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Liz
...because I can't move now.

Books 2015: 105-114


105. B.R. Sanders, Ariah. Self-pub? 2015. Ebook. Copy courtesy of the author.

Read for column. Solid, engaging queer fantasy.


106. Laura Bickle, Dark Alchemy. Harper, 2015.

Read for column. Not-quite-urban fantasy set in rural Wyoming. Odd.


107. Stephanie Saulter, Regeneration. Jo Fletcher Books, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for column. Excellent conclusion to excellent trilogy. Well recommend.


108. Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, An Apprentice to Elves. Tor, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for column. Excellent, excellent conclusion to trilogy. Read it!


109. Carsen Taite, Reasonable Doubt. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian romance. Terrible, to be honest: the writing's all right, if not for the head-hopping, but there are gaping plot holes.


110-114. C.J. Cherryh, Foreigner, Invader, Inheritor, Precursor and Defender. DAW, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2001.

Excellent excellent books, of which I do not think I can say much right now.

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Liz
Books 2015: 97-104


97. Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows. Henry Holt, 2015. ARC from publisher.

Read for review for Locus. It's not obvious that it's the first book in a series, but it does end on a cliffhanger. It's basically fantasy Leverage set around a city that draws a lot of influence from Amsterdam. Interesting characters, excellent pacing, CAPER. Recommended.


98. Aliette de Bodard, The House of Shattered Wings. Gollancz, 2015. ARC from publisher.

Read for review for Locus. Sod me this is good. It's so good - I have a bunch of problems with the ARC, but I think they're layout problems that will be solved in proper formatting final copy. But in terms of the story? It's fucking brilliant. And a bit brutal. And really fascinating worldbuilding. And juicy. MORE LIKE THIS YES.


99. Seanan McGuire, A Red-Rose Chain. DAW, 2015. ARC from publisher.

Read for column. Latest Toby Daye book. Very much a series book. If you like the series you'll like this one.


100. Erika Johansen, The Invasion of the Tearling. Bantam Press, 2015.

Right. So I found Johansen's first book, The Queen of the Tearling, overhyped but generally enjoyable. Its characterisation was engaging, even where its worldbuilding failed to be anything but confusing (and seriously lacking in representation: hi, fantasy, stop writing as though white people are the only people).

The Invasion of the Tearling? Lacks that element of engaging characterisation, save in brief snatches. This makes it far more tedious. It also has no clear narrative through-line. The main character is having visions of a near-future Handmaid's Tale-esque America from her Fantasylandia, and while this vision strand is the most compelling thing about the book, it is inescapably rapey, America-is-the-whole-world, and fairly ridiculously nonsensical, and it fits poorly into the rest of the narrative, which as a whole lacks thematic coherence as well as coherence of plot.

Also, the "invasion" narrative would have made me hurt myself laughing if it weren't so tedious, because it's painfully obvious the author has absolutely no idea how combat, warfare, or logistics actually works. (Why are you resettling refugees around a city you expect to be under siege shortly? How the fuck are you going to feed them? For that matter, why is the enemy standing around staring at you when they could roll right over you?)

Anyway. It's disjointed, and bad, and even less coherent on a thematic level that Queen of the Tearling, which at least had a nice little coming-of-age story to recommend it. (It's hard to fuck up a traditional coming-of-age story, and there's a reason they're popular.)

Disrecommend.


101. Jenny Frame, A Royal Romance. Bold Strokes Books, 2015.

Alternate near-future lesbian romance involving a version of the British royal family. It's very fun, mostly for the ways in which it really wants to be both modern and archaic at once: it's sometimes very interesting to see how royalty keeps portrayed.


102. Jae, Next of Kin. Ylva Verlag, 2015.

Another lesbian romance novel. Not entirely sure what it has to recommend it besides the fact I rather liked the characters - but I did really rather like the characters.


103. Mike Shepherd, Vicky Peterwald: Survivor. Ace, 2015.

Read from morbid curiosity. Shepherd has not, in fact, managed to top the heights of BADNESS which he attained in Vicky Peterwald: Target: he still appears to know next to nothing about human women, and his protagonist spends an undue amount of time naked for a novel not set in a nudist colony, but it's not as mind-bogglingly terrible. That is not to say it's actually good, however. Just that it's less brain-meltingly awful.


104. Robert Brockway, The Unnoticeables. Tor US/Titan UK, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publishers.

Not entirely sure what to make of this novel. It actually strikes me as having some of the same feeling as Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls: it's in dialogue with a peculiar vein of modern Americana that I have never either understood or found appealing. It has, however, great voice, solid characterisation, rapid-fire pacing and an interesting conceit - even if I'm not entirely certain it makes any goddamn sense at all.




Hmm. My reading has really slowed down this year compared to last. Or so it feels, anyway.

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Liz
Books 2015: 91-96


91. Bennett R. Coles, The Virtues of War. Titan Books, 2015. Copy courtesy of Titan Books.

Bennett R. Coles is, according to his bio, a former Canadian naval officer, and Virtues of War is his debut novel. Military SF that starts with what seems like essentially a proxy war between two major powers fought on territory that belongs to a third party, and works its way up to open war.

Although it's not as human or as nuanced, it reminds me a little of some of David Drake's earlier work: screwed up humans doing fucked up things under pressure. At the level of fast-paced narrative full of things going boom, this is a pretty good piece of milSF. It has, however, at least a couple of serious flaws.

One is common: the narrative needs to walk the line between depicting atrocity and condoning it, and Virtues of War falters over the line of coming across a little more sympathetic to war crimes when its point of view characters commit them than when "the enemy" do. (In this regard, the fact that all the POV characters wear the same uniform doesn't help balance the problem.) But I'm willing to give an early novel a little more slack when it comes to getting this right than I might otherwise.

The second issue - more like two issues all rolled in one - however, is one I'm not prepared to cut any slack for at all. There are four point of view characters in Virtues of War, two male, two female: Thomas, Jack, Katja, and Breeze. The former three are reasonably well-rounded characters for a milSF novel. Breeze, however, is a cliché - a misogynist one. She comes straight from central casting: the conniving woman who uses her sexual availability to manipulate the men around her, the REMF who's both a physical and a moral coward, the woman who's willing to make a false rape allegation against a fellow officer in order to pressure him into doing things her way, the woman who hates other women as competition.

Do I have to spell out how fucking lazy and clichéd this is? Do I really?

Breeze is also the voice of the novel's heterosexism/homophobia, perfectly prepared to dismiss other women as "butchy" and "dykes" for not meeting her standards of femininity - and in a novel which does not appear to have any non-heterosexual characters or interactions, I dislike exceedingly the fact that Breeze's heterosexism is met without comment from any of the other characters. Seriously: maybe we can imagine futures where "dyke" is not a dismissive epithet (when said by an apparently heterosexual woman of another apparently heterosexual woman)?

I like military SF, dammit. I keep hoping for more of it that doesn't involve having to put up with an unacceptable level of being punched in the face. Coles shows a lot of promise as a milSF writer. But if he can't up his game and drop the misogynist clichés, next book?

Clearly he's not the kind of writer who wants my money.


92. Charles Stross, The Annihilation Score. Orbit, 2015.

This book distracted me from work I should have been doing, and I DO NOT REGRET IT ONE WHIT.

The Annihilation Score is the latest entry in Stross's long-running Laundry series, and the first not to be told in the voice of Bob Howard. Instead, Dr. Dominique "Mo" O'Brien, part-time lecturer in music, combat epistemologist, Laundry agent and wielder of the white bone violin that eats souls (and kills demons), takes centre stage. Mo is promoted to take charge of the UK's new policing agency to deal with people who are developing superpowers as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN continues. Bureaucracy snark! And also policing nightmares. And nightmare police.

The Annihilation Score is darker, tonally, than the previous Laundry books, and a little less humorous - although the Laundry series has grown progressively darker, this installment has a lot more whistling past the graveyard than even the last couple. As a protagonist, Mo is more self-aware than Bob, scarred in different ways, and her voice is a touch more biting. Underneath the cynical jokes, engaging incidents, crises of beginning middle-age, and brisk send-up of the superhero genre, there's something pretty bleak. That layer of bleakness makes The Annihilation Score stand out from its predecessors in a good way.

Gallows humour is the best humour, after all.


93. Stina Leicht, Cold Iron. Saga Press, 2015. Copy courtesy of Saga Press.

Read for review for Tor.com.


94. Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown. Macmillan, 2015. Copy courtesy of Macmillan UK.

Read for review for Locus. Clearly in dialogue with Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and also the whole style of regency romance. But also very much interested in interrogating and overturning the hegemonic idea of white Englishness. Very engaging novel. Can recommend very highly, even though the things it is in dialogue with, and its formal, measured style, are not really my favourite things: Cho writes a novel here that compels attention.

(And if I am very lucky and my mind clears enough to review it properly tomorrow, will have a review in by Locus's deadline this month.)


95. Nicole Kornher-Stace, Archivist Wasp. Big Mouth House, 2015.

ARCHIVIST WASP! ARCHIVIST WASP! Shit, this book. It's probably the second book I've fallen in love with this year, at level deeper than admiration - counting Bear's Karen Memory as the first. (I really enjoyed several other books, like Novik's Uprooted, Valentine's Persona, Gladstone, Walton, etc but I don't foresee myself going back and rereading them to pieces.) Archivist Wasp follows the trials of its titular character, Wasp, the Archivist - a role that marks her as outcast, and a role that she is forced to kill to keep. Wasp kills to survive. She deals with ghosts in a world that teems with them, long after a technological apocalypse: she tries to learn from the ghosts about the apocalypse before she destroys them. But the ghosts don't communicate.

Wasp's life is solitary and brutal and looks likely to be short, until she comes across a ghost that talks. A ghost that offers her a bargain - a bargain that will take her on a journey to the underworld. Katabasis. And maybe back, to freedom.

It has great strength of voice. (If you liked Karina Sumner-Smith's Radiant you will like this, and vice versa, I can all but guarantee it.) And much to recommend it! (And I will stop talking about it here because I mean to write about it in a column and if I don't stop now I will have to write the whole column here.)

Short version: ARCHIVIST WASP YES READ IT YES.


96. David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Tom Pope, A Call To Arms. Baen, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Meh. Seriously? Meh. I was hoping for a novel with the verve and energy of A Call to Duty, which was one of the better Honorverse installments of the last few years. This isn't as much of a drag as War of Honor, but it is decidedly on the disjointed side, and there is far too much boring villain and insufficient banter/explosions.

Also the final third is an expanded version of the novella/short novel "A Call to Arms," in one of the more recent Honorverse anthologies - was it Beginnings? I think so - and the expansion looks decidedly like a disimprovement when set beside the original.

Not recommended at hardcover prices.

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Liz
Books 2015: 81-89


81. Django Wexler, The Price of Valor. Roc, 2015. Copy courtesy of Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. It's pretty amazing.


82. Rhonda Mason, The Empress Game. Titan Books, 2015. Copy courtesy of Titan Books.

Read for column. It's kind of ridiculously tropey and entertaining.


83. Cari Hunter, No Good Reason. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. Ecopy courtesy of the publisher.

This is a crime novel set in the Lake District. The two protagonists, cop Sanne and doctor Meg, are best friends and occasional lovers. When a badly injured young woman is found by hikers, who appears to have escaped from an abductor, both Sanne and Meg are drawn into the hunt for the perpetrator. It's a very readable novel, with very appealing characters, albeit with some pacing issues, and for that reason I went out looking for everything else Hunter has written when I was done. It transpires that No Good Reason is her fourth novel: the others aren't quite as good but they're still solidly enjoyable.


84. Cari Hunter, Snowbound. Bold Strokes Books, 2011. Ebook.

Hunter's first novel. A little too much hurt/comfort rather than Thrilling Crime? But very readable, with great characters. Fun.


85. Cari Hunter, Desolation Point. Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Ebook.

Hunter's second novel. Two women trapped by a storm race against time, weather, and white supremacists for survival. Odd pacing, but really appealing characters. Also fun!


86. Cari Hunter, Tumbledown. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Ebook.

Hunter's third novel, and a sequel-of-sorts to Desolation Point. (Best described as Desolation Point: Revenge of the White Supremacists.) Characters still great, pacing and structure quite peculiar. It feels a bit tropey without feeling slight, which is an achievement in itself. Fun.


87. Karis Walsh, Mounting Evidence. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. Ecopy courtesy of the publisher.

A romance between a cop who comes from a family of dirty cops, and an environmental activist/single mother. Abigail Hargrove is a lieutenant with the mounted police unit. Kira Lovell is a wetlands biologist. They meet at the state fair, and murder and kidnapping and underhanded dealings interfere in their awkward courtship. Fun, although the prose is a touch clunky and the pacing on the uneven side.


88. Karis Walsh, Mounting Danger. Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Ebook.

Previous book in loose sequence to Mounting Evidence. It has horses, and a mounted police unit, and polo. Entertaining, but generally meh: not so convinced I should read any more of Walsh's work.


89. Molly Tanzer, Vermillion. Word Horde, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for Patreon review. It should be going up on my Wordpress blog soon-ish. It's a very interesting book. And well-written. And full of incidents. I didn't love it, but I liked it a lot.





And some rereads. I am being slow this year. In my defence, thesis-finishing kind of killed bits of my brain.

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Liz
Books 2015: 73-80


73. David Weber, The Sword of the South. Baen, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher. (Ebook.)

I confess myself astonished to read, after many years, a David Weber novel that isn’t largely composed of technological exposition, talking heads, and battlefield set-pieces. The Sword of the South is a strong throwback to Weber’s Oath of Swords, and opens a new chapter in the story of Bahzell Bahnakson, champion of the war-god of the Light.

Some seventy years have passed since War Maid’s Choice, and the forces of the Dark are moving once again. Arrayed against them, for now? There’s a mysterious red-haired man who’s lost his memory (but who might be a great warleader plucked out of time), a thousand-year-old wizard with uncanny knowledge, a cross-dressing assassin… and Bazhell. We’ve got a good old-fashioned sword and sorcery fetchquest here: go find and reclaim the Object of Power (a sword, natürlich) from the fortress of the Evil Wizard, who’s a pawn of the Even Eviller Wizards across the sea. (And for the first time in a while Weber’s written a villain who strikes one as understandable and even almost admirable in her self-honesty – although I might like her better because she doesn’t go chundering on about politics like most of his previous ones.)

I’ve got a giant soft spot for well-done sword and sorcery, and even though I think the most interesting characters in the whole book were shuffled off to the side very early, this is still a lot of fun. More smashing things! Fewer talking heads! Definitely better than I expected!


74. Django Wexler, The Mad Apprentice. Corgi, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

In addition to writing pretty decent epic fantasy, Wexler is also writing fun, engaging books for the 8-13 set. The Mad Apprentice is a sequel to last year’s enjoyable The Forbidden Library. Alice, apprenticed to a Reader (an almost-immortal magician whose power comes in some peculiar way from books), is sent on a… I suppose it is a quest, along with the apprentices of her master’s allies. Their mission? To find and bring back an apprentice who seems to have killed his own master, and who is now hiding in that master’s stronghold. But the stronghold is a labyrinth, and within it Alice will discover several unpleasant truths.

And fight monsters.

It’s a lot of fun. Definitely worth the read.


75. Max Gladstone, Last First Snow. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Brilliant stuff, as per usual.


76. Carolyn Ives Gilman, Dark Orbit. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Crunchy science fiction with a philosophical bent.


77. Naomi Novik, Uprooted. Macmillan, 2015.

I understand why everyone's gone delirious over this one. It's an utterly marvelous fantasy novel - reminds me of The Goblin Emperor in many ways, although it is a completely different book. Friendship between women! Interesting magic training not-montage! Darkness from THE WOOD! So many good things! (So many exclamation marks when I'm talking about it!)


78. Jane Lindskold, Artemis Invaded. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for column. Meh.


79. Carrie Vaughn, Low Midnight. Tor, 2014. Copy courtesy of Tor.com.

Read for column. Quite a bit of fun.


nonfiction

80. Tom Reiss, The Black Count. Vintage, 2013.

A very readable biography of General Alexandre Dumas, father to the author of The Three Musketeers. I would have preferred more Dumas and less about things like the Tennis Court Oath, but I suspect that's because I already have sufficient context for the early stages of the French Revolution to be comfortable going straight in. A good read, but I would have much preferred footnotes to endnotes.

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Liz
29 May 2015 @ 06:43 pm
I am probably forgetting at least several.

Books 2015: 69-72


69. Jo Walton, The Philosopher Kings. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. Good stuff.


70. Margaret Fortune, Nova. DAW, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. Surprisingly fun.


71. Lilith Saintcrow, Trailer Park Fae. Orbit, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. Um. I guess it's fun? Bizarre, though.


nonfiction

72. Hagith Sivan, Palestine in Late Antiquity. Oxford University Press, 2008.

Not very useful as an overview for someone from a separate but related discipline - and I was hoping from the title it would be.

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Liz
10 May 2015 @ 03:59 pm
Books 2015: 67-68


67. Chrysoula Tsavelas, Citadel of the Sky. Ebook. 2015. Copy courtesy of the author.

Read for column. Mostly meh.


68. Lia Silver, Partner. Ebook. 2015. Copy courtesy of the author.

Read for... probably column, if I remember to include it. Werewolves and assassins and covert government agencies, oh my.

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Liz
08 May 2015 @ 10:14 am
Books 2015: 52-66


52. Amy Bai, Sword. Candlemark and Gleam, 2015. Ebook.

Read for column. I really, really liked it.


53. Justina Robson, The Glorious Angels. Gollancz, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. Complex, dense, odd. But mostly satisfying.


54. Peter Higgins, Radiant State. Orbit US/Gollancz UK, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Complex and literary and a very satisfying end to the trilogy.


55. C.T. Adams, The Exile. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. In conclusion, meh.


56. Martha Wells, Between Worlds. Ebook, 2015.

Read for column. Collected Ile-Rien stories. Lovely.


57. Jae, Second Nature. Ebook.

Lesbian paranormal romance - decent prose, good characters. Amusing, because one of them is a writer.


58. Jae, Manhattan Moon. Ebook.

Lesbian paranormal romance. Short novel. Not as good as Second Nature.


59. Jae, True Nature. Ebook.

Lesbian paranormal romance. Sort-of sequel to Second Nature. I enjoyed it less, but it's good quality.


60. Jae, Backwards to Oregon. Ebook.

Lesbian historical romance set on the Oregon trail. Cross-dressing and prostitutes. It ignores or elides the problems of colonialism, sadly, but it is a fun read.


61. Jae, Hidden Truths. Ebook.

Lesbian historical romances, a twenty-years-after sequel to Backwards to Oregon.


62. Mason Dixon, Charm City. Ebook.

Lesbian contemporary romance. Doesn't really sustain its suspense-plot tension alongside its romance-plot tension.


63. M.E. Logan, Lexington Connection. Ebook.

Lesbian contemporary romance. Not quite sure what to make of it. Would call it chick lit, I suppose, maybe?


64. M.E. Logan, Revenge. Ebook.

As above.


65. Carsen Taite, Lay Down the Law. Ebook.

Lesbian contemporary romance set in Texas. Ranches. Oil. Horses. Fun?


66. Rae D Magdon, The Witch's Daughter. Ebook.

Lesbian romance fairy-tale retelling. (Sleeping Beauty?) Worldbuilding, structure, characterisation needs work, but it is diverting.

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Liz
Books 2015: 43-51


43. James S.A. Corey, Caliban's War. Orbit, 2013 (2012).

Discussed here.


44. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Dragon in Exile. Baen, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Discussed here.


45. Seanan McGuire, Pocket Apocalypse. DAW, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for column. Fun, if on the slight side.


46. P.N. Elrod, The Hanged Man. Tor, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Entertaining.


47. Amanda Downum, Dreams of Shreds and Tatters. Solaris, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. I loved this, all unexpected.


48. E.E. Richardson, Disturbed Earth. Abaddon, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for column. Urban fantasy set in Yorkshire with a 55yo female DCI main character. GIVE ME MORE LIKE THIS.


49. Patricia Briggs, Dead Heat. Orbit, 2015.

Latest Alpha & Omega novel. Passably entertaining.


50. Faith Hunter, Broken Soul. Ace/Roc 2014.

Next-to-latest Jane Yellowrock novel. Fun.


51. Faith Hunter, Dark Heir. Ace/Roc 2015.

Latest Jane Yellowrock novel. Also fun.

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Liz
Books 2015: 40-42


40. James S.A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes. Orbit, 2012 (2011).

Discussed here.


41. James L. Cambias, Corsair. Tor, 2015 (forthcoming). ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. I would have liked this book a lot more without the random anti-trans bit.


42. Fran Wilde, Updraft. Tor, 2015 (forthcoming). Copy courtesy of the author.

Read for review. Very enjoyable debut.

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Liz
Books 2015: 23-39


23. Karina Sumner-Smith, Defiant. Talos, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Excellent sequel to a very good debut.


24. Kate Elliott, Court of Fives. Little Brown, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

A really excellent Young Adult fantasy novel. Will talk about it in a Sleeps With Monsters column, and also probably closer to the publication date if someone reminds me - it's AMAZINGLY good fun, with interestingly crunchy bits. Also tombs. I am fond of tombs.


25. Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove, White Raven. Egmont UK, 2015.

Another excellent YA from Wein - not quite as heart-wrenching as her Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, but very good.


26. Stacey Lee, Under A Painted Sky. Putnam, 2015.

Historical YA debut. Two young women on the run for their lives in the 1849 American West. A lot of fun.


27. Sandra Barret, Blood of the Enemy. Ebook.

Fun fast not terrible space opera with queer women in.


28. Barbara Ann Wright, The Fiend Queen. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Conclusion to series. Structurally off-balance, but entertaining enough.


29. Julie Cannon, Because of You. Ebook.

Lesbian romance. Not particularly great.


30. Gun Brooke, Advance. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Space opera. Terrible worldbuilding. Prose not-so-great. Characterisation could use work. Somehow it still entertained me.


31. A.J. Quinn, Hostage Moon. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with serial killers in. Neither great nor terrible.


32. A.J. Quinn, Rules of Revenge. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with spies in. Neither great nor terrible.


33. Merry Shannon, Prayer of the Handmaiden. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, variant of epic. Worldbuilding on the naive side. Prose okay. Characterisation pretty good. Entertaining.


34. Rae D. Magdon, The Second Sister. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, sort of fairytale retelling (Cinderella). Could have used better worldbuilding and smoother prose. Still entertaining.


35. Rae D. Magdon, Wolf's Eyes. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, starts out looking like a fairytale retelling, develops werewolves, turns into a variant on epic. Could have used better worldbuilding, smoother prose, and some more thought in its structure. Still entertaining.


36. M.B. Panichi, Saving Morgan. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Near-future solar-system science fiction. Could have used a stronger structure, and the romance felt rushed, but it was fun.


37. M.B. Panichi, Running Toward Home. Ebook.

Sequel to Saving Morgan. Very uneven pacing and I'm not sure it has a plot so much as a collection of incidents, but I found myself entertained anyway.


38. Heather Rose Jones, The Mystic Marriage. Bella Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Wow. THIS BOOK. This book. FILLED WITH INTELLECTUAL LADIES OF QUEERNESS.

It's not a romance, not structurally, though it appears to be being published as one: it's a complicated novel of relationships, friendships, family, alchemy and intrigue. Jones has leveled up from Daughter of Mystery in terms of her skill with prose, narrative, and characterisation - and they were already pretty freaking good. The only point at which the novel weakens slightly is the climax: it is an effective climax-conclusion in emotional terms (although I really feel that one of the characters was a little short-changed), but in terms of concluding the current of intrigue underlying the novel, perhaps not so much.

I love it a lot. I am planning on writing a whole column about it.


nonfiction


39. Theresa Urbainczyk, Slave Revolts in Antiquity. Acumen, 2008.

A slight volume that nonetheless succeeds in providing a comprehensive - and enjoyably readable - overview of slave revolts in antiquity and their presentation in both the ancient sources and the historiography of slavery and antiquity. A useful addition to anyone interested in either slavery in antiquity or - particularly - the political situation during the late Roman Republic.

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Liz
28 February 2015 @ 02:49 pm
Books 2015: 19-22


19. Ian Tregillis, The Mechanical. Orbit, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Locus. Very good book, on the THIS CAN'T END WELL side of things.


20. Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith, Stranger. Viking 2014. Electronic copy courtesy of authors.

Wanted to include this in column. Brain broken, so haven't yet. Solid if unfocused post-apocalyptic YA.


21. Genevieve Valentine, Persona. Saga Press, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

This is an excellent book. It is, so far, the only book I have been able to read since my brain broke. It is the book that signifies to me my brain might not be permanently broken, and the malaise that afflicts my every thought of reading will pass, because once I started reading it I could not stop.

Good book. Excellent book. Brain still broken but maybe not forever.


nonfiction

22. Christopher J. Fuhrmann, Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order. Oxford University Press, 2012.

My bathroom reading for the last several weeks. A solid discussion of the contribution of the Roman army to peacekeeping and the maintenance of public order in the Empire's first three centuries. Readable, accessible introduction.

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Liz
31 January 2015 @ 11:24 pm
Books 2015: 16-18


16. Edward Gorey, The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes A Novel.

Because I'd never read it before. It is a delightful thing.


17. Viola Carr, The Diabolical Miss Hyde. Harper Voyager, 2015. Electronic review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. It's pulp, and not particularly good pulp. But it will entertain for an hour.


18. Marc Turner, When The Heavens Fall. Tor, 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review. RUN AWAY THIS IS TEDIOUS AND TERRIBLE. ALSO IT HAS UNGRAMMATICAL EARLY MODERN ENGLISH.

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Liz
24 January 2015 @ 07:44 pm
Books 2015: 12-15


12. Timothy Zahn, Cobra Outlaw. Baen, 2015. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

Reviewed at Tor.com. Fun, but shallow.


13. Courtney Milan, Trade Me. Ebook, 2015.

Contemporary romance. Normally not my sort of thing but it's MILAN, so I went for it anyway and WOW IS IT GOOD.

I mean, I should have hated it. If you described it to me, logically. It has the thing I hate. (Billionaire.) AND YET IT IS BRILLIANT.


14. Lee Kelly, City of Savages. Saga Press, 2015. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Interesting debut. Read for review at Tor.com.


nonfiction

15. Karen Abbott, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War. Harper, 2014.

Narrative history. Title refers to the American civil war. Interesting and engrossing piece of writing, but needs to be contextualised better for people not familiar with that particular piece of history. Its focus on four different women and how they responded to the war makes for fascinating reading.

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Liz
Books 2015: 8-11


8-9. Rose Lerner, A Lily Among Thorns and True Pretenses. Ebooks, various dates.

Very excellent historical romance novels.


10. Kelly McCullough, Drawn Blades. Ace, 2014.

Fun adventure with assassins. Latest in series. Recommended.


nonfiction

11. Roger S. Bagnall, ed., Egypt in the Byzantine World 300-700. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007.

Collection of academic essays that provide an effective and wide-ranging introduction to the world of Byzantine Egypt and a good summary of the work done and the kinds of evidence available. Some fascinating stuff in here. Recommended, though not as a fun relaxing read.

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Liz
11 January 2015 @ 01:09 am
Books 2015: 1-7


1. Richard Morgan, The Dark Defiles. Gollancz, 2014.

Read for review for Strange Horizons. Interesting and effective conclusion to trilogy.


2. Karina Sumner-Smith, Radiant. Talos, 2014.

Debut. Read for Sleeps With Monsters. Fun, interesting, solid beginning.


3. S.L. Huang, Half Life. Ebook, 2015. Copy courtesy of author.

Sequel to Zero Sum Game. Read for Sleeps With Monsters. Fun, hectic, fast.


4. Genevieve Cogman, The Invisible Library. Tor UK, 2015. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Debut. Read for Sleeps With Monsters. Fun, demented hilarious fun.


5. Mike Shepherd, Kris Longknife: Tenacious. Ace, 2014.

Yes, I am still reading this series. Things blow up. It is not at all like Target (THAT BOOK WHY), and it is fun.


6. Gail Simone, Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire. Dynamite, 2014.

It is like having Xena back, except with less moralising and more PUNCHING PEOPLE INNA FACE. YAY. More please.


7. Gail Simone, Tomb Raider: Season of the Witch. Dark Horse, 2014.

Bit like an acid trip. Doesn't make a great deal of narrative sense. On the other hand, lots of fun, and Lara PUNCHING PEOPLE INNA FACE and female friendship and taking care of people whom you care for, and also bits of it are set in Dublin and I quite like that, right.

Why yes, I am pro LADIES PUNCHING PEOPLE INNA FACE.

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Liz
31 December 2014 @ 03:54 pm
Books 2014: 232-233


232-233. Rose Lerner, In For a Penny and Sweet Disorder. Ebooks, 2014 editions.

Solid, fun historical romance novels with an undertone of social commentary.

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Liz
26 December 2014 @ 11:51 pm
Not because of the books, I hasten to add. Just because this time of year is always disheartening to me.


Books 2014: 230-231


230. Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince. Arthur A. Levine, 2013.

Read for the column at Tor.com. An excellent novel.


231. Carrie Vaughn, Kitty in the Underworld. Tor, 2013.

A fun installment in the series, if not as fun as I was hoping.

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Liz
Books 2014: 216-229


216. Jean Johnson, Damnation. Ace, 2014.

Final book in the Theirs Not To Reason Why space opera series. The weakest of the lot, and they didn't start out particularly strong.


217. Ilona Andrews, Burn For Me. Berkeley, 2014.

First book in new series. I really dislike Andrews' tendency to have very controlling men turn up in love interest roles. Otherwise this is a lot of fun, with explosions.


218-226. Eileen Wilks, Tempting Danger, Mortal Danger, Blood Lines, Night Season, Mortal Sins, Blood Magic, Blood Challenge, Death Magic and Mortal Ties. Berkeley, 2004-2012.

Urban fantasy series. Good fun, undemanding. Explosions, werewolves, demons, dragons, magic, and people having sex that is entirely too good to be anything but fiction.


227. Greg van Eekhout, Pacific Fire. Tor, 2015.

Read for review for Tor.com. Good book, heist-thriller-magic stuff. Sequel of sorts to California Bones.


228. Joanne Bourne, Rogue Spy. Ebook, 2014.

Romance. Spies. Napoleonic war period. Fun, but ahistorical in the espionage nonsense.


229. Sarah MacLean, Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover. Ebook, 2014.

Romance. Post-Regency pre-Victorian. Lady-owner of casino leading a double (triple?) life under three identities (one madam, one male casino owner, one disgraced lady having borne a bastard daughter) falls in love with a newspaper magnate with secrets of his own. Meh.

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Liz
10 November 2014 @ 04:45 pm
Books 2014: 211-215


211. John Scalzi, Lock In. US: Tor, 2014; UK: Gollancz, 2014. Copy courtesy of Gollancz.

So, remember the last time I was writing up my books, I asked myself, "Have I forgotten something?" And it turns out that I had, because the night beforehand I'd read Lock In and it had not made enough impression to last. This is in many ways a very forgettable book: competent, but of the stuff of which airport paperbacks are made. A whodunnit with a couple of Sufficiently Advanced Technology elements. I really don't have very much at all to say about it, and I'm damned if I can even remember the characters' names.


212. Sharon Lee, Carousel Sea. Baen, 2015. e-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Third installment in small-town fantasy series. Will include in future SWM column. Interesting, soothing, pulls all its punches.


213. Elizabeth May, The Falconer. Gollancz, 2013.

Debut novel. Fairies. Violence. Scotland. Steampunk. It is crack and it is terrible and it is actually quite a bit of fun.


nonfiction


214. William Dalrymple, The Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan. Bloomsbury, 2013.

New history of the first British Afghan war, and one that makes liberal use of sources in the local languages. A fascinating read.


215. Marcus Rediker, The Amistad Rebellion: an Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom. Verso, 2013.

Rediker writes good history. This one is relatively short, for him, and very accessible: an account of the Amistad slave mutiny and the long struggle of the survivors to return to their West African homes. Solid, informative, compelling.

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Liz
27 October 2014 @ 10:00 pm
Books 2014: 209-2010


209. Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory. Tor, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

This book. This book. I don't even know how to talk about it. I need to read it again and again. It did everything right for me. It's all my narrative kinks rolled up into one - including some I didn't even know I had, and some things I would've thought I'd hate to see but they're done so well - and wrapped up with a positive ending and it all just works.

Read it. Read it. READ IT I NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH PEOPLE.


nonfiction


210. Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Penguin, 2013.

A weighty (500+ pages excluding index, notes and bibliography, at 10pt-type) volume, but a deeply fascinating and extraordinarily well-written piece of history, that is astonishingly clear in its presentation of the complex factors and personalities on the European scene, and routes by which the decisions of the European powers ultimately narrowed down to war. A really excellent history book.

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Liz
Books 2014: 186-208


186-187. Laurie R. King, To Play The Fool and With Child. Picador, 2014 editions.

The second and third installment in King's Kate Martinelli series. The interesting thing about these novels, I realised as I read her standalone books - discussed next paragraph - is how much more King is interested in character, in suffering, in relationships, than she is in the intellectual puzzle of whodunnit. Crime might be the frame, but it's not the focus. Which makes these novels fairly powerful examinations of emotions and relationships and characters.


188-190. Laurie R. King, A Darker Place, Folly, and Keeping Watch. Various publishers, various years.

These are King's standalone contemporary novels - though Folly and Keeping Watch are loosely connected - and it's here where I noticed her concern with character rather than mystery most strongly. A Darker Place ends on an unfinished note, but it's a study of one woman's guilt and obsessions and drive, a drive that leads her into danger again and again; Folly is concerned with one woman's struggle to rebuild her self and her life while struggling with a heavy burden of grief and mental illness - she's a mother, a grandmother, an artist: her sickness places heavy burdens upon her relationships but doesn't, ultimately, define her - while Keeping Watch is about how one man's experiences in Vietnam (and his addiction to adrenaline) shaped his entire life. They are brilliant, fascinating novels, and well worth reading.


191-195. Mary Balogh, One Night For Love, A Summer To Remember, The Proposal, The Escape, and The Arrangement. Ebooks.

Formulaic historical romance. Diverting, but not really engrossing. Did not hit nearly enough of my narrative kinks.


196. Catherine Asaro, Undercity. Baen, 2014. Review ecopy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. My strongest feeling about this book is "meh." It's good enough, it does what it sets out to do, but it's not stylish or innovative or particularly gripping. It has not enough flare and joie de vivre. I found it hard to say much about it in my review.


197. Sarah Zettel, Palace of Spies. Harcourt Brace & Co., 2013.

Read for inclusion in SWM column. An excellent and intelligent YA novel. Much recommended.


198. Liane Merciel, Dragon Age: Last Flight. Tor, 2014. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

By far the best written of the Dragon Age tie-ins to date: it manages to tell a full and complete story without feeling like someone's write-up of their roleplaying campaign, and does it smoothly. Interesting characters, solid BOOM. Would read more in this setting by this author.


199. Gail Simone et al, Legends of Red Sonja. Dynamite, 2014.

I said of Gail Simone's first Red Sonja volume that it reminded me in the best possible way of Xena: Warrior Princess. Legends, a compilation collecting efforts from Simone and a variety of other authors, including Kelly Sue DeConnick, Tamora Pierce, and Marjorie M. Liu, feels very much like it too - without Xena's levels of whimsical ridiculousness, but still. I really enjoyed this, and recommend it very much.


200. Erin Lindsey, The Bloodbound. Ace, 2014.

Red for inclusion in SWM column. Meh. Tone and concerns remind me a little of Mercedes Lackey or Tamora Pierce, though without their particular brand of... didactic feminism is not quite the term I need, but it may be close. Armies, threats to nations, heroine bodyguarding king. Briefly diverting, but not exactly compellingly great.


201-206. Anthony Riches, Wounds of Honour, Arrows of Fury, Fortress of Spears, The Leopard Sword, The Wolf's Gold and The Eagle's Vengeance. Hodder & Stoughton, various dates.

Discussion of narrative pattern of sexual violence follows.

Feeling low and brainless, I read through all of these in a single night and day. They are, to use a term of art vouchsafed to me, "Roman bollocks," set during the reign of Commodus (the Commodus of whom Dio gives us such a lovely picture beheading ostriches in the arena). A Roman of good family takes service with an auxiliary cohort in Britain under an assumed name because his family has been condemned for treason, rapidly becomes a centurion, hack slash march curse shield-bash male homosociality. Details of military equipment and the political landscape are well-researched; details of the Roman social world and the Roman mindset, rather less so: Riches has imported the mindset of a more gleefully brutal modern infantry regiment into Roman clothing. (Hack, slash, march, curse, march.)

An interesting pattern emerges over the course of six books. Riches has chosen to deal with a primarily masculine world, that of the Roman army on campaign, but in Wounds of Honour he introduces Felicia, a Roman married woman of good family with medical training who will be the Only Notable Named Woman for three books. (And one of Damn Few for the next three.) Not only does Felicia take up with a centurion after her first husband dies, she doesn't even bring a female servant with her, or acquire one. Most of her time on screen is spent being menaced by rape, only to be rescued at the last moment - at least once, and sometimes more often, in each book.

In book four, The Leopard Sword, Riches introduces a second notable named woman, Annia. Guess her profession. I'll wait.

#
#
#
#

If you guessed "prostitute", top marks, well done. A presumably successful businesswoman, Annia is victimised regularly by her business partner, who is the local equivalent of an underworld kingpin, and does not seem to realise that the men who work for him as her guards could turn on her at his order. Annia is also threatened with rape in the course of this novel! But instead of one of the last-minute rescues experienced by Felicia, she gets to have the completed experience. She is rescued from death but not from penetrative violation.

The nice mostly-respectable Roman matron, in the course of six books and multiple close calls, has not experienced a completed rape. The woman who has made a career out of selling her body, on the other hand?

Hmmm. Hmmm. *side-eyes*

In the fifth book, to round off the well-rounded array of female characters, we're introduced to an Evil Woman Who Manipulates Men Through Sex, by the way.

So that's an interesting pattern of sexist thinking and unexamined sexism on display.


nonfiction


207. Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter With Tokugawa Japan. Columbia University Press, 2014.

A fascinating and immensely readable account of how the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) was stymied in its attempts to treat the Tokugawa Bakufu like the other nations and kingdoms the VOC succeeded in dominating in South East Asia. The VOC ended up, in fact, using the rhetoric of a vassal of the shogun, and being called upon to perform the duties of a vassal. It's far from my period, but it feels like solid research - although I'd have preferred more emphasis on how the Japanese conceived of the Dutch.


208. Judith Herrin, Margins and Metropolis: Authority Across The Byzantine Empire. Princeton University Press, 2013.

A collection of essays on various aspects of Byzantine authority from across Herrin's long career. Interesting stuff.

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Liz
08 October 2014 @ 06:52 pm
Books 2014: 169-185


169-176. Laurie R. King, O Jerusalem, Justice Hall, The Game, Locked Rooms, The Language of Bees, The God of the Hive, Pirate King and Garment of Shadows. Allison & Busby, various dates.

More excellent mysteries from King, in her Russell and Holmes series. Not quite as good as the first three, but plenty satisfying and playful.


177. Tanya Huff, The Future Falls. DAW, 2014. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Fun book, but PARADOX IS CHEATING. Ahem.


178. Bennett Madison, September Girls. HarperCollins, 2013.

Read for column. Disappointing.


179. Garth Nix, Clariel. HarperCollins, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Also disappointing.


180. Pierre Pevel, The Knight. Gollancz, 2014. Translated from the French by Tom Clegg. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Disappointing.


181-182. Lia Silver, Laura's Wolf and Prisoner. Ebooks. 2014.

Interesting books working with romance-novel furniture but doing intriguing things with PTSD too. Fun, well-characterised, mostly well-written. Recommended.


nonfiction


183. Mary Beard, Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up. University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 2014.

Very interesting overview of laughter in the Roman (and Greco-Roman) world. Readable. Not especially ground-breaking. Good synthesis. Even if Beard is inexplicably not fond of Aelius Aristides, and does not investigate laughter/joking, particularly in fables, as a site of resistance to dominating powers/hierarchies.


184. Robert Darnton, Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature. WW Norton & Co., London & New York, 2014.

Interesting overview of state oversight and control of literature in 18th century France, turn-of-the-20th-century British India, and communist East Germany. I kept wanting more social context, which I always do with histories in this vein and is not a commentary on Darnton. Very readable, makes interesting connections, illuminates ways of thinking about literature, censorship, and self-censorship. Recommended.


185. Helen Bynum, Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012.

Fascinating and well-written history of a disease from the earliest period to the modern day. I stayed up late to finish it. Recommended.

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Liz
Books 2014: 156-168


156-157. Mavis Doriel Hay, Death On The Cherwell and Murder Underground. British Library Crime Classics, reprinted 2014.

Had I read Murder Underground before Death On The Cherwell, and not the other way around, I would have been inclined to dismiss Hay's scant handful of 1930s murder mysteries as tedious and possessed of little redeeming value. Yet for all the back-and-forth boredom of Murder Underground, Death On The Cherwell is a minor delight: it breathes the Oxford of its setting, and Hay here possesses more in the way of sympathy and humour for her characters. And yet neither are mysteries in the usual sense, being more concerned with the lives of the characters than the resolution of the murder. But that makes them interesting in a different fashion.


158. Jack Campbell, The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword. Ace, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Very similar to all previous Campbell books.


159. Jacqueline Carey, Poison Fruit. Roc, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Satisfactory conclusion to trilogy.


160. Rebecca Levene, Smiler's Fair. Hodder, 2014. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Strange Horizons. Three quarters of the book is prologue, and I'm none too satisfied with the rest, either.


161. S.M. Wheeler, Sea Change. Tor, 2013. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for column. Reminds me in many ways of The Last Unicorn, though its emotional beats affect me more.


162. Jacey Bedford, Empire of Dust. DAW, 2014. Galley copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review/column. Strikingly old-fashioned space opera. Psionics. Telepathy. Women who take their husbands' names on marriage as a matter of course. I had only just reread Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, mind you, so its failures of imagination were clearer by comparison. Perfectly readable adventure, nothing particular about it to make it stand out.


163. Jo Walton, The Just City. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Vector. A peculiar book, and less self-indulgent than it seems at first glance - though Walton takes a rather more charitable view towards both Apollo and Sokrates than I ever would. It is immensely readable, and its major thematic arguments emerge slyly from the narrative (although it actually states up front on the first page what it is going to be). In many ways, this is a book about consent, and the abuses thereof: informed consent, consent after the fact, refusal of consent, the power to compel - cunning concealed under explicit arguments about justice and arete.

It is also, at times, rather like reading one of the more enjoyable Sokratic dialogues.

Appropriately so.


164-167. Laurie R. King, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, A Letter of Mary, The Moor, and A Grave Talent. 1993-1998 variously, Allison & Busby and Picador.

Excellent mystery novels. All of them.


nonfiction

168. Judith Herrin, Unrivaled Influence. Princeton University Press, 2013.

Collection of essays on women in the Byzantine empire from throughout Herrin's (long) career. Very interesting.

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Liz
04 September 2014 @ 10:53 pm
Books 2014: 151-155

151-152. Yasmine Galenorn, Bone Magic and Harvest Hunting. Berkley, 2010.

Oh, the terribleness of these books. Such terribleness. Such angst. Such faerie/werewolf/magic/vampire/poly/queer sex. It's kind of glorious, in an utterly terrible all-the-urban-fantasy-clichés way.


153. C.J. Redwine, Defiance. Atom, 2012.

Can't remember who told me I should read this. They weren't exactly right. Bog-standard YA dystopia narrative, clearly drawing on John's Apocalypse/millenarian reified symbols for its setting (not as imaginatively as Faith Hunter's debut trilogy, alas), with a little too much illogical specialness thrown in. Not my sort of book, but probably appeals to the Divergent readership.


154. Elizabeth Bear, One-Eyed Jack. Prime, 2014.

An excellent urban fantasy set in 2002 Las Vegas, that plays with metafictionality while never breaking the fourth wall. Well recommended.


155. Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen. St. Martin's Press, 1994. This edition Picador 2014.

Why did no one ever hit me over the head with the amazingness that is this book before? IT IS BRILLIANT GIVE ME ALL THE SEQUELS NOW.

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