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bookish posts

June releases I’m excited about

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein: Does it count if I’ve already read and reviewed it? I say, yes.

The Pirate’s Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke: Sequel to The Assassin’s Curse, which I really enjoyed.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross: A Twitter friend was raving about this one and it piqued my interest.

The Elementals by Saundra Mitchell: The third and last in the Elementals trilogy. I love what Saundra Mitchell has done in these books, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

Defy the Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell: With stories from Saundra Mitchell, Christine Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this anthology is one I’m not going to miss.

Weather Witch by Shannon Delaney: I actually don’t know much about this one, but it has a beautiful cover!

What new books are you excited about?
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defy the darkweather witchpirateswish

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bookish posts

Favorite genre: mysteries

Last week I had a lot of fun talking about some of my favorite genres for Armchair BEA. But then I realized that I had completely forgotten to talk about one of my very favorites–mysteries! Rather than go back and try to add it to my original post, I thought I would just write a separate one.

My main requirement for mysteries is that they be mostly about solving the crime. I don’t really like gritty mysteries, which leaves out a lot of modern books. I love mysteries from the Golden Age of British writers. A lot of people know Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, and they are great! But there are several others I really enjoy, either from that era or from a little later.

What are some favorite authors?

Agatha Christie is the Queen of mysteries for a reason. I love Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot about equally, and Tommy and Tuppence are also great. I don’t care for the Harley Quinn mysteries as much, although I’m not sure why–they seem too fantastical, maybe? She’s the first mystery writer I ever read and, even though I don’t read her books as much as I used to, she has a special spot in my heart.

If you asked, I would probably say that Dorothy Sayers is my current favorite mystery writer. How can you beat Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane? Answer: it is NOT POSSIBLE. I don’t love all of her books equally, and I still think that Five Red Herrings is tosh, but from the moment Harriet enters in Strong Poison, the series as a whole becomes much better. And Gaudy Night is one of those perfect books that I will never not love.

Josephine Tey is the pseudonym of Elizabeth Mackintosh, and the author of Brat Farrer, Miss Pym Disposes, and The Daughter of Time, among others. Her books are all very cerebral and often have some sort of historical component to them. The Daughter of Time sets out to convince the reader that Richard III is innocent of his nephews’ murders, and I have to say, it convinced me. Brat Farrer is probably my next favorite, but I really like all of her mysteries.

Ngaio Marsh has a gentleman detective, a bit in the tradition of Lord Peter. But this time he is a policeman, and therefore not as free to, for instance, fly across the Atlantic in search of evidence. While I think the series went on too long, I do enjoy Rory Alleyn & co. The first few books are quite formulaic, but if you persevere, the middle ones are delightful.

Ellis Peters may be most famous for her Brother Cadfael mysteries. Actually, I really dislike Cadfael. On the other hand, I love the Felse mysteries and only wish that she had written more of them. Featuring George Felse, a police detective, his wife Bunty, and their son Dominic, the series is gentle and lovely. Most of the books take place in Shropshire and Peters writes beautiful descriptions of the countryside.

Y.S. Lee writes a wonderful series of historical mysteries. Mary, her main character, is smart and resourceful, and the mystery aspect is fun. I will also admit to liking the romance a lot–it’s one of those quiet ones where everybody has more to do than standing around declaring undying love for each other. And the US covers are some of the best I’ve ever seen for a historical series. YAY.

There are a few series that I’ve tried at various times–I really wanted to like P.D. James’ Dalgliesh mysteries, but I felt depressed every time I finished one. But I’m always hoping that I’ll find a new series to enjoy. Are there any that you would recommend? Or warn me away from?

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bookish posts

Top Ten Tuesday: Books featuring Traveling

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

The prompt for this week is “Top Ten Books Featuring Travel In Some Way (road trips, airplanes, travelogues, anything where there is traveling in the book!).” I think this will be a very miscellaneous list! Journeys and traveling are such a useful device and get used in so many books. So, in no particular order (or rather, the order in which I think of them):

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: In my head, this is the clearest example of a book featuring journeys. I mean, we have the four hobbits leaving the Shire and setting off for parts unknown, going across Middle-earth, and then back home again. And then Frodo’s journey into the West is the ultimate one.

2. The Time Travelers/Oxford series by Connie Willis: Time travel totally counts, right? (Plus there are the boat bits in TSNOTD, and the finding Eileen bits in All Clear/Blackout.)

3. Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Even though I know that the Ingalls family actually stayed in one place for quite a long time, my remembered impression is that they are constantly moving as Pa keeps pushing them West.

4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith: Cute YA contemporary, featuring airport love and London! What’s not to like?

5. The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein: Telemakos’s journey across the desert is one of the most memorable and, in its way, heartbreaking that I know of. You could also make a case for Coalition of Lions (Goewin’s trip from Britain), or The Lion Hunters/The Empty Kingdom, which are full of journeys both large and small.

6. Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers: While the actual journey is off screen, who can forget Lord Peter’s dramatic courtroom entrance, having just flown back across the Atlantic?

7. We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome: One of my favorite Swallows & Amazons books. They really didn’t mean to go to sea, but fortunately, the Walkers are resourceful and alert. Lots of fun.

8. The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones: The third, or first, book in the Dalemark Quartet, depending on which reading order you subscribe to (publication!). It has quite a long journey, which has this strange, dreamlike feeling because of the narrator DWJ uses in this book. I think it confuses and alienates some readers, but I love it.

9. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: I always forget that this one fits in the journey category, but when you think about it, it really does! All the riding, and horses, and camping. Plus, they are in all three countries, helpfully setting up the geography for the rest of the series.

10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: “It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” So there’s that, plus the fact that Lydia’s whole plot line hinges on her journey to Brighton, and basically I am going to stop before I recite my senior thesis to you. Suffice it to say that journeys, both real and metaphorical, are incredibly important in P&P.

Now, I will admit that I left off a couple of obvious ones, like Anna and the French Kiss, because I figured that lots of other people would cover them. And I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten about. What are some of your favorites?

Categories
blogkeeping

2013 Armchair BEA: Wrap-up

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A quick post, because I’ve been staring at the computer screen for too long already.

This was my second year participating in Armchair BEA. The first year, I didn’t post very much, and I don’t think I really interacted with other people’s blogs at all. This year I tried to visit at least 5 other blog posts for every topic I linked to, and comment on at least one or two. My goal here was to make sure I interacted without overwhelming myself and burning out. I think I succeeded there. I also got some fun comments here–thank you to everyone who came by! I’ve already found a couple of new blogs to follow.

I also found talking about the different genres and topics very fun and inspiring. I’ve been wanting to come up with a list of favorite books in different categories, and now I feel like that’s very doable and even fun. I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump recently, but at the moment I feel very energized.

My only feedback is that lumping YA into children’s books was a bit challenging–I love both and they’re such huge categories that I felt like it wasn’t possible to do both justice. Given that YA is such a huge field at the moment, it would make more sense to me to give it its own day or topic. The blogger development topic and the keeping it real topic also seemed like they were practically synonymous–I saw several people who didn’t bother to do the keeping it real topic at all.

But overall, I definitely thought this was a worthwhile experience, and I had a lot of fun meeting new people! I wish I had been able to make it to one of the Twitter parties, but none of them lined up with my (really weird) schedule.

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bookish posts reviews

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

rufuk Today is the UK release date of Elizabeth Wein’s new book, Rose Under Fire, a companion to Code Name Verity (link goes to my review). If you’ve been around here at all for the past year, you have probably discovered that I’m a huge fan of CNV. More than that I’m a huge fan of all Elizabeth Wein’s books, and have been ever since I discovered her through a recommendation at Sounis. So when I found out that Rose was coming out in June in the UK, and September in the US, I promptly ordered a copy of both editions. And then I was lucky enough to read it through NetGalley*.

I suspect that many reviews of Rose will focus on the differences between this book and CNV. And that’s fine–they are definitely there, and significant. For instance, the plot of Rose is not nearly as twisty as Verity; in some ways the book is much more straightforward. But I really want to talk about some of the similarities I can see.

First, these are both books that I really wanted to avoid spoiling. For different reasons, sure, but I don’t even want to say exactly who from CNV you see in Rose. I believe the fact that Maddie is there is public knowledge so, yes, Maddie is there, and Maddie and wonderful. (I just started crying over Maddie.) But I’m not going to tell you anything else! And while you could find certain pertinent details if you dug around on the internet, I’m not going to tell you the plot either. Because this book is so much more than any plot summary could convey.

You see, just like CNV, this is a book about female friends who survive incredibly difficult circumstances because of each other. No one ever says the phrase ‘sensational team’ and it’s not even exactly right for this story, for these circumstances. There is no chance of glory, no great game, only a struggle for survival and sanity. But make no mistake: the bond between Julie and Maddie is here too, in some ways all the stronger because it is quieter and grows in more imperceptible ways. rufus At one point, Rose calls the women she knows her “more than sisters” and over the course of the book we begin to see how that has happened.

But there’s another thread running through both books, which is that of bravery, and fear in the face of impossible situations. Of course, what is the first line of Code Name Verity? “I am a COWARD,” which then proves again and again to be false. Like the thread of friendship, this is perhaps quieter in Rose Under Fire, but no less incredible. II don’t even know how to describe it; it has a quality that I recognize from the Soviet prison memoirs I’ve read. All I know is that they are all so brave, humblingly so, in a way that involves but is not limited to physical courage.

Also like CNV, though even more so, is the sense of reality. When I read either of these books, I completely believe in them; I forget that this is fiction. And in Rose Under Fire, this is even worse because some of these people are not fictional. The things that happen at Ravensbruck actually happened. The Rabbits are real (here is a picture of them in California after the war). The camp is still there, cell blocks and all.

And so, for me, there is this kind of burning rage and sorrow, and also a wordlessness. How can I speak–how can I review this book? I can only hold it out and say, “Read this. Tell the world.” And at the same time, if the story were not so well told, I couldn’t have that reaction.

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The truth is, I don’t know how other readers will react to this book. The ones who disliked the flying bits in CNV will be faced with more flying bits. The ones who thought CNV was too full of coincidences to be plausible will be faced with more coincidences. The twistiness of CNV, the spy thriller aspect, is not here. On the other hand, the bravery, the complexity of the characters, the brilliant descriptions of flying–those are all present. And I suspect that the readers who love this book will love it fiercely.

As for me, I was in tears most of the time I was reading. There’s not a “Kiss Me Hardy!” moment exactly, though at one point I couldn’t see the words because I was crying so hard.** More than that, though, I resonated with Rose in a way that, much as I LOVE them, I don’t quite with Maddie or Julie. But Rose is a bookish American who loves England, with German heritage, from the Midwest. I’m don’t know that I have her courage–no, let me change that. I know I don’t have her courage, but I feel a connection to her, a kind of kinship.

Unlike Maddie, I think that Rose is a pilot second and a poet first. She loves flying, but it’s not who she is. And I was amazed at the poetry; unlike a lot of books that use poems as a device, I believed in that she reads it and writes it. The way other poems, especially Millay’s, are woven into the story is beautiful and right every time. And Rose’s own poems get better as the book goes on, which from a technical writing side I am simply in awe of. How do you do that?

So, in the end what I can say is that I loved it, that just like Code Name Verity, it broke my heart again and again. It’s a book that will probably stick with me the rest of my life. I am on Rose’s side, and Roza’s, and Lisette’s, and Karolina’s. And I won’t forget.

Book source: purchased (twice); NetGalley
Book information: Egmont, UK, June 2013; Disney Hyperion, US, September 2013; YA historical fiction

* Note that this has not made me any less excited to hold the actual finished book in my hands. I will always be a print girl at heart.
** “Dirge Without Music”

NOTE: I edited this review slightly because I had never been entirely happy with the original version.

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bookish posts

2013 Armchair BEA: children’s lit

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My favorite category! I definitely enjoy reading children’s lit, especially if we’re lumping YA in with that. This probably isn’t surprising, since I tend to cover that area here. I think in this post, I’ll focus on YA, because a lot of my children’s reading tends to be nostalgic–the books I loved when I was younger–and therefore the reasons I read it are pretty obvious and not necessarily interesting to others.

I’m drawn to reading YA for several reasons. First, I find that YA authors tend to tell the story and get out of the way. This is not to say that there aren’t authors who have big egos, or who insert themselves in the story, or who write thinly-disguised versions of their own lives. But this happens less often, and rather than getting praise for deep insight, they tend to get called on this.

I also find that YA books are often tight, focused, and well-edited. Again, this is not to say that this never happens in adult books, or that this always happens in YA. In the last few years, especially, several doorstop-sized books have come out which I personally think could have been pared down quite a bit. However, overall, I find that it’s easy to be engaged in a YA book, that there’s a sense of plot and intensity that I appreciate.

It’s also true that I find the age that YA is aimed for exciting. There’s a sense of excitement, of newness and possibility. YA is full of questions about identity, about relationships with family, and the world we live in. I find this kind of theme fascinating, challenging, and often inspiring.

Plus, we are really in a golden age of YA literature right now. There is so much being published, in every genre you can think of. Some of them are not my favorites, but I think it’s pretty incredible how much there is for just about everyone.

All of these reasons are true, and yet I don’t think they really capture why I love reading YA so much. I’m not sure I CAN capture it. I think the truth is simply that the kind of books I am inclined to like are most often found in YA, and therefore that’s what I read.

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bookish posts

2013 Armchair BEA: non-fiction

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A couple of years ago, I really didn’t read much non-fiction. I was in college, and if I wasn’t reading for a class, I wanted something light and fun. At least in my head, non-fiction is not light and fun. Even after college, I read a few non-fiction books, but not a ton. But recently, I’ve had an explosion of non-fiction and have found just how enjoyable it can be!

Now, I basically like to read about certain topics–things that I’m already interested in, in one form or another. I’ve been fascinated by WWII since middle school, for instance, and recently came up with a whole list of books I’ve read or would recommend about that era. History generally is my thing, though I’m much more interested in the people than in battles or overall political tactics.

So, what are a few of my favorites?

Queen Elizabeth in the Garden by Trea Martyn: This may be one that only I would love, but I thought the way Martyn looked at the gardens of Elizabeth I’s age, and the way her suitors and courtiers used them as symbols of power and devotion to be incredibly interesting.

A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm and Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester: A few months ago, I wrote about these two excellent biographies and the way their subjects reminded me of each other. I love this kind of connection when it happens in fiction, and it’s almost neater when it happens in non-fiction!

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre: This is a riveting account of the double-agent system the British were running during WWII. It’s almost completely unbelievable, except for the part where it really happened. For instance, Agent Garbo, who created a whole network of spies and gave the Germans all kinds of information–the spies were imaginary and for the first part of the war, he wasn’t even in England.

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s Historic Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman: I had heard of Nellie Bly before, and even knew that she had raced around the world, trying to beat the 80 record of Jules Verne’s famous book. But I definitely didn’t know the whole story.

Just Send Me Word by Orlando Figues: Lev, a political prisoner in the Gulag, and Sveta, his long-time girlfriend, were apart for years. During that time, they created a complicated way of smuggling letters in and out of the camp. Figues weaves together their life and the letters in a great way, letting their words to each other shine.

The Map of My Dead Pilots by Colleen Mondor: An incredible book about Alaskan pilots and aviation. But, as my original review says, it’s also about searching for answers we can never know, and about the stories we tell ourselves.

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson: In my opinion, one of the best tenn non-fiction books of the past few years. Levinson weaves together the stories of four different teens who were involved in the 1963 March, in a way that is both inspiring and brings out connections and tensions in a new and revealing light.

Okay, I’m going to stop before I list everything I’ve read in the past two years! But feel free to browse through my non-fiction tag if you’re interested.

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blogkeeping

2013 Armchair BEA: ethics

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After taking yesterday off from Armchair BEA, I’m back and ready to go! Also, excited to talk about non-fiction, because I’ve recently started reading a lot more.

But first, ethics. I suppose to me, the basic ethics of blogging seem fairly straightforward. Tell me your biases. Tell me if you’re related to an author, or best friends. If you’re part of a promotional tour or package, tell me that too. Don’t use someone else’s words without attribution. Be honest. Don’t steal. Be kind (which is not the same thing as being “nice”). I suspect this is partly a personality thing: while I’m comfortable with ambiguity, there’s a certain baseline of rules that are just non-negotiable.

Now, as far as copyright and book covers and disclosure of ARCs go–that’s a thorny mess. I’ve read that using book covers is fair use and therefore fine. I personally like to add where I got the book, whether it’s personal library, public library, Inter-library loan, or a free copy. This is just because I think it helps add a sense of how easy it is to get the book.

But partly I think that everyone is still scrambling to catch up with this new world of book blogging–yes, STILL. For instance, one of the more fascinating things I saw coming out of Actual BEA yesterday was a tweet from Kelly Jensen (@catagator): “BEST THING I’VE LEARNED TODAY: no need to do an FTC disclaimer on critical reviews! Only ENDORSEMENTS.” I’m not clear yet on what this means, but it seems to indicate that negative (“critical” which is NOT the same thing, but that’s a different post) reviews don’t need an FTC disclaimer, whereas positive ones (“endorsements”) do. This might make sense from the FTC point of view; it really bothers me. Regardless, the point is that one statement by one person at a big conference could potentially have wide ripples throughout the blogging community.

It’s also true that probably a lot of blogs technically are not following all of the official rules correctly. What seems perfectly normal and harmless could potentially be problematic. And I’ve read a couple of posts that advocate being super careful, which is probably good advice. I’m not one to stick a lot of gifs*, or even photos, in my posts, which makes it a bit easier.

I’m not sure exactly what my conclusion is, if any. Try not to do some thing wrong/hurtful/illegal, and if you do, own your mistake and apologize. No excuses, no “I have no idea how this happened!”. I know it’s hard, and so tempting to try to erase your own bad judgment. But don’t do it. Apologize sincerely. Blogging often brings out our ego, either in an I’m-so-awesome way, or a I’m-so-terrible way. Push that to the side and write as the best person you can be, and I think you’ll be okay.

* HARD G, PEOPLE.

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life

Six months later

scan0001I don’t have an Armchair BEA post today, because I don’t have a giveaway (too disorganized) and I don’t read literary fiction (avoid like the plague!).

But there’s also another, sadder reason. My dad died six months ago today, nine months after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. I’ve heard that it takes 3-6 months to get used to a major life change. If that’s true, or I guess, even if it’s not, I don’t really know yet the ways that this has changed me. But regardless, I wanted to share something about him today. And it seems both nice and appropriate to talk about my memories of my dad and reading.

Both of my parents really did everything they could to encourage the three of us to read. There were always books around and there are lots of stories of us (especially me, I think) demanding that the nearest adult read this one aloud. My first clear memory of books and reading is of sitting on my dad’s lap in our apartment in Indianapolis. We had been reading Wind in the Willows, but it was really a little too old for me (I would have been almost five) and I hadn’t been enjoying it very much.*

And so we sat together and my dad held the book so I could see the pictures, and he started reading Little House in the Big Woods. In some ways, this is my favorite memory of him: me, warm and comfortable while he read to me about Laura and Mary and their Pa, who had a beard too.

My dad had very specific and particular interests, which he read widely in. His copies of books are full of notes: underlining, stars, vehement approval, very vehement disapproval. He loved Church history, and books by Wendell Berry, anything nautical, especially Patrick O’Brian. But most especially what I remember is the sense that both he and my mother gave me: if you love something, you read about it. There are many things that he gave me which I’m grateful for, but that is at the top of the list.

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* I swear, this early experience made me not love Wind in the Willows as much as I want to. I enjoy it, I even treasure it, but it’s not one of the formative books of my childhood the way it is for some people.

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Uncategorized

2013 Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction

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I am excited about this topic! Because I loooooooove genre fiction. In fact, if you asked me to describe myself as a reader, I would say that I am a genre reader, whatever age group you’re talking about. Now, there have been a number of interesting discussions recently about whether literary fiction is actually a genre (unacknowledged by many of its authors or readers). While I do agree that it is (and therefore literary sneers are totally unwarranted and annoying), I’m not including it today because I want to talk about the genres I do love and read.

Historical Fiction
I definitely grew up reading historical fiction and a good book in this genre warms my heart in a way no other book does. On the other hand, bad historical fiction makes me cry and rage.

What makes it good? If I believe in the setting and the characters, not as simply modern people in period clothing (probably without the proper undergarments), but as people of their time. This doesn’t mean that authors have to write characters who hold attitudes they disagree with, but that they should acknowledge that the past is itself a foreign country. I also love it when authors don’t try to write “forsoothly” but clearly and cleanly, without any jarring modern phrases.

A few favorites in this genre:
Rosemary Sutcliff, who wrote about all different time periods, but mostly the end of Roman Britain. Eagle of the Ninth, Mark of the Horse Lord, The Shining Company, and Bonnie Dundee–and stopping before I list them all.

Elizabeth Wein, who you may recognize as the author of Code Name Verity (and its upcoming companion book, Rose Under Fire, which I have read and !!!). She also wrote a WONDERFUL series set in 6th century Ethiopia. I love the first book, The Winter Prince, but a lot of other people find it a bit intense. I suggest starting with Coalition of Lions.

Historical Fantasy
If you asked me to name one favorite genre, this would probably be it. The combination of some historical setting or inspiration and fantasy is gold in my book. So much so, in fact, that I have a whole page for them (though it’s not necessarily complete). A lot of fantasy is set in the past, but historical fantasy has a more specific component to it–it’s based on a particular culture, time, or both.

Here are a few highlights:
Megan Whalen Turner is the queen of historical fantasies, as far as I’m concerned. Her Queen’s Thief series is AMAZING, and if you haven’t read it already, you definitely should.

Martha Wells is much less well known than she should be. Her Ile-Rien series is really great, but my very favorite of her books is The Wheel of the Infinite.

Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s wonderful Kate & Cecy series. The first book is the best, but they’re all fun. Georgette Heyer, with magic!

Fantasy
I’m limiting myself to adult fantasy here, since there’s a YA topic later this week. Really though, fantasy is such a huge category, with so many sub-genres. It has something for almost everyone. I tend to like mythic fantasy a lot, books based on retellings of fairytales or legends.

Patricia McKillip writes beautiful books that feel like fairytales even when they’re not. My favroites: Ombria in Shadow, Alphabet of Thorn, Song for the Basilisk, The Changeling Sea.

Theodora Goss is one of my favorite short story writers. Her first collection is called In the Forests of Forgetting and is excellent. If you’d like to try one of her stories, “Her Mother’s Ghosts” is available online and free through Clarkesworld.

Daniel O’Malley‘s The Rook is a rare urban fantasy book that I adore. (I don’t have a problem with the genre, just not my cup of tea.) It takes place in London and is by turns weird, gross, hilarious, and touching. I loved it and I can’t wait for the next installment.

Science Fiction
I’m very specific in the kinds of sci-fi I like reading: smart, character based, not too much hard science. Oh, and Ray Bradbury. In short, I can’t describe it exactly, but I know it when I see it.

Connie Willis, especially the Oxford series. Willis manages to do zany comedy (To Say Nothing of the Dog), COMPLETE PAIN AND ANGUISH (Doomsday Book), and All the Feels at Once (Blackout/All Clear) in one series! I also enjoy Promised Land a lot.

Lois McMaster Bujold has the wonderful Vorkosigan series. If you like any of the following characters, you really need to try her: Howl, Gen, Lord Peter Wimsey. It’s long, and there are certainly books I like better than others (A Civil Campaign is AMAZING, but you need to read the others first).

CJ Cherryh‘s Foreigner universe books. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend these for the person first dipping their toes into sci-fi, but they’re great character drive books, with plenty of politics.

Romance
I don’t read a lot of romance, partly because I don’t like a lot of sexual content and, well, that’s kind of the point of a lot of modern romance. (Again, no judgment on those who do enjoy reading it! Just not my personal tastes.) There are a few I enjoy, though.

Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite comfort authors. Wild plots, often hilarious characters, superb creation of a Georgian/Regency world–she has it all. Plus, they’re great from the content pov.

Jennifer Crusie is probably my favorite contemporary romance writer. I wouldn’t recommend her books to those who want clean romances, but I really enjoy her characters a lot. She’s funny and smart, and so are the people she writes about.