Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent reading & the exploding TBR

So, here I am, switching from the world and tone of BLACK DOG to a more fairy-tale YA tone. It’s awkward. I don’t know how other writers do it, but I do it by taking a few days or a week and reading books that have a tone more similar to the new WIP. At the moment, I’m also a bit stuck on how to move forward, or, well, I mean, I do know what happens next. It’s the scene after next that I’m not sure about, and this is making me reluctant to try to press forward. The way to get unstuck involves the same process: reading books by someone else until suddenly a future scene presents itself forcefully for the WIP.

Taking a brief break to read books by other people is not a hardship. What is a hardship: suddenly stacking up lots of new books that are not right to read right now, but that I really want to read. Not sure yet how the tension between wanting to put off reading so I can work on my own stuff / wanting to put off work so I can read is going to work out. Probably some of one, some of the other. I guess we’ll see.

So, recent reading:

LostLake

LOST LAKE. Contemporary, yet lyrical. Unfortunately, I agree with Angie on this one: it’s as though Allen deliberately decided as an experiment to try letting every single character have pov time, and as a result the reader’s emotional attachment to any one character gets diluted. So, while charming, this title is far (far) from Allen’s best.

Elfland

Freda Warrington’s ELFLAND. The writing is beautiful. “Matthew climbed a spar of ancient rock and posed there. Massed clouds created an eerie light in which the greens of spring turned luminous against an iron-grey sky. . . . on this side, the hillside behind them was bleak. The grass was wiry, the soil fragrant with peat. Clusters of rock thrust out of the ground, wreathed in bracken. On the long, rugged backbone of the summit, there stood a house. It was built of granite and looked like a fortress. The roof was black slate. Behind it, rain clouds massed angrily.”

So, beautiful writing. However, for a long time I didn’t think this would be a keeper for me, because nearly every character is SUCH A LOSER, each in his or her own way. The protagonist measurably less so, granted, though still, mooning for years after someone who plainly doesn’t care about you is, well, yeah. They basically all improve by the end, so I wound up liking the book after all, but I don’t think it’ll wind up on my top-ten-for-the-year list.

NightGarden

IN THE NIGHT GARDEN. This is the one I’m reading now. Again, beautiful writing, which won’t surprise you, because Cat Valente, right? Of course NIGHT GARDEN is specifically a fairy tale, or actually a whole lot of nested fairy tales. I am finding this creates a weird kind of extra tension, as I keep feeling I want to know what’s going on with the original tale, or the second one that was introduced, and there are MANY side trails and little extra stories. Mostly a bit dark, because, as I said, Cat Valente.

I’m also finding that I don’t really connect to this one emotionally, because it’s a bit too much a fairy tale — the characters are rather flat, as in real fairy tales, and because of the nested storylines, the reader is continually being forced to shift from one protagonist to another and back again rather than sticking with one or a few main points of view. So on an intellectual level, this is a beautiful and satisfying book, but on an emotional level, it is not very compelling (to me).

Okay, the expanding TBR pile is distracting, but not helpful, because I’m not sure that ANY of the new arrivals are going to suit my reading needs just at the moment. I mean, for example, we have Peacemaker and this new book by Brian Katcher, Everyone Dies at the End.

Peacemaker

DiesAtTheEnd

As it happens, CJ Cherryh has, for me, the single most invasive writing style EVER. I can’t read her books while working on one of mine. I expect this one will have to wait for a while. Which is fine, not like there’s a huge rush.

Brian Katcher’s book is a contemporary, completely wrong for what I want to be reading right now. Comparatively short, so I could in theory read it right now. But then I believe I will want to read his earlier book PLAYING WITH MATCHES, too, and I don’t want to commit to that. So I expect this will sit on the TBR pile for a bit. The virtual TBR pile, because I did wind up getting this one on my Kindle.

TropicOfSerpents

Now, this new Marie Brennen. This one can wait, but I will enjoy looking at it on my shelf. Such a beautiful physical book. Emphatically not one to get in e-form. But it may just sit here waiting until the third book is out. Or the series is complete, however long that turns out to be. I don’t feel much of a rush to get to it. I would just as soon wait until I feel like re-reading the first book and then swoosh through the whole finished series in one go. Lovely book, did I mention?

Steles

Been waiting for Elizabeth Bear’s Steles of the Sky! Totally looking forward to starting over with Book 1 and then diving straight into Book 2, which I’ve been saving, and then straight into Book 3, Steles. This series was one of my favorite discoveries last year, via a strong recommendation from Kristen at Fantasy Book Café. Also, great horse! From the cover of Steles, I’m guessing more than one great horse may appear in this book, too.

This series is, however, a sweeping epic fantasy, broad scope, complex settings, wonderful characters, but not necessarily something I want to read right now. Though I won’t know what I will end up making an exception for until I wind up making an exception for it.

TurnOfLight

Finally picked up Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. I’ve kind of wanted this for a while . . . where did I see a review that made me want it? Hmm, yes, it was this guest post, I believe. Anyway, it’s been kind of in the back of my mind for some time, so I finally picked it up.

Okay, and last (for the moment):

GoblinEmperor

Hearing great things about this book, which (as you may recall) is by Sarah Monette writing as Katherine Addison. Now, Monette’s earlier series, the one that starts with Melusine, not my favorite. Beautifully written, truly fabulous voice, but awfully grim. Not grimdark, nothing like that reductionist a worldview, but grim. From what I’m hearing, though, this one has a different and less-grim tone. I picked it up on the strength of reviews by Sherwood Smith and, as I recollect, Liz Bourke. Yes, Liz, that’s right, because Liz said: “It should be emphasised right up front that while the worldbuilding is every bit as detailed and baroque as her previous solo novels under her other name, the mood leans far less toward the noir than The Doctrine of Labyrinths. The tone is overall much more hopeful, and the main character here far more likable, than in any of her previous novels.” Okay, then, there you go. Count me in.

Also, you may recall, Sarah Monette is involved with the really excellent Shadow Unit shared-world series, which is very much worth picking up in its entirety, btw. So that makes me want to try something else by her anyway. So, I preordered The Goblin Emperor. I think. If it doesn’t show up on my Kindle on April 1 (which is as I remember it’s official release date), then I’ll order it then. But I think I preordered it. My dreadful memory.

Anyway! That’s my most recent reading / acquisitions. How about you, what have you tried / what are you excited about?

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10 Comments Recent reading & the exploding TBR

  1. Pete+Mack

    Oooh, I just can’t wait for April 8! I’ve been anticipating Steles of the Sky for such a long time. And now I can finally go back and reread books 1 and 2!
    Also: cover fail. Temur rides a mare, and it’s fairly important to the series. He’s definitely riding a stallion on that cover. (Look at that neck!)

  2. Rachel

    Pete, I shall charitably assume that at some moment in the third book, Temur is riding a stallion. Because you are certainly right about the animal on the cover. No question, that’s a stallion. I really like the mare from the first book! Bansh, isn’t that her name? She’s one of my favorite magic horses ever.

  3. Elaine T

    i’ll be interested in your take on the Czernada. My husband read it, and while he did finish it, wasn’t enthusiastic. I started it because it sounded interesting, but found it very put-down-able. Still haven’t gotten back to it.

    Didn’t finish the first of Bear’s series either. I put it down, first to read Jade Sea, then Black Dog and then the library wanted it back and I realized I had lost the threads and interest, so back it went instead of being renewed. I’ll try it again someday.

    If you want more for the exploding TBR pile, you could check out Glenda Larke’s LASCAR’S DAGGER. I’m almost done with it, and it’s good. Lots of good characters (good, bad, and got flaws, can’t tell which way they’ll go). At least three cultures on the page, others referenced. It’s the first of a trilogy, and I’m liking it better than her last work, which was also a trilogy, the Stormlord trilogy, which had too many POV characters that I didn’t care about. Here’s a bit from her website about LASCAR: “I suppose the main inspiration originated from my desire to write a book that drew on my experiences living in South-east Asia, something evocative of a period and a place not usually touched upon in fantasy epics. And so this trilogy is set in a fantasy world of two hemispheres, east and west, where western countries are setting out to trade with the other side of the world–and their main desire is to procure tropical spices. Think 17th-18th century Europe; think the rivalry between the British and Dutch East India Companies; think the Spice Islands of Indonesia and the impact of this contact between two hemispheres. And then think: but what if…
    What if the Spice Islands had magic?
    And so, being a fantasy, it’s not just about a clash of cultures, but about a clash in religious/magic systems…The trilogy’s protagonists come from both hemispheres.”

    I’ve been reading her work since her first book, under a different name. She even got away in her first trilogy with naming two female characters “Blaze” and “Flame”.

  4. Pete+Mack

    Also: the Mary Brennan books stand on their own very well. The second book references the first, but its plot doesn’t much depend on the first. They really are different episodes in the life of the protagonist. Not like Steles of the Sky.

  5. Rachel

    Hi, Elaine, that’s funny — Blaze and Flame. I wonder if she had doubts about that when she did it? Your description does sound interesting. I hope I like Turn of Light better than you, but then obviously I liked the Bear trilogy a lot better!

  6. Maureen E

    I’ve been hearing such good things about Goblin Emperor–really hope it lives up to expectations!

    I have to agree about Lost Lake. I didn’t even finish it–got 3/4 of the way through, skimmed the rest and returned it. Sad, because I wanted so much to like it, but the story was just too unfocused and almost hesitant. I could never quite manage to get into it.

    Elfland I think I tried and also didn’t finish, though I can’t quite remember my reasons at this point.

    I just got several great recs for YA on Twitter, so my TBR is not suffering at all–unless you count collapsing under its own weight as suffering! And I have all the Bradshaw/Cherryh/etc books I’m trying to catch up on, besides new releases. I love being a broad reader, but sometimes trying to keep up with multiple genres and age groups is a bit daunting.

  7. Rachel

    Hi, Maureen — I think “keeping up” is a lost cause! Especially when I like to re-read, too. In fact, I was just thinking I would like to re-read Dunnett’s “Dolly” mysteries.

  8. Sarah

    Almost done with the Touchstone Trilogy thanks to your author week. And Andrea Host has more books to read when I’m done. So glad to have found this author. I’ve got Lascar’s Dagger waiting on the TBR pile. And I’m looking forward to reading The Emperor’s Blades and also The Goblin Emperor. I did like Turn of the Light. There were some pacing issues and the main character’s naiveté was a bit much sometimes but it was an enjoyable read overall.

  9. Rachel

    Hi, Sarah — glad you’re enjoying Touchstone — and also that you give a thumb’s up to A Turn of Light. I doubt the pacing issues will bother me, though I expect I may roll my eyes at the naiveté.

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