what are you reading?

ploverwing

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I read a TON, and almost all of it is YA fantasy fiction. Yes, I appear to be a grown-ass senior citizen man, but I am in fact a teenage girl on a never-ending quest for a dreamy vampire to sweep me off my feet. 🤣

I'm currently reading two series of historical detective fiction featuring women amateur detectives, both by Deanna Raybourn.

The first series features Lady Julia Gray, and its first entry, Silent In The Grave, features one of my favorite opening sentences ever: "To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching on the floor." While Lady Julia is somewhat sheltered, as young adult women in the Victorian era typically were, even after marriage, she's part of a large family (ten siblings) headed by a "chaotic neutral" father who prided himself on raising daughters who were every bit as sharp as his sons, even with the different social expectations of them -- along with multigenerational expectations of a certain amount of eccentricity verging on outrageousness for both the male and female members of the family. Their surname is March, and their family emblem is a hare, as in "mad as a March hare." Our lady Julia is often impatient as well as stubborn, but her intelligence shines through, as does the wit sharpened by scampish brothers. Certainly any fans of the sibling dynamics in Bridgerton will find something familiar here, even if these books are overall nothing like those....but I'm on the second of five in the series, and loving it.

I'm loving her second series even better. It features Veronica Speedwell (an intentional, and oft-commented-upon botanical pun), an independently-monied butterfly hunter and researcher. I'm 5 books into the 8 of these so far, and I have to say, Veronica Speedwell is even more appealing to me than Sherlock Holmes, and I LOVE Sherlock. I think these are THAT good.

It's kind of like, I can say I PREFER George Harrison to Chuck Berry, even if George would be the first to admit that he wouldn't have been the guitarist he was without Chuck. So while I wouldn't want to live in a world without either Sherlock or Veronica, I'm choosing her every time. (Besides, I've already read and watched plenty of Sherlock!)

I also especially enjoy how often natural science figures into conversations here, including several mentions of Darwin (whose gift of a Galapagos tortoise plays a part in one of the books). Here's the publisher's description of the first of the series, A Curious Beginning:



Even if you're not into teen-oriented fiction, if you have any fondness at all for amateur sleuths and historical fiction, you'll get a real kick out of these, despite a complete and conspicuous lack of any vampires whatsoever.
I'm actually quite impressed by YA fiction. I have found some absolutely excellent books, well written, tight plots, interesting characters. I mean, I've read some absolute crap too, but a lot of it is really good, and should not be overlooked as a genre. Thank you for these recommendations, I'll see if our local library carries them!
 

Patty

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I'm actually quite impressed by YA fiction. I have found some absolutely excellent books, well written, tight plots, interesting characters. I mean, I've read some absolute crap too, but a lot of it is really good, and should not be overlooked as a genre. Thank you for these recommendations, I'll see if our local library carries them!
I have read that most “YA” fiction is in fact read by adults.
 

mikelz777

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I haven't read a LOT of YA fiction but from what I have read I find that in general, they tend to be less bloated and more direct/streamlined story telling. I like them because they tend to be easy, enjoyable reads.
 

kkimura

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Oooooh tell me more
Four different women of different backgrounds and ages bringing four different strengths and points of view to the story of the fortress Masada during the Roman conquest of Israel. Hoffman weaves a compelling tale.
 
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mikelz777

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I'm currently about half way through The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame Smith. Years ago I read Smith's book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter out of curiosity and the sheer audacity of the premise. It almost sounded too stupid to ignore and I imagined I would get a lot of laughs at the book's expense. I enjoy vampire lore and ended up really enjoying the book. My initial impression was dashed as I was surprised at how well the story worked out. I recommended it to my skeptical daughter and she said she enjoyed it a lot more than she thought she would since the book title suggested that it might be a pretty schlocky story. The Last American Vampire takes up where Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter left off. Both books combine actual history and characters with the horror aspect of vampires to a great effect. I like Smith's writing style and how he cleverly and artfully weaves the fiction and non-fiction. It makes for an easy and entertaining read. So far, I'd recommend both if this sounds like your kind of thing.
 
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Voran

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I haven't read a LOT of YA fiction but from what I have read I find that in general, they tend to be less bloated and more direct/streamlined story telling. I like them because they tend to be easy, enjoyable reads.
ME TOO

I wish someone wrote 'YA' but for a 32 year old

I love YA because there's so much less boring filler. At the same time though, always going back in time and reading about teens going through puberty gets old. I already went through that a long time ago.
 

TimWilson

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At the same time though, always going back in time and reading about teens going through puberty gets old. I already went through that a long time ago.

Yeah, I tend to avoid most "coming of age" stories. I'm already of age, and have managed to work through most of the issues I had with it. I said "most". LOL

I find that in general, they tend to be less bloated and more direct/streamlined story telling

THIS. I'm a literary guy, went to grad school, taught literature, later managed a couple of bookstores for Barnes & Noble, but I find that a lot of adult fiction is showy for its own sake, or needlessly cruel, or gratuitously [insert your least favorite thing to be gratuitous about LOL]. Just spin me a yarn. Tell me a tale. YA is good for that.
 

ploverwing

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I love YA because there's so much less boring filler. At the same time though, always going back in time and reading about teens going through puberty gets old. I already went through that a long time ago.
Actually, the good YA doesn't even have any of the teenage angst (or very little of it, or if there is any, it's not the major focus of the story). I cannot tolerate the teenage angst stuff, it's totally blah for me. If a YA piece goes down that road too far, I drop it.

I just picked up the third in the Misewa Saga (target audience is middle grades, "Narnia meets indigenous" is one description) and am looking forward to reading it when I get through my Ian Rankin/Rebus series. I quite enjoy David A. Robertson's work - I especially enjoyed The Evolution of Alice and Black Water (which was a biography).
 

Voran

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Actually, the good YA doesn't even have any of the teenage angst (or very little of it, or if there is any, it's not the major focus of the story). I cannot tolerate the teenage angst stuff, it's totally blah for me. If a YA piece goes down that road too far, I drop it.

I just picked up the third in the Misewa Saga (target audience is middle grades, "Narnia meets indigenous" is one description) and am looking forward to reading it when I get through my Ian Rankin/Rebus series. I quite enjoy David A. Robertson's work - I especially enjoyed The Evolution of Alice and Black Water (which was a biography).
I don't mean angst I mean milestones I already experienced and finished going through a long time ago.
 

Voran

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Yeah, I tend to avoid most "coming of age" stories. I'm already of age, and have managed to work through most of the issues I had with it. I said "most". LOL



THIS. I'm a literary guy, went to grad school, taught literature, later managed a couple of bookstores for Barnes & Noble, but I find that a lot of adult fiction is showy for its own sake, or needlessly cruel, or gratuitously [insert your least favorite thing to be gratuitous about LOL]. Just spin me a yarn. Tell me a tale. YA is good for that.
Samesies. I get so BORED reading about exactly what socks the protagonist was wearing. Nope.
 

TimWilson

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I have read that most “YA” fiction is in fact read by adults.

That may well be! I started to see it with Harry Potter, which landed mostly my late 30s and early 40s, but I sure loved 'em and was reading along with plenty of other adults. I saw it even moreso with The Hunger Games: pretty much every adult I know with an ereader downloaded all three in that series and binged the whole series at maximum speed. I'd never seen that before, but I'm happy to see that so many other folks enjoy YA too! I'll gladly share some other titles and authors as I get to them!

I'll mention one "adult" book by the author Deanna Raybourn that I mentioned in my previous post: Killers of a Certain Age, in which four women assassins in their 60s realize that they're about to be terminated in a permanent manner, and band together to find out who gave the order, and do something about it. A lot of fun!
 

ploverwing

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I'll mention one "adult" book by the author Deanna Raybourn that I mentioned in my previous post: Killers of a Certain Age, in which four women assassins in their 60s realize that they're about to be terminated in a permanent manner, and band together to find out who gave the order, and do something about it. A lot of fun!
Ooooh! I can get that one at the library, that does sound entertaining!!
 

TimWilson

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I can get that one at the library, that does sound entertaining!!

99% of what I read comes from the library, and I'm in a pretty small town. I think that most of what I mention will be pretty easy for most folks to find. :)
 

Patty

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I'll mention one "adult" book by the author Deanna Raybourn that I mentioned in my previous post: Killers of a Certain Age, in which four women assassins in their 60s realize that they're about to be terminated in a permanent manner, and band together to find out who gave the order, and do something about it. A lot of fun!
Sounds like my kind of book. I’m putting it next on my list.
 

ploverwing

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99% of what I read comes from the library, and I'm in a pretty small town. I think that most of what I mention will be pretty easy for most folks to find. :)
Our library system covers most of Vancouver Island, so if I can't find it in my local branch, it might be in the system. If it's not in the system, I have a great interlibrary-loan process that I use vigorously, which enables me to access material from public libraries across British Columbia. So while none of the Lady Julia Gray series are available in my system, and all but the first (!!!!!!!) in the Veronica Speedwell series are available, I can likely still get my hands on them with enough patience and a little extra effort.
 

thaidye39

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I'm actually quite impressed by YA fiction. I have found some absolutely excellent books, well written, tight plots, interesting characters. I mean, I've read some absolute crap too, but a lot of it is really good, and should not be overlooked as a genre. Thank you for these recommendations, I'll see if our local library carries them!
YA is my favorite.
 

Nickie

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I just finished Bookshop of Second Chances - a story of a mid-forties woman starting over after she discovered her husband cheating on her with her friend.

It was okay. I like stories of middle age folks finding new friends and communities. It’s probably because I’m almost forty and on the verge of having to find new friends and community myself and it seems far more daunting than in, say, high school.
If you keep playing ukulele, finding friends will be an adventure!
 

Oldscruggsfan

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This thread doesn't seem to be getting a ton of male responses so please indulge a tad of backtracking:

Two years ago, smack in the middle of COVID-19 hysteria, I downloaded the audio version of Randy Wayne White's "The Man Who Invented Florida" because the title seemed fun. It was indeed fun, extremely well written, and included just enough salty passages to keep things interesting. I've since read every book in RWW's Marion "Doc" Ford series. I've since tried starting two of RWW's YA audiobooks but just couldn't get into the kids' perspective. I remain surprised at that perspective because in the past I really enjoyed listening to the fine YA tale, "Hoot" and several others.

Earlier this year, I borrowed the audio version of "Watership Down" and here's an admission that every UK-based reader should find appalling: I'd heard of the book practically all my life but had never bothered with it because I'd presumed it was about a shipwreck [Duh-OH!]. Narration by the author in the digital audio version is absolutely enchanting.

Last week I started and have thus far thoroughly enjoyed "Dreams of Eldorado - A History of The American West" by H.W. Brands. HWB's previous non-fiction works included "A Traitor To His Class" and "The First American". I was pleasantly surprised to find Brands's style similar to the late, great non-fiction author and historian Stephen Ambrose. HWB even reminds me a bit of Michener, whose writing I've always enjoyed.

Having started way back in July, this past weekend I finished my first ever start-to-finish reading of the Old Testament and turned the page from Malachai to Matthew. Per my goal of delving more deeply into the Bible than the familiar, commercialized but interestingly-differing perspectives of Disciples MMLandJ, I skipped ahead to Acts.

During today's commute I began listening to Lee Child's Jack Reacher tale, "Die Trying" and immediately remembered one of the many quirks of audio books: The narrator's voice and style are crucial. I had become accustomed to Scott Brick's tight, brisk style of narrating other Lee Child books and many of John Grisham's and suffered a pang of disappointment because this book is read by a different person. It's a major distraction. Oddly, this novel was very early in the Reacher series but only recently appeared in the Libby library-borrowing platform in audiobook format. Anyone who isn't familiar with the book series should know that Tom Cruise was a spectacularly awful choice to portray Jack Reacher on the big screen. Child clearly and repeatedly portrays Reacher as wide, tall and unattractive, often derided by strangers as "Sasquatch". Though the actor who portrays Reacher in the recently-released Netflix version is more bulk-appropriate, certain scenes of graphic violence are unnecessary and offensive. In comparison, a professional MMA bout looks like a chess match.
 
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TimWilson

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Two years ago, smack in the middle of COVID-19 hysteria, I downloaded the audio version of Randy Wayne White's "The Man Who Invented Florida" because the title seemed fun. It was indeed fun, extremely well written, and included just enough salty passages to keep things interesting. I've since read every book in RWW's Marion "Doc" Ford series.

Back in the 90s, my wife and I had a video production company in the Florida Keys. One of our projects was a weekly local entertainment TV show, and author interviews were among our regular features. We shot it at our house, and made the authors a really nice lunch (I love to cook!), so word got around the relatively small circle of South Florida crime novelists, and we had a bunch of them on, some of whom became friends.

Randy was only on twice, but he was a gem of a guy. If you like Doc Ford, I can also point you to Les Standiford's "Deal" series, starting with 1993's Done Deal. Les is a prolific author of non-fiction as well as fiction, and literary fiction as well as crime fiction. He's also the head of the writing program at FIU, and widely respected among the authorial crowd as one of their best. Also a supremely nice guy. Both he and Randy radiate a sweetness that's rare, and it makes me like their books more. :)

There's a whole strain of supremely outlandish South Florida caper novels. Some of these widely miss the mark (easy to do with farce). Of the ones who hit the mark more often than not, Elmore Leonard is at the top of the heap, even though a lot of his best stuff isn't set in Florida. We didn't get to cook for him (we met him in Miami Beach), but he'd heard the news of our making lunch for authors who came to visit us in Key Largo, which helped us land the interview. :cool: (Remarkably enough, it had been a decade since his previous TV interview, and he started giving a lot more after this.) The book we spoke to him about was his first novel featuring a Kentucky lawman named Raylan Givens, who'd been introduced in the short story "Fire In The Hole", which served as the basis for the pilot of Justified some years later.

Carl Hiaasen is my favorite of the outlandish South Florida writers, and his debut, Tourist Season, is superlative, one of the all-time greats imo. It was followed by another hall-of-famer in Native Tongue, which introduced the one-eyed former governor nicknamed Skink, who went crazy trying to fight corruption, and abandoned his office to live in the swamps, living off roadkill. The whole Skink 8-book series is a ride, but he's got a couple of other short series (two novels each) that are also terrific. They're all winners, as is Carl, another genuinely lovely guy. He's also a bare-knuckle chronicler of South Florida corruption and environmental havoc for the Miami Herald until he retired last year, and three volumes of his columns have been collected, all of them also terrific, if depressing.

Tom Cruise was a spectacularly awful choice to portray Jack Reacher on the big screen. Child clearly and repeatedly portrays Reacher as wide, tall and unattractive, often derided by strangers as "Sasquatch". Though the actor who portrays Reacher in the recently-released Netflix version is more bulk-appropriate

I started reading Lee Child soon after the turn of the century, when he'd "only" released his first eight or so Reacher novels. :) We devoured all of those in a couple of weeks, and after that, ya kinda have to read them all, right? LOL So we have. Twenty six and a short story collection so far. Only about two-thirds are winners, but that's a pretty good batting average, and even the bad ones are okay. The thing is, there's a fine line between catharsis and cruelty, and Reacher himself is pretty clear that he doesn't care too much about where that line is.

I LOVED the second Cruise Reacher movie, as much for Cobie Smulders, who I think Hollywood is underutilizing. She kicks some serious butt in this, and the story as a whole leans much more into Reacher's (and Cruise's) intelligence than his brawling, so the gap in brawn between the two versions of the character is less obvious.

(Speaking of Cobie, her character in the TV series Stumptown is be the best portrayal of a hard-boiled PI since Bogart, certainly on television. Alas, canceled after a single short season, but worth looking for.)

The thing I don't like about the TV Reacher is that he's too sculpted. Child also describes Reacher as built like a boulder, so in my mind, it was always more like a powerlifter. NOT SHREDDED. NO ABS. The guy playing TV Reacher is exactly like the giant gym rats that Book Reacher gleefully dispatches as he's scolding them for wasting time in the gym. LOL

We stopped watching in the middle of the first season and won't be watching more because, as you saw @Oldscruggsfan, the violence that you can look away from on the page isn't as easy to skip on the screen. The balance is off, at least for me. I still look forward to a new Reacher novel every year, though!

One more recommendation following Child is Harlan Coben. He's becoming more famous for atmospheric, "long-buried secrets surfacing" gothic dramas that the BBC is serializing, but I first encountered him as a more straight-on mystery author. I'm not a snob about adaptations in general, I swear, but I don't like any of these BBC series based on his books. LOL I do love every book he's written -- 35 I think! And yes, ALL winners. I'd suggest starting where he (and I) did, with a series of mysteries featuring a college basketball star turned sports agent Myron Bolitar, beginning with Deal Breaker.

Coben is the first author to have won all of the top prizes for mystery writers -- the Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony awards -- and bunches of others besides. Not nearly as violent as Reacher, but still very intense, high-stakes stuff with a much clearer ethical code. Not that Reacher isn't ethical, of course, just that his primary ethical value is flattening bad guys, which necessarily reduces the number of his dimensions as a character by design.

btw, I used to be a bookseller, and I was mostly reading mysteries in those years, so once I start recommendations, especially along these lines, it's kinda hard to stop. 😁
 
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Oldscruggsfan

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Back in the 90s, my wife and I had a video production company in the Florida Keys. One of our projects was a weekly local entertainment TV show, and author interviews were among our regular features. We shot it at our house, and made the authors a really nice lunch (I love to cook!), so word got around the relatively small circle of South Florida crime novelists, and we had a bunch of them on, some of whom became friends.

Randy was only on twice, but he was a gem of a guy. If you like Doc Ford, I can also point you to Les Standiford's "Deal" series, starting with 1993's Done Deal. Les is a prolific author of non-fiction as well as fiction, and literary fiction as well as crime fiction. He's also the head of the writing program at FIU, and widely respected among the authorial crowd as one of their best. Also a supremely nice guy. Both he and Randy radiate a sweetness that's rare, and it makes me like their books more. :)

There's a whole strain of supremely outlandish South Florida caper novels. Some of these widely miss the mark (easy to do with farce). Of the ones who hit the mark more often than not, Elmore Leonard is at the top of the heap, even though a lot of his best stuff isn't set in Florida. We didn't get to cook for him (we met him in Miami Beach), but he'd heard the news of our making lunch for authors who came to visit us in Key Largo that landed us the interview. :cool: The book we spoke to him about was his first novel featuring a Kentucky lawman named Raylan Givens, who'd been introduced in the short story "Fire In The Hole", which served as the basis for the pilot of Justified some years later.

Carl Hiaasen is my favorite of the outlandish South Florida writers, and his debut, Tourist Season, is superlative, one of the all-time greats imo. It was followed by another hall-of-famer in Native Tongue, which introduced the one-eyed former governor nicknamed Skink, who went crazy trying to fight corruption, and abandoned his office to live in the swamps, living off roadkill. The whole Skink 8-book series is a ride, but he's got a couple of other short series (two novels each) that are also terrific. They're all winners, as is Carl, another genuinely lovely guy. He's also a bare-knuckle chronicler of South Florida corruption and environmental havoc for the Miami Herald until he retired last year, and three volumes of his columns have been collected, all of them also terrific, if depressing.



I started reading Lee Child soon after the turn of the century, when he'd "only" released his first eight or so Reacher novels. :) We devoured all of those in a couple of weeks, and after that, ya kinda have to read them all, right? LOL So we have. Twenty six and a short story collection so far. Only about two-thirds are winners, but that's a pretty good batting average, and even the bad ones are okay. The thing is, there's a fine line between catharsis and cruelty, and Reacher himself is pretty clear that he doesn't care too much about where that line is.

I LOVED the second Cruise Reacher movie, as much for Cobie Smulders, who I think Hollywood is underutilizing. She kicks some serious butt in this, and the story as a whole leans much more into Reacher's (and Cruise's) intelligence than his brawling, so the gap in brawn between the two versions of the character is less obvious.

(Speaking of Cobie, her character in the TV series Stumptown is be the best portrayal of a hard-boiled PI since Bogart, certainly on television. Alas, canceled after a single short season, but worth looking for.)

The thing I don't like about the TV Reacher is that he's too sculpted. Child also describes Reacher as built like a boulder, so in my mind, it was always more like a powerlifter. NOT SHREDDED. NO ABS. The guy playing TV Reacher is exactly like the giant gym rats that Book Reacher gleefully dispatches as he's scolding them for wasting time in the gym. LOL

We stopped watching in the middle of the first season and won't be watching more because, as you saw @Oldscruggsfan, the violence that you can look away from on the page isn't as easy to skip on the screen. The balance is off, at least for me. I still look forward to a new Reacher novel every year, though!

One more recommendation following Child is Harlan Coben. He's becoming more famous for atmospheric, "long-buried secrets surfacing" gothic dramas that the BBC is serializing, but I first encountered him as a more straight-on mystery author. I'm not a snob about adaptations in general, I swear, but I don't like any of these BBC series based on his books. LOL I do love every book he's written -- 35 I think! And yes, ALL winners. I'd suggest starting where he (and I) did, with a series of mysteries featuring a college basketball star turned sports agent Myron Bolitar, beginning with Deal Breaker.

Coben is the first author to have won all of the top prizes for mystery writers -- the Edgar, Shamus, and Anthony awards -- and bunches of others besides. Not nearly as violent as Reacher, but still very intense, high-stakes stuff with a much clearer ethical code. Not that Reacher isn't ethical, of course, just that his primary ethical value is flattening bad guys, which necessarily reduces the number of his dimensions as a character by design.

btw, I used to be a bookseller, and I was mostly reading mysteries in those years, so once I start recommendations, especially along these lines, it's kinda hard to stop. 😁
I completely agree about Cobie. As to the Reacher actors, you put the words on the page in a way that I was unable to: The following is spot-on: "The thing I don't like about the TV Reacher is that he's too sculpted. Child also describes Reacher as built like a boulder, so in my mind, it was always more like a powerlifter. NOT SHREDDED. NO ABS. The guy playing TV Reacher is exactly like the giant gym rats that Book Reacher gleefully dispatches as he's scolding them for wasting time in the gym."
I'll check the Libby app for audio versions of the Coben books. Thanks for the insight!