Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'll Make This Quick

After combing through my TBRs, I finally decided on 'What I Did for a Duke' by Julie Anne Long as last night's read. And, I have to say, it was exactly what I was in the mood for. A good, solid historical romance--not too light or too dark--with an interesting hero and heroine and no one lurking in the shadows trying to kill either of them. Smartly written, but never too clever for its own good, this was the perfect book to fill my time with last night. Ain't it nice when it works out that way?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Book Club Bait

Last night, I finished reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's debut novel 'The Language of Flowers'. This is one of those books that has been hyped so much that I went into the reading experience with unnaturally inflated expectations. And, for a book that is so obviously aimed at readers whose tastes are very different from mine, I found myself enjoying it more than I expected to. To me, it wasn't necessarily deserving of all the excitement surrounding it, but, as I said, I'm really not the target audience for this kind of book. There were some parts that did not ring true to me (aside from the fact that the protagonist apparently had some sort of flower magic, because I can totally get behind magic) and those are the things that kept this from being a book I could heartily recommend. It's a good read, though, and one you could share with your mom or your grandma or, you know, your Book Club.

I also just finished reading Darynda Jones's 'Second Grave on the Left' and I'm feeling kinda "meh" about it. I really want to love this series, since it has so much that would normally really appeal to me in a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy, but I don't think it's quite settled on what kind of series it really wants to be. There's always a good mystery at the core, and that mystery is completely mundane and not connected to the supernatural, except in that our protagonist, Charley Davidson (Yeah. I know. I hate these kinds of "clever" names, too. Go on, roll your eyes. You can bet I did the first time I saw it.) is not only a P.I., but also the Grim Reaper. And, she's madly attracted to the actual Son of Satan, whose body is, for various reasons, out of reach, but he comes to visit her in spirit and still manages to do naughty things to her girly bits. And the covers are flat-out awesome. But, although the mystery/urban fantasy elements work well, the central "romance" doesn't, quite. And, to be brutally honest, the books are published initially in hardcover, even though they feel very much like they should be, at best, trade paperback originals. I can see this series developing quite a following if it had started out, like Patricia Briggs or Kim Harrison, as paperback originals and graduated to hardcover releases once its audience had been established. But, that's not Ms. Jones's fault and the books are entertaining and worth a few hours of your time. I'd just recommend waiting for the paperback or getting them from the library.

Since I finished 'Second Grave' while I was on the train home, I now need to go scan my TBR stack to figure out what to read next. I'm just not sure what I'm in the mood for, so who knows what I'll write about tomorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything

Well, maybe not everything, but the three books I've read since I last posted are fairly diverse. There was a fantasy noir, a contemporary romance, and a middle reader fantasy. Hmmm....I guess they were all fantasy novels to some extent.

'Low Town' by Daniel Polansky is a gritty cross between a fantasy novel set in a pre-Industrial, faux-European world and a classic detective novel. It's set in a land totally devoid of technology but full of magic. The protagonist is a former cop, now drug dealer, who begins investigating the disappearances and murders of several children in his neighborhood. Of course, his former colleagues don't want him anywhere near the case, but he's not so easily dissuaded. Along with the standard fantasy novel trappings of wise men and wizards-gone-wrong, there are also healthy sprinklings of Chandler and even Lovecraft, making this a novel that spans genres.

I have admitted elsewhere in the past to being an unabashed Jill Shalvis fangirl and 'Animal Magnetism' was a strong reminder of why. Her heroes are strong alphas who never cross the line into being "alpholes". Her heroines are not idealized "stick insects" with Mensa IQs. (Though they usually are pretty damned smart and the heroes always find them incredibly sexy, even in their grungiest clothes and covered in muck.) There are communication issues, but not ones so large that they threaten to completely derail the relationship. And, the sex is always mind-bendingly hot. Add in a gaggle of cute, abandoned, and occasionally damaged animals, and you have a real winner of a Romance.

And, finally, for pure escapist fun, there's Eva Ibbotson's 'The Secret of Platform 13'. Although I've read a number of Ms. Ibbotson's romance novels--which were originally published for adults, but later marketed to teen readers--I had somehow never managed to pick up one of the number of fantasy novels she had penned for younger readers.I'm so very glad to have finally rectified that situation. I love folk and fairy tales, and 'Platform 13' had so many of the elements that draw me to those old stories: strange creatures, secret royals, kidnapped babies, a secret entrance to a magical world, a clever heroine, etc., etc. This would make a great read-aloud for anyone who needs to keep a child (or children) entertained for an afternoon. Or, just the perfect novel for the book-loving child you used to be to curl up with on a rainy evening.

And, lest you think I never read beyond genre fiction, the book I'm reading right now is pure Book Club Bait. So far, it isn't too precious, but I'll let you know more tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Laura Lippman Amazes Me

I gobbled down Laura Lippman's upcoming 'The Most Dangerous Thing' last night and, though I have never been disappointed by any of her books, I am always surprised to put one down and think, "Wow. That may be her best yet." I don't know why I'm surprised, either. It's pretty much been happening with each successive novel of hers that I read. And this one continues the trend.

I'm not sure how she does it, but Lippman has a special skill for capturing the darkness of childhood. Not just the darkness that we encounter as children, but the darkness that is within us. The casual cruelty of the childhood clique. The easy disposal of the friend who was once closer than a sibling. The uncaring disregard for anyone outside your immediate orbit. Somehow Lippman captures it all on the page in a way that brings back those feelings with painful clarity. Or maybe that's just me.

That's not to say that she doesn't also manage to capture the magic of childhood or that adults are pushed to the background or let off easily. I don't think it's possible for her as a writer to let anyone off easily, especially not the reader. 'The Most Dangerous Thing', like most of Lippman's standalone novels, is about secrets and lies and their ability to not only influence events, but their seeming knack for rising to the surface just when you thought they'd stay buried forever.

And there are lots of little "Easter Eggs" for long-time Lippman fans. (Hiya, Tess!) Though they could seem too clever or intrusive, they instead serve to make the world her characters inhabit even more claustrophobic and lacking in places to hide.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kinda geeky today

Two books again today, but one of them was only about 200 pages long, so it was really more of a book-ette.

'Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day' by Ben Loory is a book of short (very short) stories. The jacket copy calls them "fairy tales" or "fables", but they really read more like dreams, or snippets of dreams. Most of the stories are under 10 pages long, so this really would be a great nightstand book, if you're one of those people who likes to read just before sleeping but is incapable of putting a book down before reaching the end of a chapter. I'm not normally a consumer of short fiction, but I wanted to read this because I was drawn in by the cover, which features a vast midnight-blue sea, a UFO, and an orange octopus tentacle. In short, the cover is Awesome. Really. Buy it for the cover, but keep it for the stories. Chances are, at least one of them will sneak into your dreams.

'Ready Player One' by Ernest Cline is a novel that was written with a deep and abiding love of all things '80s and that is enough to make me very fond of it. Add to that the fact that it's a near-future thriller/treasure hunt set mostly in a virtual world, and I start to think this book was written just for me. Well, me and every other geeky, or even slightly geeky, Gen X-er. Star Wars. Indiana Jones. John Hughes. Matthew Broderick. Vork. Joust. Monty Python. It's all in there. I wasn't sure how this was going to be as a read, though, because it's the first book from the guy who wrote the film Fanboys, which didn't quite work for me. So imagine my surprise when, although I had only planned on reading half before going to bed, I stayed up way later than I had intended because I needed to get to the confrontation with the Big Boss. Bravo, Mr. Cline, for creating a book about gaming that created in me the same compulsive need to reach the end that the best video games do.

Looking forward to cracking open the new Laura Lippman tonight. I'm pretty sure it's going to be excellent.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Gentleman Never Tells and Shadowcry

Two books for the price of one today! Two completely different books, at that. Both of these titles are publishing in July and feature characters who wear capes, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

'A Gentleman Never Tells' by Amelia Grey is an Historical Romance set in London in some vague, undefined Historical Era of Restrictive Undergarments for Women. There are dogs in it. And a bosom actually heaves. Yup. Right there on page 271, the heroine's bosom heaved. And, overall, it's actually pretty good. I definitely felt satisfied with the ending, though it did feel rushed at one point and the dognapping subplot seemed rather unnecessary. Not that the dogs themselves were unnecessary. Not at all. Brutus--the heroine's giant, aging mastiff--was one of my favorite characters and had quite the satisfying character arc. Prissy--the hero's sorta-Pomeranian (her lineage is a bit muddy) inherited from his mother--was off the page for much of the book, but still managed to capture my heart, even though I don't care for small dogs.

'Shadowcry' by Jenna Burtenshaw is a YA novel that takes place in a land called "Albion", so I immediately assumed it was England. It started out feeling kind of medieval-ish, but then there was a bookshop, so I had to move it up in time to probably the latter half of the 18th Century. Then there was a train, so I had to move it up by at least another century. And then there were flourescent lights. I have no idea when this book is supposed to take place. I'm not even sure that Albion is England, though it does appear to be an island nation at war with "The Continent". At some point, though, I realized that the story had taken over and I didn't really care where or when it took place. The characters were too interesting. Oh, not the heroine. She was fine, but not compelling. I was much more interested in Edgar and especially in Silas. Edgar has secrets, which is excellent in the boy who may or may not become a love interest. Silas is set up as a villain, and he is, to an extent. What I ended up most enjoying about this book was the fact that Silas was a layered, nuanced character who I wanted to know more about. Plus, he had a crow. I like crows.

So, that's what I read last night. Or, in the case of 'A Gentleman Never Tells', finished reading. Tonight, I get to start reading for August. There's usually a break between months, but July's books took longer than I anticipated, so the stack of manga that I was looking forward to diving into will just have to wait.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The first book

There's meaning to this choice. It's not just because it's the book I finished reading last night (though it is). I deliberately chose to start this blog today so that this could be the first book I talked about. What's the book? 'Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels' by the amazing Sarah Wendell of SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com. It doesn't publish until October, and I'll try to remember to remind you when it's coming out, but maybe you should go write it down somewhere. Go on. I'll wait.

You're back? Good.

Here's the thing: I read almost everything, but I am especially fond of genre fiction. When I tell people that I read Science Fiction or Fantasy or Mystery or even YA, I don't get nearly the sidelong glances that I experience when I proudly out myself as a Romance reader. And that sucks. Because you know what? There is some amazing writing to be found between the covers of romance novels. And also? Life Lessons. But, not the kind that convince you that you need therapy. The Life Lessons to be found in Romance novels are more along the lines of "If you can surivive your entire family being killed in a freak carriage accident when you were eight, you can probably survive anything." Or, "Even though your sister is the Most Beautiful Girl in the World and you believe yourself to be plain and bookish, there is someone out there who thinks that, though your sister may be pretty in a societally conventional way, you are actually the Most Beautiful Girl in the World." And, really? These are pretty awesome lessons. Thankfully, SmartBitch Sarah has put all of those lovely Life Lessons into handy book form, with accompanying graphs and quotes and a quiz(!) and checklists and other bits of wonder. It's a small book, and not very long, but if you read it through and still come away in any doubt as to how amazing both Romance Novels and the people of the Romance Community truly are, then I do believe your heart and soul and possibly brain may be made of stone. And, if that is the case, then you are in most desperate need of reading one of the books Sarah uses as examples throughout the book. She even provides a handy-dandy list of them at the back. You could probably even cut it out and put it in your pocket, but, if you did, the Book Gods might smite you, so I'd just copy it and put that in your pocket.

And, the reason I really wanted this to be the first book I talked about? Because my love of Romance fiction was fairly closeted before I discovered the Bitches. Sarah made me proud to claim my love of love and the ladies who comment on her blog have helped me to clarify and put into words what it is that I love about this much-maligned genre. Therefore the dubious honor of this first official post had to go to Sarah.

Tune in tomorrow for more incoherent rambling about what I'm reading.


'kay. So, this is my first-ever post on my personal blog and I have no idea what to write. Hmmm...Well, maybe an explanation of the name? I was thinking about goats yesterday. Specifically, I was thinking about their weird pupils. And, somehow, I began musing on the nature of goats and their indiscriminate eating habits. My brain likes to go from tangent to tangent and if one tried to diagram my thought processes, it would probably look much like the path of a pinball in a very active machine. Suffice it to say that thinking about goats led me to thinking about books and I realized that my reading habits were similar to the eating habits of goats--indiscriminate and voracious. Hence, The Book Goat.

And, the purpose of this here blog? Simple. To blather on to the anonymous "masses" (Hello to the both of you!) about what I read. And, I read a lot. Really a lot. And I hate "grading" what I read, so GoodReads and similar sites aren't really a good fit for me because everything would have no stars or five stars, depending on the default settings. What I plan to do is just talk about what I've read, not really review it. You probably won't even see plot summaries. It's just a way for me to get my thoughts down into some permanent-ish form that I can reference later.

Now, to go organize the little slips of paper that I record titles on so I can start actually talking about the damned books already.