Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Top Ten Books Under 2000 Ratings

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish
 My only requirements for this week's topic (beyond the 2000 ratings) is that they aren't from last week's list - which has some deserving books that would otherwise be on this one.  Also I gave myself an extra 10 slots for picture books, because why limit yourself, am I right?

A Cat Called Dog by Jem Vanston

A Cat Called Dog

I will forever be a champion of this book and this will probably always be my favourite not-well-known book on the list.  It's so funny and if you've ever had a cat it is just so...exactly cattish.  (I'm running on low sleep and caffeine so forgive my lack of vocabulary at the moment).  If any of you HAVE read the book, he could really use the reviews/publicity, so first of all: read the book it's great, second of all tell everyone you know about it and review!

Death Wish by Megan Tayte

Death Wish (Ceruleans, #1)

If there is one thing I can say for blogging in the years when I was still taking books for review, it's that I never otherwise would have found gems like this book (and A Cat Called Dog).  This has one of my favourite examples of female friendship, and features a character with a physical disability that isn't ignored - but it doesn't define who she is as a character, and since these are two things I so rarely find (and want so badly) this definitely belongs at the top of this list!

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (Koi dano ai dano) by Ririko Tsujita

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko, Volume 1

I love this series SO MUCH.  It reminds me of a lot of the things I love about Skip Beat! (my all time favourite manga) - a heroine who has a strong drive (in Kyoko's case it's her acting career, in Kanoko's case it's her observations of human behavior) and oblivious nature to the main lead's interest in her.  But where Kyoko is naive and open, Kanoko is conniving and likes to plot and I LOVE SLYTHERIN HEROINES.  I may be a Hufflepuff, but I adore heroines who scheme.

The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer

The Demon Catchers of Milan

It's been so long since I've read this one, but I vaguely remember really enjoying it because it has a strong focus on family, a heroine who travels to a country where English isn't the main language (and therefore has to learn Italian/other ways to communicate real quick), and while there is romance, there's a distinct lack of focus on said romance.  The heroine has bigger problems to deal with - like being in a strange country where she doesn't know the language.  Oh, and also not being possessed by a demon.

Seeing Red by Katheryn Erskine

Seeing Red

 This was a powerful story about loss and grief, as well as a look at small town South in the 70's.  It was really eye opening - because racism was still pretty rampant (and not that it's gone now, but I feel like it's more subtle now - in this place and time it was definitely accepted to be outspokenly racist).  And when you realize that the 70's...I mean, my parents were almost teenagers by then.  It's just...strange to thing of when put in that perspective.  This book tackles a lot - racism, loss of a parent, sexism, blame - but it manages to do so in a really poignant way.

Voyage of the Bassett by James C. Christensen, Renwick St. James, and Alan Dean Foster

Voyage of the Basset

This has been one of my favourite books since childhood - the artwork is gorgeous for one, and the story takes characters from our 19th century world and transports them (by way of boat) to the world of mythology.  All the characters have so much growth throughout the story and did I mention the artwork?  If you can find a copy, you should definitely take a look.

Destiny's Embrace by Beverly Jenkins

Destiny's Embrace (Destiny's, #1)

Historical romance novel featuring PoC's as the main love interest.  (Added bonus I think this one was a hate-to-love story) So basically something I have been actively searching for in the past year or so.  'Nuff said.

Cat Street by Yoko Kamio

Cat Street, Vol. 1 (Cat Street #1)

Ok, this is actually probably my favourite manga.  At the very least it's tied with Skip Beat.  Whenever someone asks for manga recs, 99% of the time this is the first thing I go to.  It's a quiet sort of story and I never really know how to sell it, other than that it's a beautiful story, the art is gorgeous, and I ship the ship with the fiery of a thousand suns.  So if you're looking to try out a manga...this one is definitely a good one to check out! (You'd have to go to a scanlation site like mangapanda/mangareader/etc. since it's never been officially translated into English, unfortunately)

This is All: The Pillowbook of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers

This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn

 This book is a force.  It's brutal and honest and two stories in one.  I'd never read anything in a pillowbook sort of format before so it felt completely innovative to me.  It is a big book, but I feel like it's worth every page.  It is one of those books that has stayed with me throughout the years (literally and metaphorically - as someone who has moved across the country multiple times, keeping a book as giant as this one is no small feat).

Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Good Enough

This was one of my favourite books of last year - if I could have had a book that perfectly summed up my senior year of high school, this would be it.  Auditions for school, music, dealing with life outside of that - this book feels so on point.  I don't often read books about musicians that don't make me feel like rolling my eyes, but the author clearly gets it.

Under 2000 Ratings Picture Book Edition

(because picture books never get enough appreciation!)

Tangoroas's Gift by Mere Whaanga


This book is special for two reasons: one, it would be in my top 10 picture books with great art.  Two, it's written by a Kiwi author, so it's sort of important in a...family sort of way.  (My mom and grandmother are from New Zealand).  If I recall correctly it's a sort of Maori version of Pandora's Box.

The Goblin and the Empty Chair by Mem Fox

The Goblin and the Empty Chair

First of all, if you haven't read a picture book by Mem Fox, you need to change that immediately.  I haven't encountered a single book by her that I haven't loved.  I chose this one because it is the best picture I've ever read in terms of grief because it uses context and visual clues rather than outright talking about it which makes it easy to use in a wide range of ages.

The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Charles Santore

The Little Mermaid

Once again, such a sucker for art.  This is another copy I've had since I was a child and I hung on to it because A. It used to be my favourite fairy tale (I super loved Hans Christian Anderson in general) and B. this is hands down my favourite fairy tale art.

What Do You Say Dear? by Sesyle Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak


The kids I nanny introduced me to this little gem - it's hilarious and treats learning about manners in about the sort of manner you would expect from Maurice Sendak (which I expect is why he agreed to illustrate the book).  This sums up the book pretty well: "What do you say when the Queen feeds you so much spaghetti that you don't fit in your chair anymore?"

Slinky Malinki by Lynley Dodd


I was honestly really surprised that this has under 2000 ratings - I'd thought it was a popular series, but I guess I just loved it enough as a kid I assumed everyone else did too haha!  This one is about a burglar cat who has to reform his ways.  The author also did the Hairy MacLary books which I also loved.

Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
Herman and Rosie

I loved this picture book so much that after the kids introduced me to it I went out and bought a copy for myself!  (IT HAS AN OBOE PLAYING ALLIGATOR THIS SPEAKS TO MY SOUL.)

Comet's Nine Lives by Jan Brett

 Comet's Nine Lives

Of all of Jan Brett's books (of which there are many.  I feel like anyone who has read more than a few picture books/has children is required to read her books at some point) this one is my favourite.  I love her signature style - the way she illustrates, as well as the fact you can always find clues to the next page.  Plus this one is about a cat who keeps getting into trouble.  Clearly even kid me knew I was going to turn into a cat lady.

Prickly Jenny by Sibylle Delacroix

Prickly Jenny

 Cute artwork, and it illustrates what all of us sometimes feel (although it's the worst when you're a teenager) where you can feel one way and then suddenly feel another for what seems like no apparent reason whatsoever.  As I still have not grown out of this stage apparently, I felt a sense of kindredness...ship...(UGH COFFEE IS NEEDED) with Jenny.

Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young

Wabi Sabi

Gorgeous artwork, haikus, and an interesting way to introduce a new somewhat difficult concept.

Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

Harriet the Invincible (Hamster Princess, #1)

Ok, this one is technically not a picture book.  But it is illustrated and it is for kids.  It is also hilarious and turns tropes and gender norms on their heads and I love Ursula Vernon's books so much!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Day in the Life #44 In which Elizabeth enjoys a humdrum couple weeks

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post, hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer

Hmm.  Well...I honestly don't have much of note to talk about off the top of my head.  I've been working extra with the boys, which has been a lot of fun (picnics! hikes! fluxx! books!)  The oldest boy has just started reading the Harry Potter series (he's on book four now) which has me SO EXCITED YES I CAN TALK ABOUT HARRY POTTER ALL THE TIME!!  He keeps thinking he can trip me up, but he can't compete with my well over a decade of being immersed in Harry Potter culture. HA.  We took a quiz that uses the Pottermore questions and guesses which answer correlates to which house so it gives you what percentage you are of each.  I'd pegged both of them for Ravenclaw for sure, but I thought the oldest would most likely be a straight Ravenclaw and the youngest a Huffleclaw/Ravenpuff like me.  Turns out I was totally wrong - the oldest is a Huffleclaw and the youngest is a Slytherclaw haha!  (I had to console the mother who hasn't read the books and was like...wait...does this mean I have to worry about my son being evil? Haha!)  They both started reading Tamora Pierce books (SUCCESS) - the youngest is currently reading the Kel books and I think I maaaaay need to steer him away from that.  The first two books are ok, but the third book has a sex talk/sex before marriage/etc.  Nothing graphic or anything...but he is six and I'm not entirely certain his mom wants to deal with any of that quite yet.  (Probably I'll just let her know and let her decide)  The older kid (nine) is reading the Daine books and I think those ones should be fine. Clearly my plan to get them started with the Emelan books instead of the Tortall ones failed, but hey at least they're reading Tamora Pierce!  So basically my last week was Tamora Pierce/Harry Potter centric, and isn't that pretty much living the dream?

I tried to restrain myself.  I really, really did.  But I got so excited about all the musicals when I watched the Tonys that I relapsed and have been listening to this practically exclusively.  (In other news, I have been banned from listening to this any more).  I literally listened to Washington on Your Side for a straight half hour and I usually HATE listening to anything multiple times in a row.  I actually fell asleep and dreamed about this song the whole night - I woke up the next morning and new all the words.  Yes even those ones. I can sing this entire song.  All because this song was stuck in my head so deeply I dreamt about it haha!  But now that this musical has been banned, it just means I can listen to Waitress all the time instead, right? 


Tamara Pierce has been sharing some gorgeous fan art of her characters on her Tumblr!
Niall has round up the author/publisher reactions to Brexit.
More Margaret Atwood books on tv? Count me in!
Speaking of SFF Adaptions - here's a list of all the rest of them.  Any you're excited about? 
Seanan McGuire and Lee Hill on their new anthology "Every Heart a Doorway".


Bailey looks at sword fighting as dance in fantasy (in all mediums!).
Yah and Janet put together a fan mix for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and it is PERFECTION.
Christina takes a look at the YA adaptions coming to our screen and talks about why these ones will be successes.

Non bookish

Who's still obsessing over this year's Tony awards?  NOT ME. DEFINITELY NOT ME. (But for real - the four main musical acting awards going to people of color? The performances? Lin Manuel Miranda's sonnet speech? James Corbin's opening number? The outpouring of love throughout the show was a balm to all the hurt we'd been feeling about Orlando throughout the day and ok I'll stop now. )
There's going to be a live action Full Metal Alchemist adaptation...I...don't know know how I feel about this.  I mean, I love FMA...BUT...when was the last good live action adaption of an animated show? Has there ever been one?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top Ten Books I've Read in 2016

For the most part, this year has been rather lackluster book-wise in comparison to where I was this time last year. Last year I'd already read what ended up being my favourite books of the year. (In fact my end of year list was practically the same as my half-year.) It's not that I haven't read a lot of good books so far, I just haven't read many great books so far. Hence me highlighting them now - I'm not expecting most of these to make it to my end of year list, but they are worth highlighting!

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Only Ever Yours

Thanks to Kirsty for putting this book on my radar!  If I hadn't read The Handmaid's Tale multiple times, and this was my first experience with the subject matter this probably would make end of the year list! It's even bleaker than The Handmaid's Tale, and while it tackles the same concepts, author chose to focus on different aspects (I.e body image and mental health) which made it refreshing. I highly recommend reading this author - if you can brave the emotional trauma.

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen, #1)

This was so fun! I can't WAIT for the next book to come out! I'm a big Alison Goodman fan, and this is very different from the other books I've read by her. 

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South

Ah the swoons! It's like Jane Austen if she wrote 50 years later and focused on the working man instead of the gentility. There were so many issues Gaskell looked at from multiple angles that still feel so relevant today. Plus of course the swoons, although my heart was not satisfied by the very short swoon confessions at the end, but that's ok. I can watch the miniseries again if I need heart palpitations.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

I really loved this one. If you're looking for a book with diversity where a character isn't entirely defined by said reason, look no further. This was funny, and heart breaking, and so, so real. I may even reread this one I enjoyed it so much!

The Bone Knife by Intisar Khanani

The Bone Knife

So you've probably seen me mention Intisar Khanani on the blog a few times - but trust me, it's not nearly as many as she deserves. Of all her works (and I read them ALL this year, but I'm limiting myself to one per author) this is my favourite. Which was honestly a surprise since I don't tend to like short stories much, but this one is perfect and I love it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)

Oh god this book. Of all the books on this list, this is the only one I am 99% sure will be on my end of the year list. It pretty well destroyed me, I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing, but it was unique and basically my brain goes AGH FEELINGS every time I think about it for more than 2 seconds so I'm going to not talk about it any more.

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study (Study, #2)

Soooo I have had a very, very, VERY rocky relationship with this series. That being said, whatever I may think about the third book in her second trilogy of this series, it doesn't change the fact that the fast paced nonstop action of this series paired with the really interesting world building and politics of this book in particular had me super addicted to this series.

Attack of the Ninja Frogs by Ursula Vernon

Attack of the Ninja Frogs (Dragonbreath, #2)

Ursula Vernon's Dragonbreath books have become a staple choice for dinner reading with the kids. I think we've read at least four, maybe five at this point but so far the second book is hands down the funniest (in an already funny and wonderfully informative series).

Sleeping With Her Enemy by Jenny Holiday

Sleeping with Her Enemy (49th Floor, #2)

A romance novel with an Asian (well, half anyway) man and a white woman? Whaaaat? It was hot, and hate to love, and I'll take half-Chinese if I can't get Korean in my romance novels. Particularly since Asian men of any nationality (race? I'm not actually sure which word makes sense here) in a romance novel are hard to find (especially paired with a non-Asian partner). So if any of you have recommendations on that front...

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakani

The Strange Library

The impossible has happened! I found a Murakami book I actually liked! I even really liked it! It's cheeky and surreal and basically the few things I had liked about his previous writing without all the things I hadn't liked. It showed he actually had a sense of humour which helped greatly too. I think his writing style is really well suited to shorter works, so I'll likely read his shorter works from here on out.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Day in the Life #43: In which Elizabeth has all the links

Linking up with Kimba from The Caffeinated Reviewer

This will be a decidedly unglamorous post after my last one, but that's probably enough excitement for a whole year so that's alright!  Since my last post I've become 26, so I'm officially now in my late twenties.  I'm feeling surprisingly ok with that - I've hit the time in my life where birthdays are officially less exciting than they were when I was a kid.  But 26 isn't one of the BIG birthdays so it doesn't have any added pressure, which is nice.  I had a low key birthday, but I grabbed a drink with some friends and it was loads of fun.  Sejoon also bought me a SUPER EXCITING birthday present!!! I am now a proud owner of AN XBOX ONE!!!!!  I only have three games so far - Just Dance 2016 (which is one of the reasons I'd been thinking of getting a console - it's just so damn fun! And I get a good workout from it), Assassin's Creed Unity, and The Witcher 3 which is like....guys.  I didn't know video games could be like this.  It's so detailed and fun and there's just so bloody much to do! And the story is super intense.  Basically, if you get the opportunity to play it, you should.  

The weather here has been pretty nice so Sejoon and I went hiking today.  We did a short hike - probably only 4 or 5 miles, but it mostly followed a river so it was scenic.  I did have the misfortune of choosing the ONE day they were hosting a cycling race for a hundred or so cyclists, but they were all very friendly, and luckily I could make my way mostly down back baths so we didn't get mowed down by a cyclist.  Also this happened:

Around the middle of the hike we found this giant field which is everything Sejoon has wanted for the past couple of weeks so he got really excited and reenacted "The Hills Are Alive" from The Sound of Music.  (Also ever since that horror film The Hills Have Eyes came out it's ruined the title of that song for me. BOOOO).

In any case we had fun, and also we didn't get killed by cyclists or horses, so that's good.  And now, as promised in my last post, lots of links!!

Nonbookish Links

- In a week full of bad news, it's great to hear that California is making sexual consent education mandatory in high schools.
- Anyone watching the Tonys tonight? You're going to want to watch James Corden's Carpool Karoake from this week for sure then!
- Two names: Abbie Mills and Sleepy Hollow. Spoilers to follow.  And also probably rage. Lots and lots of rage.  I remember back when this was my favourite show.

Bookish Links

- Gillian Anderson has been cast in the American Gods adaption!!!! 
- More casting news: Elisabeth Moss is Offred in The Handmaid's Tale (aka one of my favourite books of all time)
- You guys KNOW I'm all over the Tamora Pierce news - she's just wrapped up the first book in her Numair trilogy!
- IT'S FINALLY HAPPENING!!! Two of my most awaited books are going to be published this fall (no, not Abarat *grumbles*) - Scott Lynch's next Gentleman Bastards book The Thorn of Emberlain and Garth Nix's next Old Kingdom book (LIRAEL AND NICK FINALLY IT'S BEEN LIKE A DECADE I'VE BEEN WAITING SO LONG FOR THIS BOOK) Goldenhand.
- Tessa talks about how much the interpretation and direction of a performance matters in interpreting Shakespeare. (So how about go see some plays instead of just reading them if you can)

Blogging Links

- Heather (hilariously) compares to compares two different con worlds - the world of book cons, and the world of vet cons.
- Mitchii talks about why she loves being a multilingual reader.

Ok, so actually this list ended up not being super long, but guys I'm trying to type this while the Tonys are on AND LIN MANUEL MIRANDA JUST WON GUYS AND I CAN'T TYPE ANY MORE BYE.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Memories of Ash Release Week Blitz + Giveaway + Review

Regular readers of my blog know that I never do blog tours and the like - it's just generally not something I'm interested in doing.  But as soon as I saw that Intisar Khanani was releasing the next book in her Sunbolt Chronicles, I knew I was going to do whatever it took to help promote it!  

In the past six months I went from not having read any of her books to now having read ALL of her books - they're that good.  The writing is gorgeous, the world building is layered, and the characters are so human and flawed.  Looking for diversity in your fantasy?  Look no further.  I really can't recommend any of her books more (because you can bank on all of the above in any thing she's ever written), and if you're looking for somewhere to start, The Sunbolt Chronicles are definitely worth checking out.  The first book is actually a novella - and my only real complaint was that it felt like it needed more.  It packed so much action and world and characters and I just wanted a little more space to explore all of that.  And now here we are!  As much as I can say without spoiling the first book, I felt like Memories of Ash took everything I wanted and liked from the first book and just built on it.  We got more world, more magic, more Hitomi (and lots here that I can't talk about because of spoilers).  It's action packed and I have to say, in both books the plot never went where I had assumed they were going to go - in a very refreshing way.  I don't know what else I can do to convince you to pick this series up (other than hey look! There's a giveaway down below so go check that out!), so I will leave you with this checklist:

Do you like fantasy novels? Read this series.
Do you like fantasy with different communities in them, particularly ones that aren't Western based? Read this series.
Do you like characters who feel like three-dimensional people? Read this series.
Do you like your characters to not all be white? Read this series.
Do you like beautiful prose? Read this series.
Do you like Robin Hood/band of heroic thieves? Read this series.
Do you like magic with real consequences? Read this series.

Do you get what I'm saying here? READ. THIS. SERIES.

You know. Just in case I wasn't stating the obvious there.  And now I leave you with all the information and means to go do it: (with a warning to skip the summary underneath the picture below so you don't read spoilers, although it wouldn't be the end of the world)

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

                                              Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble |  Apple  |  Kobo


I start forward, my eyes on the bundle ahead of us. I cannot quite make out what it is.  Something sticks out from the bulk of it, reaching across the floor like an errant branch, dried twigs.

Filled with foreboding, I draw closer, straining to make out the thing in the light of the glowstone. The mage slows beside me. My throat closes up. I stare, frozen mid-step, at the shape stretched out before me: a body that is nothing more than papery skin curled over the brittle bones within. A mummified corpse, preserved by the endless heat, untouched by nature, its clothing long since dissolved away. Its bones protrude obscenely: each rib tracing a line around its chest, the pelvic and hip bones encased so tightly in skin that the gaps, the natural spaces formed by the bone, seem translucent, as if the light were shining through thin parchment.

My stomach tightens into a ball. I swallow hard, forcing down the bile in my throat. The skull bears no expression, dull teeth showing through leathery lips, the eyes long since shriveled away. But that hand, outstretched... A plea. Or a single, hopeless attempt to escape death.

Beside me, the mage breathes a curse.

Other books in this series:

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.

About the Author:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.

Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy.  Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, following the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles, an epic series following a street thief with a propensity to play hero when people need saving, and her nemesis, a dark mage intent on taking over the Eleven Kingdoms.

                                                           Website | Goodreads | Facebook Twitter

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Co-Review: Think of England - Part 2

Once again, I'm joined by the lovely Yash from The Book Wars as we wrap up our review of Think of England!  You can read the first half of the review here.

Chapters 9-16


Y: While the first half of the novel was fun to get introduced to the characters and the world, I think I preferred this half of the novel because Curtis and da Silva really seem to come into their own. It feels less like I’m reading about Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane and more like, hey, there’s Curtis and da Silva! Hope they get to cuddle! You know? Also, remember those ladies that Curtis made snap judgements about? Oh, yeah, they are kick-ass and Curtis owes them so much.

E: I love the lady characters SO MUCH.  I really want to read a book about them, actually - I’m going to have to look up and see if she wrote a book about them (it seems doubtful, but a girl can dream).  Otherwise Curtis and da Silva progress in a fairly expected way - Curtis has a lot of self-reflection, da Silva becomes more open to intimacy so good things happen.  But really, the lady characters are THE BEST (Other than da Silva, of course).


Y: I also think Curtis develops in some interesting ways over the novel. As someone who is the closet without really knowing that he is in the closet, Curtis sort of fumbles his way through his relationship (if it can be called that) with da Silva. Just as you can display racial prejudice while being a person of colour, I suppose one could be gay and still have to fight years of heteronormative biases. I think we get to see Curtis grow on that front and I appreciate that. Much of these developments (and shortcomings) are revealed during romantic interludes with da Silva and we get to see how their relationship grows (or suffers) as a direct result. I still can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

E: The first half of the second half (I feel like there must be some way to phrase this better) is where the relationship really shines for me.  Da Silva is at his most vulnerable, Curtis gets to be strong and protective, and it becomes significantly more about physical attraction at this point, which is what I had really been waiting for. There’s cuddling and cute moments and it’s perfection.  The epilogue kind of lost me a bit - that last encounter reminded me too much of all the things I hadn’t liked about the second encounter, and it kind of felt like the character development regressed because of that, despite all the progress Curtis has made in self awareness.


Y: The ending is ridiculous. So. Very. Ridiculous. Like, Quentin Tarantino would have shook his head and gone, maybe that was a bit much? But I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes and giggling, so obviously I didn’t hate it. I just wanted Curtis and da Silva to be okay. TBH, I wouldn’t even have minded if a giant unicorn had come trampling through the fields and crushed their enemies. So, plot-wise, don’t expect anything mind-blowing, but do be prepared to laugh at the ridiculous.

E: Yeahhhh...so if I had plausibility issues with the set up this ending is beyond ridiculous hahahahaha.  I mean it’s fun I guess? A bit bloodthirsty for my taste in historical romance, but to each her own I suppose.  Basically at this point I was just so happy da Silva and Curtis got all their cuteness in that I was ready for the main plot-line to be over.


Y: So much representation--and most of it done well, I feel--we have a closeted, disabled Englishman protagonist and his romantic interest is an openly gay, Jewish man from Spain. We also have a minor mention of ladies who are quite possibly a couple. It is hilarious and so full of innuendo--I laugh for five straight minutes at the mention of “buttering a roll with great care”--and it is set in the Edwardian era, which, I mean, maybe you want some historical fiction set in England that isn’t all white and all straight? I know I do. And, while this is marked as the first book in a series, I think the ending was pretty conclusive and doesn’t leave any loose threads.

E: This is more or less exactly what I’ve been looking for in my historical romances lately: non-white or gay characters (this is my first non-hetero relationship for historical romance actually).  And I have to say, as far as first books in that category go, I would recommend it.  (Also if you are looking for non-white, might I recommend Beverly Jenkins).  I would say this is for people who like: Edwardian era romance, alpha male and/or snarky male pairings, non-white, and/or disabled characters.


Y: My biggest issue with the book was the epilogue. I suppose Curtis kissing da Silva is meant to be passionate, but it mostly read like assault. Granted, da Silva reciprocates enthusiastically almost immediately, but it is an uncomfortable way to properly begin their relationship. It is also very uncomfortable to read. (Maybe da Silva feels he doesn’t have a choice? Maybe he would regret it after? I mean, obviously, they are Meant To Be in this book, but IRL reciprocation doesn’t always mean yes. Especially if you are holding them down.) I hope K. J. Charles does better in terms of consent and passion in the next one.

E: I have similar qualms - a few of the scenes were too much like assault and it made me a bit uncomfortable.  Particularly the epilogue because he’s inserting himself into da Silva’s life in every aspect.  I also think you can’t be a stickler for details - plot-wise you definitely need some suspension of belief.  Overall, though, I was pretty pleased with this book and would definitely try another book by K.J. Charles (particularly if they are about aforementioned two ladies!)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Co-Review: Think of England by KJ Charles - Part 1

Today I'm joined by Yash from The Book Wars as we take a look at KJ Charles' Edwardian era romance novel.  If you haven't stopped by The Book Wars before, I highly recommend it.  They always have a great selection of books to recommend, with a focus on younger readers and diversity, and they're funny and insightful and basically you should just go check them out.  With no further ado, let's take a look at the first half of this book!

SUMMARY:  England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.

Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.

As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.

As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…

Warning: Contains explicit male/male encounters, ghastly historical attitudes, and some extremely stiff upper lips.

Chapters 1-8

Y: I love the way the character are introduced. Curtis at a social event and is the reader’s eyes. Slowly we get a list of people--his hosts, their child, their child’s best friend (“a striking piece of work”), a couple of woman who Curtis cannot judge fast enough, and of course, the person you just know is going to be Curtis’ love interest, the one that gets under his skin even as he looks at him: Daniel da Silva. Truthfully, Curtis with his hesitation and suspicion and fumbling kind of reminds me of Alec Lightwood and da Silva might as well be my favourite warlock wearing a glamour. There are so many instances of Daniel da Silva resembling Magnus Bane, and since Bane predates da Silva, that I have to wonder if K. J. Charles is a fan. (Not a bad thing in my opinion. I like these kinds of proud, sharp-tongued, and surprisingly kind characters.) I have to wonder, however, if this combination of Not Out Manly Man and Definitely Out Intellectual Type is something of a cliche. As of now, I don’t think they are very stereotypical?

E: I definitely agree with Yash about Daniel da Silva - he reminds me so much of Magnus Bane! (And as such it should be no surprise that he’s my favourite character). It’s not to the point that I feel like he’s just Bane cut out and pasted in this work, but he’s got the flamboyant fashion, the snarky wit, and plenty of mystery to go around that is very reminiscent of Magnus. I always have a hard time with very alpha men, and Curtis is Very Alpha indeed. I did feel like at times the writing did him a disservice - whereas da silva gets to be cool and collected, Curtis - despite his varied background and generally open-minded views (for the time), will get lines that make him appear stupider or at least plainer than I would expect him to be. It felt a bit uneven at times - but I think some of that may be that I greatly prefer witty, flamboyant men.


Y: Oh, man. I do not know how I feel about this. Um. So, basically, Curtis and da Silva are both caught snooping in the same room. Da Silva, quick on his feet, makes it look like they merely ducked into a room for um, how shall I put it delicately …

… or, at least, making out. (Can I just state for the record how thoroughly unromantic the phrase “hard lips battering his mouth” is? Very. Very unromantic.) Except this leads to them having to “prove” they are smooshing, so. Things happen. Not smooshing. But definitely not something Curtis was expecting. Curtis did enjoy the experience, but I would have liked him to have assented to the idea a little more enthusiastically. Granted, it wasn’t something da Silva really would have wanted to do either--the situation was just so messed up? Which, of course, leads to a very messed up conversation about consent where neither of them comes to a consensus but agree that oral sex is enjoyable enough to repeat? I hate to sound like an overbearing housewife, but ugh, men. Just talk about your feelings, please.

E: I tend to avoid very alpha characters (unsurprising given my previous statement), particularly paired with rather effeminate characters, but this one works for me. I think it’s because Curtis is generally open minded and willing to talk about his emotions (comparatively), and his physical prowess is balanced by da Silva’s superior abilities in subterfuge and because he’s out (as far as one can be in this time) and very comfortable with that. I happen to love “pretend kiss” situations (I.e. For whatever reason said couple has to pretend to kiss so as not to be caught but then it becomes something they actually enjoy) and this first scene is...rather a bit more than just a kiss haha! So I’m predisposed to enjoy it a bit, but the second encounter threw me for a bit of a loop. It was...a bit violent and sudden, and while it ended up with them at least discussing the situation it was certainly not intimate. But even though this second encounter took me aback, I’m definitely aboard this ship!


Y: Plot-wise, it’s a bunch of snooping right now and I like that. I like that da Silva and Curtis have to work together. Obviously, it gives them a chance to learn about each and that was not a euphemism, stop that da Silva! Mostly, I wish they would stop saying Africa. Just. No. You don’t mean all of Africa! It also really annoys me when people say dago to refer to da Silva, or refer to his being Jewish is terrible ways, or his being dandy-like. BUT! I accept this is how annoying Regency-era English people were, so, fine. Fine. *flips a table* I am just fine. (I do love everytime Curtis mentions da Silva’s tight pants, though. It makes Curtis uncomfortable and makes me wheeze with laughter.) I also think Curtis’ disability was well-written. He’s not quite used to it, and even if he is, the presence of people around him makes him uncomfortable. I mean, obviously, as an able-bodied person I am not the best judge. So, maybe I should say that I feel it is well done. If anyone who has read the book and understands how disability and ableism works in literature, please let us know in the comments!

E: Well, this definitely moved very differently than I had thought - the mystery is uncovered (or rather confirmed) in the first few chapters and I had thought it was going to be the base of the plot. Instead it seems it’s focused primarily on how they are going to keep their covers (especially Curtis - the poor dear is a terrible liar) and how they plan to make it out of their situation alive, uncompromised, and with the evidence. It’s definitely not a bad thing that this is how the plot is laid out - it certainly ramps up the tension (and ohhhh the tension between these two is quite delightful). I did hesitate on the plausibility of the set up - for the sake of not spoiling things I’ll simply say that I’m not entirely sure how far the technology used for the said set up had advanced at that time, and that I honestly just can’t picture logistically how it worked - were there just very thick walls with hidden passageways inside? Did I just miss some detail that made the operation all very obvious? Otherwise though the plot makes a perfect set up for our two lovebirds to get up to all sorts of midnight shenanigans and a way to get around the other characters who, with their racist and homophobic comments, would ruin the atmosphere of any romantic setting.


“No, thank you.”
“It’s a jolly good one.”
Da Silva blinked, slowly, like a lizard. “I dare say, but I fear I haven’t converted since we last spoke.”
“Con--Oh, I beg your pardon. I quite forgot you were a Jew.”
“How refreshing. So few people do.”
I don’t know why this exchange kind of reminded me of this moment in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I think it’s Season Two, when Captain Holt mentions something about his old partner who was homophobic but not racist--something that was rare to find in those days. And I wonder if da Silva would agree. Which makes this moment sadder, but also clever--in just a line, we get a wealth of information about da Silva and what he has to put up with all the time.

E: Bah! Yash stole my favourite line! *frantically rifles for another favourite*

“All his previous encounters had been with chaps like himself: soldiers, sportsmen, good fellows. He had an unformed but definite idea that being queer entailed doing something different, womanish, something like the rouged men in those London clubs. Like da Silva, with his perfectly shaped brows and tight trousers and mannerisms. 
Curtis wasn’t like that. He simply didn’t feel queer, whatever that might feel like. He felt like a normal chap who, now and then, enjoyed encounters with other chaps, that was all.”

It’s just so relevant even today where being gay is significantly more expected than in the Edwardian era - it’s not that Curtis ever really actively suppressed believing he was gay - it just never occurred to him that he was because his idea of what that meant was something else entirely (and it's the norm to assume one is straight).  And I definitely still see that attitude today, on both sides of the sentiment.

And that's it for the first half!  Join us tomorrow where we wrap up the book!