melita66: (ship)
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: (ship)
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)
Mild spoilers for the first book in the Elemental Blessings series, Troubled Waters.




After a drought, I managed to finish two books fairly quickly. Sharon Shinn's new Elemental Blessings book, Royal Airs, continues the story of the people of Welce. In this country, people have an affinity for an element. For instance, coru is blood and water while elay is air and soul. A person is given three blessings at birth by strangers drawing tokens from a container in a temple. People will then drawn more tokens later to see what might be upcoming in their lives. Each trait/family has a prime who has extended powers. The new book, Royal Airs, takes place several years after the first book, Troubled Waters. In Royal Airs, the princess Josetta has settled into a life of good works by running a shelter in the slums of the capital city Chialto. She encounters a card shark (with a heart of gold), Rafe, after he rescues her step-sister (kind of, it's complicated), Corene.

Rafe has never had any blessings. His mother married a farmer when he was young and died with the birth of his half-brother. While Rafe thinks she was not from Welce, she never revealed where she was from or who his father was. When he or someone else pulls blessings, he always gets 'ghost coins', tokens that are so worn the blessing can't be read. As he gets more involved with Josetta, his past gets revealed.

Josetta was a minor character in the first book where the main character was Zoe Lalindar Ardelay, who ends up being the coru prime. She does appear in this book and it's nice to catch up with her. Rafe and Josetta are appealing characters, and Rafe's post-gambler profession is quite thrilling. I definitely look forward to more books in this series! After finishing it, I reread the first book which I had mostly forgotten.
melita66: (icebert)
It's been pretty slow the last few weeks. I went to the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego the week before last. I got some nice books in the book bag (publishers donate books for publicity reasons), traded some with a friend who went with me, and put on the 'free' table everything that I was sure I wouldn't read. I was also careful in the dealer's room and only bought 2 books (1 a gift).

I went to several panel sessions (crystal ceiling, worlds of Islam, some young adult sessions, the year in review). Several sessions where I hoped for some good recommendations hardly had any so that was a bust. I follow enough blogs now that I had at least heard of almost everything mentioned in the year-in-review session which definitely helped when writing down suggested books and authors!

I went to several readings. Sharon Shinn who has a new series starting next year. I had a problem with some timeline issues in the excerpt she read. Main character is a shapeshifter and its stated that as he's gotten older, he spends more time in nonhuman (animal) form to the point that he's only in human form for a few days a month. He shows up at main character's house after an absence of a few weeks. Based on her statement that she had to go to work for two days, it was probably on a Wednesday. She asks him about weekend plans, and he announces that they have to visit his sister on Sunday. Um, we're already getting past a few days there. The funnest was Ysabeau Wilce's. The first Flora book is coming out next spring! Hooray! Hip hip hooray! She had pictures of the cover, and chocolates. Really yummy chocolates. I also attended Alaya Dawn Johnson's reading. She had been recommended at either last years WFC or this year's worldcon so I thought I would see whether I would look up her stuff after the reading. I've done that before with unknown-to-me authors, but usually decided not to buy anything. This time the series did sound intriguing and I have the first book ordered.

I'm impatient enough now (due to a personal issue) that I actually asked a neighbor to be quiet. She was typing on a laptop most of the session--fine, maybe she's blogging--but then would quit to hold long (minutes long) whispered discussion with her neighbor. Worked okay when panelists were speaking, but once audience members started commenting, it was very difficult to hear them. She was quite surprised, quieted down for the rest of the session and apologized when we broke up. Thank you, unknown colleague!

Another session, the moderator brought in statements from what she called 'ghost panelists'. I understand the reasoning. She prepared well, and asked for statements from some well-known names in field. However, I thought it short-changed the panelists because she insisted on reading the statements verbatim. Briefly summarizing them would have left more time for the other panelists and audience members to comment. Sessions were only 55 minutes long (before the lost of the first minute or two for everyone to settle down).

I didn't have any problems with the convention hotel/site except trying to make my around the first day. It is a confusing layout. I think there were originally some two story room blocks. Later, hotel tower blocks, more restaurants, and the convention center buildings were added. Everything's a bit shoe-horned in, and that makes it difficult to get around. People with mobility issues were having a difficult time. I'd noticed one blatant problem. Readings were on the second floor of the conventions center. The women's bathroom had two stalled. The 'handicapped' stall was the same size as a regular stall, but had a rail installed. The stall door opened inwards! I could hardly maneuver enough to get the door shut.

Had some very good food. The hotel restaurants were fine. But, Boudin's, here's looking at you! Yum, yum. And, I was able to hit Boston Market on the way home and had yummy leftovers for several days. Nom nom, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, nom nom.

On the reading side, I was waiting for some books to arrive so I re-read Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Plan B, I Dare, and Ghost Ship.

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