Authors I Love: Terry Pratchett

This is a series that’s just what it says on the tin: authors I love.

These aren’t just authors that I read; these are authors I follow, whose books I buy as soon as I get a chance. These are the authors for whom I’ll read everything they write just because they’re the ones writing it.

For this post, we’re going back to the fantasy genre and Terry Pratchett!

What does he write?
Comedic fantasy; specifically the Discworld series.

How did you first hear about him?
I can’t even remember. I’d heard about Discworld for years thanks to the Internet, but had never picked it up. Finally, somebody at a NaNo get-together told me about the whole “series within a series” aspect of it, and described the Night Watch books. I thought those sounded pretty funny.

And after I read and loved Good Omens (which is by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), I felt like I kind of had to pick up Discworld.

guards-guardsWhat was the first book of his you read?
Guards! Guards!
It’s the first book in the Night Watch arc.

How many of his books have you read?
Thirteen and counting:
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Witches Abroad
Mort
Reaper Man
Guards! Guards!
Men at Arms
Feet of Clay
Jingo
The Fifth Elephant
Monstrous Regiment
Unseen Academicals
Where’s My Cow?
– yes, it’s a picture book, but it counts, believe me.

Why do you like him so much?
He’s hilarious. I described him to my friends as “Douglas Adams does fantasy,” which does a good job of describing his early work, but Pratchett becomes so much more than just that. His stuff moves from just straight parody of fantasy and its tropes to some excellent satire, and he has such an amazing way with words that I usually have to stop several times to read a passage aloud because it’s so. Damn. Funny.

He also creates wonderfully memorable characters in every story. You have the regulars like Sam Vimes, Carrot, Colon and Nobby, Lord Vetinari, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Magrat, and Death, and then those who show up for just one book like Eskarina (Esk) in Equal Rites or Polly in Monstrous Regiment or Glenda in Unseen Academicals.

None of them are perfect; they have flaws and foibles but they also grow and change over the course of their stories, whether it’s just one book or eight. I love the characters with a capital L.

Also, his worldbuilding? Unexpectedly awesome. Discworld feels like a fully realized world, even amongst (or perhaps even because of) its ridiculousness.

I think any fan of high fantasy needs to read at least a few Discworld books.

men-at-armsWhat’s your favorite book of his?
Men at Arms.
It’s the second in the Night Watch arc and it is absolutely fantastic. Vimes and Carrot are my two favorite characters in the entire series, and this book showcases both of them excellently.

Not to mention there’s an amazing scene between Carrot and Lord Vetinari at the end that is just phenomenal. I had to reread it about four times because I loved it so much.

What’s your least favorite book of his?
It’s a toss-up between Monstrous Regiment and Unseen Academicals. In the case of Monstrous Regiment, the beginning of it (in particular) was a lot darker in tone than I was expecting, so while it wasn’t bad, it really threw me. However, it picked up a lot more near the end.

With Unseen Academicals, it was merely good, whereas most of the rest of the books I’d read had been great. It was really interesting to see the City Watch from the viewpoint of the street characters who’d be taken in for questioning, though.

I feel I should point out, though, that both of those books are still very, very good.

Where should a new reader start?
Since I’m partial to the Night Watch, my recommendation would be Guards! Guards!. It’s a great jumping-off place, a perfect introduction to the city of Ankh-Morpork, and is overall a lot of fun. Plus, this is the book that introduces you to Sam Vimes and Carrot Ironfoundersson, who are easily my two favorite characters in the series.

However, you could also start with Equal Rites, which is a standalone but introduces Granny Weatherwax (who is amazing and one of the main characters of the Witches stories). There’s also Mort, which is the first book in Death’s arc.

You could also start with Wyrd Sisters, which is not only the first book of the Witches series, but can best be described as “Terry Pratchett does Macbeth.” It’s pretty much as good as it sounds.

Authors I Love: Courtney Milan

This is a series that’s just what it says on the tin: authors I love.

These aren’t just authors that I read; these are authors I follow, whose books I buy as soon as I get a chance. These are the authors for whom I’ll read everything they write just because they’re the ones writing it.

This edition features: Courtney Milan!

What does she write?
Historical romance.

How did you first hear about her?
The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website, when they reviewed her novella Unlocked.

unlockedWhat was the first book of hers you read?
I bought Unlocked based off the aforementioned review because I was going on a relatively short plane trip and thought it would be a good length for that. Not only was I right, I ended up buying and reading the rest of the books in that series before the end of the summer.

How many of her books have you read?
All of them. I am not even exaggerating. Every novella, every novel: I own them all. All of them on my Kindle, plus one paperback I bought solely for the purpose of being able to physically give it to other people.

I might have a problem.

Why do you like her so much? 
One: She has written (thus far) two virgin heroes and done an amazing job of it. Virgin heroines are a dime a dozen in romance, but virgin heroes are so much rarer. (Oh my God, I didn’t know I needed to read awkward virgin sex until she had a scene like that in The Duchess War and it was so freaking good I just wanted to cry.)

Two: The conflicts that keep her characters apart are never, ever contrived. She forces them into corners where they have to choose between the person they love and something else that matters tremendously to them. There is always a part in her books where I’m thinking, “I know this will end happily, but I have no idea how.” You don’t run into the issue of “This could be solved in five minutes if the characters would just talk to each other.” No, even with the talking, these problems are not easily fixed.

Three: Her characters are fantastic. I can’t count the number of times I’ve finished one of her books and, when asked what I liked, replied, “(Character Here) was AMAZING.” Plus, she has a way of taking characters I didn’t like initially and turning them around so I’m sympathizing with them by the end of the series.

Four: Many of her novellas involve middle-class/lower-class heroes and heroines (The Governess Affair, This Wicked Gift, A Kiss for Midwinter). Since most historical romances involve the upper classes—throw a rock in the bookstore and you’ll hit a million books about dukes and earls—it’s a nice change to see a different class represented.

Five: She doesn’t shy away from social issues of the day, like the evolution of rights for women and lower-class men, racism, and the awful medical practices of the time, just to name a few.

In Trial by Desire, the heroine, Kate, is breaking laws by helping women get away from abusive husbands. In What Happened at Midnight, the idea of a divorce is a radical one. In the Brothers Sinister series, we see a huge focus on issues like voting rights and other extremely radical politics for the time (particularly with Robert in the first book). Milan knows how to do her research, also, and when she fudges stuff, there’s usually a detailed author’s note as to what she did and why. It adds so much richness to the books to see them taking place in a world of change like this.

What’s your favorite book of hers?
Novel: Unraveled. Smite’s probably my favorite hero.

Novella: The Governess Affair. I have read this, I kid you not, five or six times. (Here’s a bit of my flailing about it.)

What’s your least favorite book of hers?
Novel: Unclaimed. I loved the book right up until the very end. One of the fights near the end just didn’t make sense to me because there was just such a disconnect between what the heroine was thinking and what she was saying. Both made sense, but it just didn’t work as well for me.

Novella: This Wicked Gift, because I liked the hero’s arc much better than the romance itself. My favorite part—the one I reread about 3 times—was the climax with the hero at his job.

Where should a new reader start?
I would go with The Governess Affair. It’s a novella, so it’s short, and it’s the first of a new series. And I just love, love, love the relationship between the hero and the heroine. The letters between them? PRICELESS.

If you’re up for a novel, Unveiled, the first one in the Turner series, is also a great place to start. You can read my review of it here.

(Yes, a lot of these are Amazon links. No, they are not affiliate links.)

Authors I Love – Brandon Sanderson

All right, so, I’m starting a new thing which is just what it says on the tin: authors I love.

These aren’t just authors that I read; these are authors I follow, whose books I buy as soon as I get a chance. These are the authors for whom I’ll read everything they write just because they’re the ones writing it

First up? Brandon Sanderson.

mistbornWhat does he write?
Epic fantasy.

How did you first hear about him?
In a news story linked from Fark.com, when it was announced he would be finishing off the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s death. A lot of people were really excited and couldn’t stop talking about Mistborn, pointing to it as an example that Sanderson would do a good job of completing the WoT books.

What was the first book of his you read?
Mistborn.
I loved the premise, got hooked in the first couple of pages, and then stayed up until 1:30 a.m. finishing it because I literally could not put it down for the last 150 pages.

Of course, then November started and I couldn’t read anymore of his stuff until NaNoWriMo was over.

How many of his books have you read?
Six of them. I’ve read:
Mistborn
The Well of Ascension
The Hero of Ages
The Alloy of Law
Elantris
Warbreaker

I also own The Way of Kings and The Rithmatist, thought I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

Why do you like his work so much?
One major reason is his worldbuilding, specifically in regards to magic systems (a strength he’s well aware of, because if you listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, Sanderson regularly refers to himself as “the magic system guy”). All of his magic systems are fascinating and I love the way they tie into his worlds. In some cases, they actually help drive the plot (as with Elantris).

In addition, he’s very good with relationships—friendships, family relationships, and romantic relationships. He does a fantastic job of building the relationships realistically, and since I’m such a hardcore romance reader, I love to see that done well in epic fantasy.

Not only does he do epic well, but he also writes an amazingly fun adventure story. I intended to just start The Alloy of Law and read for about an hour, and then I ended up reading the entire book in a day.

What’s your favorite book of his?
Mistborn
. A high fantasy heist/con story? BE STILL MY HEART. It was fabulous, and the whole series was one of the best fantasy trilogies I’ve read in years.

What’s your least favorite book of his?
I would have to say Warbreaker, and that’s simply because I didn’t like the magic system in that one as much as I did in Elantris and the Mistborn world, and the ending fell a little flat for me. Other than that, it’s still a very good story with some great twists and two of my favorite character arcs ever.

Where should a new reader start?
The two best places to start, in my opinion, are either Mistborn or Elantris. Obviously I’m partial to Mistborn, for reasons, but it is the first book of a trilogy, and Elantris is a standalone novel. So if you’re not quite willing to hop all the way into a trilogy, then Elantris would be the better place to start.