12.05.2014

10 Books to Read When You Need a Good Cry


Quick update if you are wondering why I haven't changed much. I'm on vacation and other stuff. More later. 

Before I start: voting is up for the Teen Choice Long List and Waistcoats & Weaponry is making an unexpected appearance. Thank you so much to whomever nominated it!

Now on to your regularly scheduled listical...

Look, Gentle Reader, I make no secret about the fact that I prefer to read happy and humorous books. But sometimes even I need to read just to have a good cry. There is something almost spiritually cathartic about sobbing your way through the end of a really tragic story (or story moment). Below I have compiled a list of my top 10.

Now, please be aware that there may be spoilers in the very fact that some of these books are sad, but I (for one) like to know when exactly I'm due to tumble into the waters of wailing. Not all of them have actual unhappy endings, but some do.

One of the things I always notice in these books is that moment when I'm crying over something that if I tried to explain it to anyone else would make no earthly sense. I call these "the biggest unexplainable sobs" and I have also listed them for your morbid amusement.

  1. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault ~ I have both read and listened to this book. I think it is better on audio (although not currently available, curses) but wonderful either way. Renault's writing style is very abrupt (not unlike Judith Tarr), it translates well to the spoken word, but can take a little to process as a reader. Essentially, this is the story of an Athenian boy with a disinterested father growing up (and into) the Peloponnesian War. A fictional character, he encounters many of the famous men of his time period, including Plato and Socrates.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? A broken sandal.
  2. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ~ Correctly hailed as the scion of Mary Renault, this is a retelling of The Iliad in first person from Patroclus's perspective. As I have always found Achilles's foil the most interesting character, I loved the idea behind this book. I wish we had a little more insight into why Achilles loves Patroclus so devotedly, but their relationship is believable and quite sweet. There is a great twist as to how Miller manages to finish the story of the war even after the inevitable you know what.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? Angry sea nymph.
  3. Theirs Not To Reason Why (4 book series) by Jean Johnson ~ Being told from the get go that this is the story of "Ia and her Damned" it's pretty clear that this sweeping epic space opera will be the tale of a martyr. There are so many things that trouble me about these books if I stop to actually think about them: Ia's Mary Sue qualities, the religiously cult-ish nature of her followers (yet they are the good guys), a woman who actually knows all probabilities, the abrupt literary switches between intimacy of character and huge sweeping concepts, and the feeling in the final two books that this is all set up for a different series... and yet. And yet... they are UTTERLY ADDICTING. I struggle to explain why I enjoyed this series so much. Why I sat on the couch for hours sobbing through the final book (30 tissues, I counted, the AB was very worried about me). In the end, I gave up and just accepted my fate (much as Ia accepted hers) and simply read. Some additions cannot be explained.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? 8 people who do not get the black heart of death.
  4. Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley ~ A serious and emotionally crippling take on the Robin Hood myth. Despite the fact that the vast limestone caves below Nottingham yet again make no appearance (why are the Robin Hood myths so lax on this count?) this is my favorite retelling. And yes, I include the various TV series in this statement ~ and Richard Armitage. McKinley's characters are wonderful (Little John's romantic thread is the bestest). Her final tree-borne battle scene is genius and brutally sad. It's been well over a decade since I read this book, partly because of its darkness, but I'm thinking of sticking this under-appreciated gem on the reread list for the book group next year.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? The awful hair cut.
  5. Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce ~ the final book in the Song of the Lioness Quartet is also the saddest. The love story is fantastic, for it is the romance of attraction (but not cohesion) that most of us have had at some point in our lives. To suffer the consequences of breaking up not for lack of love but for lack of compatibility is a marker of emotional growth. In this book, Alanna is fully an adult and as such facing war means not glory but loss, betrayal, and absolution.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? A cat constellation.
  6. Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley ~ this is one that tackles loss as a marker of immortality and eternity. I've made no secret about the fact that I prefer The Blue Sword over this book, but this is the one I reach for when I want a good cry.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? Living forever.
  7. Princess of the Camalyn by Cherry Wilder (OP as she died in 2002) ~ The first of The Rulers of Hylor series, this is the only one I really loved. As with the next book on my list, this is the story of exile. Wilder perfectly captures the lingering loss and loneliness of being unable to go home. This is what I call a "distance" book. Written more as if one were being told a legend around a campfire than with the "awful intimacy of I personal" that so often characterizes urban fantasy. (McKillip is another mistress of this style of writing.) If you don't like that feeling of almost floating above a story as you read it, then this may not touch you as much as it did me.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? A horse race.
  8. In the Caves of Exile by Ru Emerson ~ This is The Second Tale of Nedao (the first of which is To the Haunted Mountains) and both are sob-worthy but it is the poignancy of the romantic through line that gets me the most. Yes, I cried at the end of the first book, but it is the tugging on the heartstrings from that book to this one, which highlights love lost and love's possibilities in a much more abrasive form, that really makes me cry. Like Wilder. Emerson is a distance writer. There is a lot of atmosphere in these books, but when we do get those flashes of intimate focus they are all the brighter for her style.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? A man recognizing a dagger.
  9. Down from Ten by J. Daniel Sawyer ~ perhaps an oddball on my list as this creepy sexy story at first appears to be something like a cabin fever mystery (not my thing) but evolves into a superlative scifi. It's very hard to categorize. You can read it or listen to it, but I prefer to listen. I didn't expect to cry at the end, but I did: happy gulping blubbers.
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? The idea that you can take them with you.
  10. Once and Always by Judith McNaught ~ One of the first classic historical romances I remember really pulling at my heartstrings. This is a typical historical love story: young and innocent beauty reforms a troubled rake through the power of her love (and great sex). However, I still adore it and occasionally reread it, and I still tear up at the dénouement. Perhaps because it was one of my first?
    Biggest unexplainable sobs? The cloak in the river.

{What is Gail's Book Group reading for December? Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
1913 Day Ensemble  Rondeau Legrand & Cie  c.1913  Philadelphia Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
The “Codex Rotundus” small book of hours.

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Vampire grave found in Bulgaria

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Portable Robot Printer is Like a Roomba That Squirts Ink


PROJECT ROUND UP  

Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last Releases November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order. Edits stage.

Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First Release date March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! 



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
That’s What She Read says of Waistcoats & Weaponry,
“No Victorian custom or fashion is safe under her pen, as she cleverly exposes the hypocrisy or ludicrousness of them. Without a doubt, Waistcoats & Weaponry is quintessential Ms. Carriger. Because of that and the added personal growth and development Sophronia shows during her train adventure, the Finishing School series keeps getting better and better.”

Quote of the Day:
"In general, mankind, since the improvement in cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires."
~ Benjamin Franklin

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.

12.03.2014

December's Book Group Pick: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts


Hello my dear Gentle Reader, this month's book pick is Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. This is the first in a trilogy. Billed as "the other side of the Rift War Cycle" that aspect of this series was not a draw for me, as I've never read the Rift War. No, what I adore about this series is that it is a high political fantasy based in an alternate Japanese empire with its epic quality balanced by a pinpoint focus on a single brilliant character: Mara, Lady of the Acoma.

Full cover Mass Market cover art

Published in the late 1980s, I must have first picked this up in the mid 90s because all three were already out in mass market paperback. I have clear memories of traveling to England with these books, when my grandparents were still alive, and hiding out from the family (I love them but... you know), claiming jet lag, in order to read them all. So good. You don't have to take my word for it, Tansy Rayner Roberts ran a reread over on tor.com back in May.

My least favorite cover, Mara is NOT blonde

I have a love of books co-authored by male/female pairs. Doyle and MacDonald's Mageworlds series springs to mind, as does Lee and Miller's Liaden Universe. I have entirely prejudiced and biased feelings on the subject of the gender of authors (and the style of writing that results). Suffice it to say that I find a balanced pairing often leaves me feeling I got the best of both styles.

For my money, Fiest and Wurts are the best of the epic pairs. I adore this trilogy and I defy you to stop after the first book. Daughter of the Empire has a slow descriptive beginning, dense with contemplative back story, an infodump-style start that is a classic hallmark of 1980s epics. It's worth the minor slog, I promise.

Geoff Taylor cover

If you are a YA or urban fantasy reader you may find this initial lack of action frustrating. Try immersing yourself into the language, for by page 4 everything changes and you will be hooked. Having read this whole series multiple times I can tell you that now, reading Kayoke's line, "We seek the Lady of the Acoma!" brings tears to my eyes. Because I know what will happen as a result of that single statement. And how Mara's pathway is formed. How better suited she is for politics than a life of contemplation. And how much she will suffer for that ability.

If you are a romance reader you may be frustrated by the lack of amour in Mara's life. Don't worry, she will get her passion and her love, and lose it, and find it again, and lose it, and find it at last. And it will be glorious.

First edition cover

Mara is one of the strongest female main characters you will ever read, because she is very very smart. For me, that is the touchstone of joy in this book. She makes hard choices, she does the wrong thing on occasion, but she is so very good with people: cultivating loyalty and friendship. I feel like Mara is the closest thing fantasy has ever wrought to what a female with political power might actually have been like historically. Zenobia, Boudicca, Hatshepsut... Mara draws from all of these without ever having to defy her gender.

Aus (UK?) cover art

I cannot wait to reread this book. I'll be taking it on vacation with me next week and am contemplating packing all three, except that I know the end result is always me curled on a couch rereading them, back-to-back, for hours. Sometimes for days. I'm not sure I should check out so entirely from my vacation. (Although, in my universe, that basically is the best vacation, I think the AB would like to spend some time with me.) Still. Awfully tempted.

My copy's cover

A quick apology: I do wish this was available in all e-book formats (I found it on Amazon UK but not US, iBooks, but not B&N or Smashwords, sigh). Since this series was published before the e-revolution, I suspect the rights are under contention, or the authors are not motivated to self pub. I really wish they would. Since I first packed Mara off the the UK with me I have transported her to Italy and Peru on excavations, and through most of Europe and Mexico on vacation. For some reason, Mara is my book travel companion of choice. And boy do I wish I could get her on my generic e-reader and save my weight limit. But if I have to keep packing the mass markets, I will. And I will leave out the extra pair of heels.

Would you look at that? Me! Electing to pack a paper book rather than a pair of shoes. Amazing!

For those of you who absolutely positively refuse to read paper anymore, I pick for you the first book of the The Dragon Variation (Liaden Universe omnibus pairing). The specific book is called Local Custom and it is my favorite Liaden book. It's classic space opera romance culture clash and I think any reader of mine would like it. Also Lee and Miller are some of the earliest and most savvy participants in the e-revolution, props!



For everyone else, I do hope you all enjoy Daughter of the Empire as much as I do and forgive it for mostly being available in print.


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
artschoolglasses-tumblr De Gracieuse, 1914

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
10 of the deadliest shoes and accessories of the 19th Century

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Lock pick earrings

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
5 Best Yoga Poses for Reading


PROJECT ROUND UP  

Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last Releases November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order. Edits stage.

Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First Release date March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! 



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
Meghan B on Stellar Four says, “The action in Waistcoats & Weaponry is top notch. It's full of daring do and impressive feats of espionage. The dialog is Carriger's usual brand of wit and whimsy and the characters are all at their best here. The story rockets around and doesn't let up for a second.”

Quote of the Day:
"This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal.... We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke."
~ Jane Grigson

Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.

12.01.2014

Twelve Days of Finishing School



My dearest darling Gentle Reader, have have scuttled off for a few days of vacation. I plan to do a great deal of reading, podcast listening, walking, and tropical fruit consumption. In the meantime, I do hope you enjoy the following...

Twelve Days of Finishing School














{What is Gail's Book Group reading for December? Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts}


GAIL'S DAILY DOSE

Your Moment of Parasol . . .
via British Paintings tumblr 1907

Your Infusion of Cute . . .
Orbit-Sink-by-Alessandro-Isola

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life: The Parachute Descent of Jeanne Garnerin

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  


PROJECT ROUND UP  

Manners & Mutiny ~ The Finishing School Book the Last Releases November 2015. Not yet available for pre-order. Edits stage.

Prudence ~ Custard Protocol Book the First Release date March 17, 2015 now available for pre-order! 



The Books! 

 The Finishing School Series: 1 Etiquette & Espionage, 2 Curtsies & Conspiracies, 3
 The Custard Protocol Series: 1 Prudence (Coming March 17, 2015)
The Parasol Protectorate Series: 1 Soulless, 2 Changeless, 3 Blameless, 4 Heartless, 5 Timeless
Parasol Protectorate Series manga graphic novels

Book News:
Alexia fan art via bansheebender-tunblr


Quote of the Day:
"Vegetables are the food of the earth; fruit seems more the food of the heavens."
~ Sepal Felicivant


Follow Gail on Facebook & Twitter. Or you can join her mailing list
She also has a fashion blog ~ Retro Rack.
The best place to talk all things Parasol Protectorate is on its
Facebook Group.