ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
[personal profile] ladyofastolat
The Arthurian tragedy is just getting worse and worse. Tears are involved every time I pick my Kindle up. Earlier, when things were still all sunny and I was full of Arthurian and Dark Age enthusiasms, I was planning to move on to the rereading The Lantern Bearers and then reading Sword at Sunset, which I've never read. However, I'm not sure I can take more tragedy. So what happy, feel-good books can people recommend? By happy, I don't mean funny, joke-a-minute humour, but an immersive story in which unpleasantnesses get recovered from and misunderstandings get resolved, and villains get thwarted and nice people get nice happy endings, that leave the reader beaming. I'd prefer something set in Fantasyland or Yore, and I want something easy to source - either a super-cheap Kindle download, or something likely to be available through the library system - but feel free to recommend things outside these categories. I've got plenty of old favourite feelgood books of my own, but would like something new.

Date: 2012-02-17 08:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am rather fond of Fannie Flagg, particularly Daisy Faye and the Miracle Man (or something along those lines). It should be in the library (although was first published in the early '80s under the title 'Coming Attractions'). I found it warm and funny, although set in 1950s Mississippi rather than Yore...

Date: 2012-02-17 05:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That does sound interesting, though sadly we don't have it in the library. We only have one of her books, and I've gone and forgotten its title now, but it was a fairly recent one. Thanks for the rec, though!

Date: 2012-02-17 09:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thomas Covenant
The Children of Hurin
A Game of Thrones

OK, maybe not...

Date: 2012-02-17 09:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Have you read Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy?

Date: 2012-02-17 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Um... I'm not sure. I can clearly picture the cover, and the blurb sounds familiar, but I'm not convinced that I read it. Perhaps I gave it a quick skim when deciding whether to buy it for the library, or not. Sadly, we don't seem to have it in the library any more, although we definitely had it in the past.

Date: 2012-02-17 09:48 am (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I am somewhat fearful of making another recommendation, but Gillian Bradshaw's The Wolf Hunt (11th Century Brittany) also contains angsty pretty men? And it's much less doomed than the Arthuriana, with a happy ending? (lets face it, it is quite hard for Arthuriana to end well).

Date: 2012-02-17 10:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm very very glad you recommended Hawk in May. Although the final book is breaking my heart, I think the series is great, and I'm thrilled to find that I can still feel such strong emotion about an old story. But The Wolf Hunt I read at Butteller and very much enjoyed. I've not read the lays of Marie de France, so didn't know the story.

Date: 2012-02-17 10:48 am (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, so you did, I'd forgotten!

Date: 2012-02-17 10:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lud-in-the-mist, Hope Mirrlees? Or have I said that before?

Date: 2012-02-17 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Um... I can't remember. I sometimes take ages before I take up recommendations, sometimes returning to recommendations posts several years after they were made. We haven't got it in the library, and I don't want to buy books until I've cleared a bit more of my reading backlog, but I'll look out for it in the future. Thanks!

Date: 2012-02-17 10:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Maybe a little more light-hearted than what you're looking for, but I deeply love David Eddings' series The Belgariad. It's utterly cliched and full of mostly stock characters, but I can't help but love it anyway.

Date: 2012-02-17 11:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint? Not set in "Yore", but in a city reminiscent of 18th C. London. Slashy, but not overt. It's one of my favorites, beautifully written, graceful, fascinating, and not tragic.

Date: 2012-02-17 01:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
If you haven't read Swordspoint you should (though Alec can get a little angsty) and The Privilege of the Sword (set in the same universe with some of the same characters) is also not particularly downbeat. The Fall of the Kings, however, is a whole other kettle of fish.

Date: 2012-02-17 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've read Swordspoint, yes, as well as The Fall of Kings and The Privilege of the Sword. I enjoyed it a lot... but for some reason it didn't quite spark that magic that leads me to fall in love with a book. Still, I've been meaning for a while to reread it.

Date: 2012-02-17 05:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not looking for a long series at the moment, just a few one-off books that will put some happy back in my reading before I return to angst and tragedy, but I do intend to read that series one day. Personally, I am rather fond of cliches, in their place. I think cliches only became cliches in the first place because they worked so well that everyone use them.

Date: 2012-02-17 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My favourite comfort reading fantasy novel is Barbara Hambly's Stranger at the Wedding. It's available on Amazon as a kindle download, but it's not free. It's not even cheap, IMHO. It's a book I find infinitely re-readable and it definitely leaves me feeling happy!

Date: 2012-02-17 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That sounds fun. The first review on says it's similar to Georgette Heyer, and Heyer is precisely the sort of thing I was thinking of, except that I appear to have run out of new ones to read. I won't read it yet, since I've been pretty profligate with books lately, and have resolved not to buy anything that's more than a pound or two until I've made some inroads into the "already bought but not yet read" pile, but I'll probably get to it one day.

Date: 2012-03-02 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heh, I clicked on comments precisely to say "Georgette Heyer!" Though I did think it was likely you'd already read those :-)

Date: 2012-02-17 12:10 pm (UTC)
ext_3751: (English Rose)
From: [identity profile]
I find Patricia McKillip's books very likeable, although I don't know if she'd thank me for saying so; 'likeable' is rather damning with faint praise. She does rather err on the other side, though, so that her villains turn out to be not-so-bad after all, and sometimes she gets so bogged down in language, lovely language though it is, that it's hard to tell what's going on at all.

She is almost the only author of adult fantasy I still read, and I think I've already recommended to you my YA Usual Suspects - Elizabeth Knox, Ysabeau Wilce, Frances Hardinge.

Date: 2012-02-17 05:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do have The Vintner's Luck out from the library at the moment, after you raved about it, but haven't read it yet. It sometimes takes me a long while - months, even years - before I find myself in the right mood to follow up on a recommendation, but I usually get there eventually.

I like villains that are not-so-bad-after-all, or are at least understandable, but normal human motives, rather than cardboard cutouts. Though I do sometimes find it very satisfying when an out-and-out villain gets properly thwarted.

Date: 2012-03-02 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Seconding McKillip; I particularly like the Riddle-Master trilogy.

Date: 2012-02-17 02:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Question: is the idea of "comfort reading", especially where "unpleasantnesses get recovered from and misunderstandings get resolved, and villains get thwarted and nice people get nice happy endings" one that appeals to girlies more than blokes?

Apart from my earlier sarcastic suggestion, everyone else here is female (I _think_ - admittedly I don't know everyone).

Date: 2012-02-17 02:38 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
1) 'Girlies' ??? WTF?

2) is it possible to be a female bloke?

Date: 2012-02-17 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
1) Yes, 'Girlies'. Feel free to substitute suitably politically correct synonyms ("wimmin"?) if you prefer...
2) No. Not even Vicki Butler-Henderson. The closest equivalent would be 'ladette'.

Date: 2012-02-17 05:21 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Bah)
From: [identity profile]
My icon says it all.

Date: 2012-02-17 08:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So does mine!

Date: 2012-02-17 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have no idea.

However, I don't think you can draw any conclusions merely from the sex of those commenting here thus far. A, it's a tiny sample; B, there are more women than men on my Friends list, anyway; and, C, the majority of the men I can think of who sometimes comment only normally comment outside work hours, so might not have seen this post yet.

Which is not to say that you're definitely wrong, just that this isn't evidence.

Other things that come to mind:

Almost all of my favourite books are not of this type, hence asking for recommendations when I feel like reading something different from my usual reading matter. (I mean, my favourite series is A Song if Ice and Fire!) Maybe people have generally only given one or two titles because they, too, don't often read things like this?

Secondly, thinking of library customers, the two genres that are pretty much exclusively read by women are sagas, full of suffering lasses enduring misery down t'mill, and misery memoirs, in which people recount their hideous childhoods. Again, no idea if one can draw any sort of conclusion from this, though.

Date: 2012-02-17 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
No, it's too small a sample. I wouldn't like to generalise based on anyone's friends list because by their very nature, friends lists are biased populations.

Most of the people I know who read fantasy literature are on both of our friends lists, and probably the majority of those are female. And I've often in the past been surprised when relatively obscure fantasy authors* seem to have been read by lots of those people while those same people either have read and not liked or have never tried many of the genre heavyweights**. I wonder if this is because
a) the 'genre heavyweights' have that status because male geeks like them;
b) male geeks put together the appropriate lists of Important Fantasy Books You Must Read;
c) even if this isn't the case today***, in the old days most readers of fantasy literature were male;
d) female fantasy readers are less likely to be role-players and therefore less likely to read novelists who inspired D&D.

But also, do the books written by those genre heavyweights somehow appeal more to blokes than to girlies? (Sorry, appeal more to male persons than to female persons...) Do they have something that some of the authors that are more popular with many of my LJ friends (especially my female friends) don't have, and which does not appeal to them. One example I can think of is that girlies may be more likely to be put off by books in which the hero is just not very nice******* - which would count out Thomas Covenant as suitable reading material. And perhaps they might be more likely to be put off by gory and lengthy descriptions of combat - which would count out anything by Joe Abercrombie. Or stories in which the brave muscular hero always rescues the dumb but submissive (and scantily clad) heroine - which is definitely going to count against most Robert E. Howard stories.

There are two points to this rather rambling post. The first was to wonder like I said before whether the 'comfort reading' thing was a predominantly female thing. It struck me as an odd motivation to read a book. I can't generalise about my gender from just me, but I'm pretty sure I've never read a book deliberately because it had a feelgood happy ending. Clearly it's a pretty common motivation for girlies, but is it for blokes?

The second point was the rambling observation that quite possibly girly fantasy isn't always the same as blokish fantasy, although there are big overlaps.


* Such as many of those mentioned on this page.
** For example Moorcock, Donaldson, Vance, Howard, Abercrombie, Erikson, Cook, Wolfe, Leiber.
*** Certainly not if you include the sub-genre referred to by Waterstones as 'Dark Fantasy', or as I like to think of it 'Stories-in-which-an-ordinary-teenage-girl-(who's-just-like-me-but-with-better-hair-and-two-stone-lighter)-falls-for-mysteriously-good-looking-older-boy-who's-just-so-bad-(if-only-someone-could-tame-him...)-and-who-turns-out-to-be-a-vampire-(swoon)'****.
**** Yes, I'm being sarcastic.*****
***** And contemptuous. Ever so slightly.******
****** Don't get me wrong, these books have a right to exist. But why are there so many of them?
******* Anecdotal evidence from previous livejournal discussions.

Date: 2012-02-17 09:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What, only seven footnotes? ;-)

Date: 2012-02-17 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I love me some footnotes.

Date: 2012-02-17 09:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've often wondered what fanfic can tell us about female tastes. Fanfic is an almost exclusively female thing, and there are some pretty huge fandoms out there based on fantasy/SF TV shows and films. Fanfic comes in all shapes and forms, but it does often seem to be rather character-focused, full of angst and internal monologues and emotions. (And, yes, before you say it, sex, but that's by no means the entire story. Loads of fanfic doesn't include any sex at all, like... well, everything I've read and written.)

Speaking for myself, the reason some of the old genre "greats" don't appeal to me is because when I tried them, I found them too detached, too focused on plot and happenings, with cardboard cutout characters.

Oh, by the way, according to several things I've read recently, the post-Twilight bandwagon of supernatural romances have had their day, and very soon teenage fiction is going to be wall-to-wall dystopias.

Date: 2012-02-17 09:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So would a massive-but-plausible generalisation be (perhaps)character-heavy = female-friendly* / plot-heavy = male-friendly?

* Thomas Covenant doesn't fit into this model.

Date: 2012-02-18 07:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think it's possible, albeit with all the usual disclaimers that any massive generalisation must come with, about numerous exceptions etc. This isn't just based on the preferences of female fanfic writers, but on conversations with library customers of both sexes.

Possibly relevant: the other day, I was talking about Arthurian novels to a library staff member with similar reading tastes to mine (she's currently reading ASOIAF for the first time) and she said that she'd definitely seek out the Gillian Bradshaw books I was reading. "I generally prefer female authors' takes on Arthurian legend," she said. "The male authors only care about battles, but the female authors tell us about the people, too."

I do like the Thomas Covenant series, though. Of the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen women I know who really like the series, and several men who hate them, so I'm not sure if your "Thomas Covenant is a series that only appeals to men" theory is valid.

Date: 2012-02-18 07:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"The male authors only care about battles, but the female authors tell us about the people, too."

...though she did allow that there were many exceptions, such as TH White.

Date: 2012-02-18 02:35 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
It's odd that isn't it? Spy fiction is largely written by men and is usually burgeoning with angst and feeeeeeelings. Detective fiction is largely written by women, and can be quite mechanical and puzzly.

I think your friend has a point about Arthuriana, but WHY?

Date: 2012-02-21 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have tried to get my brother to read several books by Stephen Donaldson, such as the Gap series (sci-fi), Thomas Covenant series and The Mirror of Her Dreams series, the first and last of these being among my all time favourite book series.

He responded with quite unusual intensity when he handed them back with tangible disgust and a tone of loathing, complaining that Donaldson can't avoid writing about violence to women, especially sexual violence or rape, and that this makes all of his work impossible for 'the modern man' to read.

While he has a point - some degree of forced sexual encounter does seem to crop up in any Donaldson book I've read - I found said instances all integral to plot or emotional development and not just thrown into the mix for some kind of vicarious and fetishist pleasure.

I wonder, however, if it's this that bothers some of the guys, as they are conditioned by society to react to rape with revulsion, which then carries over to spoil their enjoyment of the entire work? Certainly those men who have discussed it with me seem more embarassed by the idea of reading about something they're supposed to vilify than the women do.

Random thoughts.

Date: 2012-02-21 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You could have a point. Two of the men I know who hate the Thomas Covenant series specifically cite the rape scene as the main thing that put them off.

Date: 2012-03-02 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The plural of anecdote is not data, but when I first read the Thomas Covenant books I was such a fan of them that I ended up writing my A-Level Eng. Lit. extended essay about them. Conversely I know at least one man who couldn't stand to carry on reading them after the [spoiler] scene in the first book.

ETA: Having now read the other comments, I see that LoA and firin have made much the same point, so perhaps there is at least some anecdata on this. Mind you, I'd say these books were pretty character-driven, and Covenant is certainly full of angst, so perhaps they fit into your 'female-friendly' model on those grounds, and you are just not making sufficient allowance for the degree to which 'angsty character' overrides the hero being "just not very nice". Or, to overgeneralise wildly myself, female readers love anti-heroes :-)

Date: 2012-02-17 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Read by" or "borrowed by"?

Date: 2012-02-17 07:55 pm (UTC)
sally_maria: (Another shirt ruined)
From: [personal profile] sally_maria
Have you read any of Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody series? The first one is Crocodile on the Sandbank, but I think you could probably read most of them as standalones if you wanted. She's a formidable Victorian lady Egyptologist, and gets involves in fairly wacky thriller/adventure style plots - it's probably at least as much Fantasyland as genuine Yore, but I find them a lot of fun.

Date: 2012-02-17 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Long Ships is a modern-day version of a viking saga - a rollicking good read.

Date: 2012-02-21 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Dave Duncan, The Magic Casement. Whilst it IS the first one of five books, they are all very easy-going and not enormous tomes. A voracious reader will make quick work of them and they are absolutely what you are looking for, I promise.

Date: 2012-02-21 03:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Make that 4 books, known collectively as the 'A man of his word' series:
- Magic Casement
- Fairy Lands Forlorn
- Perilous Seas
- Emperor and Clown.

Even all available on Kindle!
Edited Date: 2012-02-21 03:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2012-02-21 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They do look very promising. Thanks! They don't seem to be available on Kindle in the UK yet (something that's happened with quite a few other books I've looked for - available on Kindle in the US, but not here - grr!) but the first couple of volumes, at least, are very cheap secondhand, so I might give them a go, anyway. Though I've just started another series, so it might be a while.


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