highlights

Thumbs up for Paperbacks from Hell: the Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix. Literary history.

When I requested an advance reader’s copy of this from the publisher, my expectations were low. It might have been a boring catalog of authors and publishers. Or it might have centered around mocking old horror paperback cover art, while being light on historical detail.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac. Literature.

Every time I think of Balzac I think of the West Wing episode in which Balzac is made fun of for his windiness. This is not wrong – at least in the first chapter. It was good that the introduction (by E.K. Brown) in my edition warned me that Balzac front-loads his books with lots of description, setting the scene and placing the characters within it before the story gets rolling.… >> Read more

 

Thumbs up for Polly; The Bachelor’s Wedding; and The Edge of Winter by Betty Neels. Romance.

These three are not among my favorites books by Betty Neels, but their inclusion here warrants a batch review explaining why I read them in the first place.

Betty Neels wrote 123 books, each of which clock in at around 185 pages. They are what we now call ‘sweet’ romances–not a reflection of their girly gushiness, because they haven’t got any of that, but ‘sweet’ being one end of a romance-literature spectrum of explicitness which passes through ‘sexy’ and eventually ends up at ‘porn.’ There is no sex in Neels’s books, even on the occasions on which there is a marriage of convenience.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Magpie Lord; A Case of Possession; Flight of Magpies; and Jackdaw by KJ Charles. Historical fantasy romance.

These came to my attention in an article on Tor.com. I sample a lot of books, mind you. A lot. Most of them, I don’t continue to read. I certainly don’t get hooked in the first couple of pages, decide to take a chance with my $1.99 and a few hours of my time, and never–when done with the first book–do I download and binge-read the next three books like an addict, mentally mumbling at the author “Take my money–please” and trawling her website for extra stories.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. Young adult historical romance.

It’s 17– and Monty’s in love with his best friend Percy. Joined by Monty’s sister Felicity, they go on the Grand Tour of Europe. Everything that happens after that would be spoilers. I was expecting a sarcastic teen romance with historical trappings which I would put down after ten pages.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for: Family Man, Volume I by Dylan Meconis. Fantasy. Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlin R. Kiernan, illustrated by Steve Lieber. Fantasy. Monstress, Volume I: Awakening by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda. Fantasy. Yes, Roya by C. Spike Trotman, illustrated by Emilee Denich. Erotica.

A batch review here. Family Man is the hardest to describe of the bunch: Um….Half-Jewish Theology student in 1768 Germany makes some bad thesis decisions (Spinoza, atheism) and…academia…and hot librarian…and werewolves, kinda.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Outsider in Amsterdam and The Sergeant’s Cat and Other Stories by Janwillem van de Wetering. Mystery.

I’m not a mystery reader, generally, but there are three or four authors whose books I love. The books of Van de Wetering – globetrotting Dutchman, erstwhile Zen monk, and part-time member of the Amsterdam Police Force – made me exceptionally happy when I read them in my teens, and they continue to make me happy as I’m rereading them now.… >> Read more