When I stopped laughing…

Okay, so I subscribe to Buzzfeed’s morning newsletter, which can be scarily informative and often unintentionally hilarious and sometimes just incredibly depressing, but then that’s the news today.


This morning the newsletter included a link to this article, 14 Books For Anyone Who’s Had A Tough Year. As I read down it with an increasing sense of incredulity, I was moved to look up synonyms for navel-gazing (on which until this moment I thought that my generation had the monopoly) and came across this perfectly delightful word, omphaloskepsis.

When I stopped laughing I decided there was nothing for it but to come up with an, ah, alt-book list, populated with engaging characters, good plots, and brave new worlds. It is the very antithesis of omphaloskepsian and is a hell of a lot more amusing than picking the lint out of your belly button. Trust me, if you’ve had a tough year, these are the books you should be reading.

  1. Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Butcher is known for his Harry Dresden wizard-in-Chicago series but this six-book epic fantasy is even better. Butcher picks up the lost Ninth Legion from wherever it was wandering around in Scotland and sets it down on the planet Carna, where natural furies can be tamed to give the new settlers magical powers (just go with it) and there is a villain on a par with Sauron. It’s the best lost heir plot I’ve ever read and right now the first book in the series is $2.99 on Kindle.Huff.jpg
  2. Tanya Huff’s military science fiction series, starring Confederation Space Marine Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr. Huff writes simply the best alien characters, including the Krai who eat everything, the di’Taykan who f*ck everything, and not forgetting that masterful little ace reporter and pain in Torin’s behind, Presit a Tur durValintrisy of Sector Central News. Great dialogue, and there is a big reveal in the seventh and concluding novel that pays off on every. single. word. you will have read before. The first in series, Valor’s Choice, is also only $2.99 at the moment.greenwood.jpg
  3. Kerry Greenwood’s 20-book Phryne Fisher series. A fully enfranchised flapper in Melbourne, Australia, following World War I, Phryne detects crime while driving her Hispano Suiza way too fast, flying her own plane, joining the circus, building an extended and colorful family, and enthusiastically practicing sexual liberation on every handsome young man she comes across. In Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, she brings down a drug ring and delivers an illegal abortionist unrepentantly to the hangman, which latter is a refreshing antidote to the very tired (and very irritating) misunderstood-villain trope of more modern times.higgins.jpg
  4. Kristan Higgins’ five-book Blue Heron series, in which she saves the best for last in Anything But You, which I think might be the best romance novel I’ve ever read (although I’m not sure John Charles down at the Poisoned Pen agrees with me). Connor O’Rourke has been waiting for Jessica Dunn since sixth grade, but Jessica has a younger brother who has FAS, a not-father who is a recovering alcoholic, and a perfectly nasty little rival at work, and she doesn’t have time for anything but a friend with benefits. Every one of the characters is much more than only one thing (like Connor’s father), the dialogue is great (especially the twinspeak between Connor and Colleen) and all you’re going to want to do after you read this book is go to Manningsport and eat and drink in Connor and Colleen’s tavern. Heart-wrenching and heart-warming and just plain good for the health of your heart overall.

There. Thirty-eight novels in four different genres, every last one of them separately or together guaranteed to make you feel better about life in general and your own in particular. I promise.

And then there’s my own Kate Shugak series,
beginning with A Cold Day for Murder,
also at $2.99 on Kindle right now.

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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

16 Comments Leave a comment

  1. And, Star! Mercy Maude, these books are so wonderful. Thank you for the list. I’ve read most, but a couple are new to me. And, I have not reread “Valor’s Choice” in far too long, as well as the rest of the series. Rather than try to find them in the maelstrom of book boxes as yet unpacked, I think I will Kindle them today, and have a holiday! Happy Seasons!

  2. Love Kerry Greenwood – both her series (Phryne and Corinna Chapman) – and follow her blog. Will definitely have to check out the other authors of whom I know nothing …. yet! many thanks for the list. I often disagree with these types of lists and wonder who on earth is consulted for the offerings.

  3. While the Phryne Fisher series is great, the TV series based on the books is just so-so. Great production values (the clothes!! etc.), I really did not like how they copped out of the tension Greenwood built with Phyrne and her (long time) sexual relationship (even after the marriage) — replacing it with something way more politically correct — and reduced her family by like half (then adding an aunt). Lots of changes due to “made for TV” isms. Books have great story lines, not restricted to a TV show’s production budget :D.
    (From reading, I thought her name was pronounced like “Fern”, but in the TV series they pronounce is “FRY-nee”)

    Another off the wall on TV from what was portrayed in the books mystery series is the Mrs Bradley series. Dianna Rigg starred in the TV series and they really glammed it up, unlike the books where Mrs Bradley is described as a jaundiced lizard (and does not have the fashion sense Rigg portrays). I have found the series hard to read; partially because it was written in the 1930s, so you’ve got some culture and language/slang things to figure out, and partially because Mrs Bradley’s profession is psychologist so some of the “in my head” tangents can be hard to follow. But the mysteries are very unique and interesting.

  4. Although I am STILL angry with you about “Hunter’s Moon” you, and Kate, are still two of my favorites! I did enjoy several of the books on your .list. It makes me happy when an author I like likes another author I like! I am simple that way.

  5. I’m on number nineteen for Phryne. I found the TV series very entertaining and the books are also. Whoever the script writers were for the series stuck to the flavor of not the text of Kerry Greenwood’s books. I’ll be looking at some of your other suggestions! Thanks!

  6. Thanks for pointing me/us towards Kristen Higgins. Really good read!
    Now i can alternate between 5 North-American female writers and all of you write sufficiently fast to provide me with enough to read and re-read.

    Bless all of you – Dana, Louise Penny, Laurie R. King, Diana Gabaldon and Kristen.

    Which also makes it obvious why Storyknife is so important. We need you, women writers!

    (When in Europe give a shout and I’ll trade you a tour of the European Parliament for the many joyful hours with a good book)

  7. As with most of the Danamaniacs, I’m always looking for new books to read. I’ve noted you are a hard grader on Goodreads, so I read this blog with interest. Already read (and love) the Tanya Huff. Per your recommendations above, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Blue Heron, which starts off meh, but does build to a satisfying conclusion in the series. Just finished Furies of Calderon and am so happy you recommended it. A great read, and a lovely new series to delve into. Kerry Greenwood is next up on the list. While waiting for the next Kate, of course….
    Thanks for the recommendations!

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