melita66: (ship)
2016-11-18 02:23 pm

September, October up to mid-November 2016 books: McShane, King, Chambers, Shinn, Bujold, Burgis

First off is Melissa McShane's Burning Bright, set at approximate Napoleonic level of technology and culture. Elinor can control fire. Rather than be stuck in a marriage where her spouse only cares about her breeding potential, Elinor volunteers to join the Royal Navy. Assigned to the Athena, she find camaraderie with other Extraordinary Talents assigned to the ship, including the Captain. Faced with political maneuvering, the wonderful feelings she has when manipulating fire, the horror at killing, there's a good bit going on in this story. The descriptions of Extraordinary talents are well done, and I became quite involved in the story by the end. I'll continue to hunt out new work by McShane.

I then read a book and some short stories by Laurie R. King in her Russell/Holmes series. A Letter of Mary is early in the series and involves a gift from a archaeologist working in Palestine. After delivering the gift, she is killed in London leaving Russell and Holmes to first figure out whether it was an accident or not, and when it's proved to be deliberate, whodunit? Not my favorite of the series but still entertaining. A collection, Mary Russell's War was also published this fall. I'd read a few of the stories but some were new for the book. I'd say for completists only.

Finally, finally, Becky Chambers new book, A Closed and Common Orbit, was released. It starts off directly after A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet where the AI that used to be Lovey (Lovelace) has now been installed in a body kit. Unable to stay on board her ship, she decides to go with Pepper, an engineer. Part of the book details Pepper's back story (as a young girl named Jane), switching between the past and the present story of Sidra. Sidra is having problems adjusting to life outside of a ship as her software/impulses are very unsuited for living in a crowded, lively city. Jane's story is more fraught as she was born to be a junk sorter, looking for recyclables and scrap metal. Once a certain age, the older cohorts disappear. Through a chain of circumstances, Jane ends up outside the factory and takes up residence within a shuttle that still has a working AI aboard. I really loved this book. Maybe a smidgeon less than the prior book, but only a smidgeon. Some people say not much happens in these books. Yeah, they're not slam-bang, go-go-go, but instead focus on the smaller stories, in some ways, the every day stories of life. More, more, more!

Next up was Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn. It's a direct sequel (but following a secondary character) to Jeweled Fire. Leah has returned to Chialto to try to connect with her daughter that she abandoned years before. Darien, the spymaster and soon-to-be king, decides to make use of her talents. Leah left a man behind, and slowly discovers that she wants to see him again. He has some terrible secrets (of course). I enjoyed it a lot, as I've liked all the Elementary Blessings books.

Then I read two shorter works while deciding what to read next. Lois McMaster Bujold released another novella about Penric and his demon Desdemona, Penric's Mission. Becoming unhappy under a new bishop, the local duke (count?) sends him on a mission to try to entice a disgraced general from a neighboring land. Wheels within wheels, Penric is uncovered upon arrival and has to save himself and the general (and his pretty sister). I liked it much better than the previous novella, Penric's Shaman. Something about the Weald (also in The Hallowed Hunt) just doesn't appeal to me. I don't mind the Hallowed Hunt, but I have a hard time remembering anything about it, and it's not one of the books that I reread very often. Anyway, Penric et al. are in good form and it's a lot of fun.

Lastly, I read a short work by Stephanie Burgis, "The Art of Deception". Set in a fantasy world, a down-and-out swordsman is tricked into accompanying his landlady back to her home. She's a possible successor to the position of head librarian at the White Library, a repository of all knowledge, including magic. Deceptions abound with some nice twists along the way.
melita66: (ghibli house)
2016-08-28 12:23 pm

July and August 2016 books: Bujold, Lee and Miller, Smith (5 times)

Lois McMaster Bujold released a novella, a sequel of "Penric and the Demon", called "Penric and the Shaman". Penric is now past his training and has settled down into an interesting life with Desdemona (the demon). They are assigned to chase a Welce man accused of murder. The man is trying to find someone to help him while dealing with some magic gone bad and emotional trauma. I thought it was a little slow in the middle, and picked up near the end. Recommended if you liked "Penric and the Demon" (although I'd like to see more of Penric's training!)

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller also released the new e-chapbook, Sleeping with the Enemy, which contains two stories: "Chimera" and "Friend of a Friend". Both are set of Surebleak and fill in some side stories within the main sequence. Both are good, solid work--recommended.

I then went on a re-read spree of Kristine Smith's Jani Kilian series: Code of Conduct, Rules of Conflict, Law of Survival, Contact Imminent, and Endgame. Jani is a colony girl in a time when being of a Family is vastly important. Jani becomes one of the first enrollees at the idomeni Academy. One of the idomeni high religious leaders believes the only way forward for idomeni and humans is to blend via hybridization. After graduating, she's joins the military and is stationed there. A civil war breaks out among the idomeni. After the war, Jani ends up on the run from...everyone. The first book begins when she is tracked down after 20 years by a former lover--who's now in trouble and wants her tenacity and smarts. Of course, it's helpful that she's a fugitive and will have to depend on him to keep her safe.

Probably the only series where the main character is a forensic accountant.
melita66: (japanese fruit)
2016-06-27 07:40 pm

More June 2016 books: McKinley, Wagner, Whalen Turner

I went on a spending spree both series of Mage (The Hero Discovered and The Hero Defined) by Matt Wagner as ebooks. Not so fun reading them on a phone, but I managed. Matt Wagner does a Arthur Pendragon reincarnated series, although we're not sure about that immediately. It was a lovely, atmospheric series when it was released. In parts, it's wordy, but Wagner does well with facial expressions, body position so that words aren't always needed. His Grendel series (particularly Hunter Rose, the first part) is more accomplished, but I never liked it as much as this one. Highly recommended.

I reread about half of The Blue Sword now that it's out as an ebook. The Wagners beckoned so I haven't finished it.

Led on by blog posts (she made a statement that there'll be 2 more books in the series, and that book 5 is close to finished!!!!) and reviews, I decided to re-read Megan Whalen Turner's Thief/Attolia series. I ripped through The Thief, Queen of Attolia, and King of Attolia. I've currently just started Conspiracy of Kings but expect that I'll finish it by the end of the week. They're set in an alternative Mediterranean setting, possibly 1500/1600s time frame (there are some guns and watches). Eugenides is the Thief of Eddis, a tiny mountain country that controls a strategic pass between the countries of Attolia and Sounis. All the countries have fought with each other, but they also face an external enemy, the Mede, a rich and powerful country that has its eyes on expansion. The twists and turns in these book are amazing and wonderful. The author creates really cool characters and the books are extremely tightly plotted. All the clues are there...also highly recommended. Seriously!
melita66: (iceberg)
2016-06-12 03:53 am

June 2016 books: Burgis and Shirow

Stephanie Burgis, of Kat, Incorrigible fame, has published an adult novel, Masks and Shadows. It's set in Hungary at the Eszterhaza palace which was built by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy. The main character, Charlotte, is newly widowed, and has come to visit her sister, Sophie, who is the prince's mistress. Sophie is the heedless, fun-loving younger sister while Sophie had married for duty, but had come to appreciate her husband. Meanwhile three visitors arrive--Carlo Morelli, an acclaimed castrato, a probable Austrian spy, and a famous alchemist. Sophie finds Carlo disturbing but strangely appealing as she gets to know him. Meanwhile, Carlo appears to be disarmed by a relatively straightforward aristocrat who's calm and intelligent and an excellent musician. Both become aware of strange doings and have to work together to uncover what's happening. It's set in 1779, and I'm complete unfamiliar with the setting. For instance, I didn't know that Haydn worked for the prince for over 30 years. I enjoyed it a lot and look forward to the next, unrelated *as far as I know) book that's out this fall: Congress of Secrets, set in Vienna in 1814.

While checking around for backlist books to buy as ebooks, I realized that some graphic novels are available. While I was good and put some on my wishlist, I did buy the four volumes of Appleseed by Shirow Masamune. I had read these when they were originally released and were probably the first manga that I'd read. Appleseed is set in post-apocalyptic world. Deunan Knute is the daughter of a special ops man and had been raised with in-depth training. She ends up teaming up with a colleague of her father, Briareos Hecatonchires, a cyborg (I have a memory that he was human and became cyborg after an injury, but it wasn't in the manga that I reread. Wiki does agree though). Surviving in the badlands, they're recruited to go to the half-mythical Olympus, a near-utopian society run by bioroids (cyborgs/androids) although with a substantial human population as well. Deunan and Briareos take jobs doing what they're good at--police and later SWAT work. While there's definitely a focus on police work with hand-to-hand combat, car chases, bombs, giant robots, etc., there are also philosophical discussions on whether bioroids and humans can get along, how to stabilize society, and so on. Written in the early 80s, it's somewhat dated with references to a successor to Russia and other 80s preoccupations. There's even a global warming reference which surprised me. I really do love this series even though I can see more faults now.
melita66: (ghibli house)
2016-05-22 07:26 am

Books 2016, April-May: Wells, King, Bull, Cherryh, Scott, Kay

I got a bit behind there.

Martha Wells had a new book out, The Edge of Worlds, which is the start of a duology in her Raksura series. Indigo Cloud experiences some prophetic dreams that hint at disaster. It turns out that other courts have experienced the same thing. Moon and Jade decide that they need to investigate before the disaster strikes. It turns out that some groundlings are investigating a city that may be a Raksura/Fell Forerunner city. If so, is there some horrible creature imprisoned there like the one in The Siren Depths? Moon is really settling in to role as consort, and quite happy now that there's a clutch. Some old friends show up for the journey--if you've read the books, you can likely guess that one is Delin. More good fun, but there's a definitely cliff-hanger for the next book, The Harbors of the Sun, which is supposed to be turned into the publisher by next month.

I then read The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King. After a brief start with Mary facing down an angry man with a gun, we spend a good chunk of the book with Sherlock as he tries to track down what happened to Mary. The angry man claims to be Mrs. Hudson's son and good portion of the book is her story.

While waiting for other books to be released, I decided to reread Emma Bull's War for the Oaks. It's set in Minneapolis and is full of the 1980's music vibe. Prince had died recently and I thought it would be a good tribute. The main character is Eddi McCandry, a singer song-writer and guitarist. She quits her current band (which is falling apart) and her relationship with the band's leader. Her best friend (and drummer), Carla, tells Eddi to put together her own band. Meanwhile, Eddi is recruited to provide a link to the mortal world for the local fey folk who plan to war with the unseelie. Linking to mortals means that the fey can be killed and make the war more meaningful. Some lovely descriptions of music-making and how a group of musicians becomes a "band." The Phooka (woof!) is a great character too.

The latest entry in the Foreigner series by Cherryh, Visitor, is out. Not a place to start the series. The kyo finally show up and Bren has to try to not get into a war with them, and keep the peace. The kyo have a big surprise for Bren. I thought, 'oh, she's not going to go *there*. Oh, yes, she is' which disappointed me a bit, but the consequences and what Bren decides to do were very surprising for me.

I was again waiting a new release, and decided to re-read Fairs' Point by Melissa Scott. It's set in a matriarchal, quasi-Low Countries Renaissance setting. People are disappearing in Astreiant and money is being stolen out of locked boxes near the time of the yearly dog (terriers) races. Law enforcement is doing by Pointsmen. Nico Rathe is trying to investigate the crimes but hampered because they're not in his jurisdiction and there's a bit of a feud going on between him and his counterpoint at another station. Meanwhile, his leman, Philip Eslingen, is given a basket-terrier pup as payment of a debt. Philip ends up doing a good chunk of the investigation since he's thick in the middle of the issues. Another great installment.

Finally, Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay came out in mid-May. It set in the world of two moons and 900 years after Sarantine Mosaic. Sarantium was conquered 25 years before by the Asharites and is now called Astarias. The story mainly follows 5 people and is set in the eastern Mediterranean. Pero Villani is an Seressini (Veneto) artist sent to paint a portrait of the khalif of Astarias. Leonora Valeri, recently disgraced by childbirth out-of-wedlock, is also recruited to accompany a Seressini doctor to Dubrava (Dubrovnik) as a spy. They travel on a Dubravaen ship contracted to the Djivo family. The younger son, Marin, is on board. The fourth viewpoint character, Danica Gradek from Senjan, is part of a raiding party looking for Asharite or Kindath goods. The Senjanis are pirates to many in the Med, but also staunch supporters of the Jaddite emperors. The last "main" character is Damaz, a djanni (Janissary), who was taken as a young boy from a settlement near Senjan. He was born Neven Gradek and is Danica's sister. Kay has the ability to make you gasp with wonder or sadness or amazement at times. There were a few of those, but I find some of his other books to have more of that numinous quality. I also wish the copy editor (or regular editor) had nixed the use of 'sometimes.' I thought it was very overused. The Lions of al-Rassan is still my favorite but there are wondrous parts in the Sarantine Mosaic, Under Heaven and River of Stars. And, of course, the Fionavar Tapestry.

Edited on 30 May 2016 to add a bit to the GGK paragraph.
melita66: (ship)
2016-04-02 01:07 pm

Books 2016, February/March: McShane, King, Lee and Miller

Have not read a bunch since the last post. I checked a sample of the novelization of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny but the writing style did NOT prompt me to buy the book. I also sampled C.E. Murphy's Magic & Manners but it's SO close to Pride and Prejudice (even the names, I mean really?) that I was bored, bored I tell you. I've seen comments that it diverges and picks up, but I'm just not that interested right now. I also sampled and bought Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys, but have bogged down about 1/3 to 1/5 in. I'll probably try to finish it, but there's several books coming out next week that'll likely delay me picking it back up again.

I did manage to finish Agent of the Crown by Melissa McShane. It was enjoyable but I didn't like it as much as the first book in the series. I also found that the pace slowed down for me between 1/3 and 3/4. Then everything fell apart and I found myself compulsively reading to finish it. I wouldn't read it without having read at least the first book, Servant of the Crown. A young princess was recruited to act as a spy. Her public persona is flittery, social darling, but she's actually a deviser (magic/inventor). Her current job sends her undercover as a deviser to a small town on the edge of the kingdom and right into several mysteries. All the books have significant romances in them.

I then read the electronic advance reader copy of Alliance of Equals, the latest Liaden novel from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. This book focuses on Padi yos'Galan (Shan's daughter), Shan yos'Galan, Priscilla Mendoza y Delacroix, Hazenthull, with some visits to Daav yos'Phelium and Aelliana Caylon.

I also read The Marriage of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King. It's a short story (maybe longer) about her and Holmes actual marriage. It ends up taking place in his ancestral home's chapel--the problem is that the property is currently in the hands of estranged relatives. There's a sample from the new novel (out in early April) at the end.

I'm now sampling Simon Morden's The Petrovich Trilogy based on a review of book 4. Writing style seems a bit simplistic, but that may cure itself. Discussion of book 4 made me think of Samuil Petrovich as a Miles-gone-bad, so I'll likely buy it ($9.99 for the 3 books) and give it a serious go.

Next week, the new C.J. Cherryh book is out (Visitor), Martha Wells (already read in ARC form, Edge of Worlds) and The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King. Yea!!!
melita66: (ship)
2016-01-31 04:25 am

2015-2016: December into January books: Chambers, Duane, Wells, Kushner et al., Bujold

I sampled Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and then hurriedly bought and inhaled it. Set in a multi-species universe, it details the lives of a small crew who punch 'holes' that enable FTL travel between solar systems. Normally, they take on smaller jobs, but the captain is hinted at a possible well-paying job that would put them well into the black. The majority of the book details the personal lives of the people on the ship on their journey to this job.

When I was looking at reviews, I saw at least one that thought it was slow-moving. Because I'm a character-oriented reader, I thought the pace was lovely and quite enjoyed learning about the crew of the Wayfarer. Highly recommended.

I then reread (again!) Martha Wells' Raksura trilogy because I needed me some Moon and Stone. Wells is one of my absolute favorite writers with smart characters and interesting milieus. I can hardly wait for the next book! (two more are planned)

I had a last minute trip in mid-January to visit a friend who's dying of cancer (F U cancer!) and meet up with several friends from college. I remembered to take my ARC (advanced reviewer's copy) of Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane. It's part of her Young Wizards series. Nita, Kit, and Dairine are invited to mentor newer wizards as part of a giant, well, wizarding fair. The participants are to build the most amazing wizardries they can, that will benefit others. The winner gets a year-long internship with the Planetary wizard of Earth. Nita and Kit are definitely together as a romantic couple as well as a wizardly team, but are taking it slowly. Dairine is still dealing with the disappearance of Roshaun in a previous book, and their two mentees have their own issues. I liked it a lot, just as I like almost all Duane books, but I think a few of the other books are stronger.

I also continued reading the Tremontaine serial by Ellen Kushner and several other authors. The last segment was released this week and resolved some of the threads. I was greeted at the end of the segment with the news that it will resume later this year. Argh!

I'm currently nearing the end of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. I previously read the E-ARC. A lovely, character-driven entry. Stuff happens, but it's mostly detailing how Cordelia Vorkosigan and Oliver Jole are finally moving on after Aral's death.