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: A woman sits on a crescent moon, spilling snowflakes & fairy dust from a bag (Yuletide dream)

I have not been reading as much Yuletide as I should, but I have found some great stories amidst what I did read:

The Voices of Small Bears (1050 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: October Daye Series - Seanan McGuire
Rating: General Audiences
Summary: Make no mistake, a family was here.
My take: . A lovely series of vignettes that adds up to a portrait of Toby and her family of choice.

five to one against (5209 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Summary: How Molly and Nightingale discovered haemomancy.
My take: A very strong Molly POV fills out her role in the series.

Cemetery Polka (2073 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: The Sandman (Comics)
Rating: Mature
Summary: They regard each other, for a long moment. Behind her large glasses, Larissa’s eyes are unblinking, but her clasped hands betray her, the fiddling of her thumbs against each other. She wets her lips, pursed and full and pink.
Death is mortal, tonight.
My take: That last line sums it up. Gorgeous bittersweet f/f.

the rain falling on the sunshine (2029 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Rating: General Audiences
Summary: In the garden; after the war.
My take: The Secret Garden is a Yuletide perennial (hah!) if there ever was one, and this topic has been done many times before, but this is a nice take on it, with little bathos and a lot of genuine feeling.

The Rock and The River (17442 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi | Spirited Away
Summary: Chihiro takes magic and bends it around herself to make a place in the world.
My take: Spirited Away can generate overly cute fic as well as pieces with genuine mythical power. This is one of the latter. There's genuine human sadness and pathos amidst the many quiet wonders.

Intermission (24398 words) by Anonymous
Fandom: Stand Still Stay Silent
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Summary: Emil tries to rebuild his life and help Lalli adjust to their new home in Sweden after their return from the Silent World. Slight canon divergence from the end of the First Adventure.
My take: This is a lesson in how to write romantic fanfiction: the myriad bits of everyday (and not so everyday) life, the tight third-person POV, and the genuine human reactions give the eventual breaking of the tension real power, leavened in the last bits with in-character humor.

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)

My, it's been a while since I've done this.

Last week and the first of this were spent having the flu, followed by bronchitis. This would have seemed a great opportunity to read, but I was too miserable. I read fanfiction and magazines and that's about it. The new manga series I meant to start (bought the first few volumes of each at Katsucon) remain untouched.

I did do a bit of manga series catchup:

Natsume's Book of Friends vol. 21 remains Natsume-ish: poignant little stories with gentle humor. There is one chapter with a young Natori/young Matoba flashback that is likely responsible for the lashings of Matobe/Natori slash and pre-slash fanfic I've been seeing. Matoba is the kind of dark, perhaps evil character that many fangirls love to love (like Ukoku in Saiyuki, yuck), but I'm not one of them, so the mangaka is going to need to give me more reason to like Matoba.

Behind the Scenes!! Vol. 5 explores high school crushes with a keen eye and much tenderness. We usually see Goda through Ranmaru's eyes as a charismatic and even brilliant leader, but at the end of the day, he's just as much of a geek perfectionist as rest of the Art Squad. It's unsurprising that he's not terrible perceptive about the nature of Ruka's reactions to him lately, nor that he's awkward in responding to her when he finally gets a clue. Mangaka Bisco Hatori (Ouran High School Host Club) is so sensitive in portraying these situations that I really wish se would cover even more groups of geeky teens. Still, I guess one series at a time, done well, is all I can reasonably demand.

Also, Goda's superpowered multifunction watch invention is all kinds of hilarious, especially to a former theater crew geek like me.

BTW, does anyone know the proper genre category for this manga? I would guess shoujo, like its elder sibling Ouran HSHC, but I can't find any such info.

And I remembered that my bro-in-law gave me (at my request) for Xmas the first of the "Rivers of London" comics volumes, Rivers of London: Body Work. The depictions of the characters aren't bad (although Nightingale really doesn't look like my idea of him), and the main story (about a strange sort of haunting involving an automobile junk yard and chop shop) was decent. Not enough Beverly, IMO (but Sahra Guleed does play a large role). But I really enjoyed the little one-shot side scenes at the end, There's one involving Molly, Toby, and an old car that never would have worked from Peter's POV, but as a comic, it's just delightful.

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)

Life has been rather too much work-work-work this week. I realized I haven't checked up on Stand Still Stay Silent at all.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through The Hanging Tree, which is about to become the latest-less-one Rivers of London/Peter Grant book (the new one is due out in hardcover (!) next month). I'm enjoying it, although there's already been one kick in the gut. This is a good book to read near Mother's Day: some great and terrifying mums in here (especially Lady Ty and Peter's mum).

Before that, I did some comfort reading. I discovered two old favorites in ebook format: Shirley Rosseau Murphy's White Ghost Summer and The Sand Ponies. Both are pitched as horse stories, but actually, they're family stories with a dash of mystery. There are horses, and they're significant, but they're not actually what the stories are about.

Does anyone know whether it's worth trying to contact a publisher about scan errors in ebooks? These have repeated problems when the end of a paragraph coincides with the end of some dialog in quotation marks. Most of the time it wasn't too terrible for the flow of the story, but at one point several words were lost.

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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