Top Ten Tuesday: Book wishes I want granted

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

Some of my wishes are possible. Others, not so much.


2. More books from Elizabeth Marie Pope, because the two we have are so perfect.

3. A different ending for the Dark is Rising series.

4. Related to the first one, to meet Megan Whalen Turner. (Except I would probably just stand there and not be able to say a word.)

5. To meet blogging friends, especially anyone I know from Sounis.

6. For all the books I dearly love to get acclaim, great sales, and awards.

7. TARDIS-like bookshelves that can hold far more books than they first appear to.




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Cybils roundup: Moskowitz, Elliott, Larbalestier

This year, I’m going to try doing at least a weekly round up of the Cybils books I’ve read, if not a full blog post for one or more of them (last year I was terrible at reviewing, so sorry Charlotte!). Up first: three books I had been interested in reading already. They’re all books that don’t hold back much in terms of the subjects they’re willing to look at.

glitter and bloodA History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz: In the aftermath of a war between the tightropers and the fairies, ostensibly on behalf of the gnomes who life under the city, the only fairies left in Ferrum are Beckan and her friends. They do what they have to to survive. This one is memorable for a couple of reasons: it doesn’t shy away from what happens in wars, even fictional ones, and how that has forced Beckan and her friends to grow up very quickly. At the same time, there are things that they don’t understand, or don’t fully understand at first.

It also has a marvelously inventive & original world and society that still somehow has bits of fairy tale echoes. I found the details of the different places, as well as the interaction between fairies, gnomes, and tightropers, to be both original and convincing. Finally, the voice here is fantastic–I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a time that unreliable narration really worked for me. And there’s a sense of hard won hope that I really bought and appreciated. I’m still thinking about this book, weeks later.

court of fivesCourt of Fives by Kate Elliott: I really liked a lot of things about this one, from the setting to the complexities of the family and politics. There are a few Little Women echoes, but they’re mostly at the beginning and I personally didn’t find the comparison hugely helpful. At any rate, Elliott does a nice job of writing a character who is athletic and good at it, but who’s also smart and thoughtful. This is the first in a series (trilogy?) and I’m curious to see how the story will play out. There’s quite a bit here about the effects of colonialism and empire, which I don’t feel qualified to really comment on, but which seemed thoughtful and complex as far as I can tell. Jessamy is a compelling main character and I found that the politics of the world, and the effects it has on her and her family, worked really well for me. I do think that the book is maybe a little longer than it needs to be, although I appreciated that Elliott really shows how much training is involved in running the Fives.

razorhurstRazorhurst by Justine Larbalestier: Historical fantasy set in Sydney in 1932. This one focuses on two main characters, Dymphna and Kelpie. Much of the city is ruled by rival gangs, and it’s a pretty brutal time. The book opens with the murder of Dymphna’s boyfriend, Jimmy Palmer, and continues as Dymphna and Kelpie try to stay alive and evade the clutches of the gangs. I liked parts of this–Larbalestier has a vivid sense of description and dialogue–but for me the way the book was set up, with short spurts of narration from different characters, kept me from really connecting with either Dymphna or Kelpie. There was also a tragic moment at the end that I didn’t really feel was earned within the narrative, although I think the point is that pointless things happen. Nonetheless, if you’re interested in the time period or place, or if you want a book that really focuses on the friendship between two girls, this might be one to pick up.


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Favorite YA mysteries

yaThe Agency series by YS Lee: I looove these books. Mary Quinn is a great main character, and Lee is such a deft writer when it comes to both the historical details and the mysteries (two things it is easy to get wrong). This series is wonderfully immersive, and Lee recognizes Mary’s liminal, somewhat precarious status while also not letting that limit who she is and what she does.

Palace of Spies & sequels by Sarah Zettel: I can’t think of any other YA books set in Georgian England (and why not! It’s such an interesting time period), and I’ve really been liking Peggy’s story. They’re slightly frothy mysteries that are engaging for the historical fiction fan.

Jackaby by William Ritter: A historical supernatural mystery, with a Sherlock-like main character. This sounds like a lot of buzz words, but Ritter manages to pull the story into something cohesive and interesting. The second book is out now, but I haven’t read it yet.

Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley: I hesitated over whether to add this series for two reasons. First, I don’t actually love them quite as much as other readers seem to. Second, they’re usually considered adult rather than YA. However, I think that for the right teen reader, Flavia’s exploits would be hugely fun.

The Ashbury High series by Jaclyn Moriarty: Some of the books in this series are more mystery-y than others, but all of them are hugely delightful and The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie is 1) a mystery and 2) MY FAVORITE so they’re going on the list anyway.

Heist Society by Ally Carter: While heist books aren’t exactly the same thing as mysteries, this series from Carter does have a mystery aspect to it. It’s light, fun reading, and I’ve really enjoyed this series.

The Caged Graves by Dianne K Salerni: I read this book for the Cybils a few years ago and was surprised by just how much I liked this historical mystery. Both the characters and the details of time and place worked well for me, and I liked the way the mystery was set up.

Looking at this list, it seems woefully lacking in any kind of diversity, aside from YS Lee’s books. Any suggestions for #ownvoices YA mysteries?

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October releases I’m excited about

lumberjanes newt's emerald ancillary mercy

The Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

ANCILLARY MERCY by Ann Leckie (am I excited for this book? YES.)

Lumberjanes vol. 2

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

The Toymaker’s Apprentice by Sherri Smith

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

What books are you looking forward to this month?

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September 2015 round up

Books I’ve already talked about
A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand
Hissing Cousins by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Silence of Medair by Andrea K. Höst
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers

Other books
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds: This book is on the quiet side, with lots of reflections on grief, family, love, and growing up. But it also has some really funny moments! There’s lots to like here, and I’ll definitely be looking out for Reynolds’s books in the future.

Ms. Marvel: Crushed: AHHH MS. MARVEL, YES! I am always so surprised by just how much I love this story–it keeps getting better. The arc on this one was really great and I just want mooooore.

Lord Peter and Little Kerstin by Ian Crumpstey: A review copy offered by the translator of Scandinavian folk songs/stories. It was interesting to note that sometimes I was able to predict where the story was going and other times it surprised me. I really enjoyed the language chosen for this translation.

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie: Audiobook. Not my favorite Miss Marple, but it does introduce the idea of her as a nemesis.

Baba Yaga’s Apprentice by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll: I’m fascinated by the Baba Yaga story, and I loved Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. So I thought this one might be good and I ended up really liking it. It’s set in the modern day, but I liked the way McCoola’s story and Carroll’s art interact.

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson: I had a mixed reaction to this one, but I’m not sure entirely why, and I’m not sure I can tease it out in the time and space I have here.

Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers: I read this one but didn’t end up writing a post about it. Partly this is because of the DLS books I just re-read, it’s the only one that’s really focused on the mystery, with Peter and Harriet’s relationship second. Also, it’s just vaguely grimy and depressing. Murder Must Advertise is sad; HHC is just unsatisfying.

Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault: I enjoyed this first book about Alexander the Great, but also I became very anxious about MWT’s Gen because of parallels. Arrghhhhh. Anyway, on its own merits this is immersive & beautiful.

Outskirter’s Secret by Rosemary Kirstein: Second in the Steerswoman series. This one starts off a little slowly and ends with an emotional gut-punch. Ow. Also, I really appreciate that Kirstein pays attention to the physicality of her world, and gives a sense of the time it takes to do things/move through the land.

A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl: Great readalike for last year’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place! It had something of the same school story + irreverent vibe. I wasn’t in love with the first book, but I really enjoyed this one–maybe because it was less an Austen retelling and more vaguely Austen-esque.

Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander: This is unusual in historical mysteries that I’ve read in that the detective is a real historical figure. Sir John Fielding was a magistrate and social reformer. The book itself is told as reminiscences of a fictional servant boy. I’ll probably try reading at least the next book.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth: Being a big fan of the TV show, I wanted to try Worth’s memoirs. It was interesting to track the places where it was exactly the same and the places where changes had been made. In general, I appreciated the book, but I didn’t love it as much as I did the show itself.

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones: I absolutely loved this one, which is told via letters to and from Sophie. It’s funny, and heartfelt, and I found it truly enjoyable and charming.

Cuckoo’s Egg by C.J. Cherryh

Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton

Listen to the Moon by Rose Lerner: review coming closer to the release!

Other posts
Made and Making
Links 9-3-15
Links 9-16-15
Links 9-29-15
Series I need to finish
Mystery books I want to read
Fall TBR
Favorite middle grade mysteries

TV and movies
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries!!!
Doctor Who
Call the Midwife


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Dorothy Sayers reading notes: Busman’s Honeymoon

busman's honeymoonThe triumphant return of reading notes! This month, I plan to re-read and talk about four mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. Specifically, those which feature both Harriet Vane & Lord Peter Wimsey, since Harriet + Peter = otp forever. As always, these posts may (will!) contain massive spoilers so beware if you wish to avoid them.

Busman’s Honeymoon is the last full length Lord Peter Wimsey novel, coming immediately after Gaudy Night and describing the events of Peter & Harriet’s honeymoon. It’s one that I have not read very often. Gaudy Night is so perfect and therefore I’ve tended to resent the mere existence of another book which couldn’t possibly be as good. Now, having re-read it, I recognize that there are some really lovely moments, and yet it never has that transcendence that Gaudy Night does.

But also, Busman’s Honeymoon is hard for me to synthesize. It operates on three levels throughout the book, which on the face of it seem fairly disparate.

On the lightest layer, there’s a lot of piffle in this book. Four of the main characters are excellent pifflers: Peter, Harriet, the Dowager Duchess, and (surprisingly!) Superintendent Kirk. Both Miss Martin and the Dowager write extremely charming letters and diaries at the beginning of the book. (The Dowager’s “kissing one another madly in a punt, poor things,” has to be one of my favorite lines ever.) And through the murder investigation, Peter, Harriet, and Kirk make a kind of game of trading quotations and allusions. It’s even in the flights of imagination that all three detectives embark on as they try to create a possible explanation for Mr. Noakes’s death.

The next layer deals with the fact that this book shows Peter & Harriet adjusting to actually being married. This pervades the story in ways both large and small, and also gives us some of my favorite lines in the book. If at the wedding Harriet is “like a ship coming into harbor with everything shining and flags flying,” the rest of the book is both an echo and a test of that moment. “One is afraid to believe in one’s good fortune,” Peter says, and more than that even, the case presents them with a number of issues that would have to be worked out at some point but which are thrust upon them in the days that ought to be entirely halcyon.

Both Peter and Harriet have moments where they look at the other person and see them newly. Harriet, in seeing Peter’s competence with village dealings realizes “why it was that with all his masking attitudes, all his cosmopolitan self-adaptations, all his spiritual reticences and escapes, he yet carried about with him that permanent atmosphere of security.” Peter looks at Harriet and sees “a skin like pale honey and a mind of a curious, tough quality that stimulated his own. Yet no woman had ever so stirred his blood; she had only to look or speak to him to make the very bones shake in his body.”

But they are also wrestling with the realities of being married to each other. Not only the sweeps and Bunters and dead bodies, but the knitting together of these two people. Being married is a source of great joy. (“All my life I have been wandering in the dark–but now I have found your heart–and am satisfied.” “And what do all the great words come to in the end, but that?–I love you–I am at rest with you–I have come home.”) and that is presented as a reality itself.

At the same time, as Harriet notes, “Being preposterously fond of a person didn’t prevent one from hurting him unintentionally.” There are several crisis points in this book, where if Sayers were a different writer, if Peter and Harriet were different people, the whole thing might end in tragedy. But because they are themselves, they refuse to let their affection corrupt their judgement. At one of these points, Harriet says, “What kind of life could we have if I knew you had become less than yourself by marrying me?” It’s that gift of clear sight and integrity that she has carried with her throughout the books that holds them fast and in the end, wins them through.

In the last layer, there’s a bleakness that underlies the two happier strands and which at times seems quite jarring. Even in the description of the wedding day, there’s the mention of “a statement about Abyssinia,” by which Sayers means this. Busman’s Honeymoon was published in 1937, and thinking about it I did feel the shadow of WWII looming over the story. On the more personal level, Peter’s nightmares and his anguish over Frank Crutchley’s fate take this somewhere other than the earlier, lighter books, or indeed the honeymoon story one might expect. The village characters, with the exception of the delightful Superintendent Kirk, are not terribly appealing in some ways. Frank Crutchley’s unkindess, Miss Twitterton’s hopeless grasping after him, Mrs. Ruddle’s venomous tongue: these are not the stuff of which idylls are made.

And yet, in this last re-read, I begin to see that Peter’s distress (which is clearly tied to his PTSD from the first World War) shows the measure of his growth, and of his growing together with Harriet. At the very end, when Harriet can only wait for him to come–where the waiting is an active choice to let him make his own decision–he finally admits that he has this broken place within him. It’s only then that he can realize that he doesn’t have to be alone. “You’re my corner and I’ve come to hide,” he tells Harriet, in a more desperate version of his earlier declaration. But now it is true, and stripping away of this barrier allows the book to end with tempered joy: the distress over Frank Crutchley isn’t any less, but they are at the last, together.

Book source: personal library


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Links from around the web: 9-29-15

Via Two Bossy Dames, the brief and intense friendship of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, women pirates. (I knew some of this already because nautical history is a thing I love, but the details here are fascinating.)

ALSO via TBD, this amazing profile of Daphne du Maurier, including some great bits about the slang she invented with her sisters. Petition to bring back “menaced” starting now! (Also, I had unexpected Code Name Verity feels due to this line: “they found a way to use games of pretend to tell the absolute truth.”)

Agatha Christie and the Golden Age of Poisons” and if you have not already clicked on this link I don’t want to know you. This is a great look at Christie’s use of poisons, and also this great point about what Chistie’s interested in: “More intriguingly, out of the somewhat mind-numbing accumulation of detail, it becomes possible to discern the ways in which chemistry, rather than character, drives Christie’s plots.”

Telling the Untold History” is a long read, looking at the complex motivations and history behind Confederate reenactors. Thoughtfully written and very thought provoking in terms of how we think about history. (via Natalie Luhrs)

Also via Natalie Luhrs, a really great look at “Why the ‘Kitchen of the Future’ Always Fails Us.” Eveleth starts by looking specifically at the “kitchen of the future” but uses this as a jumping off point to look at futurists and the problems inherent with their approaches and philosophies.

This post is uncomfortably familiar. Like, ALL OF IT.

Cod is now legal to fish again, and the BBC had a former Billingsgate fish merchant on to wax rhapsodic about the virtues of “a nice bit of fish and chips,” in what has to be one of the more charming radio segments ever.

Finally, if you need a cheerful thing to brighten your day, my friend B. sent me a link to this tumblr of animals riding other animals.


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