired several more bookshelves, they’re all out and it’s quite delightful. So here is a tour of my bookshelves, currently. (No doubt I will have to keep expanding, because for some reason I keep ending up with more books.)

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Let’s start in the living room. This one is actually my library book shelf, although I have some random referency non-fiction and music books on the bottom.100_4074

100_4076Then there’s this one, which my godmother spotted sitting on the side of the road. We picked it up and she cleaned it off for me. Now it has classics, poetry, and craft books. Also extra knitting supplies underneath, where they’re hidden.

100_4079Moving on to the bedroom. There’s only one bookshelf in here, but it’s got my favorite authors on it. I may have to start an auxiliary shelf, though, or only put my absolute favorite books from each other on this one, because I’m already running out of space.

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(Close-ups of the books)

100_4084I also have an extra room, which I’m using as a study/library. I was astonished to find that the rest of my collection basically fits on these two bookshelves! On the right, we have: children’s classics, followed by adult fiction and biographies.

100_4083On the left, YA fiction, followed by picture books. I have more picture books than I realized, most of which came from a weeding project at work.

100_4077Last, but not least, we have my collection of cookbooks. I don’t buy nearly all the cookbooks I want to, because those things are expensive! But I do own several newer ones and a few classics. Also a Mary Poppins themed cookbook and a Beatrix Potter cookbook, because I can’t escape my nerdiness even when cooking.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Own the Most Books From

top-ten-tuesday
This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

(There’s something wrong with the phrasing of that tile but I can’t figure out how to fix it.)

1. Diana Wynne Jones: Perhaps unsurprisingly, given my love for her, I own a lot of books by Diana Wynne Jones. Twelve, to be exact.

2. Robin McKinley: McKinley has been one of my favorite authors for a long time, so the fact that I own nine of her books makes sense.

3. Elizabeth Goudge: I don’t read Goudge much anymore, but she was a huge staple of my teen years. And many of my nine books came from my grandmother’s collection.

4. Maud Hart Lovelace: I own most of the Betsy-Tacy books, because I love Betsy and Tacy and Tib, and Joe and Deep Valley.

5. Jane Austen: I don’t own everything Austen ever wrote, but I do own seven books by her, two of which are second copies. (Norton Critical Editions ftw!)

6. Susan Cooper: I recently acquired a complete set of the Dark is Rising series, plus I’ve owned King of Shadows for a few years.

7. Patricia McKillip: I love Patricia McKillip’s books SO MUCH. And I’ve managed to acquire six of them at various points.

8. Elizabeth Wein: I own nearly every book Elizabeth Wein has ever written–I’m just missing the Mark of Solomon books, which I plan to buy eventually. Also, I have two copies of Code Name Verity and I’ll probably buy a paperback of Rose Under Fire in September.

9. Sarah Rees Brennan: Numerically, I don’t own that many SRB books, but I put them on since she’s published five full-length novels to date, and I have them all.

10. Megan Whalen Turner: I own everything but Instead of Three Wishes, so even though there are only four of them (fifth book! I pine for you!)…

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Made and Making: July 2014

Knitting
I’ve been working on my Pretty (me) sweater, but I’ve gotten a bit bogged down in the sleeves. I need to push past that, because I really want to finish this one and start on my Rose Under Fire sweater.

Cooking
Lemon Madeira Cake from Complete Traditional Recipe Book: Light, sweet, with a nice crust and slightly tangy flavor. Great everyday cake!

Marbled Eggs from Home Made Summer: This were a bit disappointing–I may not have made the tea strong enough, but they were hardly marbled at all.

Peach and Sour Cream Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: So good. I love the sour cream batter, and this would be great with all kinds of fruit.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Salami Pasta Salad: This makes a huge batch which is great for no-worry lunches. Also great for hot days when turning on the stove sounds awful.

Blueberry Yogurt Pancakes: Really good! Halved the recipe, though, which gave me four pancakes. Maybe I made them larger than the original? Regardless, these are awesome with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey.

Peach Frozen Yogurt: This was good, but not nearly as exciting as I was expecting.

Homemade Ricotta from Working Class Foodies: Made my own ricotta for the first time! I learned a couple of lessons, but it’s simple enough that I definitely intend to make my own from now on, rather than buying it. Looking forward to making these tomorrow.

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Recent Reading

adventures of superhero girlAdventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks: I really enjoy Faith Erin Hicks’ work. Although Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong remains my favorite of her books to date, Adventures of Superhero Girl is a marvelous, wry take on the life of a superhero. Superhero Girl has a roommate and struggles with family life. She doesn’t have a tragic backstory and she suffers from comparisons to her older brother Kevin. All in all, great fun and my only complaint is that there’s not more.

biggest flirtsBiggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols: I’ve been a bit hit-or-miss with Echols’ most recent books, but definitely enjoyed Biggest Flirts, which starts off a new series. In some ways it felt like a very setting-up-the-series book, in the sense that it focused quite a bit on the other characters at the high school, but as usual I appreciated the fact that Echols depicts a wide variety of personal backgrounds, both cultural and socio-economic. And perhaps most importantly, I liked Will and Tia as a couple, and bought into their relationship.

those who hunt the nightThose Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly: First in the James Asher series. Victorian professor/ex spy who is blackmailed into helping a vampire solve a series of murders. It sounds a bit weird, but it’s a lovely book, with characters who felt both of-their-time and fresh enough to hold modern sympathies. Hambly’s take on vampires is a cautious but sympathetic one; they are shown, perhaps more than in any other vampire book I can think of, as real people albeit not exactly human anymore. Hambly somehow prevents the plot from devolving into melodrama, which it easily could have. All in all, a great beginning to a series I definitely intend to finish.

alchemy of fireAlchemy of Fire by Gillian Bradshaw: I’m still reading through Gillian Bradshaw’s backlist. Alchemy of Fire takes place in 7th century Constantinople. While I liked the main characters, Bradshaw’s research shows a little more here than usual. There are lots of details about perfume making, and about the invention of the so-called Greek fire. Where the emphasis is usually on character development, here the weight of the details is a little too strong, I think.

landlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell: Oh, Landline. Oh, how I wanted to like you. But I didn’t. Partly, this read as much more adult literary fiction than Rowell’s other books, and I am not a huge fan of that genre. Partly, I never bought the present-day transformation, or the characters as real people versus quirky traits thrown together. So yeah–this one did not work for me. Guess I’ll just go re-read Fangirl.

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Guest post

My blogging friend Chachic is running a week-long celebration of Laura Florand’s books, and today she’s featuring a guest post from…me! Click over to find out why I love Laura’s books. Here’s a brief snippet:

“One of the other things I love about these books is the way they’re open to all kinds of relationships, not just the romantic one that is of course at the heart of the story. But family and friends, coworkers – they’re all important too, as they are in real life. I often find that romance books tend to have a kind of tunnel vision when it comes to the main characters’ other relationships. They might exist, but they’re never as important, never as realized as the romance. But here, partly because Florand is really good at sketching characters in a few sentences, they seem just as real, just as important as the main characters.”

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Top Ten Tuesday: Literary dinner party

top-ten-tuesday
This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

I switched up the topic a little bit for this week, because I think I’m too practical for the original desert island theme (Thor Heyerdahl and the Swiss Family Robinson, obviously). However I do know exactly who I would invite to a literary dinner party…OF DOOM.

The guests, in no particular order:

1. Lord Peter Wimsey and 2. Harriet Vane from Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter books

3. Eugenides and 4. Irene Attolia from The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

5. Howl and 6. Sophie Hatter from Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

7. Miles Vorkosigan and 8. Ekaterin from the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

9. Psmith from Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

10. Telemakos from Elizabeth Wein’s Aksum series

I’m pretty sure this group would either destroy or accidentally take over the world in the course of the evening, while Irene, Sophie, Harriet, and Ekaterin sat in the corner and traded horror/love stories. It would be awesome and I’m a little sad it can never happen.

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