melita66: (ship)
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: (AK blue)
I'm still on a re-reading kick. I didn't quite finish re-reading Martha Wells's The Serpent Sea but only because I was reading an ebook version on my phone (the hard copy was out on loan, and only recently returned).

Instead, spurred on by a review on a blog, I decided to read Jo Walton's The King's Peace and The King's Name. I don't believe I've read them since they were first published in the early 2000s. The King's Peace is her first published novel. Her career as a novelist has an interesting history. She widely posted on usenet, including rec.arts.sf.fandom and rec.arts.sf.written. When she mentioned that she had written a novel (or more), Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor asked to see it, and bought it for publication.

The books are set in an alternative Arthurian Britain, set around the time that the "Saxon" invasions were in full force and Christianity is beginning to take hold ('the White god'). Vinca (Rome) has abandoned its colony due to barbarian incursions closer to home, and while there have been 'high kings' in the past, currently there is none and the various kingdoms of Britain are fragmented. A new candidate for high king, Urdo, is beginning to unite the land and has instituted serious training of new cavalry units. But Urdo isn't the main character, instead a young woman, Sulien, is the narrator. A daughter of a small kingdom, she is attacked during a raid in which her brother, the heir, is killed. Sulien ends up joining one of Urdo's alae ("wing") and becomes an important officer and observer of the momentous history that's occurring. A pagan, according to the White God's adherents, as is Urdo, she has some magical connections to the land and the gods. So, yes, there are overt fantastical elements to the story.

The mix of cultures (British/Celtic, Irish, and Saxon/Viking) is very interesting to me, with serious consequences to characters and storylines.

Reading the two books back-to-back, I think The King's Name has much higher energy, and certainly starts off with a bang as Sulien is poisoned as one of the opening blows of a civil war.I think I like it better than The King's Peace, but it would be almost impossible to follow without reading TKP first. TKN focuses on the civil war and ends with peace re-established (can that be considered a spoiler? nah).

The Tanagan (British/Celtic) society is quite egalitarian. A leader of a kingdom is called "king" whether male or female and women are welcome as warleaders and members of the alae and infantry. It is pointed out that Sulien at least is quite tall for a woman and has the upper body strength to make her a good fighter. This conflicts with the Jarns (Saxons), who keep their women more cloistered.

If you like intelligent fantasy, I recommend any of Jo Walton's books. There's a third book, The Prize in the Game, which I haven't read yet. That will probably be the next new book I read (after I finish re-reading Stevermer's Scholar of Magic). At the time it was published, I decided not to read it yet because it covered events already in TKP and TKN.
melita66: (ghibli house)
I just spent 30 seconds trying to remember what book I'd finished on Wednesday. I really need to get more sleep. The chain of remembrance was--I took it to work for someone, what books did I take? pictured the books--oh yes, I took off the dustcover--that's it!

Anyway, after many years on one of the to-read bookcases, I finally read Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw. I'm trying to read several of her books that have languished on the to-read shelves after reading Lifelode last year and the amazing Among Others this year. Walton has said that Tooth and Claw is modeled after Anthony Trollope, who I've never read. It feels similar to Jane Austen as it has the same focus on British country life among the upper middle and upper classes complete with some snarky asides by the 'author.'

Walton is a fantasy author. So what makes Tooth and Claw fantastical? The society are dragons. While they can survive on animal meat, only eating dragon meat enables a dragon to grow large and gain powers like fire. Servants are forbidden dragon meat and have their wings bound as well. The family patriarch dies, and although he had left most of his hoard to his younger children (who weren't established yet), a brother-in-law says that the will doesn't specifically include the body and proceeds to eat or feed most of it to him, his wife, and dragonets.

The story then follows the younger children as the son decides to sue, and the daughters are split up among two households.

I would have to say that like Austen, it's mostly a domestic story, focused on small happenings, and perhaps a romance, as there are several (both established and new) in the book. There are hints that there are humans or at least some sort of humanoids elsewhere in the world.

I quite enjoyed it, and wish there was a sequel.

Walton has several interesting, long-running blog posts on tor.com. One set has reviewed the Hugo nominees and award-winners up to 2000, while the other is Walton re-reading older works.

I'm currently re-reading Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Plan B, and will probably follow it with I Dare. I'm also pulling books to get signed to take to World Fantasy this week. It's within driving distance for me, so I don't have any weight or space limits! Several authors that I really like are going to be there, that have never been at a convention that I've been at. So it's a great opportunity. Plus, after several years of multiple worldcons and other conventions, I probably won't get to any for close to two years (at least) due to some coming life changes.
melita66: (ghibli house)
 I'm almost done with the first novel of the Girl Genius series by Phil and Kaja Foglio, Agatha H. and the Airship City. I think I agree with Brenda W. Clough who stated on rec.arts.sf.written that it works much better if you're already familiar with the series as a web comic. I did find it quite enjoyable and laughed out loud a few times as I'm remembering/imagining what the artwork would look like.

I just finished one of the most anticipated books in the SF/F community right now, Among Others by Jo Walton. It's a story of growing up and surviving and reading and how (genre) literature can be the most important thing in your life and affect you in all sorts of ways. It's excellent. I consider Walton to be a very thoughtful and advertent writer. I've followed her career for a long time as she was on rec.arts.sf.written (a usenet newsgroup) for years. Her first novel was published after a Tor editor (iirc, Patrick Nielsen Hayden) asked if she'd written any novels after reading her posts on the newsgroups.

I was able to finally read Sandra McDonald's The Stars Down Under. It's the second book in a trilogy that begins with The Outback Stars. I've already read the 3rd book, The Stars Blue Yonder. The series starts off as military/colony SF, but then brings in Australian aboriginal gods, time and space travel (via gates), and alternative time lines.

I also dropped another book, The Mirror Prince by Violette Malan. It's a stand-alone, set here but with faerie/elves in exile. It's fine, but couldn't hold my attention. I just like her series about Dhulyn and Parno much better. It's a fantasy world. Dhulyn and Parno are Mercenaries who get themselves involved in scrapes and bigger doings. Dhulyn is the senior partner, and is harder and in some ways more talented (as a fighter) than her partner, Parno. That makes a nice change.

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