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

Another drive-by. I worked from home today (snow/sleet closed things), then got into a computer graphics project, made dinner, cleaned up from dinner, and now it's nearly bedtime. (The Mr. cleaned up from breakfast/lunch, served me lunch, and made banana bread.)

I finished Circe: yeah, there was a slight twist to the ending. I saw half of it from about 50 pages out. I'm not 100% sure I believe in the other half. Not likely to be on my Hugo short list.

Then I digressed from my Hugo reading and re-read Andre Norton's Catseye, which I had bought some little while ago as a Kindle deal. I remembered some bits of it from my teen years but not others, and I'm definitely much more aware of her writing flaws now. (Um, you can call him "Troy" more than once, really you can; you don't have to keep alternating it with his surname and various epithets. Also, it's from his POV, so some of the editorializing about him comes off oddly.) But it was fun.

I'm now reading Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. She has finally written a book that I think I really like, although we'll see how the ending goes. Sadly, I was never better than lukewarm on her Napoleonic dragons series, and Uprooted was somehow not really my thing. I felt like Uprooted was dutiful. somehow? But this one is really drawing me in so that I can immerse myself in the story.

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

Driveby: I'm having a tiring week, and need to go to bed ASAP.

I finished The Calculating Stars, and it ends well enough for me to look forward to reading the sequel, The Fated Sky. It was also pubished in 2018, so I'm not sure what the rules are re Hugo Award.

I'm now reading Circe, by Madeline Miller. People seem to be excited by this book, including recommending it for Hugo nominations. I am about 70% of the way through, and it is grim, sad, grim. Man, the Titans are disgusting, and the gods are nasty. A seemingly "you are there" inside Circe's head re-telling does not help these facts. I'm also not sure I want to call it fantasy. It's well written, though?

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

Yesterday I had to finish some other things. So here's books on Thursday instead.

I finished Exit Strategy: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, and it was pretty good: a worthy finish to this series of novellas. Murderbot has to extract a hostage: always the best type of action scenario, as I learned long ago when I used to run RPG tournaments. (Grabbing treasure and running is pretty trivial by comparison.) There's also the question of whether its allies are more trouble than they're worth. The story rolls along fast and ends bittersweetly.

Then, down with a cold, I powered through Lies Sleeping, the latest Rivers of London installment by Ben Aaronovitch. Wow, that was good! I had the feeling Aaronovitch had been basically stringing out events for the last couple of books until he could arrive at this place in the story, because this was much, much meatier and more interesting than this series has been for a while, As I noted on Book of Faces, there was one place near the end where I dropped my Kindle into my lap and applauded. This would make a reasonable stopping place for the series, but Wikipedia says there will be more.

Now I'm about halfway through The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. I picked this up as Hugo reading. I'd been going back and forth on whether to read it until I saw it mentioned in the Hugo context. I'm a little ambivalent about it. It's a compelling story and I like the viewpoint character, but every time I put it down, I find myself thinking it's not my thing. I think it may be Kowal's writing style, and it may even be deliberate. It feels very much like a mainstream novel, and that may be the effect she wants.

The next several new reads will probably all be Hugo stuff: nominations close March 16. If you have any suggestions for SF&F novels or graphic novels published in 2018 that you think I would like, please mention them. Other Hugo-eligible things I've already read are:

  • Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I have volume 3 of Monstress (graphic novel) Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda in hand but I have not read it yet.

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

*tap tap tap* Is this thing on?

So yeah, now that I'm back at work (finally!), I'm going to try to get this rolling again.

I got around to reading Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, which I'd had on my To Read list for ages. And ... meh? It wasn't for me. Sometimes I like Jane Austen-ish pastiche, but I was not so thrilled with this one. I could appreciate Zacharias' position (believe me, I could: that "stick with the job because you were entrusted with it, even while it kills you" is all too familiar), but at the same time, it made for a somewhat claustrophobic reading experience.

On the other hand, Prunella soon made me a little crazy. I'm not quite sure I believe her extremely sudden transformation from the dutiful behind-the-scenes manager to out-of-control sorcery prodigy. And frankly, I just didn't like her that much. I think I'm just the wrong audience for it. And I spotted the romance plot about a third of the way in, too.

My other big read was a bit of a disappointment as well. You all know I'm a super fan of C.J. Cherryh, and her Alliance-Union setting is one of my favorites (Chanur is the other). So I was anticipating Alliance Rising like crazycakes. But it's a really, really slow start. The info-dumping is on par with the opening of Downbelow Station, even though it's framed as the thoughts of the POV characters instead of third-person authorial narration. In fact, in terms of pacing and approach, this reads more like the start of a new "Foreigner" installment, with Bren reviewing all the events of the last three books.

About a third of the way in I nearly burst into tears: we were still on essentially the first real piece of action, the approach of one of the new jumpships to the creaky old Alpha space station at frightening speed. We read it from the viewpoint of a young local merchanter crewman, Ross, and then from the viewpoint of the sad, over-stressed station manager, and then from the viewpoint of a fairly high-up officer on the incoming starship, Finity's End. And OK, we learn something from each view, but hell! We're a third of the way into the book! Shouldn't we be seeing something else by now?

Perhaps as a result of the amount of time spent on this slow opening, I didn't feel as much engagement with the characters, and the station didn't feel as real to me, either, as most Cherryh settings do.

Anyway, I will certainly be following it up: lackluster CJC is still better than 90% of what comes out.

For where I'm going: I've just started Exit Strategy, the most recent Murderbot installment by Martha Wells. This is the finale of the series of "Murderbot Diaries," and I expect to like it, as I did the others. I was pleased to hear that she's sold a full-length Murderbot novel as well.

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

Hugo votes were due yesterday, so I hurriedly finished my Hugo reading over the past couple of weeks. I'm not going to comment individually on much of anything shorter than a novella: there are just too many of them. I may do an FFRiday post about one of them, though.

The Collapsing Empire (novel) by John Scalzi was better than I expected. He's grown a bit as a writer, and as [personal profile] viridian5 said, the characters are great. But it is very much Part 1 of a longer story and has a pretty cliffhanger-y ending.

And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker felt like a much shorter work than most of the other novellas. I keep wanting to say it's about clones, but it's not really: it's about duplicates caused by parallel universes, and they all end up at a convention together. It's also a locked-room mystery. I wasn't as impressed by it as a lot of others seem to be (and Pinsker's other nominee, the novelette "Wind Will Rove,” was much better).

River of Teeth (novella) by Sarah Gailey was a fun romp, a Weird Western with a flooded mid-America full of hippos, both scary Ferals and specialized domestic hippos used as riding animals. The cast members span a wide range of races and orientations. There are river boats, gambling, sharpshooters, and people of dubious virtue.

Binti: Home (novella) by Nnedi Okorafor will be liked by those who liked the earlier installments and disliked by their opposite numbers. The story takes a weird turn halfway through that seems unconnected with the earlier Binti novellas, as though Okorafor thought it up just recently, but the results of it were more interesting to me than Binti's previous adventures. I think one of the things that's been bothering me about this series and Akata Witch/Akata Warrior is that previously neutral characters seem to suddenly burst out nasty, with no previous indications of such issues.

The Black Tides of Heaven (novella) by JY Yang is SF that reads like mythic fantasy. It was beautiful and sad but somehow rather thin for me. And it is also clearly just Part 1.

I've read the first volume of Seanan McGuire's Incryptid series and am halfway through the second (it was up for Best Series). I'm enjoying them, but they are slighter than her October Daye series. My first choices for this award, both of which I read independent of their Hugo nominations, are in no danger from the adventures of Verity Price, journeyman cryptozoologist and ballroom dancer. Part of my problem is that Verity is a very girly girl, despite the guns and knives and parkour, and I get impatient with her constant commentary on hair and clothing.

The Art of Starving (Young Adult book) by Sam J. Miller is kind of mis-cast as SF&F. It's not clear to me that any of the magical stuff that Matt thinks is happening actually happens. Also, his family seems to have Judaism pasted on: although it's mentioned and his mother is described as buying Judaica/Jewish foods, she never reads to me as Jewish (which I am), and Matt's Judaism never seems to inform any of his actions. I appreciate that he is gay and eventually has a boyfriend, but the overboard angst and lack of anything that reads to me like actual SF&F made this one a non-starter for my consideration or this new award. But of course, I am not the intended audience for the book. Still, that didn't keep me from enjoying the other nominees in this category.

Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate (Best Related Work) by Zoë Quinn is an important book. The first two-thirds or so is the chronicle of her harassment by the Gamergate malfeasants after her ex-boyfriend posted an online hatchet job of her character, and the last third is very chunky, rich information about protecting yourself online and helping others who have been victimized this way. But she could really have used a better editor. The continuity gets rough sometimes.

Phew! That's it.


Anyone have any recs for vacation reading? I already have Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee queued up, and I will download the latest Murderbot as soon as it becomes available. Oh, and I think I have another Incryptid or two on my Kindle as well.

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

I should have mentioned earlier about reading the first volume of the manga My Brother's Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame. This is about a single dad in Japan who, after his twin brother's death abroad, gets a surprise visit from the brother's Canadian husband. Mike Flanagan has traveled to Japan to meet his husband's family and learn about his early life. Yaichi is extremely unnerved by this hulking, hairy foreigner, but his young daughter Kana likes him almost instantly. Mike ends up staying with them for a while, and from interactions with him and other people's reactions, Yaichi begins to confront his own attitudes toward his late brother's homosexuality.

The book presents a lot of truths about Japanese society, not all of them positive. Gay people still cannot marry in Japan, people with tattoos are not welcome in a lot of gyms or public baths, and one of Kana's friends is told she can't visit Kana anymore because Mike is a bad influence.

Tagame's usual genre is erotic manga for gay men (he is gay himself). His drawings are very bold and clean, yet at the same time detailed. People tend to be a little short and blocky, but Tagame line work is attractively sensitive in a way that reminds me most of recent work by Fumi Yoshinaga (!).

I also read, weeks ago, A Skinful of Shadows, by Frances Hardinge, which is up for to new YA not-a-Hugo award. This is a grim but gripping historical fantasy set in England just before the Civil War. Makepeace lives in London with her single mother, both of them sharing a closet of a space in the house of some relatives who barely tolerate them. Mother subjects Makepeace to harsh, weird discipline, making her stay overnight in a cemetery chapel at one point. It becomes clear that Makepeace can perceive ghosts, and that her mother is both trying to hide her daughter and make her strong. The first turns out to be futile: mother dies, and Makepeace's father's family come for her. Although they clearly despise her, she has some sort of mysterious value. Eventually, to her horror, she finds out why. I will say that the ending, although hardly sunny, is not completely tragic, and I intend to re-read the book at some point: it's very good.

At this point, I am wading (ha!) through Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140, climate sci-fi set in New York City after the sea level has risen 50 feet (~15 m). This is so not going at the top of my Hugo vote for Best Novel. Info dump, info dump all the way home. KSR plainly thinks I should be interested in his Big Ideas about economics and how it interacts with climate and so on. He's wrong. Also, for the first 20% of the book, I was completely uninterested in any of the characters, especially the so-brilliant young financial wiz Franklin Garr, who speculates in half-drowned real estate and is clearly meant to be (as much as anyone is) Our Hero.

The binding thread for the eight viewpoint characters is that they all call a single building home. The descriptions of this building and its neighbors, and the waterways that make drowned NYC the "New Venice," can be pretty cool at times. There are a couple of entertaining young boys, but I'm 80% of the way through the novel at this point and I still can't tell them apart, aside from their names. The society depicted here is rather odd too. We have men and women of all ages, but aside from our two young rapscallions, I can't recall any children. No one of any consequence seems to have a family. Two of the characters have exes, but that's about it. And that, to me, is just wrong. Conventional marriages may be on their way out, but all the people *I* know still have some sort of family.

Anyway, having come this far, I am bound and determined to finished this book, but it is a slog. I am certainly not this doorstopper's intended audience.

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

Wow, I have been off-course with this. In my own defense, I had a writing project, and also the very rainy weather had me pretty gloomed out.

It seem to me that I read a lot of things, but I'm not recalling much at the moment. One thing I do recall, I will hold for FFFriday instead. In the meantime:

[personal profile] sholio has been doing a C.J. Cherryh read and re-read, so I am going through the Chanur series again. I'm just starting Chanur's Homecoming, which is my favorite of the series.

I grabbed a couple of Zoe Chant's paranormal romances for brain candy: Bearista and Pet Rescue Panther. As far as I can tell, I'm not really the intended audience: I enjoy the action sequences a lot more than the romance. On the other hand, I used to love running shapeshifter characters in tabletop RPG, and that's what these are all about. They remind me of Marjorie Liu's Dirk & Steele novels, in a good way. They're much quicker reads, but they have the same action-team + romance thing going on. I do plan to get the third in this sequence, Bear in a Bookshop.

The 2018 Hugo Reader's Packet was released this past week. It's a good thing I had already read most of the novels, because only a few were included in full this year. Still, it's a lot of books and stories.

One of the books that was included was Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale. Arden is nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This is a YA fantasy novel based on Russian history and folk tales. I think it will please a lot of the people who liked Novik's Uprooted. Arden is an assured and fairly elegant writer, but the book did have some flaws that loomed large for me (possibly not for others):

  1. A new character is referred to by his name several pages before the viewpoint character is actually told his name (and bad on the editor - that should have been caught).
     
  2. Most people won't understand the title at all until 75% of the way through the book, and I only picked up half of it sooner than that because I know a little Russian. And the title is still not that great even once you understand what it means.
     
  3. Arden completely pushes an annoying but ultimately innocent character under the bus, allowing this character to to die a horrible death. This is not a terribly nice character, but Arden shows us that the character could have been at least 50% of what our beloved heroine was, if not for different circumstances. And that really hit me hard, and I don't entirely trust Arden as an author now, if you know what I mean. Because part of why this character [spoiler: Anna Ivanova]was developed the way she was, was to provide a contrast and foil for the lead. She really seems a victim, and it left me with a bad taste in my brain.
chomiji: An image of a classic spiral galaxy (galaxy)

Via rachelmanija and yhlee: May SFF sale.

There are four pages in all, with links to multiple online sales outlets for each book. It's an odd lot: A-/B+ books by classic authors, large selections of stuff from B-grade authors, and all the Gor books anyone I know could ever want ... .

I got a handful of borderline obscure fantasy: R.A. MacAvoy's complete "Lens of the World" series and The Northern Girl, book 3 of Elizabeth Lynn's "Chronicles of Tornor." I don't particularly care about the other two volumes, so I wasn't sad that they weren't there.

Anyway, take a look: they're all $0.99–1.99.

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

Having finished Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones, I had to do the sequel, The Year of the Griffin. I like this one better, but it's strange. The book is set in a university, albeit a magical one, with lead characters who seem in the 17 - 20 age range, and yet the target audience seems much younger, maybe 11 - 14. Some adult-ish things happen, but they are described very simply. For example, some foreign griffins show up. They are crude and rather bestial, and they make lead character griffin Elda (who first showed up in Derkholm) feel weirdly like lying down and giving in ... to sex, clearly, from my much older viewpoint. And I'm not plucking this from nowhere: Elda acts protective toward one of her classmates, hiding him under her wings, and the strange griffins mock her, saying she's clearly ready to be a mother. But would the young pre-teens and teens glom onto what's going on here? I'm not sure.

Now I'm doing a Saga re-read Because Reasons. This is the first time since I started the series 3 years or so ago that I have done a re-read. Holy mackerel, the deaths and the angst.

(For those who don't know this work: Saga is a science fantasy comics series by Brian Vaughan (author) and Fiona Staples (artist). It's about war, and families, and what happens when the two come together. The leads are Alana and Marko, soldiers from the opposite sides of a very long-term war, who hook up, marry, and have a baby. And now the entire universe is pursuing them from planet to planet. It's very violent, sexually explicit, and has some lovely things to say about families, of all sorts.)

I need to make some Saga icons. Also, this series is becoming popular enough that there are Funko Pop! figurines of the most popular characters, including Marko, Alana (either with baby Hazel or a gun), The Will, Lying Cat, and Izabel. I love Izabel in the series, but I don't care for her Funko figurine. There are also some more realistic action-figure-type figurines available of the first four. I also saw a plush Lying Cat, but it was just awful.

I took a brief tour through TVTropes' article on Saga and found the following wonderful quote from the author, ca. 2012 when it was just starting: "This is an original fantasy book with no superheroes, two non-white leads and an opening chapter featuring graphic robot sex. I thought we might be cancelled by our third issue."

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

Missed another week ... mainly, I was off-kilter because we had a snow day, so I teleworked, which is not usual for me. And I forgot about book blogging.

I read Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which seems likely to end up on the Hugo Award short list for novels. It's a very-locked-door mystery, given that it's set on a slow-boat space ship many years from both its launch point and destination. The care of the ship and its popsicle people passengers is in the hands of some clones: as they die off, they will be replaced by clones of themselves, and thus there will be continuity of care, because each clone supposedly *is* the same person, up to the point when the last "recording" of their brain was taken. This is not really a new idea— Cherryh's Voyager in Night comes to mind, for example—and I don't like it because it's not actually a continuum of consciousness, although Lafferty (or hir characters, anyway) seems to think it is.

At the beginning, it's a good thing I was intrigued with the mystery and the setting, because otherwise, I got a powerful case of the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care what happens to these people"). Later on, as we learn more about them, I cared a bit more, but wow, are these boring, simplistic people at first. Even the first few background flashbacks didn't help. None of them seem to have much in the way of family or friends, for one thing. Anyway, as Dark Secrets were revealed, the characters and their situations became more intriguing, and Lafferty presents a variety of interesting scenarios regarding the issues of clones in a society. And I'm guessing that was really the point of the book anyway.

If you've read it, were you as annoyed as I am by the handwaving regarding the garden and what happens to it when the gravity fails?

Also, people worried about blood yuck should give this a pass. The opening scene is covered with it.

I restarted and this time finished T.J. Kingfisher's The Seventh Bride, which I had dropped after the first few pages for some reason (maybe when I got sick?). I enjoyed it quite a bit, although some of it didn't make a lot of sense if I stopped and thought about it: the bizarre coming-apart thing that happens to the sorcerer's castle from time to time, for example. I found myself wondering whether Kingfisher (a/k/a Ursula Vernon, author and artist of Digger and many other works) had a dream that inspired these scenes. Anyway, if you enjoy seeing classic fairytale tropes upended and women characters working together, you should enjoy this. Note that there is some grisly body horror stuff involving both animals and humans.

I read another volume of the "Rivers of London" comics: Night Witch. I'm still liking these, slight as they might be. I think part of it is that we spend less time in Peter's laddie-boy horndog head (although I don't mind that as much as some do). It's not just that he is a lusty young man: it's also that it takes some time to read and comprehend his descriptions of complex scenes, and in the comics, you just turn the page, and voila, there's the scene, all complete. I've just started the next volume, Black Mould. I really need to make some icons from Beverly's and Sahra's images in these, and maybe even DS Stephanopoulos as well. I'm sad that we haven't seen Lady Ty or Abigail yet, although we did have Nicky in an extra at the end of at Night Witch

Finally, I've started a re-read of Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm, and although the story and some of the characters (mainly the griffins) are keeping me going, I'm remembering why I don't like this one as much as most of DWJ's canon. Most of the plot hinges on a very dysfunctional marriage and the almost complete lack of communication between the partners. There's a reason for it, and DWJ lets us know that she does not entirely approve, but still! I suppose as a young teen I would have focused on the way that having the parents out of commission allows Dirk's very large family of children (human and not) show their ingenuity and grit. However, because it was published in 1998, when I was already the mother of a six-year-old, I can't quite put my married-partner/mother concerns out of the way, and it's a rather horrid book from that point of view.

I'm also vaguely uneasy with some of Dirk's biological ingenuity, but mad scientists have been creating creatures for millennia, so I suppose it's nice to see a basically benign practitioner of this particular magical art.

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

A digression. When I was a little cho, I loved books with main characters like Dido Twite in Joan Aiken's Wolves series and Goth in James Schmitz' The Witches of Karres: wiry, adventurous girls who could almost be mistaken for boys. I knew I would never be any of those girls, because I was chunky and unathletic and bookish and shy and near-sighted.

Last night I finished Provenance by Ann Leckie. People who wanted more hardcore space opera (and yes, I think it's OK to call it that) like the Ancillary trilogy have been grumpily posting their displeasure with the book around the Intarwebs. Because although Provenance is set in the same universe, and people in the story are talking about the events that occurred in that series, the star of Provenance is not an unstoppable corpse soldier turned engine of vengeance, like Breq. The protagonist is, instead, a chunky, self-deprecating, messy, naive young woman named Ingray Aughskold. And whether you enjoy Provenance, I suspect, will have a lot to do with whether you sympathize with Ingray or think she's a fool.

Ingray has Mommy issues. Mom is a powerful politician who adopted three children, intending to eventually make the most suitable one her heir. This is not an uncommon practice on the world of Hwae. One child made herself scarce as soon as she could legally do so, leaving Ingray to complete with their confident and obnoxious brother Danach. Both Ingray and Danach are certain that Danach will be the heir; nevertheless, Ingray would like to secure some of their mother's regard for herself. So she invests all her own money in a scheme that starts with breaking a famous thief out of the smarmily named prison world Compassionate Removal and goes on from there. As [personal profile] james_davis_nicoll puts it, it is "a very bold scheme, a scheme so well planned that it does not go off the rails until shortly before the book begins."

If the book sounds like a caper novel, that is indeed one part of what it is. It is also a coming-of-age story, a story that addresses the idea of symbols and what part they play in our personal and national stories, a novel that explores families and what parents can do to children, and a science fiction story full of aliens and robots and stolen starships. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Next, I've started a non-fiction book that is not much like anything I would have picked on my own, but a book club has started at work, and it involves some colleagues that I should get to know better, so. It's called The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds. The blurb describes it as "How a Nobel Prize–winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality." I'm about 5% of the way into it, and so far author Michael Lewis has been discussing the idea of using statistics to help make better choices in selecting athletes for pro sports teams. I suppose this is a topic of great interest to many, but not to me, so I hope the book gets into something else quickly.

I also have waiting for me the first volumes of two new-to-me manga series, Golden Kamuy and Complex Age, and also the first collected volume of the comic The Wicked and the Divine.

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

Driveby, b/c I suck tonight. I have been killing time on Tumblr while a messy kitchen awaits me.

Finished DWJ's Time of the Ghost. Limp ending: endings are DWJ's chief weakness. (That is part of why the ending of The Homeward Bounders is such a shock: she nailed that one.)

Read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones. She seems to be getting her Catherynne Valente on in this one: it's told in a slightly distant myth/fairytale voice. It's the backstory for two of the characters from Every Heart a Doorway: Jack and Jill, a pair of twins who ended up in a dark fantasy world. Jill's half of the story seems to me much weaker and less interesting than Jack's, and I think the novella is the poorer for that.

Then I re-read Peter Dickinson's mystery King and Joker, which used to be a bulletproof comfort read for me. And sadly, it didn't really work for me this time. I'm not sure what's up. :-(

ETA: Next up will likely be Ann Leckie's Provenance. I'm more in the mood for a comfort read, but given how flat the last one fell, I don't want to try one.

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

*Tears myself away from the Yuletide tagset*

*Ahem*

When last we left our intrepid reader, she was about to finish Max Gladstone's Ruin of Angels. Holy crap, was that an enjoyable read! Violent as all get out, scary sometimes (Kai, survivor of the Penitents on Kavekana, is squicked out when the antagonist describes her culture's positive-reinforcement equivalent ... and I don't blame Kai one bit), full of action, and a very-much-earned happy ending.

Next up was Rebel, third volume of Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith's Changes series. We're back in the post-apocalypse Wild West town of Las Anclas, where teenagers have serious responsibilities (actual and critical jobs, for example) and yet remain kids, with raging hormones and still-developing communications and judgment skills. Ross, the titular "stranger" of the first book, starts remembering more of his past—and part of it comes to join him. Mia comes to terms with some parts of her relationship with Ross and Jennie that had been worrying her. Felicite's pampered life falls apart a little further (and she remains surprisingly three-dimensional and sympathetic). Kerry becomes more and more a part of the community (and continues to be haunted by the possibility that her terrifying father may yet show up at the town gates). This installment has no huge crisis with a correspondingly huge climax but is instead a series of satisfying mini-arcs.

I was going to read Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones next, but decided instead to take a break from new plotlines with an old favorite, Diana Wynne Jones' The Time of the Ghost. I'm just at the point where the ghost has learned for sure which Melford sister she was in life; now the plan to save her, with the support of her three sisters and their two friends, is being set into motion. Mmm good!

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)

Drive by:

Progressing slowly through Too Like the Lightning. Still reminds me of Diamond Age in the setting.

A Bad Bad Thing has happened in Stand Still Stay Silent, so I have had to resort to comfort reading: the manga Bunny Drop at the moment. The event in SSSS should not be discussed here, because it is a spoiler like whoa.

Finished with the reason for re-reading Fruits Basket, so I need to bundle them all up and put them back in the basement bookcase from whence they came.

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

I finished All the Birds in the Sky. It wasn't bad, but it just sort of ended: too much build up, not enough resolution. And now I'm annoyed by the title, because although it sounds really nifty, it doesn't have all that much to do with the story. This is not going to be my top vote for best novel, I'm afraid.

Also in Hugo reading, I read through Ursula Le Guin's Words Are My Matter, a collection of recent short non-fiction pieces. I love Le Guin as an essayist, and the first part of the book contains some good examples. But the back half-and-a-bit is introductions to books and book reviews, and I found those less interesting. A number of them were for non-genre literary or magical realism works that didn't sound as though they'd appeal to me. She did mention a couple of Western (as in, Western U.S.) novels that I might want to look up, which I will mention here partially for my own reference: Crazy Weather by Charles McNichols and The Jump-Off Creek and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Also, although Perdido Street Station pretty much put me off China Mielville for life, her review of Embassytown is making me reconsider.

Overall, unless the rest of the Related Works are very mediocre, I don't think this will be my top pick in that category.

I have just started Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, which is short-listed for Best Novel. A number of the readers on File 770 had trouble with this book, but I'm not finding it problematic thus far. Possibly the fact that I actually like Anthony Burgess' A Dead Man in Deptford (link goes to Kirkus review), which was also purposefully written in the style of an earlier era, has something to do with this. I'll have to see where the book goes, of course.

Finally, I'll be re-reading some of Fruits Basket, Because Reasons. Does anyone recall the number of the exact volume in which Machi shows up? It's when she wrecks the student council room, if the Wikia is to be believed.

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

Drive-by post: reading All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. I had been arguing with myself back and forth about getting it, but then it became a Hugo finalist, and so I got it in the voting packet.

I'm interested in it, but I feel a little uneasy about where it's going, and also it's somehow not super-enjoyable on the emotional level. I think there are too many misunderstandings and seeming betrayals. On the other hand, the depiction of the slow-motion slide into dystopia, with bits and pieces of technology and societal systems failing and people seeming to just shrug their shoulders and adapt, is kind of interesting.

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).

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