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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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Liz
25 August 2014 @ 09:23 pm
I've probably forgotten a good half-dozen things from this list: I know I made a foray into regency romance for a couple of days during the last month.

Books 2014: 137-150


137. Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart. Orbit, 2014.

The fifth installment in Stross's "Laundry Files" series. Rather more episodic than its predecessors, with an approach to pacing that staggers rather a bit in the middle, it never quite transcends the sum of its parts. But it's a fun story with an interesting twist in the climax that clearly sets up some New Changes in the life of its protagonist, and I enjoyed it a lot.


138. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword. Orbit, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of Orbit.

It is space opera, and could have been written JUST FOR ME. I love it as much as I loved its predecessor. Read this one for review for Tor.com: expect to hear more about it from me soon.


139. Roz Kaveney, Resurrections. Plus One Press, 2014. Review copy courtesy of the author.

Third in series, and what a fantastic bloody series it is. Kaveney isn't afraid to make ambitious messes with mythology, genre furniture, and your own expectations. Structurally it's not an entirely successful offering, but I love it incredibly much, and hopefully I'll get to talk about it at length in a review somewhere else.


140. Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The House of the Four Winds. Tor, 2014. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

A competent if not particularly exciting fantasy novel set in a version of our world sometime in the 1700s - with all the names of the countries changed, but still with things called "French doors." It has pirates and the high seas, and doesn't fuck up shipboard life entirely, but you can call the plotpoints in advance pretty easily.


141. Barbara Hambly, Crimson Angel. Severn House, 2014. eARC courtesy of the publisher.

The latest Benjamin January novel, and in my opinion one of the best. (Mind you, my two favourites are Graveyard Dust and Sold Down The River.) Here, death and threats and an old family secret lead Ben and Rose - accompanied by Hannibal Sefton - to Cuba, and thence to Haiti. A fantastic, powerful, atmospheric novel.


142-143. Sharon Kay Penman, The Queen's Man and Cruel As The Grave. Ebooks.

Two mysteries set in 12th-century England from an acclaimed historical novelist. Fun mysteries, diverting but not particularly stunning.


144-147. Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill, Legacies, Conspiracies, Sacrifices, and Victories. Ebooks.

Four novels in a Young Adult series called "The Shadow Grail." Which was fun, until it became reincarnated Arthurian mythos nonsense.


148. Shea Godfrey, Blackstone. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian fantasy romance. The prose is competent enough, but there's not a lot of plot to hold the attention in between fairly unimaginative sex scenes. It is probably fairer to describe this as "romance, subtype erotic" than anything else, and that's not exactly my style.


149. Kim Baldwin, Taken By Storm. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian romance. Bunch of Americans and a handful of other nationalities (who don't have characterisation) get trapped in a train carriage during serious avalanches in the Swiss Alps. There is some interesting ice climbing stuff. Mostly it is more competent than not, although the lack of attention paid to non-USian characters is deeply annoying. Not particularly special, but good enough if you're looking for more women having relationships with women while adventures happen.


150. Jaime Maddox, The Common Thread. Bold Strokes Books, 2014. Review copy (electronic) courtesy of the publisher.

Novel in which the lives of twins separated at birth come to intersect after a murder. The idea for the narrative is ambitious, but the execution is lacking. For all that, it is a perfectly readable book, if ultimately a little too... well, trite.

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Liz
Only three this time.

Books 2014: 133-135


133. Courtney Milan, The Suffragette Scandal. 2014. Kobo ebook.

Another excellent historical romance, this time set in the 1870s, from Courtney Milan. One of her best to date, I suspect.


134. Sarah McCarry, All Our Pretty Songs. St. Martin's Griffin, 2013.

Read for inclusion in the column. Debut, lyrically written, very decent book.


135. Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling. Bantam Press, 2014.

Read for inclusion in the column. I have conflicted feelings about this novel. On the one hand, I enjoyed the story, and the characters, and on the whole it cheered me up on a day where I was feeling rather gloomy about reading anything. But once I'd finished it, I realised the story took place in a very white, straight, cisgender world - and that made me sad all over again.

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Liz
Books 2014: 128-132


128. Melissa Scott, Fairs' Point. Lethe Press, 2014.

The long-awaited new novel of Astreiant. An absolutely excellent book, with brilliant worldbuilding, characterisation, great writing, a solid mystery plot, and terrier-racing. Everyone should read this series. It is really good.


129. William C. Dietz, Legion of the Damned. Titan Books, 2014. Originally published 1993. Copy courtesy of Titan Books.

I believe this was Dietz's first novel. Heaven help him, it's terrible. Not just full of shitty male gaze shit, but boring too. Fortunately, he's improved at least some since then, as witness his Andromeda novels, which have been fun so far - but this one? Seriously not worth it.


130. Lilith Saintcrow, The Ripper Affair. Orbit, 2014. ARC courtesy of Orbit US.

Read for review for Tor.com. The third in Saintcrow's "Bannon and Clare" series, it marks a fun entry in her quasi-Victorian magical steampunk not-England series of mysteries.


131. Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire. Bloomsbury Young Adult, 2014. ARC via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. The kind of book I love to hate.


Nonfiction


132. Emma Christopher, A Merciless Place: The Lost Story of Britain's Convict Disaster in Africa. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2011. First published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in 2010.

Christopher writes a solid and engaging history of the British experiment with sending convicts to act as soldiers in Africa between the American Revolutionary War and the founding of the penal colony at Botany Bay in Australia. It is not entirely comprehensive: it could use more background about the Company of Merchants Trading To Africa and their relations with the Dutch and the indigenous peoples, and Christopher is too willing not to tie off threads in her narrative once they pass away from the African coast - what did become of Ensign John Montagu Clarke, accused of mutiny? - but on the whole, it's an interesting and readable examination of an overlooked piece of British penal history.

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Liz
Books 2014: 118-127


118-119. Richelle Mead, Gameboard of the Gods and The Immortal Crown. Penguin, 2013 and 2014.

Bah. These started out promising and rapidly descended into annoying - and in The Immortal Crown, nasty evil-religion kidnapping-and-selling-pubescent-girl-children-into-life-of-abuse because... religion? I dunno, mate, I just work here. Also Odin and Loki show up - how do you make the Norse gods boring? People seem to be managing it left and right these days - and oh, yeah, I almost forgot, there is rape by deception.


120-121. William C. Dietz, Andromeda's Fall and Andromeda's Choice. Titan, 2014. Second book: review copy via publisher.

I want to talk some more about these books - remind me to talk some more about these books - about what parts of them work really well and what parts of them don't work at all. But I largely concur with the Book Smugglers' review of Andromeda's Fall - it's not a very clever book, but it is a fun one.


122. Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flame. Mira, 2014. Review copy via author.

Read for column. Good, fun next installment in series. If you like the series, read this book! It is a return to the city of Elantra, and lots of things go boom.


123. Django Wexler, The Shadow Throne. Ace, 2014. ARC via Tor.com.

Review here at Tor.com. Very fun book!


124. Mike Shepherd, Vicky Peterwald: Target. Ace, 2014.

Awful horrible sexist problematic WTF BOOK. Read for review for Tor.com, though heaven knows if they'll publish my expletive-laden review.


125. Marianne De Pierres, Peacemaker. Angry Robot, 2014.

A fun book that mixes science fiction and the fantastic. Not entirely tightly plotted, though.


126. Ilona Andrews, Magic Breaks. Ace, 2014. ARC via Tor.com.

Latest series installment. Read for review for Tor.com. Fun.


127. Eleanor Arnason, Big Mama Stories. Aqueduct Press, 2014.

Read to talk about in a column. Interesting collection.

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Liz
Books 2014:106-111


106. Patricia Briggs, Shifting Sands. Ace, 2014. ARC.

Read for review for Tor.com. A collection of short fiction set in Briggs' urban fantasy world. Entertaining, but nothing particularly special.


107. Antoine Rouaud, The Path of Anger. Gollancz, 2013. Translated from the French by Tom Clegg. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Ideomancer.com. Ambitious and not entirely successful epic-style fantasy novel. Lacks decent female characters. Mixed feelings overall. Jared Shurin has a good comprehensive review of it at Pornokitsch.


108. Nicola Griffith, Slow River. Gollancz, 2013 (1995).

An excellent meditative book about identity and growth and never being the same person you were before. Brilliant. Highly recommended.


109. Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni. Harper, 2013.

Read for the column. A fable about immigration and loneliness. Not without its problems, but overall a gorgeous, accomplished debut. Recommended.


Non-fiction


110-111. Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680, two vols. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1988-1993.

I believe I heard of these books when Kate Elliott mentioned them on Twitter: they are exactly what they say in the title, and very interesting the history of that time and place is, too. It does bring home to me how little I know about Southeast Asian history in general: I'll be skimming the bibliography for available titles to add to my store of knowledge, I think.

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Liz
02 June 2014 @ 02:37 pm
I'm pretty sure I can't remember everything I've read while under the influence of tooth extraction and cold meds, so let's go with the ones I do.

Books 2014:99-105


99. Tobias S. Buckell, Arctic Rising. Tor, 2012.

This is an excellently constructed near-future thriller, starring Anika Duncan, an airship pilot for the United Nations Polar Guard, who gets caught up in a tangle of conspiracies when she uncovers a nuclear weapon being smuggled into the Arctic Circle. It doesn't untangle its conclusion well enough to be entirely successful, but it is really good - and with an appropriately diverse cast.


100. Mike Shepherd, Kris Longknife: Defender. Ace, 2013.

Kris Longknife versus the giant alien fleet. Plus friendly aliens and a long-lost human colony. The unexamined neocolonial assumptions in this series annoy me more the longer it goes on, but the boom is still fun enough to make it worth ignoring - for me, at least.


101. Sandy Mitchell, Warhammer 40K: The Greater Good. The Black Library, 2013.

The latest Ciaphas Cain novel, which is the only Warhammer 40K series I actually really like, for the most part. Despite the constant war and grimness of the Warhammer 40K universe, the Cain novels are always fun romps through a combination of military, exploration, and espionage adventures. BOOM LIKE THAT. Yep. I enjoy these books - even if this one is rather lacking in the "features female characters" department.


102. Marjorie Liu with artist Daniel Acuňa, Black Widow: The Name of the Rose. Marvel, 2011.

An interesting, dark graphic novel - but one that relies on familiarity with the rest of the continuity for its impact. And I've read three other Black Widow collections and none of the rest of Marvel's superhero universe, so.

Still. Fun.


103-105. Kim Harrison, Pale Demon, A Perfect Blood, and Ever After. Orbit/Ace, 2011-2013.

I realised after reading Pale Demon that, although I enjoy the novels while I'm reading them, I won't actually reread them. And I don't feel very pushed about reading subsequent volumes. But I'd Pale Demon on my shelves for a while, and I borrowed the other two, and these installments in the Rachel Morgan series make rather fine reading for the drugged-up-on-cold-meds sort of person. Entertaining urban fantasy, even if it seems that lots of competent people like Rachel Morgan and keep bailing her out for very little reason that I can discern.

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