So, the first day of WorldCon was … actually, it was pretty relaxing. I had a calm drive to Chicago, possibly the least death-defying drive ever, where I didn’t see a single person do anything wildly stupid on the highway, construction was minimal, and given that I arrived in Chicago right at rush hour, honestly, traffic was not dreadful. The kittens were pretty quiet. Their new person arrived soon after I did and the transfer was accomplished with a minimum of wear and tear all round. The person is Judy Peterson of Fantanimals, who is a dealer at the convention, obviously, and so last night (Thursday night), I found her in the dealer’s room and she showed me pictures of the kittens settling down in their temporary home in Chicago. They’ll go with Judy and her husband to their permanent home after the convention.
Then all of Thursday and the convention itself was pretty relaxing. I woke up at my normal time (about four) which gave me a long morning at Craig’s place. I cut three thousand words from Tasmakat, about a thousand words per chapter, almost all at the sentence level. If I can do a thousand words per chapter, I should be able to drop about forty thousand words, or about, I don’t know, a hundred and twenty pages or something like that, which will put the length back to something reasonable. Well, reasonable-ish.
At the convention, the registration line wasn’t too long, and although the hotel itself is maximally confusing, I found the green room (where panelists are supposed to meet up) and the room for the panel (opposite tower of the hotel) with minimal trouble and (this was good) minimal-ish trouble from my knee. Have I mentioned I’ve been having knee trouble? I don’t think I’ve mentioned that. But I finished doing a series of physical therapy appointments last week and I’m hoping I manage to get through the convention without too much walking or standing (this will be hopeless). Speaking as someone newly mobility-impaired, would convention organizers kindly not put a room where you’re supposed to meet your co-panelists that far from the room where the panel takes place, like, ever?
The panel was pretty well attended, and I do have a few relaxing reads mentioned by other panelists that I’m going to try and that I’ll share with you.
Empress of Salt and Fortune — Nghi Vo
A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.
Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.
At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.
This description certainly does not sound especially relaxing, comforting, or low-tension, but it was recommended in this context, so perhaps it is all those things. Have any of you read it? What did you think?
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
Well, that sounds lovely. I think I have this on my Kindle right now. If I don’t, I should.
The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal
This is supposed to be The Thin Man, but in space.
Tesla Crane, a brilliant inventor and an heiress, is on her honeymoon on an interplanetary space liner, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She’s traveling incognito and is reveling in her anonymity. Then someone is murdered and the festering chowderheads who run security have the audacity to arrest her spouse. Armed with banter, martinis and her small service dog, Tesla is determined to solve the crime so that the newlyweds can get back to canoodling—and keep the real killer from striking again.
That does sound like The Thin Man in space! That sounds like fun. It’s not out yet. It’s out in October. One of the panelists beta-read it, hence the recommendation.
I’m up early again today (Friday). It’s, let me see, not quite five as I type this. Back to cutting Tasmakat! But don’t worry, just at the sentence and occasionally the paragraph level. I don’t think I’m cutting anything that could be described as a whole scene.
12 thoughts on “Relaxing reads”
I really enjoyed EMPRESS, and it is indeed (mostly) relaxing—because it’s told by the handmaiden of the titular empress, long after the events described, to a historian who’s trying to piece together the true version of events. So you know from very early on what will happen, but not why or how. Nghi Vo’s SINGING HILLS series does a lot of examining the way stories are told, the motivations of the tellers, the way conflicting narratives reveal truths; I really like what I’ve read of them.
(Don’t get too excited about the war mammoths in this book though. They appear in like a sentence. Much more prominent in WHEN THE TIGER CAME DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.)
Sharyn McCrumb’s Appalachian mysteries are pretty low key. Elizabeth is part of an old no-longer-money family with a significamt number of … eccentric … characters. Spookiness and murders await!
Thanks for your comment about Empress, Mary Beth!
And for your mystery suggestion, Pete Mack. I’m all about setting in mysteries, so McCrumb’s series sounds like it might appeal to me.
I enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea a lot. It is about finding yourself and what matters to you, as well as the romance and the endearing quirky kids. I am not 100% sure I would call it relaxing, and I am not sure why. Maybe it’s because the kids are threatened? (Mildly). Or maybe because trashing the life you have, even for a much better one, is not relaxing to me. But it’s very good.
I have preordered the Kowal and am looking forward to it.
I take that back. Started rereading Sharon Crumb. Her first book is very much Southern Gothic, with just a hint of Brigadoon. And very, very funny, in a graveyard humor sort of way.
Some of her other books are lighter. I think.
“The House in the Cerulean Sea” is certainly lovely. Very much so. But TJ Klune books always have a certain level of tension and anticipation that I don’t think I’d call relaxing. Still, I highly recommend, as well as “Under the Whispering Door”. I’ve read all his books, and they wander the spectrum of genre and tone. Some are definitely not for everyone, but I would not hesitate to recommend those two specifically to anyone who wants a good read that will make them feel good.
I just found Vo’s book in my to-be-read file. Guess I’ll move it up the ranks. I would add to your “relaxing reads” list Beth Brower’s “The Q”, or her series “The Unselected Journals of Emma N. Lion”.
I find Mary Robinette Kowal relaxing: not lacking in tension, but not particularly intense. She has a fun Regency magic series, and it sounds like The Spare Man belongs with her Lady Astronaut series—I’ve only read the first one but really enjoyed it.
I don’t know that I’d call Empress relaxing. Lovely and brilliant, but I found it intense. Yes, the story is told second-hand after-the-fact, but there’s a lot of emotion simmering under there! Well worth reading, but also worth devoting time and attention to, so you don’t miss what she’s doing.
I dnf the house in the cerulean sea. I found the writing a little arch, a little smug, a little self congratulatory, and Linus Baker is no Cliopher. I made it about half way through, and I’m sure it gets much better, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I was too irritated to relax.
Alison, that’s exactly how I felt and why I also didn’t finish it! (But I couldn’t quite articulate what I didn’t like about it: you nailed it.) So many people love it so much that I feel as though I’m missing out, but it just didn’t work for me.
Kim, thank goodness you agree!! I’ve been worrying ever since I posted that maybe I was a little too harsh.
Alison, thank you — I’m just as glad now that I have a sample, not the full book. That’s an attitude that can really grate, and Kim’s right, you captured that attitude perfectly. Who knows if the book will strike me that way, but I’m certainly fine with a warning, though I hope I’ll agree with Mary Anderson and OtterB about this title.
Mary Anderson, I’ve got both of Beth Brower’s titles on my Kindle right now.
I also bounced off the Cerulean Sea due to tone of the writing. OTOH, I quite enjoyed Beth Brower’s Emma Lion series.
Hope your mother didn’t hurt herself too much. My Mom came back at 89 from being hit by a car and getting a splintered leg, but it’s always scary when they get hurt.