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

I finished the latest October Daye novel, Once Broken Faith. I think it had less cutesy "Gee, I'm so awkward and blunt" than the previous ones, but not by much. It sort of ended in the middle of things. I think it's that the earlier books were each a self-contained story arc that had some sort of growth or change for Toby. Now McGuire is moving into the end game, as it were. There are three more books, according to McGuire's website, but I think they will all be part of the same uber-arc (hmm, rather like Samurai Deeper Kyo's huge Mibu arc ... although that was proportionally even longer).

I read this on my Kindle. It includes a bonus novella, about some of the recent events from the point of view of Arden Windermere, Queen in the Mists. And then Great Big River suggested another short work, the novelette "Full of Briars," which has Toby's squire Quentin as the POV. I sort of liked it? But I had to agree with a couple of online reviews I read that the event and idea at the very end seemed to come out of nowhere. TVTropes actually has some pointers to where this material was telegraphed earlier, so some other time I'll check that out.

But reading these works one after the other pointed out something: McGuire doesn't seem to have very distinctive voices for these characters. If you had some general statements from Toby, Arden, and Quentin, selected so as not to indicate directly who was talking, it might be hard to tell them apart. Huh.

I'm now reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, a nonfiction book about the African American women who were the "computers" for the U.S. space program. It's interesting but certainly not involving the way fiction is for me. Part of the issue may be the scope of the story. The author is not telling the story of just one of these women, and she is also giving the sociopolitical background against which they first came to work for the government (as part of the aviation research effort in WW II). This includes the situation of African Americans in the military during the war and afterward and will later include the 1960s Civil Rights Movement events. So the pace gets a rather uneven, I think. I'm a little less than halfway through it.

If you think you may have heard of the book and are not sure why, you may have, like me, been seeing ads for the movie based on it, which is due out in 2017. Those ads showed up on F-book even before the book was released (Sept. 6). There is some really impressive talent involved in the film (official movie site).

Not sure what I'll read next. I have some more nonfiction, but I think I will want some fiction at that point. I may do a re-read of something that was new to me in the past few months: I have a lot of choices there.

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

After I finished The Cuckoo's Song, I didn't feel like reading anything else substantive for a bit, which sometimes happens after I read something very involving. So I read some fanfiction, excerpts from a favorite comfort read (Rumer Godden's Thursday's Children), and magazine articles (in the Washington Post Magazine, National Geographic, and Washingtonian).

Monday (despite the holiday), I got some manga from Great Big River: Gangsta. vol. 7 (this is a hyper-violent and nihilistic seinen action series that deserves a more complete write-up) and vol. 1 of A Silent Voice.

A Silent Voice is about a restless, undisciplined young boy, Shoya, and the deaf girl he ends up tormenting and driving from their school. Actually, the most awful thing is how bad the other kids are, including the ones whom the teachers and administrators think are angelic. I'm hoping something humiliating happens to all of them eventually, especially the sweet-faced little meganeko who's the class representative. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, especially when she's saying tearfully (paraphrased) "How could you possibly think that I'd do anything bad to Shoko? You know I'm the perfect class rep!"

But! This is only the first volume of a series that has seven volumes out. At the end of the volume, there's a time skip. Shoya, now old enough to leave school, is totally aimless and (for lack of any other focus) obsessed by what he did. He cuts all his ties to his current life and travels to find Shoko. He encounters her again on the last page. So I clearly have to order some more of the series!

(Fact: it seems to be a shounen series. Huh.)

Then the latest October Daye installment, Once Broken Faith, arrived on my Kindle. I'm now about a quarter of the way through it. It starts with a very silly, enjoyable pajama party for the teen fae contingent at Toby's house, but in no time we're up to our ears in dirty court politics and new types of fae and Toby is defying royalty in her typical headstrong fashion. Some of the people she loves are in danger and others are not speaking to her. You know, the usual!

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)

"For the first time in a long time, I was totally relaxed, sure that nothing was going to ruin my good mood."

— October (Toby) Daye at the start of Chapter 2 of The Winter Long, vol. 8
of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire (a/k/a Mira Grant)

Toby never learns, does she?

(Also, I still can't see "Amy" as a nickname for the name "Amandine" ... plus, to me, "amandine" is a culinary term that means with almonds.")

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)

Yeah, it's late: it's been a complicated week. But I didn't want to wait all the way until next week.

What have you just finished reading?

Just finished Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead, which was excellent. No less than three significant female characters, none of whom is just anyone's love interest, one of them a person of color (who is an awesome supernatural investigator and magician); magical courtroom drama; high-speed chases through a steampunkish city at night; a vampire ship's captain; gods dying and resurrected; an evil adversary who is a loathesome, charismatic, and brilliant slimeball; a nerdy chain-smoking young priest whose alter-ego is a club-hopping city boy; and much more. I'm looking forward to the next volume, which is actually to some degree a prequel.

What are you currently reading?

[personal profile] ann_leckie's Ancillary Justice, which is awesome. At the moment (about 25% of the way into it), it's equal parts mystery and anthropological SF. Leckie's style is very smooth and assured.

Also still making my way through Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm on my phone.

Finally, I'm also doing a re-read of canon so that I can beta a couple of stories.

What do you think you'll read next?

Beats me! It occurs to me that I have some volumes of Doctorow and Marie Brennan about, which I bought some time ago for a charity auction. I should probably check them out, especially the Brennan (the Doctorow was bought more with my husband in mind).

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Busy week!

C.J. Cherryh's Russalka, which had a more interesting and touching ending than I remember. As is common with Cherryh, I could see ideas and issues that she has tried again or previously in other works, which doesn't bother me: they're interesting ideas.

Also, vol. 8 of Ooku by Fumi Yoshinga. This is still a cool series, and beautifully drawn, but I want more slice-of-life Yoshinaga (like Antique Bakery and Flower of Life) or yaoi Yoshinaga (like Ichigenme … The First Class Is Civil Law). I wonder whether she'll ever go back to her roots that way?

Then I read the first volume of the manga version of Durarara!. My reaction is basically "What the hell was that?" The story thus far has seesawed back and forth between cheery high school comedy and urban dark fantasy. I imagine it will take a couple more volumes before I can even tell whether I like it or not.

Volume 2 of House of Five Leaves was interesting, although the mangaka's distinctive drawing style is beginning to wear on me a little. Although it couldn't be more different in style from Fruits Basket, I'm having the same sort of difficulties telling characters apart.

Finally, I just finished Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire, the sixth October Daye book. I really liked it. I think it's partially because it is now definitely an ensemble cast. Given that it's written from Toby's POV, she has to be the center, but she has collected an extended family-of-choice that I very much like. So now there's only one more book available: Chimes at Midnight, which just came out a few weeks ago. And then I'll have to wait for one volume a year, according to her website: three more volumes, coming out 2014 - 2016.

What are you currently reading?

And still limping through The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit. I only read bits of it when I have nothing else to read, but I am determined to finish it.

I downloaded the first Marjorie Liu "Dirk & Steele" book, Tiger Eye. It's my first straight paranormal romance (as opposed to Liu's harder-edged urban fantasies about demon hunter Maxine Kiss), and for about the whole first chapter I wanted to thrown it against a wall for what I assume were romanticism elements. As an example, when Our Heroine is retreating through a crowd, and the whole scene has been from her POV, she's suddenly described as getting through the crowd "gracefully." Because, you know, when someone is worried about retreating from potential danger, she of course spends time thinking about how gracefully she does it. (Mary Sue, phone home.) But I'm getting much more interested in it as we get into the heart of the book, including everything from the comedy of trying to make a very tall exotic-looking man inconspicuous in Beijing (and trying to find normal 20th century cosmopolitan clothes to fit him, since he showed up looking like an extra from a Conan story) and the family-of-choice aspects of the firm. And the constantly broken-off almost-sex scenes aren't any more over-the-top than a lot of fanfiction. It's like Liu was really unsure of what she was doing for the first couple of chapters and then got into it more whole-heartedly.

What do you think you'll read next?

Uhhh … another problem for another day. I do have two novels in hand that I got off the bring one-take one shelf at work, but I'm not itching to start either one: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which was recommended by a colleague. Anyone have opinions on either of them?

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Volume 4 of the manga Bunny Drop (re-read) and the omnibus volume 5 of Gunslinger Girls, where the mangaka is working overtime to stomp on our hearts and smash those suckers flat. (Have I mentioned that the latter series is shounen by its magazine classification? That seems weird to me. Although I am glad that young teen boys are being exposed to the concept of tough, adventurous girls, even if they are brainwashed cyborgs.)

What are you currently reading?

Still Limping through The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit and nibbling away at C.J. Cherryh's Russalka. Also some re-reading for a writing project. Plus, I have started vol. 3 of the manga A Bride's Story.

What do you think you'll read next?

Volume 2 of House of Five Leaves. volume 8 of Ooku by Fumi Yoshinaga, and volume 1 of Durarara! are in the pipeline from Amazon, along with Ashes of Honor (vol. 6 of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series).

 

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

What have you just finished reading?

Seanan McGuire's Late Eclipses and One Salt Sea (vols. 4 and 5 of the October Daye series), vols. 1 and 2 of the manga A Bride's Story, and vols. 1 and 2 of the manga adaptation of the anime Tiger & Bunny.

I liked One Salt Sea better than Late Eclipses, because in the latter, Toby is back to doing impulsive stupid things that have me going "Um, no, Toby, don't do that," with the result that I knew roughly what was happening about halfway through the book. In One Salt Sea, I knew to some degree whodunnit, but not how, and it was interesting to see it play out. There were also a couple of very funny scenes.

(On the other hand, I continue to twitch from time to time and wonder what happened to the Native American spirits in this completely Euro-fae-occupied America.)

A Bride's Story is just beautiful, and I liked Amir's feistiness and mad hunting skillz. On the other hand, there's almost no exploration of how it feels to be a 20-yr-old woman married to a 12-yr-old boy.

Tiger & Bunny was cute, but after two volumes, the underlying emotional arcs are only just getting started.

What are you currently reading?

Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells, and The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit. I am enjoying them very much.

What do you think you'll read next?

I have Throne of the Crescent Moon queued up, and also some re-reading for another writing exchange.

 

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

This is going to be brief (for once). The series is still interesting. Toby is still creating "Oh, Toby!" moments, but this time, she's joined in her faux pas by most of the cast. Toby's liege sends her after his missing (adult) niece, who is in charge of a small independent Faerie political unit named Tamed Lightning. Most of Tamed Lightning is a computer company, and it turns out that the place is hosting a serial killer: especially problematic for Fae, who otherwise can expect to live forever. What follows is a semi-locked room mystery, because communications in and out of Tamed Lightning are ... problematic.

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

'Cause all the cool kids are doing it. But I'll want to do some real write-ups later on some of these.

What are you currently reading?

I'm about two-thirds of the way through a re-read of P.C. Hodgell's fantasy Bound in Blood, volume 5 of the "Chronicles of the Kencyrath." She deserves a better editor: there are some awfully info-dumpy sections. But Jame's voice comes through on most of it, so those bits are tolerable. This time, it occurs to me that Kindrie got better awfully fast: maybe PCH got tired of his woobie-ness. I still think the details of cadet life at Tentir are one of the best things ever. And I liked the scene between Tori and Marc, when Marc was working on the stained glass window.

I've also started the second three-volume compilation of the manga Gunslinger Girl, and I'll probably write it up the series when I finish this one (I usually do manga after I've read the first four volumes, if it's a long series).

What did you recently finish reading?

Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue, the first volume of her Toby Daye series. I blogged it here.

Also, last night I mainlined the latest volume of the manga Blade of the Immortal: vol. 26, Blizzard (they have titles as well as volume numbers). I had been waiting for this one anxiously because the last volume ended on a serious cliffhanger, and this one did not disappoint. I will be blogging it later.

What do you think you'll read next?

I need to do a re-read for something I'm writing. Also, I got the second Toby Daye book. Finally, I might be in the mood for more Hodgell as well, but I'd need to figure out where my copy of Honor's Paradox has ended up.

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

October (Toby) Daye is a half-fae, half-human, and in a whole lot of trouble from start to finish in this tale of fairy folk of the scary, impressive type living in modern-day San Francisco. The story opens in a flashback as Toby takes on an investigation that ends disastrously. For the rest of the book, more than a dozen years later, she's a semi-stranger in a partially strange land, a tragic figure with a massive stack of chips on her shoulder who insists on following her assigned quest through all sorts of perilous encounters.

Read more ... with some mild spoilers )
chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

It's highly unlikely that Maxine Kiss would ever fall for a sparkly vampire.

Maxine is the latest scion of a millennia-old family of demon hunters who are always female. She is also a living embodiment of the trope "Good Is Not Nice." Aided by a quintet of specialized demons who have assisted the Hunters throughout their history, Maxine ruthlessly annihilates evil wherever she finds it, and then she and her Boys go looking for more. Their usual prey are zombies, which in this scenario are humans possessed by relatively weak demons, but greater demons are in just as much danger whenever Maxine detects them.

This is not to say that Maxine is cold-hearted. In fact, she is fiercely loving. But her vulnerabilities are those of many badass male characters: her friends, her loved ones, her sense of honor. It makes me ferociously happy that her femininity is not used as a weakness.

During the course of these three volumes, Maxine discovers that she might, in fact, be not only the latest of the Hunters, but the last. She uncovers secrets about her family and her ancestry, learns about some of the other major players in the fate of the world (and finds that some of them are much closer to her than she would ever have guessed), and kicks a lot of ass. This is an Earth in which demonic chaos is constantly lurking behind the scenes, but most people are going about their ordinary lives with no knowledge of it. There are lots of pop culture references and in-jokes, and sometimes I think that Liu is working some of her shticks a little too hard, but generally the storyline races along with vivid language and terrific momentum.

I've seen these billed as paranormal romance, but although there is a small amount of romance during the course of the series, these are probably better classified as urban fantasy. There's considerable violence, too.

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