Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Top Ten Historical Romances

 Hosted by: Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1) - Tessa Dare

 The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)

 Ash is a severely scarred man - gruesome facial scars from his time in the war. He's withdrawn from society, since he generally inspires disgust and fear.  That being said, he does still need an heir, or all the tenants who depend on him will be SOL when he dies.  Emma, fortuitously, comes in at just the right time.  She is a vicar's daughter, who through circumstances has become a seamstress.  She's extremely compassionate, but isn't a pushover.  She challenges the Duke at every turn, and you know I love me some banter.  Even though the Duke is definitely an Alpha (which isn't usually my favourite set up in romance, but does tend to come with hate/love territory) consent is a big focus (in a way that feeds the heat!) which was a big bonus for me.

For readers who like: love to hate, marshmallowy alpha men, fluff, banter, non-lily white/naive ladies

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister #1) - Courtney Milan

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)

The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister #2) - Courtney Milan

 The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2)

Jane has loads of money, and is trying to wait until she is of age to come into her inheritance so she can take care of her sister.  Which means making sure she's pretty well unmarriagable - if she gets married, her husband would have complete control of her finances.  So Jane goes out of her way to be as offensive and wearing the most ridiculous clothing possible - without making it seem like she was doing so on purpose.  Oliver is concerned with his political career - and falling for Jane would seem to be career suicide.  So lots of "oh no but we shouldn't" feels in this one.  Bonuses: Jane is a fat heroine, and there's a secondary romance with an interracial couple!

For readers who like: Feminist romances, body type diversity, siblings important to the story line, Romeo and Juliet set up (the can't be together, not the dying and melodrama)

Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels #4) - Sarah MacLean

 Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels, #4)

This is hands down my very favourite romance novel.  I will warn you before reading any descriptions of this one that it does spoil the identity of a character that's featured in all the previous books, so I'm not going to give away details on this one.  Here's what you can expect: Sarah MacLean pretty much always writes romance that is
A. Hot as hell
B. Full of banter
C. Actually has stuff OTHER than the romance going on.

For readers who like: gender bending, non lily-white/naive ladies, cat and mouse relationships, heroines with children

Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane) - Elizabeth Hoyt

 Notorious Pleasures (Maiden Lane, #2)

This one is for those who aren't looking for fluffy humour in their romance.  Hoyt can tend towards melodrama, but if you are looking for a strong secondary story line outside the romance and more world building than you generally get in a romance novel, this is for you.

Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys #1) - Julia Quinn

 Because of Miss Bridgerton (Rokesbys, #1)

Julia Quinn IS the quippiest of quippy banter!  If you want fun and funny in your romance - this is the author for you. This also somehow manages to mash up girl-next-door and love to hate which is basically the best of all possible worlds! You get awesome strong familial relationships, plus all the sparks and banter of love-to-hate.

Simply Perfect (Simply Quartet #4) - Mary Balogh

 Simply Perfect (Simply Quartet #4)

If you're looking for something more serious, you should check out Mary Balogh.  She's not in it for the quips and banter, but almost every character has strong familial or platonic relationships which is always really important to me.  She also usually has if not a main character, than someone close to the main character that has some sort of disability and she writes it with such sensitivity.  It ranges from scarring to PTSD to inability to walk.  One of her series is actually centered on kind of a....therapy group of sorts.  In any case, I will admit as an able bodied person I could be wrong, but from what I can tell it seems to be well researched and written well and sensitively.  This particular series focuses on a girl's finishing school and it's instructors!

For readers who: tend towards less fluffy romance, governess/duke pairings

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love by Numbers #1) - Sarah MacLean

 Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1)

Ok wait...I lied THIS is my favourite romance.  It was my first Sarah MacLean and damn it, it's just SO GOOD.  Sarah MacLean has the humour of Julia Quinn, but she doesn't get quite as silly (so if silly is your go to, Julia Quinn is your best bet).  This is a classic wallflower goes out of her comfort zone situation, so needless to say shennanigans and sparks ensue!

Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After #1) - Tessa Dare

Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1)

This one is actually another kind of Beauty and the Beast set up actually...I wonder if that's a Tessa Dare thing?  (Clearly I have a thing for this set up) It's delightful - there's banter, there absolutely ridiculous romance novel names (Isolde Ophelia Goodnight and Ransom in case you are wondering although they make fun of the names, don't worry), and the heroine leads the romance.

Destiny's Embrace (Destiny #1) - Beverly Jenkins

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

What historical romance list would be complete without Beverly Jenkins?  I will say that it's very hit or miss for me.  This one was a hit, the one set during the Revolutionary War, not so much.  Bonuses in this one: not only is it written by a WoC, it features an interracial couple (whaaaat) and since it's set in the West when people were just settling out there which means she manages to keep the story fun. It doesn't ignore race, but let's be real it's a challenge to write a fun romance (because I imagine I'm not alone in using romance as an escape) when slavery/Jim Crow laws/interracial relationships (although probably not the one in this case) being illegal are all a thing.  It's a hard balance to strike I imagine.  Bonus here?  I feel like most historical romances are set in Britain or maybe in glamorous New York.  This one is set in the West.  It's a completely new set of expectations and rules! 

For readers who like: new historical romance settings, interracial relationships, authors who are WoC, Westerns

And that's my list!  Leave me a link below and I'll check out yours!  And I'm always in the market for new romances.  I'm PARTICULARLY in the market for lesbian historical romances...but not depressing ones like Fingersmith (also WHY DON'T THERE SEEM TO BE ANY OF THESE), interracial/non white historical romances.  I know Alyssa Cole isn't on this list - it's only because the wait at the library is so damn long - I've been on the waitlist since it came out almost a year ago *sobs*.  Also - any asian male/white person pairings are a bonus!  Nothing like a white girl dating a Korean to make you realize there's definitely not much of that out there.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Day in the Life #51

Hi everyone!  I'm back - hopefully for good, even if I'm betting I'm still going to be posting rather sporadically.  But I'm going to try and post at least once a month, you know, just to prove I'm still alive. 

I think my sudden burst of creativity has come from the fact that I just had my third observation (and it went well yay!)  (Observations are where an administrator watches you teach a class and evaluates you) I don't think I realized how much stress I was carrying about it.  My first observation happened right before winter break and it did NOT go well.  It was an observation of my exploratory classes, which I am brand new to teaching.  None of what I did in student teaching or teaching last year had to do with regular classroom management or strategies for classroom teaching.  Teaching instrumental music is just a completely different beast.  Exploratory music is this weird hybrid where it's like combining a regular class but also giving the kids instruments.  I don't really know how to explain the difference - it's not class size. I mean, yeah most of my instrumental classes have less than 10 kids in them, but I also taught a class with 68 students in it last year.  All at the same time.  I think it's because exploratory music isn't a performance based class, but the kids are supposed to perform so the stuff that ISN'T about performing is sometimes a struggle for me.  So unsurprisingly....my exploratory classes can be a huge mess.  So in some ways I'm glad it was my first observation, because it motivated me to get my shit together. 

On the upside a week later I had an instrumental class at a different school observed, and I got the highest score you can get across the board.  But then, I've never had concerns about teaching instrumental music really.  I know how to fix things when I feel like things didn't go well.  So this week was my third observation, and I was super nervous about it because it was another observation of an exploratory class.  But this time it wasn't one of terrible classes (my exploratory classes on any given day at my first school are rough), it was one of my best exploratory classes which helped boost my confidence a bit.  And it went really, really well!  The kids were awesome (they're always awesome in that class).  The principal didn't have anything I needed to improve on so I'm hoping I get the highest score for this observation, but as long as I get marked efficient (the second highest score) I'll be happy!  And it seems unlikely I'll be marked lower.

SO YAY! CELEBRATE!!!  I only have one more observation left, and even if I for some unknown tank the last observation, it should average out to an overall rating of efficient for the year.  I'M HOME FREE!!!  Sort of.  I mean I do still have to be observed, and I do have my spring concerts to arrange (probably seven again *sobs*) 

It also probably helps that I basically haven't had a full week of school in forever.  Between the snow days, long weekends, and me getting a stomach virus I think I've only had two weeks where I taught all five days.  I literally taught two and a half days this week.  It's probably the first time I've actually felt like I had a really cushy job haha!  I mean...I'm probably not going to have a spring break at all, so there's that.

In any case, things are going really well!  I hope all of you are having as stress free a winter as me :).  And to prove I've been lurking around reading blogs, even if I haven't been writing - here's like three months worth of interesting links!

Bookish Lists

- G.G. lists the 10 Best Podcasts for Romance Readers.
- Judith names the 9 Best Queer Book Releases of January 2018.
- Leah and Natalie share SFF that's Sexier (and Healthier) than 50 Shades.
- James is trying to Fight Erasure: Women SF Writer's of the 1970's (A-F).

Tamora Pierce

- Meghan Ball writes basically everything I've ever felt about Tamora Pierce.
- Josephine Wolff writes more of basically everything I've ever felt about Tamora Pierce.
- Adventures in YA Publishing interview Tamora Pierce about A Spy's Guide to Tortall.
- Natalie writes “Fantasy is the Realm of Idealism”: Tamora Pierce in Conversation with the Female Fantasy Authors She Inspired.
- If you ever wanted to know which actor was Tamora Pierce's inspiration for Lord Wyldon...

Other Authors

- Leah interviews Brooke Bolander, Maria Dahvana Headley, and Amal El-Mohtar, authors of an alternate history novella.
- Seanan Maguire Learned How to Write Fluffy, Glittery Violence - from My Little Pony.
- Marie Brennan demonstrates How to Fight in a Victorian Dress
- Katharine Ashe on the art of mixing genres.
- Meg Cabot shares How Princess Leia Changed Her Life.
- The Book Wars interview Axie Oh (author of Rebel Seoul).

Bookish Things

- Mimi gives A Short History of Southern Asian Speculative Fiction.
- Natalie discusses Giving the Gift of Fanfiction.
- Heather shares the Joy of the Underrated Book.
- Alvaro gives Stats on How Authors Use Language.
- Heather states Adult Books Are Not All Miserable Marriages.
- Annemieke shares her Reading Journey with her year-old son.
- Stubby the Rocket gives us details on the Black Mirror book!
- McIntosh discusses the Nurturing, Empathetic Masculinity of Newt Scamander.

Nonbookish Things

- I literally spent a good portion of last year thinking West Side Story was well overdue for a remake!
- Emily shares Little Known Facts About The Princess Bride.
- Samantha says that When the Educational System Failed Her, Neopets Was There. (A sentiment I can sympathize with)
- Michael Livingston (who lectures about Medieval history) defends his favourite Medieval film: A Knight's Tale.
- Stephanie shares How the Most Progressive Moments in Her Favourite Cartoons Shaped Her Feminism.
- Kaila talks about how girls ACTUALLY play with dolls. (YES. THIS WAS ME SO MUCH.  I thought I was a weirdo and the only one!)
- Leigh has a nostalgia rewatch of The Fifth Element.
- Eric discusses his complicated relation ship with Miss Saigon.
- Leah says Studio Ghibli's original pairing of Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro was....not a good idea.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

January Mini Reviews Part 1

I started posting short blurbs on twitter to see if it would help motivate me to start writing more (I can no longer use free time as an excuse because if I've been able to watch as much TV as I have in the past month?  I could DEFINITELY be blogging again! ...maybe I'll start doing TV blurbs too...)

The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French

The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2)

Rating: 4.75 stars

I did not like the first novel in the series, In the Woods, very much AT ALL, which is a fairly unpopular opinion.  I think a large part of it was that I was in the mood for more of a cozy murder mystery, which these books are definitely NOT.  It doesn't wrap the story up in a neat little bow at the end...in really any way.  Normally I love open endings, so I'm not sure how much of my dislike was warranted and how much was a mood reading issue.  Knowing what I was getting into for this book helped a lot I think.  It also helps that I like the protagonist of this one a lot, and I didn't love the protagonist of the last one.  It was twisty and turny and I thought it was really interesting that in a lot of ways the villain here is a mirror to the villain in the last book.  I can't really expound on that without spoilers, but I'd love to chat to someone whose read both books and hear their thoughts!

The Prisoner of Heaven (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #3) - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Prisoner of Heaven (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #3)

Rating: 4.75 stars

There's something indescribably lyrical about the way Spanish speaking authors write.  Every single one I've read has this lush, magical quality to their writing, and Zafon is no different.  The Shadow of the Wind (the first book in the series) remains one of my all time favourite books in no small part because of the gorgeous writing.  It's still my favourite of the three books, but all of them are gorgeous and interesting.  They're also stylistically different  - the first one is more of a mystery, the second gothic, and this third one is...I guess more like straight historical fiction.  It's really cool you can read the books in any order too - the details just get revealed to you in a different order, which is really incredible!

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

Rating: 5 stars

I can already tell you this is going to be one of my favourite novels of the whole year.  It's even a contender for my favourite book of the year.  It has this quiet, introspective quality to it that reminded me a lot of Station Eleven, even if they are completely different novels in content.  But like Station Eleven, the quietness of the novel manages to really make an impact.  The intersection of English and Japanese culture has a great deal to do with the book, so of course we have some Japanese main characters in a Victorian era England is delightful.  There are some other things that I LOVED about this book, but I can't say much because of spoilers.  If there is one book on this list I hope someone else reads, it is this one!

An Equal Music - Vikram Seth

An Equal Music

Rating: 2.5 stars

On the one hand, this is one of the best written fiction books involving classical music I've read.  The author really gets it - the way he writes about practicing and performing music is spot on, as well as how he writes about how being a member of a chamber group is this weird family dynamic.  I've really never read any other book that was so spot on about the whole classical music aspect of things.

On the other hand, it's literally every single thing I hate about contemporary literature.  Anything that wasn't about classical music was about the MC's obsession with his old girl friend and they're all very unhappy and there's affairs and they stay very unhappy and then nothing happens, the end.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes Please

Rating: 5 stars

I read this on audiobook, and I firmly believe it is the only way it should be read.  I don't know how many of the asides made it into the book, but hearing Amy read it herself is just perfect.  I will say that I am a huge fan of her work, especially Parks & Rec (guys I'm pretty sure I had an entire post that was just Leslie Knope gifs) so some of it is that I'm used to hearing Amy's voice. 

This book was so empowering and uplifting and it came to me at the perfect moment.  I'd had a really rough week at school - I had my first observation, and it did NOT go well, a parent had gone off on me and pulled her child out of the music program, I was stressed out about the SEVEN WINTER CONCERTS I had to organize...all in all just a freaking stellar week.  And this book was just so funny and honest and it really managed to line up the chapters with exactly what I needed each day these events hit.  If there was ever a time I believed in a higher power, the timing of this book would have done it.

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1) by Tessa Dare

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)

Rating: 5 stars

I loved this. Like super loved this.  It has a very Beauty and the Beast set up without the guy being abusive (which is usually how it comes off).  Dare doesn't shy away from the Duke's scars, they never improve, there is no magic solution and that's always really important to me when I'm reading a novel.  Despite her compassion, Emma is also no shy pushover - she's gone through some serious hardships and is more or less a self made woman.  Two strong, independent, well rounded characters + serious chemistry?    Count me in!

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel #3) by Sarah MacLean

The Day of the Duchess (Scandal & Scoundrel, #3)

Rating: 3.5 stars

This is such a cool concept - historical romance...divorce!  There's actually a lot research behind it (I got to hear Sarah MacLean talk about it at Baltimore Book Fest!) and it's definitely not something I think we've seen written about before.  And it was a good story, I just don't have a lot of tolerance for as much back and forth as we got in the story.  MacLean is and always will be my favourite historical romance novelist (and the first book in this series is one of my all time favourite books btw), so I may be rating this one a bit harshly out of ridiculously high expectations.

I did it! I wrote something!  Admittedly, a bit sparse, but it's a start.  I'm trying to start writing more and watching tv less, because I'm not loving that I've got 0 creative spark and I actually have TIME to be doing stuff, so I'm going to ATTEMPT to dip my foot back into the blogging pool again.  Especially (as you can see from this list) since I'm having an extraordinarily good reading year so far, and I have so many awesome books to share with you!