The Bookmatcher: Paranormals and Westerns

The response to our new feature with Billie Bloebaum from Powell’s was rather huge – we have so many letters from people who’ve never been matched to a book, or been hand-sold a new read at the bookstore or library. So, this week we have two letters.

First is Rebecca:

I’ve often been asked if I “need help” at a bookstore, but I’ve never been directed toward (or steered away) from a particular book.  Maybe I don’t need help, but I obviously don’t know what I’m looking for!  Being hand-sold a book sounds amazing. 

So, perhaps Billie can help me out, because I’ve been in a bit of a “dry-spell” lately.  I haven’t read a novel in (4?) months, and I can’t take it anymore!  I’d love to read something new though, and not something from the “box of keepers in the closet.”  So here it goes:

I love fantasy and paranormal romance.  But I am so over vampires.  (Thanks “Twilight”).  The last book I remember reading that kept me up all night was “Angel’s Blood” by Nalini Singh  Read it twice.  (But her psy-changeling series seem less appealing to me, IMPO.  Perhaps I’m just too late on the band-wagon).  A quick glance into the “keeper box” shows Anne Bishop’s “Black Jewels Trilogy” and Sharon Shinn’s Archangel—though as the series became more sci-fi, the series appeal grew less.  I also adore Shana Abé‘s “drakon” series, The Dream Thief being my favorite.

Is that enough for Billie to go on? 

If she gives me any guidance, I *PROMISE* I will walk over to my local Powell’s and buy it immediately.  (And be thankful to be reading a novel once more!)


Billie says: Oh, dear, have you not yet read Jacqueline Carey’s ‘Kushiel’ novels (beginning with Kushiel’s Dart)? Or Meljean Brook? Or Richelle Mead’s ‘Succubus’ series (starting with Succubus Blues)? Also, strict fantasy here, but Jay Lake’s Green has one of the most wonderful new female protagonists I’ve read in a while (and he’s a Portland guy, which is bonus points).

And, Gail Carriger’s Soulless is a wonderful and funny mishmash of urban fantasy, steampunk, and historical/paranormal romance, which takes all of the usual tropes and exaggerates them, but never crosses into parody.

Erin writes:

When I was a kid, my first brush with romance novels was via my Oma’s LARGE collection of Reader’s Digest Condensed books.  (Are these just a Canadian thing, or do you have them in the States?)  I eventually figured out what the whole ‘condensed’ thing meant and moved on to stand-alone,, ‘original-density’(ha), novels.  In retrospect, those condensed books were total genius – I spent several summers reading them on family trips and whatnot, because no one could tell which story in the book you were actually reading.  Genius.

Sorry – to the point.  I remember reading a few stories that I really loved, and the common themes were always historical, often western, strong frontier-woman, frequently ‘schoolteachers’, always very independent and ass-kicking, with a hott neighbouring rancher, or similar, as love interest.  Getting trapped in violent snowstorms featured heavily.  The only example I remember the title of is Lady of No Man’s Land by Jeanne Williams, which I still re-read every time I spend time around my Oma’s house (the heroine in that one isn’t a teacher, but a seamstress).

In my romance-novel-embracing adulthood, for some reason I’ve found it very difficult to find these sorts of stories as stand-alones…and several times I’ve fallen into the trap of buying something, only to find out it’s got some sort of religious/inspirational romance thing going on (SO not what I’m interested in).  I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to find more books like the one mentioned above, Billie would be doing me a huge favour.

Book CoverBillie says: Willa Cather. My Antonia is one of those books that I go back and re-read every now and again. Even dissecting it in high school English wasn’t enough to make me dislike or resent it.

Maybe also Ellen Recknor whose books, like Prophet Annie, are more strictly “westerns”, but with strong heroines, humor, and romance.

And Patricia MacLachlan’s Sarah Plain and Tall saga, if she’s okay with books for younger readers.

I’m tempted to recommend Leigh Greenwood, but I’ve never read his books. They are, though, traditional western-themed historical romances and were this customer to come into the store, I’d probably at least point them out to her (after I made her buy ‘My Antonia’, of course).

(Sarah adds: If I didn’t recommend Jo Goodman, and her latest, Never Love a Lawman, I’d be destined for a very hot portion of hell, instead of the mildly steamy reservation I have now.)

Note: If you’d like to request a book match, please email sarahATsmartbitchestrashybooksDOTcom with “Bookmatcher” in the subject line, and please include the last book you read that you really, truly loved – or a small selection thereof, if you’re polyamorous like some of us readers.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    When I read Erin’s post two authors quickly popped into my head- LaVyrle Spencer and Norah Hess – both “oldies” but goody reads from the 80’s and 90’s.

  2. 2
    krsylu says:

    As a librarian, I have more fun with the “reader’s advisory” (see also “bookmatching” and “hand-selling”) portion of my job than just about anything else. I doubt I’m the only librarian who feels that way, so you all should mine your local resources!

    Check out (so to speak) “Impossible” by Nancy Werlin.

    When seventeen-year-old Lucy discovers her family is under an ancient curse by an evil Elfin Knight, she realizes to break the curse she must perform three impossible tasks before her daughter is born in order to save them both.

    That quote is from my library system’s catalog. The book is a stand-alone, not part of a series, but it is wonderful. And I saw it advertised on Smart Bitches first, which is what made me look for it. So there.

  3. 3
    Cassie says:

    If you like the black jewels trilogy, you should try the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey. The first one is Kushiel’s Dart, and it’s full of romance, political intrigue, gods, traitors, and everything you could want in a fantasy or a romance novel. Love them!

  4. 4

    If you’re looking for a western romance, I would recommend LaVyrle Spencer as well, her stories are wonderful.  Also would suggest, Jodi Thomas and Pamela Morsi.  They tend to be a little sweeter, but still with great sexual tension and sex scenes.  These authors are very character driven.  There’s also Linda Lael Miller though I’ve only read one of hers to date, definitely very steamy when it came to the love scenes.

    I would not recommend Leigh Greenwood.  I’ve only read one of his books, but it did absolutely nothing for me.

  5. 5
    Laurel says:

    I just read Soulless last Thursday and have to agree. It was such a fun read and I’m currently pushing it to all my friends. There are vampires, but don’t fear. They are not a distraction nor are they emo and brooding.

    The writing style reminded me a bit of the Mary Russell books by Laurie King. Interesting, intellectual protag with lots of dry humor. I’m going back for more Gail Carriger as soon as I can get it.

  6. 6
    CourtneyLee says:

    The Kushiel’s Legacy series is a must-read. Fantastic recommendation.

  7. 7
    Lindleepw says:

    FYI Nalini Singh’s next book in the Angel series, Archangel’s Kiss, is coming out in February. Also, I’m a big fan of her Psy/Changling series if you ever decide to give them a chance. She has an amazing interview up on her blog today with a cover artist. Since the smart bitches like to comment on the typical romance novel covers (gotta love the man-titty!) I thought people might be interested. I checked out his website and his fantasy art is HOT!!

  8. 8

    I love Nalini’s books, and I’m a huge Shana Abe fan (Dream Thief was also my favorite).

    So based on that apparent similarity in taste, let me recommend Robin McKinley.  Her books run the gamut from YA (Beauty, The Blue Sword, Chalice) to dark fantasy (Donkeyskin) to urban fantasy (Sunshine, the best vampire book I’ve read). 

    Happy reading!

  9. 9
    Letty James says:

    What a fantastic service this is! Kudos to the Bitches for offering it. I had never had a book hand-sold to me until I arrived at the San Antonio airport desperately in need. I had run out of my reading material (don’t believe in Kindle) two days previously and had resorted to actually reading the conference literature they had given out at my husband’s conference (insurance mumbo jumbo). Ack! There is NO bookstore in the Riverwalk Mall! Come on you guys—there should be a law against that. Anyway, the guy at the airport recommended Charlaine Harris when I told him I wanted funny, quirky romance. Read the first one on the plane ride home and the whole series the following two weeks. Two weeks of heaven. 

    I second the Kushiel’s Dart series and also highly recommend the wonderful, amazing Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion series. What a great feeling it is when we discover a new book…

  10. 10
    Barb says:

    Amazed / appalled to hear people saying they’ve never been hand-sold a book.  In the library world this is reader’s advisory – most librarians love to match readers with books. C’mon people, talk to your local librarian more often.

  11. 11
    Erin says:

    Billie, Sarah, you gals ROCK.  Thanks so much for responding to my email, and thanks also to all the suggestions from commenters!  Off to the book store…hope my partner didn’t have any plans to spend time with me for, oh, the next week or so.  :)

  12. 12
    Michelle W says:

    I second the recommendation for for Rebecca of Robin Mckinley—I’ve always mentioned her name in the same sentence as Sharon Shinn.  My favorites are her YA: Blue Sword is one of my all-time favorite books, and I’d also recommend it’s prequel Hero and the Crown, along with Outlaws of Sherwood (not a Fantasy) and Beauty.

  13. 13
    Rene B says:

    I can’t recommend Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s series highly enough. Love, love love them, and my hubby does too, ever since I dropped Kushiel’s Dart into his hands and told him he had to read it. Her writing is breathtakingly beautiful.

  14. 14
    Lady T says:

    Another vote for Kushiel’s Dart-I also read a stand alone book of Carey’s called Santa Olivia,which is perfect for fans of shows like Dollhouse and Dark Angel.

  15. 15
    Cate says:

    I love the hand-sell idea…but have never experienced it! Suddenly my reading life feels so bereft…

  16. 16
    Karen H says:

    I personally love Leigh Greenwood’s western novels!  He has the 7 Brides series and the Cowboys series and I enjoyed them all.  I would definitely recommend them highly if you enjoy reading sets of interconnected books.  The Seven Brides are about 7 brothers and the Cowboys are about a set of adopted orphans, their adoptive parents, and a family friend.

  17. 17
    Lovecow2000 says:

    Try out Gail Dayton’s New Blood and perhaps Moonheart by Charles De Lint.

  18. 18
    Kristina says:

    I’ve really enjoyed the Demonica Series by Larissa Ione.  The h/h’s are Incubi (sp?) or werewolves or some other type of fantasy critter.  The next one set to come out soon features a pair of fallen angels.  The backdrop of the series is an undergound hospital for demon-kind run by Hottie Incubus brothers.

  19. 19
    Bonnie C says:

    I’d like to add my push and shove for Gail Carriger’s Soulless – seriously the best thing I’ve read in and age. And I’m not prone to historicals or paranormals as a general rule.

    Also, when I dropped the author an email to tell her how full of awesome she was, she responded almost immediately and said she was always excited to hear from readers.

    Go. Now. Soulless.

  20. 20
    Sarah McG says:

    Just a little suggestion: Don’t recommend Sarah Plain and Tall to a girl named Sarah who is also, plain and tall. Not that that happened to me. In fourth grade. In front of the whole class. Nope. Never happened.

  21. 21
    sweetfa says:

    Anything by Carol Berg, Dave Duncan or Wen Spencer. None of these are primarily romances, but the romance is there.

  22. 22
    MB says:

    A fantasy recommend:  Illona Andrews “Magic” series, or the new series that starts with “On The Edge”.

    For the western reader:  Definitely LaVyrle Spencer! And try “Years” first.

  23. 23
    LadyRhian says:

    I second anything by Jacqueline Carey. Her stuff is wonderful to read, and just gorgeous, Charlaine Harris is another. I also like Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jane Castle (yes, she writes under all three names) “Harmony” series, which is set on another planet colonized by humans with psychic Powers.

    Sharon Shinn’s “Thirteen Houses” books, Starting with “Mystic and Rider” are excellent. Robin D. Owens has a series also set on another planet dealing with psychics, and it’s crazygood, the Celta series. She has another series set on a planet in an alternate dimension, the Exotiques series. But I found the first five better than the last one. I can also recommend P.C. Cast’s “Goddess Summoning” series, “Goddess of the Sea” being the first in the series, but the one that really heart-struck me was “Goddess of Spring”, as the ending made me cry.

    Another good YA series is by Tamora Pierce. Actually, two series and a book. “The Magic Circle”, “The Magic Circle Opens” and “The Will of the Empress”. You’d also like her Beka Cooper series (2 published so far) “Terrier” and “Bloodhound”. And for one last series, Gail Dayton’s “The Compass Rose” series, about a female mage who petitions her Goddess for help defeating the army of her enemy in the midst of battle, and is answered in no uncertain terms. Eventually, she winds up married to 12 other people and they all share a huge bed while working together to keep her people free of enemies.

    Verification word: Just47.

    Just 47 books I find exceptional…

  24. 24
    Rebecca says:

    For Western romances, try The Burning Lamp by Frances Murray.  It has no sex scenes, but a wonderful hero and heroine, and an interesting setup, that actually moves plausibly from a London nursing school to a frontier town in Colorado.  (For those of you who – like me – loved Murray’s novel The Dear Colleague, Hector and Elizabeth Lacombe make a bonus cameo appearance in this novel, along with “la petite” who is all grown up.)

  25. 25
    willaful says:

    Dream of Me by Lisa Cach. I love having the perfect opportunity to recommend this book! :-)

  26. 26
    Neena says:

    Enthusiastically also endorsing to Jacqueline Carey, Robin McKinley and Anne Bishop.  Also great is Susannah Clarke’s opus: Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell and the short story collection Ladies of Grace Adieu, soon to be a movie yay!  Claire Dunkle’s excellent Goblin Trilogy and the AMAZING Guy Gavriel Kay especially Lion’s of Al-Rassan and Tigana – just keep kleenex handy.

  27. 27
    Rebecca says:

    You cannot imagine my excitement when I went to SBTB this afternoon and found my email answered!  New books!  Thank you SB Sarah and Billie. 

    I love the recommendations.  Made my day.  Some of I’ve read and are in the keeper box (McKinley, Carey, Pierce), but many others are new.  Billie- Jay Lake’s “Green” wasn’t on my radar at all, but it sounds absolutely fantastic!  Wow.  And while I’ve seen Meljean Brook’s books, I’ve never picked one up.  Can anyone help tell me which is the first book in her series?  (I like to start with the beginning). 

    I read “New Blood” based on SB Sarah’s review.  (Loved it).  “Soulless” sounds perfect.

    Off to Powell’s….

    verification= want 78.  LOVE IT.

  28. 28
    Linda B says:

    For western historical romance, try Sarah McCarty’s Promise series and Hell’s Eight series.  I am so, so sorry for those of you that have no te received personalized service when in a bookstore.  I work at a bookstore and that is my specialty – other employees sending customers to me to help them.  It is my favortie part of the job – to find out what they like and find new authors for them or help them branch out to genres they thought they might not like – only to discover something fun.

  29. 29
    Chez says:

    I’m sorry, but those Jacqueline Carey Kushiel books just didn’t work for me, (heroine completely irritating) couldn’t even finish the first one. So just on the different strokes bandwages, since I love the other books listed by the person, (especially the Anne Bishop ones), one series I adore that is sort of fantasy with gorgeous romance is CL Wilsons “Fading Lands” series, so perhaps you could try them.

  30. 30
    Katie Ann says:

    And while I’ve seen Meljean Brook’s books, I’ve never picked one up.  Can anyone help tell me which is the first book in her series?  (I like to start with the beginning).

    The first one is “Demon Angel.”  I just finished that one and am blown away by her writing.  Such a nice change of pace from some of the more generic vampire paranormals out there.  (Though I believe the second book in the series has a vampire as the hero, but he was a secondary character in “DA” that I quite enjoyed, so I’m confident she pulls it off well.)

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