Category: Featured Blend

Near-future SF

In science fiction canon, big-scale far-future stories usually get all the glory.  Books set on other worlds, with space ships and alien encounters are what many people think SF is all about.  And those books are great.  I love space opera, and I love far-future SF books like Dune or the Culture books by Iain Banks, or Peter F. Hamilton’s crack-o-liciously good duology of Pandora’s Star/Judas Unchained. But there is something equally appealing about near-future SF stories. (more…)

Historical Mysteries – Asia

Earlier in the week, I did a post on historical mysteries set in Africa.  As I said in that post, I love the potential of historical fiction to teach you something about a time and place you don’t know, and when you wed that history to a good puzzle plot, all the better! Another part of the world that I think is a great setting for historical mysteries in Asia, and I wish there were more examples out there.  if I forgot anything major, let me know.  If you click on the map, you can look at it much larger, and there is a list of included titles below. (more…)

Historical Mysteries – Africa

I love historical mysteries because when they’re done well you not only get a great whodunit, but you get to learn about another time.  And while there are hundreds of historical mysteries set in England and the US, I though it would be fun to round up some of the more unusual settings in the genre. Because there’s nothing wrong with another Tudor mystery, but it’s fun to virtually visit someplace new.

I know so little about Africa, so I thought I would round up all the historical mysteries I could find set on that continent. Aside from the expected slew of titles set in Ancient Egypt, I was happy to find some other choices as well. (more…)

Why I read Historical Romances

I’m not here to try to convince you to read a historical romance if romance isn’t your bag. Mind you, I think there is some outstanding writing in the romance genre, where the emphasis on creating characters that live and breathe has been honed and perfected.  No, I am instead trying to make the case to romance readers for the superiority of the historical subgenre. I have a few contemporary romance authors that I enjoy immensely.  Jill Shalvis and her Gilmore Girls-ish Lucky Harbor books, the FBI/US Attorney books of Julie James, and the romantic comedies of Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie all count as favorites. But as a whole, I prefer Historical Romance, particularly Regency romance, although I can go a little earlier or a little later. And here’s why: (more…)

Georgette Heyer

I would like to take a moment to gush about one of my all-time favorite authors, Georgette Heyer. If you are a romance reader, you’ve probably heard of her, and may even have read one of her novels. They were very hard to find for years, but due to the re-issues from Sourcebooks, most libraries probably have a shelf of her books. And I would wager that if you checked the circulation stats of those books, you would be astounded  by the popularity of this author who wrote 50-90 years ago and whose have absolutely no sex scenes in them anywhere. Heyer fans are like a secret cult; a cult of which I am proud to be a member.


Capers and Heists: SF and Fantasy

As you may have noticed from the past few days, I love a good heist/caper.  They have the excitement of a mystery but flipped around from a whole new perspective. Let’s face it, solving crimes is slow, painstaking work with long hours, low pay, and lots of paperwork. Committing crimes — now that sounds like a lot more fun. Capers and heist stories show up in just about every genre, bringing adventure and excitement with them. Fantasy and Science Fiction both have a long history of thief heroes.  Hell, Bilbo Baggins is a thief! From some long-term series with criminal anti-heroes to books where characters unexpectedly cross the line to the dark side, to mercenaries who aren’t too picky about the jobs they take – there’s a lot to choose from when you look at capers and heists in speculative fiction.


The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold


Capers and Heists: Crime Books

How much do I love criminal heroes? The scruffy lawbreakers, the talented thieves,  the charming con men and women? They make a great change from traditional mystery law enforcement heroes.  The plots of capers and heists, like the mystery novel, involve a crime.  But instead of trying to solve the crime, in the heist plot (and often the caper as well) the reader is rooting for the criminal to get away with their nefarious schemes.  They can blend mystery and suspense, or mystery and humor, and I love it when they blend in a romance on top of all the hijinks.  While I think the heist plot works even better in the movies (see yesterday’s post!) due to medium’s ability to convey visually the tension and intricate scenarios that would take a lot more time to paint with words, there are quite a few authors who write heist stories that are almost as gripping as anything put on film. Here are some of the best crime novels where criminals take the spotlight: (more…)

Capers and Heists: The Movies

Although I love traditional mysteries with their law abiding, law enforcing heroes and heroines, I admit to having a soft spot for the crime stories that flip the hero paradigm around and put the law breakers into the spotlight.  Still under the umbrella of crime fiction, these stories focus on the successful achievement of a criminal undertaking rather than preventing a crime or catching the criminal.  Charming rogues, loveable rulebreakers, and morally ambiguous anti-heroes are my catnip.  In both capers and heists, much of the appeal is related to characters.  You have to like these characters (or at least be interested by them) in order to follow them to the dark side.  It helps that the characters in a caper or heist is often funny and smarter than everyone around them.  The other big appeal is plot, of course, as they tend to be intricately planned schemes that reward careful attention and showcase the clever ingenuity of the lawbreakers.   Two overlapping stories that explore stories that flirt with (or fully embrace) the criminal side of the mystery line are capers and heist stories. (more…)

Horror for Beginners

I am sure there are many readers who would swear on a stack on bibles that they don’t read horror, but who might read certain horror that sneaks onto the bestseller lists or gets literary love.  I thought, in honor of Halloween and All Hallow’s Read (you know– the super-fantastic tradition that Neil Gaiman invented where everyone gives someone a scary book for Halloween?), I would highlight some books that are fantastic horror novels that for one reason or another are read far beyond the normal genre audience for horror.  Sometimes these are books by well-respected literary novelists who are dabbling in a darker hue; sometimes they are subtle horror novels that skirts the edges of the genre. They might be as scary as anything Stephen King ever penned, but they sit on our “literature” shelves rather than in the horror ghetto.  These scary books have gotten a lot of critical love and might be just the thing to give someone who doesn’t think they read horror. (more…)

Urban Fantasy versus Paranormal Romance


(click to embiggen!)

Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance.  There seems to be lots of people who love one but not the other.  In most classification schemes and in my book (The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Blends), urban fantasy is technically a subgenre of fantasy, and paranormal romance is a subgenre of romance (just as the names imply!), but the reading reality has always seemed more fluid to me. I read a lot of series that fall under one or another of those subgenre headings, and I’ve never been particularly fussy about what label gets printed on the spine.  When I was in charge of ordering paperbacks for a library, I was forced to care about this issue, as I would be the one that would decide whether a book went on the “ROMANCE” spinner or the “SF/FANTASY” spinner. And believe it or not I found  it surprisingly difficult at times.  Sometimes I would violently disagree with the way the publisher had chosen to market a series. Maybe it was a book that had a cover and a subject heading that screamed romance and I thought it would appeal as much (or more) to fantasy fans.  Maybe the book was all moody urban fantasy on the outside but all steamy romance between the covers.  It was then that I started to think about these books all living on more of a spectrum: all books that shared a real-world, present day fantasy landscape and almost always included a crime/puzzle/mystery plot line. The difference was simply in the amount of romance.