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: (ghibli house)
2015-12-22 11:34 am

2015 books, December: McShane, Scott and Graham, Foster

I continued reading more Melissa McShane books. Rider of the Crown was released this month. It follows a young woman in a nomadic tribe who ends up bound for a year to another, Viking-ish tribe's leader, as part of a peace treaty. No bed rights come with the treaty, luckily for the Imogen. When the heir to the crown of Tremontane shows up as a "guest." Imogen finds herself entangled in the political maneuverings of three countries. this takes place a generation after the first book. Jeffrey (son of Alison and Anthony) is now king. Very much the story of Imogen learning to think beyond her birth role and tribe and finding a place in a larger world.

The fifth book, Oath Bound, of the Order of the Air series by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham was released this month. The series follows the members of a "lodge" aka magical lodge as they negotiate life, and threats to the world. Alma, Lewis, and Mitch are pilots. Alma was an ambulance drive in WWI while the other two were fighter pilots. Stasi is a mysterious European who's a medium and an ex-jewel thief. Finally, Jerry is a classicist and archaeologist. Jerry is in Alexandria on a Ptolemaic dig while covertly looking for the Soma--Alexander the Great's tomb. The rest of the time are in Italy at an air show showing off two different airplanes. An old friend of Jerry's from Ethiopia shows up and it will require the entire team to help him. Well, Stasi tangentially but she gets a great scene. We get some archaeology, some great dogfights and long-distance flying...I think this is my favorite of the series.

I then decided that I couldn't wait until Monday to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and started reading the novelization on Saturday/finished on Sunday. It's short, writing is...I'll generously say rushed, so only for completists. I liked the movie a lot, but it's not my favorite of the series. It may improve on a rewatch or two. So glad that Rey was the force sensitive and that she *can* take care of herself. Otherwise, very fun to see old friends and the new characters are interesting.

I then went back to McShane for a set of short stories about Zara North, Anthony's sister and Queen before she died. As it turned out, she had inherent magic and is effectively immortal. Revealing that could have destroyed the country so she staged her death and went out into the world. An interesting reversal of Heinlein's Time Enough for Love as Zara learns that she needs the connections to people to make live worth living.
melita66: (ship)
2015-11-26 01:34 am

2015 Books, November: Shinn, various (Kushner, et al.), McShane

Jeweled Fire is the third book of the Elemental Blessings series by Sharon Shinn. So far the books have focused on several women who were all heirs to the crown of Welce. This book focuses on Corene. Corene is the most ambitious, and has found out that she won't take the crown. She decides to drastically change her life by traveling to a neighboring kingdom and vying to marry one of the heirs. There, she makes friends but runs into several mysteries--like why have some many of the royal family died in recent years? Shinn's books are always interesting and fun to read.

I then decided to try the first installment of serial novel, Tremontaine, that is being published in 13 installments over several months. It's set in the titular dukedom, home to Ellen Kushner's novels--Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword, and one co-written with Delia Sherman, The Fall of the Kings. It's set before Swordspoint and so far we've met the current Duke and Duchess of Tremontaine; Micah, a farmer's daughter which a mathematical mind; Ixkaab, a young woman of a Mayan-analog trading clan who's been rusticated from her homeland; and Rafe, a young scholar who espouses a much-derided theory that the earth circles the sun. That last thread caused me much amusement in one of the episodes (I've read 5, and 6 is queued up next) when the latter three were talking. Kaab mistakenly let slip that her people know that the theory is true. When she realized her mistake, as Rafe was ecstatic. She tried hurriedly to obfuscate the matter by throwing a false tidbit out, 'Oh, you think the earth is a sphere. Ha-ha, of course not, it's an ellipsoid!" Oh, that was fun. (yeah, I'm a geodesy/cartography/GIS/map projections geek, why do you ask?)

After episode 5, I decided to try Melissa McShane's first book in her (oddly enough) The Crown of Tremontane series, Servant to the Crown. I'd read her The Smoke-Scented Girl earlier this year and enjoyed it. In this book, Alison Quinn, Duchess of Waxwold and editor of Quinn Press, is summoned to the capital city to become a lady-in-waiting to the Dowager Consort. She's furious as she likes her job and life perfectly well, thank you! Anyway, she does take up her duties and gets embroiled with the heir but also a political struggle between the crown and the Scholia, the pre-eminent university. Quite enjoyable. It's mostly a romance, and just what I felt like reading.
melita66: (ship)
2015-11-03 01:34 pm

2015 books: July, August, September, October: King, Leckie, Burgis, Bujold, Duane

Whew, I just could not seem to get my act together and post.

I re-read some more Laurie R. King: The Beekeeper's Apprentice and A Monstrous Regiment of Women. I dearly love me some Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes and am very much looking forward to The Murder of Mary Russell, due out next spring.

I then scarfed down Ann Leckie's Ancillary Mercy. It's a quieter novel, in some ways, very domestic but with an interesting twist at the end that I didn't anticipate. I'm sorry that currently there are no plans for more Breq although Leckie does plan more stories in the Radchaai universe.

Stephanie Burgis has a short story (novelette?) out, "Undead Philosophy 101" which was entertaining (but not Kat, darn it!).

I then started, but didn't finish Zen Cho's Sorceror to the Crown. I liked it fine, but never really felt a burning desire to find what's going to happen to the characters, so it got dropped for another book. I'll try to finish it at some point.

Also started (and closer to completion at 78%), was Diane Duane's Life Boats, a novel in her Young Wizards series. Nita and Kit (and Dairine, Tom, Carl, and many other wizards from previous books) are sent to a planet who's binary companion/moon is about to blow up, annihilating anyone left on the planet. An effort has already begun to "terraform" other worlds for the natives and transport them, but a significant number are refusing to go. Nita and Kit are tasked with helping maintain the world gates that are shuttling people to the new worlds.

It was dropped (I will finish it next, likely) to read the eARC (electronic advanced reader copy, like a beta version) of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. I characterized this to someone who just whipped through the Miles books in the last year, as "the story of two people who were devastated by Aral's death and are now, 3 years later, ready to move on and see where life will take them." It's set on Sergyar and focuses on Cordelia and Jole. Jole was aide to Aral, then became Admiral of the Sergyar system several years prior. Miles, and family, does make a brief appearance.

Next up: Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn and Black Wolves by Kate Elliott.
melita66: (iceberg)
2015-06-13 06:00 pm

2015 Books, May and early June: Shepherd, Wells, Addison, more Wells, Roberson, Weir

In May, I finally finished Joel Shepherd's late Cassandra Kresnov book, Originator. Kresnov is a cyborg (artificial person?) who fled her creators in the League and has made a home for herself on Callay, a Federation planet. More cyborgs have ended up there and many are getting high government positions. While Tanushan society is relatively liberal, the pressures are building. The League is having trouble with societies going haywire which turns out to be due to using alien technology in their implants and networking technology. Kresnov and her kin aren't effected by it (as much). There is much interdepartmental maneuvering and politicking between various groups and more is revealed of the aliens. Kresnov has also adopted three orphans she found in a previous book and is finding strange new feelings arising in her relationships with them. Generally very fast-paced stories with a lot going on. Kresnov's been powering up quite a bit, which I'm eh about. Recommended, but start with the first book, Crossover.

I then decided to read Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor as it's a Hugo nominee. I was iffy about reading it based on several reviews that I'd seen. I did enjoy it a lot, and hope that she writes more in this world. I didn't think it was great! the way some do, and will rank it below Ancillary Sword. In a world filled with elves and goblins, the elvish emperor married among others, a goblin for political reasons. She gave birth to a boy, who was several down in the order of inheritance. After his mother's death, he was exiled to a distant estate with a guardian who hated him. As a late teenager, his father and all the heirs ahead of him are killed in an airship crash. The reviled, innocent Maia has to navigate a complex court and try to keep from being killed himself. It was very interesting to see Maia try to navigate the court, and still try true to himself. He does find a few allies, but some bitter betrayals as well.

While waiting for the second Raksura collection by Martha Wells to arrive, I re-read the trilogy, The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and The Siren Depths. What can I say again? I really, really like these books, and hope Wells will be able to publish more in the future. I think there are no contracts for more, unfortunately. The collection, Stories of the Raksure II: The Dead City and The Dark Earth Below, are novellas. The first takes place just after Moon fled the city of Saraseil after it was taken over (and consumed) by the Fell. Moon had been orphaned as a child and didn't know what race he was. The Fell were the first ones that he'd see that looked similar. He soon realized they weren't his people, and fled. The settlement that he winds up in is menaced by "miners" and a second race that have come to fight the miners for control of a city buried underneath the jungle. "Mimesis" is a story about Jade and was previously published. "The Dark Earth Below" takes place as Jade is about to give birth. The Kek, a frail vegetarian race that lives on the forest flow below Indigo Cloud colony (set high in a giant tree), have asked the Raksura to help find some missing members. They end up finding an airship with injured people. How they got injured is the mystery they have to solve. Another very good collection from Wells.

While poking around on Amazon looking for Kindle ebooks, I came across a self-published collection by Jennifer Roberson with two stories in her Tiger and Del series. The first one, "The Lady and the Tiger", which has a lovely twist if you aren't familiar with the series. "Rite of Passage" is set sometime early during the series when they take a commission to retrieve an important man's son.

Finally, I just raced through Andy Weir's The Martian. Set in the near future, the main character Mark Watney is a member of Ares 3, the first manned mission to set foot on Mars. A disaster takes over the mission, Watney is injured and presumed dead, and the rest of the crew flee the planet. As it turns out, he isn't, and aided by his mechanical engineer/botanist background, tries to figure out how he can survive for 4 years until Ares 4 arrives. Communications are out, so he thinks no one realizes that he's alive. Within a few months, NASA does realize, and a wild, all-out-effort starts to try to rescue him. Totally a geek book, full of techno-speak. As many have pointed out, the characterizations are shallow at best, but hey! that's not what the books about. I don't remember if I saw this xkcd cartoon before I started reading it or not, but it sums up the book pretty good.



If you like this kind of thing, loads and loads of fun. There was one instance when someone on earth goes, hmmm, and starts calculating. I guessed what it was! That was nice. Later, the announcement that the idea was going to be followed through on was announced with, "XX XX is a steely-eyed missile man" and I started laughing and shouted, Apollo 13!
melita66: (raven)
2015-04-26 07:30 am

2015 books: March and April: Peters, McShane, Glenn, Cherryh, Wells, Moore

Another big gap between posts!

I read a few more Elizabeth Peters books from the Amelia Peabody-Emerson series, all later ones. There are rumors of a final book but only a large print edition listing has shown up.

Based on a recommendation by Sherwood Smith, I read Melissa McShane's The Smoke-Scented Girl. Set in an alternative 19th century world complete with magic, Evon is a wunderkind, one of the strongest magicians for a generation. He's currently employed by a magic firm and provides custom solutions. His friend, Piercy, works for the government and manages to hire Evon. The goal is to locate a rogue magician that is immolating people scattered across the country. One purpose is just to stop the murders but the government (and Evon's regular employer) want the secret to the fire spell so that it can be used against an invading army. As Evon and Piercy investigate the murders, Evon realizes that it's a woman and that the spell may not be under her control. The "murders" are mostly of people who some might say deserve it--child molesters, murders, etc. Evon and Piercy finally do catch up with Kerensa who is under the control of a great spell. They now have to stay out of the hands of another magician's group, the government (to free Kerensa is not the govt's goal), and figure out the spell's connection to the invading army.

I enjoyed the book. The characters are well-drawn. I liked the fact that Evon kept thinking that he was close to a solution then finding out he'd been wrong and having to completely change his approach.

Joanna Glenn is a pseudonym of Jo Graham and Passion's Dance is an early book finally released. Because it's a historical romance, she's released it under the Glenn name. It's set in Paris in mid-19th century and is the story of a Paris Opera chorus dancer (Mirande) who gets involved with a destitute lord (Bernard) and treason! It's written early in her career and doesn't have the depth of Graham's later works (which are all recommended btw).

I then tore through the latest C.J. Cherryh novel, Tracker, set in her Atevi universe. It's about two years after Bren, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi returned to the atevi homeworld and helped Tabini (Cajeiri's father and Ilisidi's grandson) back into power. The refugees from Reunion station are mostly on hold in the orbital station and tensions are high. Bren finally agrees to help figure out a solution when the kyo, the aliens they met earlier, show up for a visit. So the original contact team--Bren, Cajeiri, and Ilisidi--have to head to the station. Meanwhile, both the station's chief and the "head" of the Reunion refugees are causing problems and must be taken care of...

Let me tell you--cliffhanger!! While the obstructing leaders are dealt with, and some other issues are handled, the kyo haven't even reached the station yet! Argh!!

Martha Wells then had a short story collection, Between Worlds published as part of a kickstarter campaign. There were two Ile-Rien stories, one about Kade and another with Reynard and Nicholas just before Nicholas meets Madeline. The latter story is new (yea!!). The other stories in the collection are about Ilias and Giliead in Cineth. Loads of fun revisting Ile-Rien and Cineth.

I then read a contemporary story by Moira J. Moore ("Resenting the Hero" series) called The CEO Can Drop Dead which she calls a "That's Not Romance Novel." A writer who takes temp jobs to help pay the bills ends up at a start-up organizing past emails to see whether a lawsuit against another company is possible. The founder/CEO, Lance, immediately starts targeting her first as a bully, then continuing to try to get her into bed. Catherine wants nothing to do with him and spends several weeks trying to avoid, mitigate, and just get out with her job done. A nice display of how a predator makes use of "oh, he's such a great guy" and getting aid from colleagues and underlings who think actions like his are "no big deal." Moore has promised a portion of her royalties to organizations that deals with survivors of abuse.
melita66: (ship)
2015-02-16 05:43 pm

2015 January and February books - Peters, Walton, Bujold, Lee and Miller, Vaughn, Scott and Graham

Whew, it's been a while since I posted. I had a few dry periods, particularly over the holidays, but have been cracking along (relatively) since mid-January.

I was waiting for a few books to come out, and none of the new books sitting around were enticing so I ended up (re)reading a few Elizabeth Peters books in the Amelia Peabody-Emerson series. Both were later books, set after Ramses is an adult: Children of the Storm and The Golden One. I enjoyed the later books, after Ramses (Amelia's son) became an adult and had more control over his own destiny. These are set in and around WWI. This series can be an acquired taste. I liked the first book when I read it, somewhat of a pastiche on the old Haggard / romance novels, but Amelia, Emerson, et al. really grown on you, and I've wildly enjoyed almost all the books. I'll shall likely continue to acquire the ebooks and re-read the rest of the series this year. Oh, the Peabody-Emerson clan are British archaeologists in Egypt who end up tangling with a Master Criminal, tomb robbers, spies, and other nefarious characters.

It was definitely a short novel, but I managed somehow to finish Jo Walton's My Real Children over a weekend. It's the story of a woman relegated to an Alzheimer's unit who has confused days, and really confused days. So confusing that sometimes she remembers having 4 children and sometimes remembers having 3 children. The book tells both stories which led out of her having to answer 'yes' or 'no' to her boyfriend about whether she would marry him. Both stories had good and bad parts, so there's no answer as to which answer was correct. I found it very haunting and sad, and very difficult because I'd had a hard week, and it made for a hard weekend too. The ending though, wow. Also hard because my father lost his facilities before he died (as his mother did but hers was gradual and his more abrupt), and my maternal grandfather had also had problems before he died.

I definitely needed an upper after that, and settled on A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. Miles Vorkosigan has fallen in love...he has a plan! I'm still not sure about the very visceral fight near the end (a bit too slapstick for my liking), but the Council of Counts scene, and of course, the dinner party earlier--priceless! Although someone could read this as their introduction to the Vorkosiverse, reading the rest of the series adds quite a bit to understanding the undercurrents and comments that occur in the book.

The eARC (electronic advanced reader's copy) of Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller was released either late in January or early in February. It continues from I Dare, Dragon Ship, and Necessity's Child. It opens a new five book series. Set mostly on Surebleak, it reveals that DoI is definitely still after Korval, and that there are likely other enemies of the clan heading to Surebleak to have their revenge, or to revel in Korval's downfall (as they think). Not a good place to start in the Korval Universe.

I then happened to see a reference that the Cormac and Amelia book was out, Low Midnight. This is a side book to the main Kitty Norville series, featuring Cormac, her husband's cousin, and his resident magician/wizard, Amelia. Cormac was convicted of manslaughter (I think) and has to spend several years in prison. While there, he's taken over by a ghost or spirit of a woman who had been convicted of murder and witchcraft a hundred years earlier. They combine forces to kill a supernatural creature, and Cormac agrees to Amelia's continued presence in his life. In this book, they take on a few mysteries trying to help Kitty and her battle against an ancient vampire who plans to take over the world. I like Cormac and Amelia a lot so was quite happy to read this book.

Meanwhile, the latest Order of the Air book, Wind Raker, by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham was released. Yeaaaa!!! These books deal with a set of aviators in Colorado, Gilchrist Aviation, a medium (she can see and talk to ghosts), and an archaeologist. They're also part of a lodge (magical). In this book, the archaeologist has been given a job on Oahu to prove that he can handle a dig. If it works, he'll be able to work on a dig in Alexandria, where they may have a lead to Alexander the Great's mausoleum. Why is it a problem? Jerry lost part of a leg in WWI, and it's the 1920s so getting around can be difficult. Meanwhile, Gilchrist Aviation is asked to test the new Catalina sea plane, also in Hawaii. At the same time, one of the aviators, Mitch and his wife (the medium), Stasi have custody of the three kids of a laborer/mechanic who left the kids and hasn't returned. Everyone ends up in Hawai'i, where they encounter Pelley again, a woman under a curse, and some early German shenanigans. Lots of fun.
melita66: (ship)
2014-12-31 03:17 pm

2014 December books: Moore and Shelby

I didn't get much reading done over the last month or so. Nothing really tickled my fancy. I finally decided to make a concentrated effort to finish Heroes' Reward by Moira J. Moore. This is the final book in her Heroes series which started with Resenting the Hero. I really enjoyed the first book in series and eagerly awaited the sequels. The series didn't perform that well, and the publisher went back and forth on publishing the latter entries. Ace did finally publish 6 novels in the series between 2006 and 2011.

Moore released the final book in 2012. The series is set on a lost colony world (the resident know that they were colonists). The world itself is tectonically and meteorologically active. People were born (possibly genegineered?) to be Sources or Shields. Sources can affect the disturbances while Shields can guard the minds of Sources while they're 'channeling' the forces.

Source Shintaro Karish and Shield Dunleavy Mallorough are paired up when they graduate from their respective Academies. Both are talented and not happy to find their matched up. Over time, they fall in love and discover that both have extraordinary talents.

Lee finds that she can 'cast' or perform spells. These abilities are outlawed, sort of, and casters keep well-hidden. Taro can heal and cause 'incidents' as well as stop them. Because Taro is also a member of the aristocracy, they get involved with the current Empress, political machinations among the landed gentry, uprisings, etc.

I was not that thrilled with the addition of the casting a few books ago, but I was still happy to see the threads tied up and everything ending as well as could be. Perhaps we'll see more of them in the future, but Moore has other books that she's been working on (one should be out soon).

I then read a trilogy by L. Shelby aka Michelle Bottorff, Across the Jade Sea. The three books are Serendipity's Tide, Treachery's Harbor, and Fealty's Shore. They're set in a modified Earth (geography is different, but there are "Tartars" northwest of a China/Japan analog). The technology level is late 19th/early 20th century. There are some undersea cables, telephones are just getting installed into private residences in the more technologically advanced countries, and guns and cars are available.

The first book is narrated by Batiya Latikov, an apprentice engineer on an ocean-going diesel ship. The ship rescues several Shanali (Changali) men from a shipwreck. It turns out that they were attacked by what appear to be pirates. After another attack that kills all but one of the Changali, Batiya and the survivor, Chunru, end up in one of the ship's boats.

Chunru is actually an imperial prince sent to re-open diplomatic and other ties with another country. Someone doesn't want that to happen. Because Batiya has been drawn into this mess, the two end up saving each other multiple times while trying to find somewhere safe.

It is a love story, but it's also a rip-roaring adventure, and Ms. Shelby and really move the story along. I really enjoyed these books and wish there were more set in this world. I'll definitely be getting Shelby's other books.

Note: They're available as ebooks only and self-published. Another round of copy-editing would have been useful as there are some it's rather than its, missing words, wrong words, etc. Not tons, but more than I usually see in a professionally published book. Normally, errors like these bug me, but the characters and story were too interesting.
melita66: (ship)
2014-11-10 04:55 am

2014 Books: Leckie, Wrede, Kay, Tarr

I believe I'm missing at least one book, but it would have been a reread.

**SPOILERS for Ancillary Justice**

Yea!!! Ann Leckie's second novel, Ancillary Sword, finally came out in October. The first, Ancillary Justice, took home a bunch of awards last year--deservedly so. This book continues to follow Breq as she takes up with one of factions of her emperor, Anaander Mianaai. Mainaai has multiple cloned bodies, which have now split among how to maintain, or not, the Radchaai empire. Breq is given control of a small area--the only duty she would take because the sister of someone she killed lives there.

Once there, she finds several other mysteries and, of course, problems that she will try to fix or figure out. As many other reviewers have said, it's a much more interior book. Breq appears to have had a very solitary existence for about 20 years after losing her AI and other bodies and has to now re-adjust to dealing with a lot of contact. We find out more about the aliens through a very, very strange translator who shows up. Anyway, recommended, recommended, recommended.

I also reread Patricia Wrede's Magician's Ward which is set in an alternative Regency London. Kim has been rescued from the streets by an aristocrat and made his ward. Kim has the ability to become a wizard, and Merrill (Mairelon) will help her. A sweet, fun little story.

I then felt in the mood for more historical fantasy and reread Guy Gavriel Kay's A Lion in Al-Rassan. Set in an alternative almost-Reconquista Spain, it follows a young Kindath (Jewish-analog) doctor as she gets caught up in the struggle between the Jaddites (Christian-analog) and the Asharites (Muslims) in Spain. Rodrigo Belmonte is "El Cid" and Ammar ibn Khairan is a "renaissance man" (so to say!) among the Asharites. It's my favorite Kay book and the one I reread most often. The characters are beautifully done.

I'm still in the midst of Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr. This one is set just before and while Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. Meriamon, a priestess and daughter of Nectanebo, comes to Alexander to ask him to becomes Pharaoh.
melita66: (ship)
2014-09-30 12:18 am

2014 Books: August and September, Wells and Gould

Ouch, it's been that long since I posted? Well, I haven't been able to settle to much recently when it came to books. I was working on sorting through my comics (over 20 boxes) to try to get rid of at least one-third and another box or two of books and other stuff because I had 11 boxes of my father's books arriving in early September.

However, in September, two fun books arrived. Martha Wells had a collection of stories set in her Raksura world published with the imaginative title of Stories of the Raksura, volume I. It contains a story set post-The Siren Depths where Moon and Stone have to find what has happened to Jade and some warriors after they disappear while on a trading mission. The second story tells of Indigo and Cloud. We had found out that Cloud (a consort) had been stolen by Indigo from another court in an earlier book, but not the details. The third story, "The Forest Boy," is previously published and is about Moon as a young boy trying to survive. Loads of fun, and highly recommended for anyone who liked the Raksura novels.

The second book was Exo by Steven Gould. A direct sequel to Impulse, it focuses on "Cent", the daughter of Millie and Davy. After finding that she could jump in the previous book, now she plans some very high-flying achievements now that she's extended the capabilities of her father. They're also still trying to track down the shadow organization that's been after all jumpers for years. Full of orbital mechanics discussion, so if you don't like a some math in your books--too bad!
melita66: (AK blue)
2014-08-10 12:27 am
Entry tags:

2014 books: mid-July, Duane

I re-read the 3 books that have been released in the Tale of the Five series. It's had a long, fraught history. The first book, The Door into Fire, was published in 1979. I think I read it around 1985 when the second book, The Door into Shadow, was released. I might even have read book two first. I can't remember anymore. The third book, The Door into Sunset then came out in 1994. The books have been released by multiple publishers.

The series is a fan favorite, but according to the author, Diane Duane, has never done well commercially. A fourth book, The Door into Starlight, was planned, but hasn't been written. Duane writes what sells and furthers her career, as she should.

The world is wonderful. It's medieval-ish, with two types of magic: sorcery and Flame. The Flame is Godess-given, but must be focused through something. Normally, it's a wand, but one of the characters, Herewiss, is trying to focus through a sword. Herewiss is the son and heir of a noble house. He has the Flame, as no man in centuries has had, but can't focus it. As part of the training, he's been studying sorcery and is quite good. It's word/true name-based. He's also in love with the heir of a neighboring kingdom. That man, Freelorn, ran away from a palace coup when his father died and has been trying to get up the support (and gumption) to take back the throne. Part of his crew is Segnbora, a sorceress and bard. She hasn't been able to focus her Flame either and has ended up throwing her lot in with Freelorn.

The religion is very practical and loving. The Goddess visits everyone at least once in their life, but you may not realize it. There are also dragons, who came from another world. This series is related to her Young Wizards series, we see the world-gating, and Herewiss shows up in the one of the Young Wizard books.

There's a lot of psychological aspects to the books. The characters all have faults that they have to work to overcome before being able to achieve their goals. Greatly recommended.

Duane polled people a few years ago, to see if there were enough people to warrant self-publishing (well, writing first) The Door into Starlight, but nothing so far.
melita66: (ship)
2014-07-05 09:23 am

2014 books, rest of June, early July: Elliottt/Rasmussen and Hodgell

After finishing the Jaran series by Kate Elliott, I turned around and read the Highroad Trilogy by Alis Rasmussen aka Kate Elliott. They were re-released in the last year or so as ebooks. Jaran is set in the same universe, but takes place a few generations before--complicated by the fact that some people have access to longevity medicine.

The Rift is a set of worlds that were colonized by Earth with ships using the "low road", slow interstellar travel. A faster method was invented/stolen/adapted after they left, but meanwhile the path had been lost to most. A few people have made it to the Rift, hiding from the government and other enemies. The main character is Lilyhae Ransome, the daughter of a mining house on a barely inhabitable world (basically, sealed underground). She's restless and has been studying martial arts with a man called Heredes. Then Heredes is kidnapped, and Lily decided to rescue him.

Reading it directly after the Jaran books made it much easier for me to catch the connections, name drops, etc. Lots of fun to try to piece together the connections while the main story (and it's complicated) unfolds. Definitely an early work by Elliott, but quite enjoyable even so.

"The old man is dead."

I then finally picked up a new book, The Sea of Time by P.C. Hodgell. It's the seventh (is that all? alternatively, already??) of Jamethiel's story. Jamethiel is a Kencyrath. The Kencyrath has been fighting a loosing battle against evil (Perimal Darkling) for thousands of years. They've been on their current planet for about three thousand. Meanwhile, there was treachery, the fall by her relatives, so she and her brother, Torisen, were raised in a kind of exile. Both have made it back to the main society, but are causing quite a bit of turbulence and mayhem in their wake. In this book, Jame has survived the randon (military) academy is assigned to the Southern Host. A good chunk of the Kencyrath have been hired as mercenaries for a fabulous trading city.

We get some more answers in this book about her and Tori's past which is great. It feels less like a diversion as some of the previous books seemed to me. I know that they're not really, everything is important, but...
melita66: (ship)
2014-06-12 03:13 pm

2014 books, Mid-June: Wells (3) and Elliott (4)

I continued on a Martha Wells binge, and read the 3 Raksura novels again. Then instigated by someone's post (sorry) and their release as ebooks, I read Kate Elliott's Jaran series again.

What to say, what to say?

Both series have incredible worldbuilding. I do wish we get a few more books in the Jaran universe, even if they're in different time periods (the Highroad trilogy by Elliott but published as Alis Rasmussen is set in the future of the Jaran series).
melita66: (raven)
2014-04-13 11:22 am
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2014: early April: Cherryh

Well, another trilogy in the Atevi series has completed with book 15 (!), Peacemaker. It follow directly after the previous book, Protector, which has the landing of 3 human children, "associates" of Cajeiri, and Jase-paidhi. Whisked off to Atageini lands, they enjoy some fun times in celebration of Cajeiri's upcoming fortuitous ninth birthday. Because the security issues, most people don't know they're there. Everyone gets caught up in an assassination by the Shadow Guild (dum-dum-dum). Once the smoke clears (or maybe before then), they're secretly off back to the capital to try to end the head of the Shadow Guild. That's the start of Peacemaker</>.

The book alternates narrators between Cajeiri and Bren like previous books. It's a nice change, and Cajeiri is slowly growing up and becoming wiser. Some interesting twists and turns occur as they attempt to retake the Assassin's Guild from the hands of the Shadow Guild members. At one point, to gain access to the Guild headquarters, Bren must be the "lord" to do so. At first, I thought, what? why can't any lord do it (there were reasons not to have Ilisidi nor Tabini), but finally remembered that it's to allow his aishid / bodyguards into the building. They have the seniority and skills to complete the task.

So, nice finish to the trilogy. Damiri-daja's pregnancy finally wraps up too, finally.

There is a series summary, ostensibly written partially by Geigi (and the rest by Bren).
melita66: (ship)
2014-03-16 03:24 pm
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2014 books, mid-March: Wells...and Wells

I currently am re-reading Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells as an e-book. I'm trying to do that more [read e-books] when I'm sitting around waiting for the kids to go to sleep rather than play games. I dearly love this book. It was the first Martha Wells that I read (I think) after reading many recommendations on rasfw (rec.arts.sf.written, a usenet newsgroup). I'd ignored it due to the gothic/horror-looking cover and title. It's not really although the bad guy is suitably horrific. A comment on a blog post by Kate Elliott called Wells's books, competence porn, which is a great characterization. Her characters are competent or at least fast-thinking and will keep trying and going when it gets tough. Great characters, busy plots. Stories normally take place over a week or so at the most. DotN is set in an alternative/secondary world in a place like Paris or Vienna in the late 19th century. No cars or airplanes yet, but pistols and rifles are available. Magic and sorcery are real, and studied.

Emilie and the Sky World is a second young adult novel by Wells, following last year's Emilie and the Hollow World. Emilie is a young woman, unhappy at a relative's home after the death of her parents, who decides to go live with her cousin in another city and help in her cousin's private school. She finds herself in trouble along the way and stows away aboard an airship. It turns out that it's on an expedition to travel to another world/dimension using the aether current (this world's magic source). By the end of the book, Emilie has been hired by the expedition leader's daughter, Miss Marlende. In this book, they've just returned when a disturbance or hole in the aether current has been noticed. They decide to mount a new expedition to try to figure out what's happening. They know that another expedition went missing there a year ago. As you might guess, that expedition plays a significant role in the book.

I think I need to quit reading the first books in series and just start with the second ones. I've been meh over a few first books in series recently, but quite enjoyed the sequels. I think it's the world-building--I'm finding it too boring. Anyway, I liked Emilie 1 fine, but it wasn't a 'fav'. I enjoyed Sky World quite a bit more and look forward to Emilie's further adventures!