Upcoming July 2016 Books

Every month I try to make a list of all the books coming out that I’m excited to read. Let me know in the comments about any you’re excited about. Here’s what’s coming up in July.

 

Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn. (Jul 5). The first in a new series about superheroes featuring a PoC main character. I’m so in. I’ve been jealous of everyone getting ARCs of this one.


Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. (Jul 12). Did you love Center Stage? Or the more modern Pretty Little Liars? This book is for you. It’s actually a sequel so go read Tiny Pretty Things first.


Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran (Jul 19). I’m a huge fan of Moran and have read almost all of her bibliography so she’s an auto read for me. I actually don’t know much about the Mata Hari so I’m looking forward to the nonfiction binge I’ll probably read right after this one as is my usual M.O.


Urban Allies: Ten Brand-New Collaborative Stories edited by Joseph Nassise (Jul 26). An anthology where your favorite urban fantasy characters from different series team up? I’m in. The story I especially have my eye on is the one where Verity Price from Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid series meets Elena Michaels from Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld.  Also included is Sabina Kane from Jaye Well’s series of the same name.

 

What books are you looking forward to in July?

WWW Wednesdays 6/22

WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

Every week I’m going to jump on here and talk about the week’s books. So let’s get to it shall we?

What are you currently reading? I just started The Geek Feminist Revolution  by Kameron Hurley which so far is pretty interesting. Remember, I love books about the arts so it should be no surprise I’m also into The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Calloway.

What did you recently finish reading? Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger was great. I have been a fan of urban fantasy for years and this was a great new addition to the genre. I had a lot of fun reading it and can’t wait to see where the series goes. I also finished We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrl to Covergirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement by  Andi Heisler, which was enlightening. I think it is a must read for any feminist. Roses and Rot by Kat Howard rounds out my reads for this week. I haven’t been so pleased by a book in a long time. Howard’s prose was lovely and the story was engaging. It’s been a long time since I’ve read so many great books in a row. Hopefully it continues.

What do you think you’ll read next? I’m looking forward to reading Sweet bitter  by Stephanie Danler. I really love books about cooking and restaurants. I also need to start Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston for my book club pick.

What does your book life look like this week?

May Book Club Favorites

This month the Ladies Reading Speculative Fiction book club read Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam. Our next pick is Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston.

Here’s what the ladies enjoyed this month outside of our book club read.

Come as You Are: The Surprising Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski. I can say that the subtitle is entirely apt. It sounds like a self-help book, but it’s more like a self-acceptance book – and that REALLY HELPS! We all tend to think we’re at least a little bit broken, so…just read this. And then gush about it to your partner. –Juniper



Fable” by Charles Yu. A few years ago I picked up Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe on the recommendation of my friend Oliver. I’ve read a lot of science fiction and it’s rare that I read something truly surprising, but Yu’s novel was rich, complex, innovative, and heartfelt. So when I heard this week that Yu had a story in the New Yorker, I immediately went to check it out. “Fable” took my breath away. Yu deconstructs allegory in his stories. Instead of disguising the true content of his narratives, he presses the edges of them by meticulously unwinding the metaphorical veneer surrounding them, stitch by stitch. “Fable” is simultaneously a surreal and true-to-life tale about the nature of love, heartbreak, and family and how we work our way through it. He wields a plain, seemingly simplistic writing style defiantly, revealing the deeply moving story underneath. It’s well worth a read. –Clara

 


As for me. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. I knew I loved Nnedi’s books after reading Who Fears Death and The Book of Phoenix, but Binti just made it even more so. I got to dish about it a lot during Bout of Books and was thrilled when someone read it on my recommendation and loved it. It’s a wonderful feeling. She’s also a favorite of the book club (we got to meet her when she came to speak at UCSC a couple months ago). Nnedi’s worldbuilding is so intricate, even in a less than 100 page novella. I can’t wait until January for book 2.

What were your favorite books of the month?

WWW Wednesdays 5/11

WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

I’m trying to get more into the habit of writing on here and thought this blog hop might be a great way to do it. Every week I’m going to try to jump on here and talk about the week’s books. So let’s get to it, shall we?

What are you currently reading? As I’m in the middle of Bout of Books there are a few books going on. I am reading Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein. Not too far into it, but so far, my impressions are that it would make a great read to go with Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagasaki if you’re wondering what sex is like for the modern woman. I’m also reading Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam which is a collection of short stories for my book club. I’m trying to read a story a day so I can fully experience each one. My historical romance pick is Falling into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath. I’ve been reading her Scoundrels of St. James series and the following series Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James which follow a group of connecting families and now I’m on another tier of the series. I’m enjoying the unconventional family dynamics that Heath puts into her books. I only had one in all the series that didn’t win me over, so those are good odds!

What did you recently finish reading? I just finished Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor. I am a big fan of Nnedi’s work. This is my fifth. I also recently finished Binti which was so wonderful. Lagoon basically asks the question, “What will you do when the aliens come?” In fact that question is on the back of the book. Nnedi recently came to speak at University of California, Santa Cruz and I was lucky enough to attend. She told us how this book was her response to District 9 as she was unhappy with the movie. I loved the book. It was great. She is one of the best world builders in the business. Her characters are fully developed. Just go get this book now.

What do you think you’ll read next? As I’m also reading all the books my friends have lent me, I have a few to choose from. I think the next will be Tarnished by Rhiannon Held. It’s the second in a werewolf series and I had a good time with the first one. If I finish Falling into Bed With a Duke, I’ll moving onto the next in the series, The Earl Takes All.

 

What does your book life look like this week?

April Book Club Favorites

This month the Ladies Reading Speculative Fiction book club read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. It was a club wide hit. Our next book will be Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam.

Here’s what the ladies enjoyed this month outside of our book club read.

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1) by Mark Lawrence. I don’t know if you have to come into this book already liking “grimdark,” but I’m sure it helps. Jorg is the ultimate anti-hero, especially considering he’s only 13 in the first book. Looking at who he is from the outside, he’s utterly repulsive. So what makes Jorg charming despite his deeds? A cheerfully self-incisive voice, and the enigma of his free will. It also doesn’t hurt that Mark Lawrence has an incredibly deft hand with prose. Just about every paragraph is a lean, mean vehicle that delivers characterization, worldbuilding, and plot advancement with a clever twist of gallows humor. This was a fast-paced and disturbingly compelling read. Juniper



The Fifth Season
(The Broken Kingdoms, #1) by NK Jemisin.
 This was everything I wanted and more. A non-linear tale with three perfectly converging stories; imaginative, gorgeous world building; characters that I adored and who developed so brilliantly over the course of the book; amazing suspense; graceful prose that I kept pausing to mark down; and the best god damned last line. Add in the part where Robin Miles is an immensely talented narrator and I just – everyone read this book, now. Anie

 


Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson, #9) by Patricia Briggs. I like the series because Mercy Thompson is a shapeshifting coyote in a werewolf world and she’s sort of an underdog compared to the werewolves, however, she always manages to pull off whatever it is she is trying to accomplish through sheer will and the occasional help of fey friends. I enjoyed the mixing of Native American lore around Coyote with the lore behind werewolves, witches, vampires and the fey. Patricia also imagines what life would be like both politically and emotionally for those who chose to “come out” as less than human. –Karly


As for meHamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Remember how I said i liked behind the scenes stories, this is a great piece about  the hit Broadway play Hamilton from its inception to closing curtain on opening night on Broadway. Filled with essays about the cast and costumes and staging as well as personal annotations from Lin on the full lyrics from the play, if you’re a Hamilton fan, you need this book. Be warned it is out of stock on several places so you may need to do some digging.

What were your favorite books of the month?

WWW Wednesdays 4/27

WWW Wednesday is a book meme run by Taking on a World of Words.

I’m trying to get more into the habit of writing on here and thought this blog hop might be a great way to do it. Every week I’m going to try to jump on here and talk about the week’s books. So let’s get to it shall we?

What are you currently reading? As usual, I can’t stick with one book so I have a few going on. I’m reading Lady Bridget’s Diary by Maya Rodale which is the first in a new series which seems to be taking place right after her Wallflower series. I also need to make some progress on When Everything Changed by Gail Collins. I got sidetracked and need to jump back in. I also started All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders during the readathon and I’m enjoying it so far.

What did you recently finish reading? After the readathon, I finished Borderline by Mishell Baker which was phenomenal. I’ve been reading urban fantasy for more than ten years now, this is something new. The main character Millie lost her legs in a suicide attempt as well as her career and while she’s recovering she gets a visit from Caryl who is part of the Arcadia Project who wants her to join them. If that organization name doesn’t make you suspicious, well, I’m gonna need you to watch Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I know, not their best, but I’m making a point here). The plot was engaging and Millie is a character that’s not perfect, something that urban fantasy doesn’t like to do with their heroines, so it’s refreshing. I can’t wait to see where this series takes us. I also finished Winterwood by Jacey Bedford. With a main character who was a cross dressing lady pirate with magical mojo, who crosses paths with ghosts and shapeshifters, and other fantastical creatures in Mad King George’s England, what could go wrong? The sequel comes out in January and I’ll be preordering.

What do you think you’ll read next? Sex with Shakespeare by Jillian Keenan. Naughty with literature? Pretty much my brand. I also have to read Ancient, Ancient by Kiini Ibura Salaam for the book club.

 

What does your book life look like this week?

My Month of (Mostly) Reading Nonfiction and Urban Fantasy

While it seems like a huge difference in genre, I found rotating my nonfiction titles with my urban fantasy worked out really well. I did get a few other genres in there (including bingeing most of Johanna Lindsey’s Malory-Anderson series for the first time in 10 years), but I tried to clear both my physical and my digital shelves of their titles of truthiness and pages of paranormal snark and violence. I think I did pretty well.

Nonfiction

United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good – Cory Booker. This man is such an optimist. I love it though and can’t help be hopefully for everything he hopes to see in our country happen. I’m hoping Washington doesn’t break him. I was super inspired by all that he’s accomplished for Newark as mayor and now New Jersey as a senator. He has so many good ideas.

 

 


The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan – Kim Barker. I’m seriously bummed that Tina Fey seemed to screw the pooch with her movie adaptation of this woman’s story. It didn’t need to be embellished or have a love story added. I really enjoyed Barker’s narrative about her experiences.

 

 

 


All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation – Rebecca Traitor. I’m a happily married woman, but I have a lot of lady friends who have to deal with the “When are you getting marrieds?” and the like. This book points out so many good facts. I think it’s good to read by all women, no matter their marital status. I wanted to highlight and write on every page. My favorite was the chapter on female friendships.

 

 


Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget – Sarah Hepola. Both uplifting and heartbreaking, I really enjoyed this memoir of a woman who has struggled with alcoholism in an age where we don’t talk about it in young women, at least not young professional women. The stereotype that I’ve seen for women is lower income, middle aged, troubled. No one wants to point out even women who seem to have their shit together, could be struggling with it and not necessarily because they’re unhappy and had a bad childhood as we see portrayed in media.


How to be a Tudor: A Dusk-to-Dawn Guide to Tudor Life – Ruth Goodman. I am a big fan of the Tudor era. I started with the historical fictions by Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, I’ve touched on a few nonfictions, but Goodman’s How to be A Tudor is fantastic. It follows both men and women of all classes from waking to bedtime in their daily routines. There is a lot of detail on how to get the perfect ruff. Yeah, that thing you saw around people’s necks in the time of Elizabeth I.

 

 


Love, Loss, and What We Ate – Padma Lakshmi. I adored this book. I heard a lot of buzz and had to pick it up. If you’ve followed long enough, you know I love a good food memoir (<3 Julia). I didn’t even know who Lakshmi was, but now I need to go back and binge Top Chef. I loved reading about her stories about growing up in India, her relationship and then marriage with Salman Rushdie, her experiences in modeling, and her love of her daughter. I really enjoyed how she talks about coming to accept her body after years of modeling and then the struggle of it changing due to filming Top Chef.


All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks. Wow. My first bell hooks book and I’m not disappointed. hooks talks all about the different ways we can bring love into our lives. There’s even an essay on friendships that resonated with me. I’ll admit I mostly skipped the last essay regarding love and angels, but otherwise I feel like I’m going to come back to this one. Now to get my own copy since this one was the library’s.

 

 

 

Urban Fantasy

The Others series – Anne Bishop. Yes, the whole thing, starting with a reread of the first three books and ending with the newest Marked in Flesh. I love this series so much. I wish I could explain exactly why, but I can’t. Not helpful for you guys so I’ll try. A lot of the time (and in the following books I’ll mention) the female protagonist is snarky and physical. Meg isn’t these things. She’s soft, vulnerable, and not the most physical character in the book, however, she’s not weak by any means. She is able to answer the call in the face of danger. She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes, but she’s kind and apologizes when she’s wrong. This series is also a play on the whole shapeshifter mythos as well. Instead of humans becoming animals, we have a swap here and even that is not exactly what they are or what they are doing.


Chaos Choreography (Incryptid, #5) – Seanan McGuire. The fifth book in McGuire’s Incryptid series, we come back to the protagonist from the first book, Verity Price and her smoking hot ex-Covenant hubby Dominic, as Verity re-enters the world of televised dance competition where there is something creepy going on. I was thrilled to see Verity again, but totally didn’t get enough of banter between her and Dominic. I also was hoping to see the whole Price family get to interact. Also Grandma Alice needs to go play cards with the Luidaeg from McGuire’s other series.

 


Midnight Marked (Chicagoland Vampires, #12) – Chloe Neill. I am a shipper of Ethan and Merit. They have highs and lows and work their business out, much like a healthy couple does, albeit they do it more with katanas and fangs, but to each their own. I’m a bit bummed this is the second to the last book in the series, but I’m also a proponent of end it while it’s still good.
 


Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2) – Daniel José Older. I might forgive him for giving me the creepy crawlies because this book was that good. I love his ability to voice a teenage girl with authenticity. Kia is my Patronus. Also that cover? Fucking gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

What did you read last month? Any nonfiction or urban fantasy?

March TBR

I’m not sure what happened in February, but I found myself picking up a lot of nonfiction. That’s generally not my main interest, not counting celeb bios for the gossip. Apparently my brain is asking for more substance right now.

Also late February and all of March is just ripe with urban fantasy. There’s always urban fantasy being published, don’t get me wrong, but these are all the authors I’ve stuck with and adore. I decided that I would round up all the other UFs that I haven’t got to and we’ll try to rotate. Read a nonfiction, get an UF.

Print nonfiction

Digital shelf for Urban Fantasy (note: With exception of Borderline which is a debut novel, all of these are from ongoing series)

Digital Shelf for Nonfiction

What’s on your TBR this month?

Seanan Shenanigans in San Francisco

  
I got really lucky a couple weekends ago and got to head to San Francisco with one of my buddies to the book launch of one of my favorite authors, Seanan McGuire. A Rose-Red Chain is the latest in her urban fantasy series featuring a changeling named October Daye. I won’t go on, but not only did I get a few books signed, win a prize (another of her books), and enjoy good music and just be in a bookstore, but I also got to hang out with Seanan herself. When I was getting my books signed, Seanan, a reptile aficionado, spotted the gecko tattoo I’ve been getting worked on (if you follow my Instagram or Twitter you’ll know it’s all done now), and basically a bond was formed. 

My friend Anie and I managed to lose our seats so had to stand in the back of the room where Seanan was and she immediately pulled out her phone and started showing me the pics of her alligator lizard and Maine Coons. It was great. Anie and I got to ask her questions about the series and Seanan was super gracious in answering them. The amount of canon she is able to remember! She also writes another urban fantasy series as well as a series about zombies among other projects so I am pretty impressed here. 

She did mention that in March the lastest in that other urban fantasy series is coming out and it just so happened the first book in a debut series is coming out the same day. The reason she mentioned it was not to smash the other author down, but to build her up, a thing I think the book community should always be doing. It’s not a zero sum thing. There is room at the table for everyone, we just have to make the space. This book in particular is called Borderline by Mishell Baker. It is exactly what we have been asking for. A main character who is not only afflicted with a mental illness, but is also a paraplegic. I really can’t wait to get my hands on this book. We need to put our money where our mouths are. Seanan is doing this by inviting Mishell to share her book launch party. I’ll be there. Will you?  

 
 

Genres Explored: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

First let me do some quick definitions.

According to Wikipedia: Paranormal romance is a subgenre of both romantic fiction and speculative fiction. Paranormal romance focuses on romantic love and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from the speculative fiction genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

Comparatively Wikipedia says this about urban fantasy: Urban fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Urban fantasy exists on one side of a spectrum, opposite high fantasy, which is set in an entirely fictitious world. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. The prerequisite is that they must be primarily set in a city.

BEWARE! From here on there be spoilers. Seriously. I’m not going to be blamed if you read things you didn’t want to know. NPH told you and everything.

Even with those explanations, it is super hard to separate the two since a lot of sites or bookstores put the two together. I’m in a group on Goodreads that meshes them both. I’m constantly getting recommendations from one subgenre when I want another. I get it. They do sound like they should be interchangeable. They really aren’t.

Let me start with saying I have nothing against paranormal romance. PNR is where I started! With Maggie Shayne and her Wings of the Night series which to some is the original Twilight series because most of the books had “twilight” in the title (with way less sparkles). They were romance novels with fangs. Each book is about the heroine finding the love of her life (which from here on out is lohl). There’s nothing wrong with that. They’re fun romances with a shadowy side. Also the series usually run a bit differently. Generally, urban fantasy series follow one protagonist through their (sometimes mis) adventures until the over reaching arc is concluded whereas paranormal romances usually follow maybe the same group of people, but each book has a different couple to focus in on. It still might have one “Big Bad,” but each couple gets a shot at fighting/solving it.

Urban Fantasy tends to be a little grittier as well. More death and destruction. Also the supernatural element isn’t described as being something you want to meet up with in a dark alley. PNR tends to have a habit of portraying vampires for example as just “people with pointy teeth” whereas UF usually makes them scary and dangerous. Even if a couple hook up, the human is almost always aware of her/his lover’s “dark side” or “primal nature.” See Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series. She does this particularly well.

My first urban fantasy series I found out about was Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake. I offer this one up a bit tentatively. If you are familiar with LKH, you’ll know why. The Anita Blake books started out with a vampire hunter/animator (she raised corpses from the dead to sort out legal matters like a will being contested) who gets tangled up with voodoo queens, the fae, vampires, lycanthropes, and other things that go bump in the night. The first few in the series really had very little to do with romance at all. That’s changed. The books have more of an erotic flavor now. I’m not throwing shade on LKH at all, she’s actually a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The first book Anita didn’t even HAVE a love interest, unless you count the vampire she didn’t even like who was kind of stalking her. And then she’s had a few relationships since then. I’m not current on the series, but last time I checked in she was in a polyamorous relationship with a few fellas. It does have Anita managing her men and having romantic moments, but usually the main point is the individual book’s antagonist and the Big Bad that is going on to threaten the world that is the arc to the whole series.  To be honest, the last one I read focused a lot more on the erotica than the action parts, but one or two books out of a series doth not a paranormal romance make.

Then there’s the Hollows series by Kim Harrison. The main character, Rachel ended up with someone she HATED by end of the series. She dated several guys through out the book and it never felt like we were just waiting for the lohl to show up because they weren’t really the point. They were just part of her life while she dodged hexes, battled demons, and avoided hits. Like the Anita Blake series did more strongly at first, the action took center stage.

All in all, I just have a problem with these being put together just because both might have non humans in them. They’re not the same. You can like both, no one is saying that. It just gets confusing when I say hey I really liked Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires what should I read next? Then someone recommends Christine Feehan’s Dark Saga which yes, has vampires, but is about different couples in each book and the end.

What other genres have this problem? Scifi and Fantasy is one that jumps to mind. Should they be always shelved together or apart? I know space in bookstores is a factor so let’s say in an ideal world.