One of my least favourite things in any story is when the plot is driven by miscommunication/lack of communication… but though this is true of Slippery Creatures, I can’t ding the story for it. The lack of communication is built into the characters, and how they react to it is totally consistent, and makes sense with who they are. It would be more frustrating if they weren’t bouncing off each other, because it wouldn’t ring true. Kim is messed up, and Will is horribly stubborn, and the story would be far too easy without them.
I do enjoy their relationship, and their characters, even though Kim unquestionably brings it all on himself and puts Will in terrible danger by misreading him and his motivations, and then not being straightforward with him. But I really enjoy Phoebe and Maisie, and I’d love to know more about them — they both play small but emotionally significant parts in the plot, and I love them.
The end of the book is very much not a happy ending: Slippery Creatures is the start of something, not the end. For that reason, it’s a little rough to say how much I’m going to enjoy this series as a whole — but I suspect it will be a lot.
What, me, doing my weekly update in a timely fashion?! Surely you jest.
What are you currently reading?
Just two books! I know, it’s a shock — I didn’t intentionally cut down, really, I was just feeling pretty stressed and it happened by itself. So I’m halfway through Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, for a book club read. It’s a bit chunky-looking on the shelf, but I’ve been speeding through it when I sit myself down and focus.
I’m also now rereading The Fellowship of the Ring. I had a bit of an urge to read it, and I decided to just go with it — whims are good!
What have you recently finished reading?
The Hobbit, which is for me always the right place to start a Tolkien reread. It’s as cosy as ever (despite going some very un-cosy places), and I still love the narrative voice.
Before that, I DNF’ed The Bone Wars (Erin S. Evan) too soon to even review it (which I normally would) for being a bit too young-feeling and infodumpy.
What will you be reading next?
That’s a bit of a mystery, as usual, but maybe not quite so much as usual. I’m really really hoping to get started on Scoff: a History of Food and Class in Britain by Pen Vogler, from my non-fiction pile, and Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles from the fiction pile. However, I also want to reread the fourth Kate Daniels book soon, and the next Whyborne and Griffin book, and I’ve so far had 10 new books for my birthday, and(!) I want to work on reading more of the ARCs I’ve neglected.
It’s Wednesday again already! How does that keep happening? And do I make the same joke too often? It’s too warm to think of a new one.
What are you currently reading?
A couple of things at once, as usual! I’m most of the way through Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, which is more autobiographical than I had been led to expect, and which just doesn’t quite work for me in its outlook. I’m also still working on Behave, by Robert Sapolsky; he seems to be taking an awful long time to say nothing new.
In fiction news, I finally started Zen Cho’s Black Water Sister, which I’m enjoying but not getting super into — partly because I haven’t had much brain for reading with how warm it is.
What have you recently finished reading?
Virginia Postrel’s The Fabric of Civilization, which I enjoyed quite a lot. I think I’d have got more out of it if I had a visual imagination, though: when she described how to weave, for instance, it just meant nothing to me.
What will you be reading next?
Don’t know! I really need to get to Slippery Creatures (K.J. Charles), but who knows?
Yaaaay, a stand-alone Regency romance with attempted cunning scams, falling in love with the wrong people, and improbably yanking at the tangle and sorting it all out at the end. It’s funny, the communication between the characters is as sexy as I ever find anything (ace, remember), and it’s good for the happy wriggle and toe-curls of “yaaay, a proper romance-novel happy ending”. And of course, it’s K.J. Charles, so you count on the fact that the sex advances character and plot, consent is properly obtained, and she knows the contract with the reader when it comes to happy ends.
I don’t understand how allegedly intelligent people don’t figure Robin out waaaay sooner than they do, given the abundant clues, but I do love the slow reveal of Robin’s past and motives, and the way the plot builds up toward the pairing.
And the funniness. And the heart.
Band Sinister is still my favourite, but this one is definitely on my ‘reread when things are shit’ list, too.
A few books at once, as usual! But I’m in a hurry, so I’ll stick to saying that I’ve just started The Fabric of Civilization, by Virginia Postrel, and I’m finding it fascinating. The first chapters go into specific elements of fabric (thread, dye, etc) describing their origins and development.
I’ve also started a reread of The Paradise War, by Stephen Lawhead. It seems almost impossible that the suck fairy hasn’t visited this book I loved as a teen, but it was so formative to my tastes that I’m giving it another go.
What have you recently finished reading?
The last thing I finished was Magic Strikes, which was a reread, and remains a heck of a lot of fun. I overestimated how much the arena scenes featured in the book, though!
What will you be reading next?
Should be Black Water Sister, by Zen Cho, since it’s coming up as a book club read. But, as always, I can’t promise I won’t be tempted by shinies, especially with my wife currently reading K.J. Charles’ Will Darling books, which I have not yet started…
Band Sinister is one of my favourite romance novels, a favourite even among Charles’ reliably entertaining bibliography. I thought I’d reread it now because I needed the literary equivalent of a bubble bath, and it filled that role perfectly.
The Rookwoods and the Frisbys are at odds, partly because of Sir Philip Rookwood’s reputation and association with an infamous libertine, but mostly because Philip’s brother ran off with Guy and Amanda Frisby’s mother. Amanda’s just written a rather sensational Gothic novel about Sir Philip and his associates, the Hellfire club known as the Murder… and then she falls off a horse badly on Sir Philip’s land.
Because of Sir Philip’s reputation, and the family history, Guy can do nothing but go and stay at the Hall to watch over Amanda as the doctor battles for her life. Initially focused solely on her — she’s all he has left, and is very much the light of his life — Guy then finds himself drawn into the Murder’s discussions, and drawn most of all to Sir Philip.
Band Sinister is incredibly tender, incredibly focused on meaningful consent and good communication around sex and relationships. People who say consent isn’t sexy have not read this book; I have (as an asexual person) very little idea of what is sexy, but what makes for a good story about two people for me is the real connection they forge through communicating, being vulnerable, being sincere. The way they work out their problems by talking is great — and though it isn’t perfect and they don’t always communicate properly (Guy tries to take responsibility for Amanda’s doings against her will, Philip storms off), it sells me on their need to be together.
The whole book is an honestly beautiful tapestry of all kinds of love: Guy’s love for his sister; the complicated bond between Phillip, Corvin and John (which includes being family but also sex and a certain amount of possessiveness that doesn’t preclude other relationships); the bonds between the members of the Murder… and the love that grows quickly between Guy and Phillip.
There’s also a fair bit of sex, of course. It’s not really skippable (for fellow aces/sex-averse folks) because it builds the relationship between Philip and Guy, initially based very much on their mutual attraction and deepening partly due to how their experiences in bed work out. It still works as a reading experience for me because of the emotions involved, because of that attention to communication and consent.
I love the book very dearly. It helps that it also has some funny bits, and some situations that make me laugh in delight — as good as Georgette Heyer’s best bits.
Proper English is the story of Pat and Fen, who I previously encountered in Think of England — this book is set before that, but reading them in either order is completely fine, because you don’t need to know much from either book to appreciate the other. It opens with Pat and her brother travelling to a shooting party at a country house, where it transpires that there’s a whole party invited, including their host’s fiancée, Miss Carruth. She turns out to be a sweet but apparently fairly silly girl, rather prone to giggling and girlishness: a pretty stark contrast to Pat, who is a women’s shooting champion, and expects to be treated practically as one of the men.
Most of the rest of the company aren’t nearly that nice, and it quickly becomes apparent something is very wrong, as their host allows his brother-in-law to lord it over everyone and say awful things, while clearly hating that it’s happening. Pat tries to just enjoying the shooting, but quickly finds that Miss Carruth (Fen) is a lot smarter than she likes to let on. Also, Pat is not at all immune to her charms, despite the differences between them. Their friendship and romance is adorable, and they quickly find that they’re not so much opposites as complementary to each other.
Because this is a K.J. Charles novel, of course, that’s not the end of it: in classic country house mystery style, on a miserable rainy day when no one can go out or leave, one of the company is found dead. Pat and Fen are all too aware of all the secrets in the house, one of them being their own, so they decide to figure it out and try to present the police with a fait accompli…
It’s all very fun, exactly as I would expect from K.J. Charles, and I’m a little disappointed I’ve finished it already.
It’s Tuesday, and I’m joining in with Top Ten Tuesday for the first time in a few weeks! The theme this week is “books for your younger self”, and I can think of a whooole bunch of different ways to interpret that. I’m going with a list of books I wish I’d read sooner than I did!
The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin. Okay, maybe this one’s cheating, but I’m reading this at the moment and being so annoyed at my slightly younger self for not jumping right on that.
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. This book has been such a comfort to me; teenage me could’ve really done with it.
Madam, Will You Talk?by Mary Stewart. Or really any Mary Stewart book; I was so snobby about romance novels, but reading Stewart and Heyer made me see. How much awesome could I have read if I started sooner?!
Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi. I feel like I’d have appreciated this even more if I’d read it when I was closer to the age it’s aimed at. I liked it now, but… I’d have liked it more then, I think.
An Unsuitable Heir, by K.J. Charles. Also one of the books that properly pulled me into romance, but this one is extra special because the existence of Pen as a character, as a person it was possible to be, would’ve possibly sped up figuring out some stuff for me.
Spillover, by David Quammen. Because it helped me figure out that staying curious about stuff really does help with anxiety — and maybe if I’d read it a couple of years earlier, some of my anxiety would have hit less hard. Or maybe it’d have chosen a different path, who knows.
Feet in Chains, by Kate Roberts. Or pretty much any Welsh classics, the existence of which I only discovered at the age of 21, having been told that Welsh people didn’t write anything worth reading.
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey. I needed Hero. Much like Pen, they’d have taught me a bit more about what’s possible. Also, hippos.
Strange Practice, by Vivian Shaw. This is just so much fun, I’d have liked it to be in my life way before now.
Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers. Or the whole series, of course, but I can’t believe I only picked these up in my twenties. Though that’s partly because they were out of print, I think? I can’t imagine my mother wouldn’t have bought me them sooner if they were in print.
How about you? Anything you wish you’d read when you were younger?
Tuesday again already! And this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is “books that make me smile”. Which is… honestly, most books. Just being around books makes me smile — even books I personally wouldn’t enjoy, it can be really exciting to look at someone else’s books, or browse through a shelf… But there are some specific books that put a smile on my face for various reasons, so let’s do this!
The Talisman Ring, by Georgette Heyer. Most Heyer novels have me giggling throughout, but this was one of the first I read, and the reread was just as good. The Reluctant Widow, too. She has some annoying heroes and some repetitive plots/themes… but in general, I’m always going to smile at a Heyer novel.
Band Sinister, by K.J. Charles. Most K.J. Charles books would fit the bill actually… but Band Sinister is one of the rare ones that doesn’t also have a massive bodycount, so it’s the one that fits most readily on a list about smiling! Though A Fashionable Indulgence is also worth mentioning. And A Gentleman’s Position. Ugh, no, they all make me smile.
Have His Carcase, by Dorothy L. Sayers. From the opening paragraph onwards, there’s so much cleverness and wit. And it features two of my favourite characters in fiction, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. How could I not smile? Also, memories of the radioplays and BBC TV adaptations, and so many good conversations with my mum and my wife…
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Alright, not all of it is happy or comfortable reading, but Maia is a delight and so are many of the characters who surround him. I’m trying not to reread it too often, but honestly, when I’m stressed it’s the first thing that comes to mind.
Small Robots, by Thomas Heasman-Hunt. There’s a Small Robot for almost every occasion, and they’re so often so cute… or so apt for the moment. Check out their Twitter!
The Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. The series has been so much fun, and the accompanying art (including on the cover) is so good. Isabella and her deranged practicality really stick with me.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. I can’t help remembering being sucked in and just ZOOMING through it, whenever I see this book! And so many great conversations about it, and just… yeah.
Catching Breath, by Kathryn Lougheed. One of the many books about disease (like The Emperor of All Maladies, or Spillover) that a) helped me get over irrational fear through fostering curiosity instead, and b) really set me on my current path when it comes to studying. Of course I smile when I think about this one! There’s so much out there to learn, and I never have to stop. Plus, I wrote my dissertation on TB basically because of this book. I know a lot of people hate their dissertations by the end, but I did not; I’d gladly research and write several more chapters!
This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, by Kacen Callender. I haven’t actually read this yet, but it looks like fun and I’m really excited to finally get through my TBR pile to it. (Not that I am reading a set number of books before I pick it up, just that my brain is like a very crowded train station, and This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story has not — yet — managed to get on the attention-trains zooming through.)
Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. Ditto the above! It looks and sounds so cute, aaahh.
I’ll be interested to see what books make other folks smile — and hopefully why! Leave me your links if you’ve done this TTT as well!
It’s Tuesday again already? Gah. So this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By”. This one’s always tricky because sometimes you can read just one series by an author and it swamps the handful of one-shots by authors you like more. What’s more, I think my stats might be messed up by all the rereads. So I’m going to ignore the actual statistics here and go with the authors I think I’ve read the most of.
Ursula Le Guin. She was pretty prolific! She’s got to feature on the list somewhere. I read Earthsea as a teenager and gradually moved through most of her science fiction and then her non-fiction essays… and no matter what she writes, it’s all so good. There are more memorable and less memorable forays (a lot of people discount or didn’t like Lavinia or the Gifts trilogy) but… in general, I’ve found something to enjoy in everything she wrote.
K.J. Charles. Charles takes up a pretty good chunk of my shelf, and of course I don’t have all of them in paperback. I’m going to be willing to try just about anything she writes, and I’m a little sad I only have a handful to go. (Being Proper English, Rag and Bone, Slippery Creatures… and maybe some shorter stories? The Price of Meat and A Queer Trade, at least, and of course the crossover with Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin.)
Kerry Greenwood. On the strength of the Phryne Fisher series alone, she’s probably pretty high on my list.
Carola Dunn. Same, only with the Daisy Dalrymple books — plus one of her romance trilogies. She’s hugely prolific and I really need to decide on a few more of her romances to read, because I really liked Miss Jacobson’s Journey et al.
Dorothy L. Sayers. She’s got to be up there in the list, given I’ve read all the Peter Wimsey books, the short stories, and The Documents in the Case…
Marie Brennan. I actually haven’t read all her books yet, but I’ve read one or two of the Onyx Court books, and all the Isabella Trent books, a couple of novellas and at least two short story collections. I’m willing to try just about anything with her name on it.
Guy Gavriel Kay. He’s got a fair few books out and I’ve even read all but two of them, so I think he must be a contender here! I actually got hooked on his oldest books (The Fionavar Tapestry), but he’s got a beautiful way with words. Just… don’t put him in charge of who pairs up with who.
N.K. Jemisin. I might not actually have read more of her works than some other authors, but she deserves a place on this list for intentions. I’m behind, but I will read everything she’s written and everything she’s going to write, most likely.
Mary Robinette Kowal. At this point I’m just eyeing up my shelves and going “oh, that’s a sizeable chunk of books and I’ve read most of them”… But after not entirely loving Shades of Milk and Honey, I was entirely converted, loved that whole series, loved The Calculating Stars, greatly enjoyed a short story collection… Pretty solid pick here, I think.
Jacqueline Carey. From my first introduction to Kushiel’s Dart, I’ve loved Carey’s work, and I’ve eaten up all her Kushiel universe books… plus most of her others as well. I’m a little behind, as always, but always gonna love her lush prose.
I’ve no idea how that actually matches up to the numbers on Goodreads, but I haven’t been great about tracking that lately anyway! I think this is a pretty representative idea, anyway.
Who do you read most of? Do your shelves get dominated by never-ending detective series, or do you spread out your reading?