chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

It seems like I must have read more than I am remembering ... .

Anyway, I finished The Brightest Fell, by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #11), which ends pretty much on a cliffhanger. The Magic McGuffin puts Toby (mostly) back together again, but two characters she cares about very much are seriously traumatized and a slippery opponent has disappeared. Thus it goes when you are the Knight of Lost Words. My sister has suggested that I introduce my 15-year-old niece to these, and I might as well. Certainly they've kept me going for a good long while now.

I'm about three-quarters of the way through Max Gladstone's The Ruin of Angels (his new Craft novel), and I'm enjoying it immensely, despite the fact that the editor seems to have fallen down on the job. Several times, I've had to re-read sentences two or three times to make sense out of them. It's not that Gladstone blew it in any of these cases, according to the rules of grammar, but he wasn't terribly clear, and given that this is a fast-paced thriller, really, the pacing went off. Also, at one point, a character introduced as Marian becomes Miriam for a sentence, and then returns to her original name. Finally, did you know that the past tense of "sweat" (as in, what you do on a hot day, especially if you run) is also "sweat"? I, in fact, did not know that. But Gladstone does, and there's a lot of sweating going on, so I kept tripping over this.

Despite my confusion on these mechanical points, this is an awesome read. There's an extended and thrilling caper involving a Very Cool Train (making me wonder whether Gladstone has been reading Stand Still Stay Silent: see Dalahästen), and about a third of the way in, it occurred to me that all the leads, all the POV characters, and the most significant antagonist are all female, and several of them are also queer.

And Kai and Izza are back, as is Tara Abernathy. \o/

If I remember what I read between Fell and Ruin, I'll let you know.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I've actually been mainlining new (new to me, anyway) fiction like nobody's business. I had a lot queued up for the vacation last month, and for various reasons, I didn't get to it. Now I have. Some quick takes:

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin is everything most reviewers have said. Very satisfying ending to a very dark, sad series. Happy was not going to happen, but hopeful *did*, and beautifully so. It was a positive ending that was most definitely earned. And I really loved the world-building all over again.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett also ended its series well, if a trifle oddly. Alas, most of my favorite characters didn't survive. There were nods to all sorts of other works, including rather a lot of Terry Pratchett, I realized after finishing the book.

Murderbot: All Systems Red (novella) by Martha Wells was a lot of fun, about a snarky, introverted android that has circumvented its "restraining bolt" programming and becomes something of a sleuth+superhero on behalf of its humans. There are already three more Murderbot stories in the pipeline. Yay!

The Furthest Station (novella) by Ben Aaronovitch at first disappointed me because I didn't realize it was a novella. But viewed in that light, it was an enjoyable brief addition to the Peter Grant/Rivers of London series. The identity of the cute little tyke whom Peter encounters was absolutely no surprise to me, though.

The Gates of Tagmeth by P.C. Hodgell was OK. These most recent Kencyrath books have rather disappointed me. I respect Baen for acquiring and continuing this series, and even attempting to obtain suitable cover art in the last couple of volumes (although crap, I still think that even a casual persual of DeviantArt would turn up better choices), but holy crud, a good editor would have helped the last few a lot, I think. And Baen is not the publisher to supply that. Jame and her fated love still generate no heat that I can discern, sadly, and I wish PCH hadn't matched up Kindrie as she did. I like both characters, but not together. This makes me think of the manga Fruits Basket, where the mangaka seemingly decided that everybody needed to be matched up at the end, regardless of whether it made any sense. Also, poor Lyra is becoming a pawn of fate/God's chew-toy more than is necessary, IMO.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 12 by Fumi Yoshinaga continues Ken and Shiro's low-key relationship and Shiro's cookery. This volume seemed to have less melodrama/tension than the last few (nothing dire happens to either partner's family, for example), although someone makes Shiro a very interesting proposal ... and the results are both very funny and very realistic.

Ooku vol. 12, also by Fumi Yoshinaga surprised me because ... they solved the problem of the redface pox. And yet it is not the end of the series! I do have to say that in retrospect, I feel a little ... ticked off? that the solution comes under the reign of the first male shogun in ages (although his mother thinks she is still in control of things) and by the efforts of an exclusively male team (although they all constantly acknowledge the inspiration of the late lamented cross-dressing genius Hiraga Gennai, who was cis-female). That might not be a worthy way to feel, but that's how it is.

Reading Now

The Brightest Fell, which is the latest installment of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. Speaking of people who are chew-toys of the divine: Toby continues to be messed with physically and magically, over and over. I do have to say that one of the events had me going "Oh, no, not again."

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Quick, quick, quick, 'cause I'm so far behind on commitments that it's really unfunny.

I brought along a virtual stack of stuff (mostly in my Kindle) on our vacation last week. I didn't get to a lot of it, but:

The Harbors of the Sun is the conclusion to Martha Wells' Books of the Raksura, and I'm really sad to leave her dragon/bee shapeshifters behind. I have to agree with [personal profile] muccamukk that the Pearl-Malachite show alone was worth the price of admission, and that "Everyone got something to do [and] we met all kinds of old friends again." I'm not sure that I believed in the Evil McGuffin, and I'll need to re-read the story to truly understand what happened to it, but I appreciated the effect that the incident had on Jade and therefore on Moon. And Wells didn't kill off Stone, which is something that I had somehow convinced myself would happen. *sighs with relief*

Monstress vol. 2 (Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda) continues the story of Maika Halfwolf, a very Liu antiheroine (I first encountered Liu through her Hunter Kiss series). A lot of the action takes place aboard a ship, and I enjoyed that a lot. The captain is a total badass. My heart is constantly in my throat with regard to Maika's Morality Pet, the adorable little foxgirl Kippa, but Liu does sometimes let the innocent survive her harrowing tales, so maybe Kippa is *not* marked for a dire end. I'm not sure what I think of the Power Maika is hosting, though.

I'm now reading Yoon Ha Lee's Raven Strategem. I'm enjoying the new characters and Lee's sly humor, but I miss Cheris right now.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

After I finished re-reading The Story of the Stone by Hughart, I continued on with Eight Skilled Gentlemen (also a re-read). Both books are considerably weaker than Bridge of Birds, but they're both still amusing and full of interesting little details.

Most of the other things I've read this week have been online articles that are research for the same project that got me re-reading Master Li and Number Ten Ox.

After several days of that (and writing, and work being chaotic and stressful), I wanted something pleasant and easy. So I spent some time on Big South American River, looking up favorite children's authors. I discovered that not only has someone put a number of my favorite Sally Watson historicals into e-books, they also included Poor Felicity (although the author herself seems to have re-named it The Delicate Pioneer, which strikes me as a really "dead" title). I first read this at a Girl Scout summer camp, where I was a pudgy bespectacled weirdo bookworm who hated sports but was totally unafraid of snakes and bugs, and I haven't seen it since.

Felicity Dare is a sickly, rather spoiled 19th-century Southern (U.S.) girl whose parents lose all their money in bad investments and decide to go out west to settle in Oregon/Washington territory. Both parents die along the way, leaving orphaned Felicity to her good-natured but hapless uncle. They end up in what eventually becomes Seattle, where Felicity gradually becomes healthier because of being out in nature (shades of The Secret Garden!), makes friends with kids who would definitely have been considered below her social class back East (include some Native Americans), and learns to forage, cook, and shoot a rifle. There's also an ongoing feud with a rough-hewn boy who despises her for most of the book. In the end, when her snooty cousins show up at last (they went by ship instead of overland), she has to confront their faulty assumptions and her own grudges.

It's fun, slight but with lots of interesting details, and an easy, fast read (aimed at about 10-13 year-old readers).

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I finished my last-minute reading of Hugo short fiction items and did my voting on Saturday morning. I think that there were a LOT of very good "shorts" this year.

I am re-reading The Story of the Stone by Barry Hughart, which is the second of the Master Li and Number Ten Ox books. I also tried (really, I did) to read two Very Serious books, which turned out to be nearly unreadable and almost useless for their intended purpose. *looks shifty*

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So I have been re-reading "Books of the Raksura" (link to author's site), because Reasons. OK, one good non-secretive reason is that the final volume (*sob*), The Harbors of the Sun, is coming out soon. How could I have forgotten how involving these are? Also, I had forgotten a major plot development near the end of The Edge of Worlds (Spoiler; highlight to read: the young half-Fell queen who seemed to actually have good sense, plus her equally reasonable half-Fell followers ... I hope Malachite doesn't rip them all limb from limb before we find out what's up with that.)

I also read one of the Hugo novella finalists, The Ballad of Back Tom by Victor LaValle. It's a Lovecraft pastiche and critique, with an African American protagonist. It was pretty involving, but I wouldn't say I liked it. One of the other novella finalists, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, is also a Lovecraft pastiche and a bit of a critique too, in that it involves mostly female characters. I'm not sure what the deal is this year with Lovecraft pastiches. I read some of his stuff back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and got the general impression that he expected you to be horrified by describing things as too horrifying to describe. I was not impressed.

I might as well add that of the remaining novella finalists, I loved Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire (although she didn't stick the landing) and Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. Why do I really like Bujold's fantasy but am decidedly meh on her SF?

I still have two novella finalists to go: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson and This Census-Taker by China Miéville.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

[personal profile] lady_ganesh hooked me up with some really good stuff: Maggie Stiefvater's YA series The Raven Cycle. This consists of

  • The Raven Boys (finished!)
  • The Dream Thieves (finished!)
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue (finished!)
    and
  • The Raven King (still reading, unlikely to finish tonight)

Also, apparently some extra-story authorial snippets exist (I only just discovered this while checking the titles of the main series).*

In the little town of Henrietta is a posh boarding school called Aglionby. The mascot of the school is a raven. Eccentric local girl Blue, the scion of a houseful of psychic women (including her mother, Maura), thinks Aglionby boys are nothing but trouble. Local wounded-at-the-core boy Adam is attending the school on scholarship; he has managed to become best buds with the charming and earnest Gansey (that's his last name), whose circle also includes the tough-but-brittle bad boy Ronan. And then there's Noah, who shows up somehow at the off-campus digs that Gansey and Ronan share in an old factory.

Gensey is obsessed with the local ley line, which he thinks will lead him to the tomb of the Welsh hero Owen Glendower. The others are drawn into his search—including Blue, who starts out as somewhat of a mascot but becomes something much more. There are dreams, magic, terror, and lots of fast cars.

Parts of this seem to be the love child of Alan Garner's The Owl Service and the better "After-School Special" types of teen novels, but it's very involving and tremendous fun. The writing has some weaknesses, especially when Stiefvater seems to be marking time until she can get to the Good Bits, but she's very good at action sequences and the spookier parts are truly chilling.

Cut for long and maybe a spoiler or two )
chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So actually I have been doing quite a lot of reading, much of it trying to get caught up to make Hugo nominations (which I did do, yay).

I'm going to be doing really quick write-ups here, because I'm covering several weeks. If anyone wants to discuss any of this in more detail, I'll do my best!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Enjoyable ensemble cast SF: an accountant/business manager joins the crew of a small, independent working ship and finds a family of sorts. The setting is vaguely reminiscent of David Brin's Uplift series, in that Earth is a backwater planet joining a larger universe of many other sentient beings.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers – Nominally, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, although it follows only two of the characters from the original book. A ship's AI ends up in a humanoid (robot/android) body and has to learn to live with all that this implies; alternate chapters follow the backstory of the AI's new mentor/engineer as she grows up as a child slave in a robot-run factory. I actually enjoyed this more than the first book, but YMMV.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett – Interesting fantasy of an emerging industrialized world (trains are pretty well established, but rifles are new) that until recently featured living, active gods. The action takes place in the lands that used to be god-protected, now conquered by its former slaves. The equivalent Earth civilizations used for the cultures seem to be Eastern Europe (formerly god-protected) and South Asia (former slaves), which gives a different flavor from the usual Extruded Fantasy Product. Diplomat and operative Shara Thivani, of the now-ascendant culture, investigates the murder of an academic in the central city of the former ruling nation and discovers something very disturbing. Strong female characters, including the lead. Warning: the opening scene is deadly dull … but it's meant to be, I think.

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett – Takes place a few years after the previous novel. Former general Turyin Mulaghesh, an ally of Shara in the first book, is pulled out of her increasingly inebriated retirement to investigate the disappearance of an operative in backwater Voortyashtana, where an important new harbor is being built by the conquerors. Mulaghesh finds that the mysteries of what's happening in Voortyashtana have more significance to her than she could ever have imagined. I like Mulaghesh even better than Shara.

Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 20 by Yuki Midorikawa – This series remains its usual comforting, mildly spooky self, bless it. I do wonder whether the mangaka is ever again going to pick up the threads about the sinister exorcist Matoba, but he doesn't make an appearance in this volume.

Right now, I'm re-reading The Secret Garden as a break. Reading lots of new things tires me, even when I enjoy it. I have Cherryh's latest Foreigner book on my Kindle, and I'm still trying to make myself finish volume 1 of the manga A Case Study of Vanitas by Jun Mochizuki, which looks like something I *should* like (but as you can tell, it hasn't really grabbed me).

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

So I have utterly failed at reading anything of substance this week. In fact I was going to post that I had utterly failed at reading anything this week when I was saved by the arrival of the first collected volume of the web comic Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Because, in fact, I have been reading a lot of bits and pieces of SSSS (why not S4? - that simply isn't how the fandom rolls, I guess) and related stuffs, like fanfiction and TVTropes entries. This is part of Yuletide prep, because I'm going to request SSSS, but I always meant to blog this comic anyway.

Stand Still Stay Silent is a science fantasy series set in Scandinavia. It starts with an extended prologue. In our recent past, a pandemic known as the Rash has spread around the world. The disease seems pretty harmless if somewhat debilitating at first, but after a few weeks, it becomes clear that everyone underestimated the Rash. In the end, as far as the central characters of the main timeline know, only Iceland and a scattering of populations in the continental Nordic countries survive.

The main story starts 90 years later with the survivors having adjusted to the New Normal. Isolated communities and a very few small cities are surrounded by wilderness haunted by weird, horrific warped creatures that used to be human beings and other mammals (they're often referred to as "trolls"). A badly underfunded research expedition is being assembled to go out into the Silent World (the lands that were abandoned by the remnants of the human race) to seek out and bring back technology and medical information. This band of misfits is our main cast.

Humorous or poignant interactions among the expedition crew members alternate with spooky or downright terrifying encounters with the trolls, who are as varied as they are grotesque. The fact that the crew members are all from different countries (except for the Finnish cousins) and mostly speak only their native languages adds another layer of complexity to the situation. And then there's the fact that not everything that happens can be explained by science ... .

Sundberg's artwork is vivid and dynamic. The palettes tend to be limited: monochrome schemes overlaid with washes in one or two colors and small spots of intense hot or cool colors. The details of the larger set pieces are impressive (warning: wide image), especially for a comic that's updated five days a week. The world-building is intriguing. The story is full of the family-of-choice and hurt-comfort tropes that make things work for me. And the storyteller punctuates the action of the series with artful infodumps in the form of in-story posters or pamphlets.

The most common criticism I've seen is that the pace is fairly glacial. Things do pick up considerably once the prologue is complete. The cast is ethnically diverse only within the confines of Scandinavia: everyone is very white. There are a number of female characters in the full cast, including two in the adventuring crew, and they have plenty of agency (one is the commander). No one is explicitly LGBTIQ, but then, romantic/sexual relationships haven't been part of the plot thus far (although a number of straight couples are shown in the prologue). No one seems affected by a disability unless you consider Lalli to be on the autism spectrum (which I do, actually).

Anyway, I'm enjoying the hell out of this one.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I have been reading TONS and need to blog all of it, sometime, somehow.

But specifically, I stayed up way too late last night and the night before reading The Cuckoo's Song by Frances Hardinge.

Man, was that spooky and haunting!

It's in the family of scary atmospheric fantasy, usually aimed at girls, that I used to get into from time to time when I was a young teen: stuff by Penelope Farmer (Charlotte Sometimes) or Joan North (The Whirling Shapes). Most of these have identity as their core theme, and it's no wonder I found them so scary and yet enchanting.

Thirteen-year-old Triss is usually ill, but right now, she thinks something even worse has happened to her. She usually doesn't get along with her younger sister, Pen, but now Pen says she absolutely hates Triss and that Triss is not really her sister. What happened the night before the story opens, and why is Triss now ravenously hungry, and why are all the pages ripped out of her diaries?

The opening scenes and the book's title, together, make it pretty obvious what's up, but the how and why and what's necessary to resolve the situation make an intriguing page turner.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

ETA: Latest additions are highlighted

One of several reasons that no one's hearing much from me is that I really trying really hard to nominate things for every Hugo Award category that I can this year. I have not actually seen any eligible movies this past year, and I never watch TV, so it's unlikely that I'll have anything for the Long and Short Dramatic Presentation categories—although a number of people have linked to short films available online. But mainly, I am reading, reading, reading. And learning a lot about the many ways one can get short fiction these days.

Cut for what I've already selected )

The deadline for nominations is March 31.

I think that when I have added more to this, I will just make a post that refers to this one so that I don't have this huge list posted over and over.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Caleb Altemoc is a young man with a steady job (mid-level corporate risk manager) in the big, sophisticated city of Dresdiel Lex. He has enough income to pursue his hobby of gambling at cards, go drinking with his friend Teo, and have a place of his own. Of course, his company, Red King Consolidated, is run by a deicidal lich of considerable necromantic power, but no one's perfect. The King in Red treats his employees pretty well, after all, and provides a dependable water supply for the desert city. And Caleb is, as his boss of bosses notes at one point, rather unambitious.

There is the little issue of Caleb's father, a caring family man who is also a powerful priest of the gods that the King in Red destroyed. Temoc Almotil's religion involved human sacrifice, and he's now on the run as a terrorist for attempts to bring down his old enemy, Caleb's boss. But he still makes time to pop in and see his son from time to time, usually when Caleb least expects him.

Caleb's life takes a sharp turn for the weird when he's called into work one night on an emergency involving one of Red King Consolidated's largest reservoirs, where things have gone horribly, necromantically wrong. Caleb finds an attractive woman there, an enthusiast of the sport of "cliff running" (think of parkour on steroids). She's a trespasser and possibly worse, but Caleb is totally smitten with her. She seems like the most magical of Manic Pixie Dream Girls, both to Caleb and (on first read) to me. But very little is as it seems here, as Temoc keeps reminding his skeptical son.

I liked this much better on my second read, which was after the release of Last First Snow (starring Temoc). On my first read, I was missing the presence of Tara Abernathy and Elayne Kevarian from Three Parts Dead and got very impatient with Caleb. Now I'm beginning to see that Gladstone is focusing on person-to-person bonds other than the usual ones in genre literature. In this one, for instance, we have rather different father-son relationship and a powerful non-romantic male-female friendship (Caleb and Teo). That tendency adds more depth to Gladstone's imaginative world building.

This one is still the bottom of the Craft Sequence stack, though, when it comes to how much I liked the book. Three Parts Dead and Full Fathom Five seem to be tied for first, then Last First Snow, and then this volume. Still, this is well worth reading.

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Hugo Award Nominee

Maia Drazhar is the youngest son of the emperor of the Elflands, but his mother was a goblin princess whom his father married for diplomatic reasons. He has spent all of his eighteen years in exile, first with his mother but most recently alone except for his guardian, an embittered drunkard. But then Emperor Varenechibel IV and Maia's three older half-brothers all die in the same airship accident, and the unwanted boy wakes up to find that he has become the emperor.

The outline of the story is a classic fantasy trope, but Maia never obtains a magic sword nor leads a troop in battle. He finds the imperial palace to be every bit as lonely as the dreary manor house of his exile, at first, and his deprived upbringing has left him ill-prepared for the task of ruling a large, complex empire on the verge of an industrial revolution. And that airship accident? Wasn't an accident … .

On the basis of my own reading and the writeups I've seen from others, your enjoyment of this book will depend a lot on whether you can deal with a lot of (fairly well done) antiquated formal language in your dialogue and whether you would like something that "fulfills … wishes about nerdy, bullied people achieving great things through peaceful means" (to quote writer/editor Nick Mamatas, who did not find the book to be his sort of thing at all). I enjoyed it enough that it's already become a comfort read.

Cut for more, including some spoilers )

Note: Katherine Addison is a pseudonym of Sarah Monette, a/k/a [livejournal.com profile] truepenny.

chomiji: Kyoshirou from Samurai Deeper Kyo, weeping.  Caption: Nor all your tears wash out a word of it o (Kyoushirou-tears)
This has been a very bad year for deaths in SF&F, and the year is not even half over.

My all-out favorite Lee is Kill the Dead: something about the combo of lush spookiness and mordant humor. Parl Dro is one of my favorite characters ever.




chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)

Familiarize yourself with the Hugo mess before voting

"Apparently a concerted effort gamed the Hugos ... ." - C.J. Cherryh

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Brilliant and determined young Tara Abernathy has overreached herself in an attempt to make use of her training in the Craft and seems likely to pay with her life. Fortunately, fate intervenes in the form of Elayne Kevarian, a senior adept with the necromantic firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, who makes Tara a job offer she can't and in fact doesn't want to refuse. Soon they are deeply enmeshed in the affairs of the great city of Alt Coulomb, which has been until recently ruled by the benign god Kos Everburning … who turned up dead recently during the regular post-midnight watch of the young cleric Abelard, whose cigarette addiction is an act of devotion to Kos' fiery nature.

The might of Kos will linger until the next dark of the moon, powering the trains and furnaces of his city, but Tara and Ms. Kevarian are running out of time to solve the mystery of the deity's death and arrange for his resurrection to keep Alt Coulomb from falling. There are plenty of other mysteries to be solved as well, which may or may not have to do with the death of Kos. For instance, who killed Judge Cabot in such a spectacularly grisly fashion? With Abelard in tow, Tara runs errands and does research for her boss in a city filled with unlikely wonders, and when the advocate for Kos' creditors shows up, both Tara and her boss come face to face with pasts they'd sooner forget.

Blogger-critic James Nicoll said of these books: "I am very annoyed at the people who have been selecting my reading material for the last 13 years for not having ever sent me a Max Gladstone book and with Gladstone for not having more books in print now that I have discovered them." I feel much the same way. Magical technology, technological magic, women who are badass mage-lawyers, female mentor-apprentice relationships, men and women who are old buddies but not lovers, dead and resurrected deities, vampire pirate captains, cities with jammin' nightclubs and living gargoyles, and so much more: this is one of the most exciting new fantasies I've read in decades.

One other really great thing to note. See this cover for Three Parts Dead? It's accurate in its portrayal of Tara, who is described at one point as "Dark skin, five seven, curly black hair, curvy, freckles. Last seen surrounded by a halo of flame …." Oh yes, Gladstone has no trouble at all with presenting a very diverse cast of characters.

chomiji: Kyoshirou from Samurai Deeper Kyo, weeping.  Caption: Nor all your tears wash out a word of it o (Kyoushirou-tears)

Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE, has died.

"There's no grays, only white that's got grubby. I'm surprised you don't know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is." — Carpe Jugulum

“It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” — A Hat Made of Sky

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…” — Reaper Man

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Yeah, I seem to be doing this monthly. *sigh*

What have you just finished reading?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. YA fantasy with a Slavic-based setting. The heroine is a prickly, skinny girl who is a cartographer with the army, but she turns out to be The Chosen One and gets swept off for special magical training. She's a duck out of water in a way that reminds me a little of Menolly in the Harper Hall in McCaffrey's Pern books, with the queen bee girls being rude and prickly to her. About midway through she suddenly becomes healthier and prettier because Plot Reasons, and then she starts to like to try on dresses, and I realized that I didn't like her nearly as much. I then had to castigate myself for this, because I'm sure lots of the intended readers would love that part. There was some silly romantical stuff too, which I also disliked. And then Bardugo completely confounded my expectations about what the last part of the book was going to be like. Well done, author! I still don't think it's a great book: too many things happening with too little run-up (for example, Alina's relationship wth her childhood friend Mal would have been better with more showing, less telling, of their shared history), but I think I'm invested enough to get the sequel.

The Snake Stone, by Jason Goodwin, is the second Master Yashim book. I begin to see what [personal profile] flemmings was saying about the hero's sex life. It's annoying because Yashim might as well not be a eunuch, except that it means he can visit the seraglio in the palace. He's starting to read more like a man with a slightly low-ish sex drive instead. The cultural and culinary details remain interesting, and I liked the info about pre-Victorian archeology and book-collecting.

The Little Death by Michael Nava is the first volume of a mystery series about a gay lawyer, Henry Rios. It features a tragic Boyfriend in the Refrigerator and lots of Evil Plotting by the rich and the famous. I like Henry, although his situation is somewhat depressing. I will probably try the next one as well.

Four British Fantasists, which is a critical study and comparison of authors Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, and Diana Wynne Jones. The author, Charles Butler, is a member of the DWJ online mailing list. The book was interesting, and now I'm wondering whether I should fill in some of the books that I haven't read that are discussed, especially by Lively and Garner. Although I remember bouncing off Garner's Red Shift, and the things he wrote after that are apparently even more experimental.

What are you currently reading?

Another re-read for a writing challenge, and also volume 10 of the manga Bunny Drop, which basically short stories about Daikichi and Rin that didn't make it into the main series (which ended, plot-wise, with vol. 9).

What do you think you'll read next?

I just got an Amazon order that includes volume 1 of Fumi Yoshinaga's manga series What Did You Eat Yesterday? Also, volume 3 of the hard yaoi manga Crimson Spell (by Ayano Yamane), and the latest volumes of Marjorie Liu's Hunter Kiss series (Labyrinth of Stars) and Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series (Broken Homes). The Aaronovitch has been getting mixed reviews, but I have to at least give it a try because the earlier books were so awesome. (These are both urban fantasy, for those unfamiliar with them, but very different in tone and scope.)

 

chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Guys, I have not done this since November. I will try to get back on track!

What have you just finished reading?

Marie Brennan's ([livejournal.com profile] swan_tower's) historical fantasy A Star Shall Fall. I liked it fairly well. I'm not sure what would have made it better for me. I need to think about that. I got this copy from last year's Con or Bust auction, so it's taken me a while to decide to read it.

The latest volume, 9, of the manga Ooku: The Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga. I really liked it and found it much less grim than this series usually is, so I expect the other shoe to drop and the series to go back to normal - or worse - by next volume. There's a great new character, Hiraga Gennai. I will not spoil you about Gennai and what makes Gennai great. XD

The first two volumes of the manga Thermae Romae, which is awesomely silly and beautifully drawn. (The book production values are spectacular too.) It's about a Roman engineer who keeps being transported off at random intervals to present-day Japan, where he encounters various modern-day Japanese public and private baths and invariably returns with new inspirations to try out in Rome. Some of the inspirations are relatively believable, and some are wonderfully absurd in a Flintstones-cartoon sort of way. (Wait'll you see his shampoo shield and shampoo hose.) His interpretations of what he's seeing in Japan are really funny.

What are you currently reading?

I just started Marjorie Liu's The Fire King, which is one of her Dirk & Steele paranormal romances.

What do you think you'll read next?

I grabbed Jason Godwin's The Janissary Tree from the take-on leave-one collection at work. This is a historical mystery set in the early 19th-century Ottoman Empire. I seem to recall reading a favorable review of it at one point, and it won the Edgar Award in 2007. Also, I have the first two volumes of the manga Vinland Saga, but it looks awfully grim. It may be a while until I can get myself to read it.

 

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