Mar. 29th, 2017 12:53 pm
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
I know it's been yonks since my last reading post, but in my defence The Wall of Storms is, like, nine hundred pages long.

The Rogue Not Taken - Sarah MacLean
The Wall of Storms - Ken Liu
We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire - Jules Grant
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens - Jack Weatherford
Certain Dark Things - Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Sarah MacLean's historical romances are hit and miss for me, and The Rogue Not Taken was definitely a miss. The first time I read that her new series was going to be a sort of Kardashians Regency AU (the heroines are all scandalous sisters whose first initial is S) I went ', I'm not sure that's going to work', and at least in this one, it didn't. It features one of those irksome couples who insist on not communicating for two hundred pages, because if they actually talked to each other the book would only be twelve pages long. The heroine is upset about being rich and titled, and just wants to run a small bookshop in the Cumbrian countryside, which I think is meant to be relatable but was just insufferable. The Hero is named King (King, for God's sake) you have to have a certain sort of charm and gravitas to pull off a name like King, and this dude did not have it in spades. Give it a pass, I'd say.

The Wall of Storms is the follow up to The Way of Kings which I'd read when it first came out and had only been 'eh' on. I'd really loved the prose and silkpunk worldbuilding, but I'd had pretty big issues with its handling of female characters, which had been, um, tokenistic. I feel like whatever criticism of The Way of Kings' female characters there was, Liu really took it to heart, because The Wall of Stoms is orders of magnitude better on that front. There is a running subplot about the emperor trying to arrange the pieces on the board to enable him to name his daughter his heir; one of the pov characters is a young female scholar and it shows the institutional hurdles she faces even though the emperor has said, 'sure, women can sit the palace examinations.' Plus, a little more than half the way through vikings attack on vegetarian dragons, so that's cool. I mean, it's long and pretty dense, but I'd rate it as one of the better epic fantasies on the go at the moment.

We Go Around in the Night and Are Consumed by Fire is about lesbian gangsters in Manchester, and is a hell of a fun read, about friendship and revenge and being irresistible to most of the women in the north of England. Okay, there are some stylistic choices that I didn't necessarily grok; it's a very tight first person, and why do you hate speech marks so much, Jules Grant? But it's about lesbian gangsters, so I'm willing to overlook that stuff.

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is my favourite sort of history; the secret history of women. It's about the female descendants of Genghis Kahn, at least the ones who survived being excised from the historical record. I particularly enjoyed reading about Queen Manduhai, who took her boy husband to war in a box, and despite this ignominious beginning they seemed to have a long and happy marriage. More broadly, it was another illustration of the journey of women through history being one of one step forward, half a dozen steps back.

I finished Certain Dark Things last night after staying up past my bedtime because I was enjoying it that much. It's the first vampire book I've read in forever where my reaction wasn't 'ugh, bored.' I think maybe the only genre harder to make feel fresh is zombies? It's set in an AU version of Mexico City in a world where various species of vampires were discovered by humanity in the late sixties. A seventeen year old trash picker falls in with an Aztec vampire on the run (the native species of Mexican vampires trace their lineage back to the Aztecs, but they're being pushed out by an invasive species of European vampires.) The friendship, turned romance is actually very sweet. It helps that the boy is the human and the girl the vampire rather than the usual other way round, and that the age difference is seventeen to twenty-three, which, yeah, is significant, but it's not seventeen to three hundred. Also, there's a genetically engineered doberman, and it's just really good. Highly recommended.


Jan. 29th, 2017 11:12 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Tempting though it's been to spend the last few weeks opening 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale at random pages and going: Oh, God, I have done a wee bit of other (mostly escapist) reading.

The Regional Office is Under Attack! - Manuel Gonzales
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers
Invasive - Chuck Wendig
Mort(e) - Robert Repino
The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: the true story of a convent in scandal - Hubert Wolf

At first glance The Regional Office is Under Attack! should have been so very much in my wheelehouse. There's a top secret agency of super-powered women saving us all from the forces of darkness! There's a splinter group of super-powered women! One of the main women has a metal arm! It's basically Die Hard with super-powered ladies! There's an exclamation mark in the title!

But, alas. It does that annoying thing where it pretends to be about women, but all the female characters are motivated/manipulated by a dude. The characterisations are thin, and I mean thin even by the standards of a Die Hard pastiche. The writing is, in places, just... not very good. I mean, the Regional Office itself seemed really cool, and there was an afterthought of a subplot where a character got taken over by her metal arm, and - it was like this book chose to tell the least interesting of all possible stories in the world it had created.

Luckily The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was much better. Okay, there wasn't much of a plot to speak of, it's basically a found family/group of misfits in space, but I didn't care because it was one of those books where I would have been more than happy to read about these characters doing not very much and bouncing off each other forever. There are great characters, fun worldbuilding, interesting aliens, and a lesbian romance featuring a human and a lizard alien; it was basically Jenny and Vastra IN SPACE. I can't overemphasise how much fun this was.

Invasive is about weaponised ants, because however bad things seem right now at least the ants aren't attacking. It's really fast-paced and fun, but maybe don't read it if you're afraid of insects, because I'm not at all and some of the bits about the sensation of insects crawling on your skin made even me squirm.

Mort(e) is also about an ant attack. In this the Ant Queen has been plotting war against humanity for thousands of years, and as part of her plan she gives housepets sentience in the hope that they'll rise up and kill their human masters. It's worth noting that while reading this I actually turned to my dog and earnestly said: "I love you very, very much, please don't kill me in the event of the insect uprising. Also, please remember that I gave you this rich tea biscuit even though you're not meant to have person food."

Also, in addition to sentience, the animals also get to be bipedal with opposable thumbs, and understand the use of semiautomatic weapons. I mean, it's mad as fuck, but it does that thing that some truly ridiculous books can, where they overshoot their silliness and come out the other side at really quite good, actually.

Sometimes I can be heard to complain about how hard it can be to talk to people on Tumblr, and it is, but one evening I managed to get involved a conversation that went from whether or not or I should write a La Maupin AU, to my own lapsed Catholicism, to Celtic FC, to people sending me recs for books about nuns, which was how The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio came to my attention.

It's non-fiction about a nineteenth century Roman convent, featuring the attempted murder of a German princess by a nun, several other murders, lesbian initiation rites, and the ensuing cover up by the Catholic church. It was certainly a book where I had to readjust my expectations partway into the book, because I went into it expecting, I guess, 19th century nuns gone wild, and what I got was much dryer and sadder. I mean, it's interesting, especially if you have even a passing interest in religious history, but it's not salacious in the way the summary makes it sound.

Although, because the more things change the more they stay the same, I really enjoyed this quote from around the time of the First Vatican Council and the Dogma of Papal Infallibility: "Stupidity and fanaticism join hands and dance the tarantella, making such a caterwaul that one cannot bear to look or listen." Because, yeah.
netgirl_y2k: (panic)
I'm at naught for naught so far in 2017 (I meant to read a lot on my holidays, but everywhere had wifi, and also I was pretty drunk a lot of the time) so lets talk more about last year's books.

How many books read in 2016?


Heh, I remember when I used to hit the high seventies and shooting for a hundred books in a year didn't seem unreasonable. Stupid having to work for a living. I have now decided to aim for circa fifty-two; they're not going to revoke my bookworm card for 'only' managing to read a book a week.

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?

46 fiction.
9 non-fiction.

Male/Female authors?

34 female.
21 male.

Most books read by one author this year?

Rose Lerner and Tessa Dare (reading through their historical romance series'), Margaret Atwood (why can't I just accept that Atwood's writing does nothing for me?), Ben Aaronovitch (decided I do like the Rivers of London series after all), and Robert Jackson Bennett (WHEN does City of Miracles come out?)

Any in translation?

Nordic crime The Redbreast and Filipino crime novel Smaller and Smaller Circles.

Will try to do better next year.


Top five?

The Library at Mount Char - Scott Hawkins
Stiletto - Daniel O'Malley
Infomocracy - Malka Older
City of Stairs & City of Blades - Robert Jackson Bennett

Least Favorite?

I read a fair few mediocre books, but having adored Ready Player One a few years ago, the thirteen year old boy's wish fulfilment fantasy that is Ernest Cline's Armada was disappointing indeed.

Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge managed to make girl hellhounds boring to me. And Emily Skrutskie's The Abyss Surrounds Us tragically managed to be not very good despite having both lesbians and sea monsters


Not sure.


I think I got Tana French's The Trespasser basically as soon as it came out, and I don't regret this.

Longest Title?

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, one of the better historical romances I read this year, with a hero on the autistic spectrum.

Shortest Title?

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Book that most changed my perspective:

Nothing really.

Next year I must try to be less preaching-to-the-choir in my non-fiction reading choices.

Favorite character:

Edie Bannister from Angelmaker, a badass octogenarian lesbian spy, whose secret weapon is the elderly pug she keeps in her handbag. The choice to kill her off at the three quarters mark to focus on the everyman character called, I kid you not, Joe Spork, is the source of grudge against Nick Harkaway that I intend to take to my grave.

Favorite scene:

Any one of the many times Odette and Felicity saved each others lives in Rook. Best enemies to friends to lovers arc ever

Favorite Quote:

Probably the opening paragraph of Rook.

To Felicity Jane Clements, Pawn of the Checquy Group and Ward of HM Government,

You are herewith called forth by the authority of the Lord and Lady, in accordance with your obligations and your oaths, to give service, in secret, for the protection and security of the Monarch, the People, and the soil of the British Isles.

On this day, you are to proceed with all haste into the London borough of Northam, to the location commanded. There, you will bend the abilities instilled within you to the task ordered.

To ensure that you remain unknown and that none will remark upon your presence, you will be given clothing to blend in among the populace.

To discourage civilians from approaching you, you will be sprayed with urine.

Bring milk and chocolate biscuits.

What do you want to read in 2017?

Good books, at least fifty-two of them.
netgirl_y2k: (fire cannot kill a dragon)
I have to go to bed in a minute so that I can get up for my silly-o'clock flight to Dublin, so this year's rating system might have gone a bit weird.

1. When We Were Animals - Joshua Gaylord (extended metaphor; meh)
2. Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson (humans are doomed; good)
3. The Library at Mount Char - Scott Hawkins (contemporary fantasy; YAY)
4. The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood (spec-fic; meh-to-good)
5. The Guest Room - Chris Bohjalian (thriller; good)
6. Black Widow - Chris Brookmyre (scottish crime; good)
7. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie - Jennifer Ashley (historical romance; very good)
8. Black Dog - Caitlin Kittredge (girl hellhouds; the lower end of meh)
9. A Slip of the Keyboard - Terry Pratchett (I miss you, pterry; good)
10. The House of Shattered Wings - Aliette de Bodard (historical fantasy; probably actually good, but meh)
11. Armada - Ernest Cline (13 yr old boy wish fufillment; very meh)
12. The Redbreast - Jo Nesbo (nordic crime; does what it says on the tin)
13. Sweet Disorder - Rose Lerner (historical romance; good)
14. Day Four - Sarah Lotz (horror; fine)
15. In the Labyrinth of the Drakes - Marie Brennan (lady dragon scientist; YAY)
16. Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye (serial killer Jane Eyre; YAY)
17. The Three - Sarah Lotz (horror; eh, fine)
18. True Pretenses - Rose Lerner (historical romance; points deducted for Tories)
19. Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel - Sara Farizan (teenage lesbians; made me happy in my heart)
20. The Just City - Jo Walton (thought experiment fantasy; fine-to-good)
21. Waiting for Doggo - Mark Mills (dogs; why did I read this, again?)
22. League of Dragons - Naomi Novik (dragons, lower-case-yay)
23. Forty Signs of Rain - Kim Stanley Robinson (humans are doomed, points deducted for pervy protagonist)
24. The Language of Secrets - Ausma Zehanat Khan (canadian crime; fine-to-good)
25. Angelmaker - Nick Harkaway (contemporary fantasy; loses ALL THE POINTS for killing off the lesbian octogenarian spy; bad book, no biscuit)
26. Birthdays for the Dead - Stuart MacBride (scottish crime; ew)
27. The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff (non-fiction; some witches, mostly footnotes)
28. Stiletto - Daniel O'Malley (YAY, YAY!!!; three exclamation marks, surely the sign of a deranged mind)
29. Four Roads Cross - Max Gladstone (dead gods and magic lawyers; yay)
30. Listen to the Moon - Rose Lerner (downstairs-downstairs historical romance; very refreshing)
31. The Geek Feminist Revolution - Kameron Hurley (essays; preaching to the converted, so eh)
32. Asking For It - Louise O'Neill (feminist YA; OH GOD WHY WOULD YOU LET ME READ THIS?; but good)
33. City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett (fantasy; YAY)
34. Foxglove Summer - Ben Aaronovitch (they folly has an away day in the countryside; good)
35. In Harm's Way - Doug Stanton (non-fiction; fine)
36. Stone Mattress - Margaret Atwood (short stories; why can't I just like Atwood as much as other people do?)
37. Labrador - Ben Fogle (dogs;...dogs?)
38. Infomocracy - Malka Older (election related spec-fic; ARGGHHH; but very good)
39. Do You Want to Start a Sandal - Tessa Dare (historical romance; does what it says on the tin)
40. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu - Joshua Hammer (non-fiction; title better than the book)
41. Think of England - KJ Charles (m/m historical romance; lovely)
42. The Abyss Surrounds Us - Emily Skrutskie (teenaged lesbians and sea monsters; not nearly as good as it sounds)
43. The Girl Before - Rena Olsen (feminist fiction; unreliable narrator; good)
44. City of Blades - Robert Jackson Bennett (fantasy; BUT WHEN IS THE THIRD ONE COMING OUT?)
45. The Trespasser - Tana French (irish crime; very good)
46. Smaller and Smaller Circles - FH Batacan (filipino crime; meh)
47. The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch (urban fantasy; ...what happened in this one again?)
48. A Week to be Wicked - Tessa Dare (historical romance; best in its series)
49. A Lady by Midnight - Tessa Dare (historical romance; is the same author who wrote a week to be wicked?)
50. The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead (spec-fic; very good)
51. Beneath the Surface - John Hargrove (non-fiction; so Seaworld is like a cult, huh)
52. Notorious RBG: the life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik (non-fiction; I hope RBG is taking her vitamins)
53. The Wonder - Emma Donoghue (historical fiction; good)
54. Any Duchess Will Do - Tessa Dare (historical romance; fine-to-meh)
55. Weapons of Math Destruction - Cathy O'Neil (non-fiction; fine)
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
In a last ditch effort to make my place more festive I've been putting the holiday cards I received on display, and an alarming number of them are made out to 'Gillian & Freya' and, like, do these people not know that Freya's a dog, or have they just gone, well, we've given up on her ever finding human companionship, but it's nice she has that dog. This is why you shouldn't give dogs people names.

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead
Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, Seaworld, and the truth beyond
Blackfish - John Hargrove
Notorious RBG: the life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
The Wonder - Emma Donoghue
Any Duchess Will Do - Tessa Dare
Deadpool: Dead Presidents
Weapons of Math Destruction - Cathy O'Neil

First thing, The Underground Railroad is exactly as good as everyone says it is. The story of a slave named Cora escaping from a Georgia plantation is brilliant and relentless and difficult to read, and I highly, highly recommend it. If I have tiny, teeny wee niggle it's with the alternate history hook of the underground railroad being an actual, literal underground underground. The book would have been just as amazing and awful as straight historical fiction, and I'm not sure why you'd introduce an element like that and then not use it. But, anyway, I loved it

Beneath the Surface is by a former Seaworld trainer and his slow disillusionment with his dream job. And by now I think we all know that Seaworld is a corporation and not any sort of conservation or educational organisation, but here it sometimes seemed to operate almost like a cult. Reccomened for anyone who enjoyed Blackfish or likes those 'escaping Scientology' memoirs.

I picked up Notorious RBG largely because on the title. It's quite clearly based on someone's tumblr page, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, the authors clearly realised that there was a market for an easy to read biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg interspersed with cool tumblr-esque graphics. I liked it, but I think I might be read for more heavyweight entires in the genre of badass political women.

The Wonder is a historical novel about an English nurse who is hired to verify that an Irish child who claims to have survived without food for four months truly is a miracle. For a novel that's mostly two characters in a room together it has no business being as compelling as it is, but that's Emma Donoghue for you.

I tend to read historical romance series in order, although I know you don't have to, because I like seeing the callbacks to earlier couples, but with Any Duchess Will Do I really wish that I hadn't. I know that loveable rogues are a staple of regency romances, but Griff the notional hero in this one, was also Halford, the using-women-as-poker-currency utter dickhead in a previous instalment, and as such it was difficult to take his iron woobie-ness seriously. Shame, as I might have rather liked this otherwise.

I, er, glanced through Deadpool: Dead Presidents before I wrapped it up to give to someone for Christmas. Wade Wilson fights zombie US presidents. I feel good about my choice of Christmas gift.

Weapons of Math Destruction is another one I picked up because of the title. It's all about how algorithms - from what we see on facebook to personality tests when you apply for a job - control our lives much more than we think we do (computer says no), and how human biases are baked in. It's almost a shame the author is American because I would have loved to read her take on the DWP and atos.


Nov. 27th, 2016 11:20 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
The Trespasser - Tana French
Smaller and Smaller Circles - FH Batacan
The Hanging Tree - Ben Aaronovitch
A Week to be Wicked - Tessa Dare
A Lady by Midnight - Tessa Dare
Beauty and the Blacksmith - Tessa Dare

I've liked all of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books to various degrees, but I really, really loved The Trespasser. It's told from the point of view of Antionette Conway, partner of Stephen Moran one of the protagonists of The Secret Place. And I know the conceit of the series is that the detectives are different in each book, but, honestly I would read an entire series of mysteries about Moran and Conway. There's been a recurring theme through the books of partnerships crashing and burning, but Moran and Conway hit the rocks, and then come out stronger on the other side, and I just really, really love their partnership.

I am curious to see who the protagonist of the next book will be, because it's usually someone who was a supporting character in the previous book - but I can't think of any obvious candidates from The Trespasser.

Actually, the other thing that struck me was that the Dublin Murder Squad books have all had this thread of... magical realism, I guess, to various degrees. In The Secret Place it got a little more overt than I would have liked, but I think The Trespasser was the first one with no hints of it at all.

So, yeah, anyway, if you're interested in a series of Irish murder mysteries solved by detectives who seem like the very worst people in the world until you get into their heads, with occasional notes of magical realism then I can't recommend Dublin Murder Squad enough.

Smaller and Smaller Circles was billed as the first Filipino crime novel (or maybe just the first in translation?) and the main mystery, in which two priests investigate the murder and mutilations of slum kids is just... fine, but it's worth a read for the setting alone; the sense of place in a poverty stricken area of Manila is superb.

I really liked the first Rivers of London book, then got increasingly annoyed at books two-through-four. I had less than no interest in Nightingale, who seemed to be the focus of what fandom there was, and I was stubbornly, Scottishly annoyed at all the wanking over London. But I fell back into the series with book five and now The Hanging Tree. I am finding myself charmed all over again by Peter's narration, and especially enjoyed the inclusion of a transgender witch who wants to use magic to fly. I was a little underwhelmed by the revelation of the Faceless Man's identity, but as I care less about the overarching plot than I do about Peter, then eh.

I have been having a reading slump of late (I've been having an everything slump) and some regency romance always goes down easy, so I applied myself to Tessa Dare's Spindle Cove series.

I got off to a good start with A Week to be Wicked in which a lady geologist tries to prove the existence of dinosaurs with the occasional help, occasional hinderance of a charming, insomniac viscount, and I really loved it a lot. Then I read A Lady by Midnight in which a music teacher and secret heiress falls in love with a taciturn, overtly unpleasant soldier, who's keeping a secret from the heroine about her dark past for her own good; not even the fact that they're co-parenting a puppy could make this my cup of tea. Beauty and the Blacksmith is exactly what it says on the tin: a well brought up young lady falls in love with a blacsmith; this was thin even by romance novella standards and didn't really have enough room to let the characters... be characters.

So, I think maybe that's my palate cleansed and I'm due a change of genre. I've got the Colson Whitehead novel The Underground Railroad, or maybe the second novel in Ken Liu's Dandelion Dynasty

I started but didn't finish Sarah Kuhn's Heroine Complex, it was just Too Twee for me. I only made it to the one third mark before I was rooting for the cupcake shaped demons to suck the sickeningly hipster San Francisco of the book straight to hell.


Oct. 30th, 2016 11:05 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Do You Want to Start a Sandal - Tessa Dare
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu - Joshua Hammer
Think of England - KJ Charles
The Abyss Surrounds Us - Emily Skrutskie
The Girl Before - Rena Olsen
City of Blades - Robert Jackson Bennett

Do You Want to Start a Scandal sits squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to historical romances. The heroine was a little too wilfully innocent for my tastes, and the marquess/spy with the tragic backstory that is our hero a little too controlling. I liked it fine, more than it sounds like, but it's still just...fine.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is one I picked up largely because of the title. From it, the summary, and everything I'd heard about it I assumed I'd be getting a heist story about kick-ass african librarians keeping historical documents out of the hands of Al Qaeda. What I got was a history of Islamic extremism in Mali, and judged on those grounds it was good - well researched, well written, and interesting. But I'm docking it major points for not really being about what it purported to be about.

Think of England is a m/m historical romance set early in the twentieth century. It did occur that it was perhaps not unlike some Any Two Guys fic you might read in a megafandom, and from which I would have promptly back-buttoned because holy characterisation! But as original fiction I found it exceedingly charming.

Not related, but not, you know, unrelated: where are the f/f historical romances?

YA fantasy has become a hard sell for me in recent times, and The Abyss Surrounds Us is pretty typical of the genre, it has a hard to believe dystopian setup, a seventeen year old being sent on a life altering mission, that surely a better trained adult would be more suited for, and a formulaic romance, but. BUT. It has lesbians and sea monsters, and I am weak for lesbians and sea monsters. It really is good fun, although a word of warning - it's the first instalment of, I think, a duology so it doesn't have a neat ending.

The Girl Before is about a stockholm syndrome suffering woman who's both the victim and perpetrator of human trafficking. It's really, really good. It's also a hard fucking read.

I had the usual reaction to City of Blades, which I understand is: When is City of Miracles coming out!? I don't know how many fantasy novels there are where the protagonist is a one-armed woman general at the upper end of middle-age, but if you only read one this year then it should be this one. Highly, highly recommended.


Oct. 4th, 2016 10:57 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Foxglove Summer - Ben Aaronovitch
In Harm's Way - Doug Stanton
Stone Mattress - Margaret Atwood
Labrador - Ben Fogle
Infomocracy - Malka Older

I'd given up on the Rivers of London series as not doing it for me, but I stumbled across Foxglove Summer in the library and picked it up. I ended up liking it far more than I was expecting to for a couple reasons 1) Nightingale was barely in it; sorry, but he bores the arse off me, and 2) it wasn't set in London; I am stubbornly, Scottishly cross about works of fiction in which London is singularly special; I have the actual news for that. So, to me, this was a lovely book in which a likeable city cop is sent out to the countryside to investigate a unicorn related supernatural mystery. Still, I'm not convinced I care enough about what's going on with Lesley to pick up the next book when surely the Nightingale and London aspects will be back in full force.

I read In Harm's Way, about the sinking of a US battleship in shark-infested waters in the closing days of WWII, and the communication SNAFUs that led to no-one going to look for survivors for nearly a week with a sense of horrified fascination.

I am a very hard sell when it comes to short stories, and that's true even when the stories in question are written by Margaret Atwood. There was one good story in Stone Mattress in which a retirement aged woman runs into the man who raped her in high school on an arctic cruise pushes him off the edge of a glacier, but the rest of the collection was meh at best; there was a linking mechanism so half-hearted that it was abandoned three stories in, and just... meh.

I like dogs, and I like reading about other people's dogs. Labrador was not a particularly brilliant example of the yay dogs! genre.

Do you want to read a novel about election malarky set in cyberpunk Asia? Let me rephrase that: do you want to read a novel about election malarky set in cyberpunk Asia, possibly after November when we can all exhale? Then Infomocracy is that novel. Highly, highly recommend.


Sep. 1st, 2016 08:37 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Four Roads Cross - Max Gladstone
Listen to the Moon - Rose Lerner
The Geek Feminist Revolution - Kameron Hurley
Asking For It - Louise O'Neill
City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett

I would never have expected to be as crazy about a series about capitalist, legalease magic as I am about Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence. I'd thought the series took a bit of a dip with Last First Snow (maybe it will hold up better if I ever reread the series in chronological order, it might seem like less of a rehash of Two Serpents Rise) but it's back on form with Four Roads Cross; we're back in Alt Columb with the characters from the first book, and I think its the best one since that first book. Anyway, I love the whole series, and would recommend.

Listen to the Moon is, I think, my favourite historical romance in a long time. First of all the hero and the heroine are a valet and maid. And, look, I know there's a lot of easy chuckles to be had off puns on aristocratic titles, but a little variety is nice, is my point. Also they get married at, like, the one third mark, and I love romances between already married couples. Highly recommended.

The first time I tried to read Kameron Hurley I bounced hard off of God's War, and I was a bit surprised because I'd heard her described as a feminist SFF writer, so when in The Geek Feminist Revolution I read her describing her fiction as being a mix of grimdark and new weird I went oh that's why I don't care for her writing, it's at the intersection of two things that are Not My Bag of Chips. Which is actually interesting, because male authors are described by the types of books that they write, women authors are first and foremost women authors. I ended up rather liking this essay collection, Hurley's kinda brash style works a lot better for me in non-fiction. Admittedly, having decided that I didn't care for Hurley's fiction I never followed links to her blog so I hadn't already read the pieces that had been published online. You always feel a bit conned when you shell out these essay collections only to discover that you've already read two thirds of the contents. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Asking For It is a YA novel and a bloody difficult read. It's about a gang rape and subsequent internet humiliation. Think the Steubenville case transplanted into suburban Ireland. Two things in particular elevate it; the protagonist/victim is awful, she's the girl everybody hated in high school, she has no sympathy for another rape victim, and she still doesn't deserve what was done to her; and the ambiguous ending, which, yeah, was a downer, but was also closer to reality most of the time than righteous vindication.

City of Stairs is the best start to a SFF trilogy I've read in oh ages. It's set in a Russian inspired fantasy city that was decimated when their Gods were killed in an revolt by the, ahem, godless nation they'd been subjugating. Dead Gods seem to be a lucky theme for me in books; it's the backstory to the Craft Sequence too. It features a badass middle aged woman general, a lady diplomat/spy, and her viking, basically, secretary. jsyk: the one non-straight character dies, I loved the rest of it so much that it wasn't a dealbreaker, but the more you know. I almost dived straight into City of Blades, but the second book of trilogies are sometimes... you know, the third one isn't out yet, and the library called to say they've got Foxglove Summer for me, so I guess I'm reading that next.


Aug. 6th, 2016 12:07 am
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
The Language of Secrets - Ausma Zehanat Khan
Angelmaker - Nick Harkaway
Birthdays for the Dead - Stuart MacBride
The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff
Stiletto - Daniel O'Malley

The Language of Secrets is the second book in a series about two Canadian detectives who investigate 'minority crimes.' The first book, The Unquiet Dead, was brilliant; it was about a Bosnian war criminal, and the author is apparently an international lawyer whose area of expertise is the atrocities of the Bosnian war, and that knowledge, that care shone through. This one was about Islamic extremism and felt much more by-the-numbers and cardboard. It was still a perfectly serviceable crime novel, but.

Oh, Angelmaker was this close to being something that I'd adore. It's got that off-beat magical realism thing that I just eat up. And one of the protagonists, Edie Bannister, is my new favourite character. The narrative skips between WWII when she's a bisexual, cross-dressing, snarky, steampunk spy, and the modern day where she's a spry little old lay spy with a stinky blind pug she carries around in her handbag. She's awesome. But then she dies one hundred pages from the end and the narrative is taken over by the other main character, Joe Spork, an everyman who saves the day by embracing the legacy of his gentleman gangster father.... yawn. I think the bait-and-switch would have annoyed me less if the first, like, five hundred pages hadn't catered to my id so perfectly, only to finish up catering to, er, someone else's id.

Stuart MacBride was recced to me on the grounds that I like Chris Brookmyre, but I think it was maybe just that they're both Scottish crime guys rather than them actually having all that much in common. To be fair I prefer Bookmyre's more satirical books, but even in his more straight crime novels Brookmyre has a lightness of touch and humour that Birthdays for the Dead lacks. I feel like there should be some sort of rule in crime thrillers that if your detective has two daughters and the first daughter has been murdered by a serial killer before the novel begins, then the third act should not be the younger daughter being killed by a copycat. That's not trope subversion, that's just grim for grim's sake.

I had really liked Stacy Schiff's book about Cleopatra, so I was surprised that I found The Witches such hard going. If I had a criticism of the Cleopatra book (which was, at least, an excellent read) it was that Schiff was writing about this really sympathetic version of the Egyptian Queen and then couldn't really reconcile her version with Cleopatra's eventual downfall. The Witches really could have used some of that instinct for extrapolation, as it was it just read like a fairly dry recitation of famously scant sources. Plus there's a cast of, like, five hundred puritans who have about three family names between them.

Stiletto is the first book in ages that's made me do that running in circles, flappy hands of incoherent glee thing. It arrived unexpectedly on my kindle (I'd loved The Rook years ago and had pre-ordered the sequel, but the publication date got pushed back and back; also, I don't think you have to have read The Rook to enjoy this.) Basically it's about a corporate merger between the secret supernatural department of the British government, who are all products of a posho magical boarding school, and a centuries old order of Eurotrash mad scientists. It's hilarious and awesome and femslashy as fuck; if there was one thing, one thing, that I could have changed I would have taken the relationship between Felicity and Odette all the way through enemies to reluctant allies to friends to actually becoming lovers, but that's what yuletide is for. A++, highly recommended.


Jun. 24th, 2016 01:19 am
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye
The Three - Sarah Lotz
True Pretenses - Rose Lerner
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel - Sara Farizan
The Just City - Jo Walton
Waiting for Doggo - Mark Mills
League of Dragons - Naomi Novik
Forty Signs of Rain - Kim Stanley Robinson

Jane Steele is a retelling of Jane Eyre (except not really, because the Brontë novel exists in this universe, but Jane Steele's life does mirror Jane Eyre's in odd ways--) where Jane is serial killer of men who hurt women. It is partly historical romance and partly the best kind of feminist propaganda. Highly recommended.

I went back and read The Three after Day Four, and I guess I don't find plane crashes as frighting as I do cut-price cruises because I didn't find The Three nearly as scary. It did explain the end of Day Four to me, so I guess that the author's note that said the books could be read in any order was a fib.

True Pretenses is a so-so historical romance about a jewish conman and the Tory hostess he's initially trying to set up with his brother. I've liked other romances by Rose Lerner, but I think the heroine's noblesse oblige put me off this one.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel is a frankly adorable YA romance about a teenage Persian American lesbian. Recommended.

The Just City is the second book I've read this year in which Greek Gods do weird things for odd reasons (the first was Fifteen Dogs, where they cursed dogs with sentience); in this Athena and Apollo decide to actually give the Republic from Plato a dry run, and pluck people from throughout history to populate it. This has fascinating things to say about slavery, and gender, and interiority; and it's so unexpectedly rapey in places that it was a bit like being slapped in the face with a kipper. I don't know-- I have the sequel but I think I'll give it some time before getting to it.

One of my guilty reading pleasures are books about dogs. Waiting for Doggo sees a wankstain of a dude character navigate his overpaid upper middle class non-job, his girlfriend leaving him, and sleeping with her sister with the help of his rescue dog. He could have been navigating all that with the help of a rescue pterodactyl and I still wouldn't have given a flying fuck.

League of Dragons was a fitting end to the Temeraire series. It was a bit packed trying to resolve the, you know, Napoleonic War and trying to cram in cameos by pretty much every character of note from the previous eight books, but at least it didn't meander like some of the books in the middle of the series. I've really enjoyed this series and I'm glad I gave it my time, but I feel like it could have been three books shorter and nothing of value would have been lost; would anyone miss that interminable Australia book? All the same, recommend the series as a whole, for Napoleonic dragons if nothing else.

Forty Signs of Rain is about catastrophic climate change (a subject on which I am generally a captive audience), except mostly it's about this scientist who's obsessed with sociobiology (ugh) thinking gross things about women. And just when it was getting interesting - there was a tiger, some Tibetan monks, and two small children trapped in a suburban house by a flood - it ended. I hate it when books turn out to unexpectedly be the first in a series; you should have to announce that shit on page one. I googled it, and it looks like the sequel is mostly about gross scientist guy, so-- meh.


May. 19th, 2016 02:04 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
We had a brief heatwave here last week and I discovered that my dog likes licking sunscreen off my skin; other things she likes the taste of are: perfume, hand lotion, antiseptic cream, soap, and shower gel. An oft heard refrain in out house is: "Stop licking me, I've just got out of the shower!"

It also meant that I got quite a bit of reading done in various gardens (mine; assorted beer).

The House of Shattered Wings - Aliette de Bodard
Armada - Ernest Cline
The Redbreast - Jo Nesbo
Sweet Disorder - Rose Lerner
Day Four - Sarah Lotz
In the Labyrinth of the Drakes - Marie Brennan

The House of Shattered Wings is set in Paris after a magical WWI equivalent; the broken cityscape is controlled by fallen angels who are both powerful rulers and, basically, currency because their body parts are the source of magic. The worldbuilding is fascinating, the writing is gorgeous, and there are a lot of background same-sex relationships, and I just... could not get into it.

I think it was a combination of revolving POVs and not immediately sympathetic or likeable characters. I never warmed to Philippe the way I did to Selene and Madeline, and every time the narration switched back to him I would stall out. Filed under: things I wanted to like more I did.

Speaking of things I expected to like more than I ultimately did, having eaten Ready Player One up with a spoon I was disappointed in Ernest Cline's next offering. Armada is about a video game where the player fights off an alien invasion, and being a hotshot at the game comes in handy when oddly similar aliens come knocking at earth's door.

The good: it was a quick, fun read, and like Ready Player One there was a lot of geeky joy to be found in 'I understood that reference' moments.

The bad: it was lazy. Literally everything about this book was lazy. The protogonist's father really had faked his own death to become a highly classified war hero. There was a manic pixie geek girl who our hero picked up in five minutes flat using his word perfect knowledge of Aliens quotes. Being a hotshot pilot in a videogame automatically translated to being a hotshot pilot in the real world. The alien invasion plot was painfully lazy, and I kept waiting for a twist that never came.

It was like someone was trying to smoosh Ender's Game and Galaxy Quest together, and if you think those sound like two tonally inconsistent things then you'd be right.

I turned to a nordic thriller from the library for a change of pace. The Redbreast was, er, fine, if a little slow; it was six-hundred pages long and nobody died until page two-hundred. Well, it flashed back to the eastern front during WWII, so obviously lots of people died, but it was page two-hundred before anyone we cared about died. And 'he had multiple personality disorder all along...' I don't think has ever been a satisfying conclusion to anything, and makes the book feel more dated than it probably is.

Sweet Disorder is a regency romance with a plus-sized heroine, and the hero is saved from being yet another wounded soldier with a heart of gold by his hitherto undiscovered submission kink. The historical romance genre continues to provide me with more hits than misses.

Day Four is a horror set on a budget cruise liner, which in addition to the inherent horror of being on a budget cruise (A+ use of setting) has a murder, ghosts, an outbreak of noro, and being adrift at sea. I... wasn't sure about the ending. Not that I'm necessarily against the surprise alternate universes, I just thought it could have used more groundwork. But I understand that this is kind of a duology with The Three, so maybe it'll work better for me once I've read that one.

I continue to adore Marie Brennan's chronicles of a pseudo-victorian lady dragon naturalist, but as much as I'm enjoying them I was quite pleased to discover that The Labyrinth of the Drakes is book four of five, because I feel like the series is coming to its natural conclusion (Isabella finally became Lady Trent in this one); plus I'm just grateful when fantasy writers know when to call it a day.
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
I know, it's tiresome when someone doesn't post for months and the first thing they say is, gee, I haven't posted in months, but.

I stopped doing the monthly books posts because I haven't been reading enough to justify them. I've been living in the doldrums somewhat, and haven't really been up for much more than reblogging things on tumblr and hitting the next episode button. Actually, there's probably a post in me about that time I binge watched two and half seasons of The 100 just in time for the fandom to crash and burn in the most spectacular fashion.

But in the meantime, books. This is basically everything I've read since New Year.

When We Were Animals - Joshua Gaylord
Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson
The Library at Mount Char - Scott Hawkins
The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood
The Guest Room - Chris Bohjalian
Black Widow - Chris Brookmyre
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie - Jennifer Ashley
Black Dog - Caitlin Kittredge
A Slip of the Keyboard - Terry Pratchett

When We Were Animals is about a town where every fourth weekend the adults and children shut themselves up while the teenagers run naked in the streets like animals. I guess I wanted magical realism or actual werewolves, and instead I got some kind of purge-like extended metaphor about adolescence. Blah.

Aurora is a pretty traditional sf story about a generational spaceship sent out to colonise another planet. Except the central premise of this one is that there are only two types of planets out there, ones inhospitable to all life, and ones inhospitable to human life, and as the Earth is the only place in the universe where we could possibly survive we should probably stop fucking it up, a message of which I approve.

I was skeptical about The Library at Mount Char, the blurb said it was about a bunch of orphans being raised by a mysterious ~magical father figure, so far so by the numbers. But, no, it was actually brilliant. It was brutal. It was like, imagine you were the apprentice of an uncaring God, but never realised it. My favourite thing that I have read so far this year by far.

The Heart Goes Last has an interesting enough premise. There's a capitalist dystopia (the best of the dystopias), organ harvesting, mind wipes, and living sex dolls; it's absurd and disturbing and well done, and I couldn't really get into it because all of that was wrapped up in a book about mildy awful people and their mildly awful marriage, and I just don't care.

The Guest Room is set around a bachelor party where the strippers, who turn out not to be strippers but traffiked sex slaves kill their Russian handlers. It was much more nuanced and sympathetic than I was expecting based on the summary, and, actually, was really good.

Black Widow -- Brookmyre is a fav, and Paralabane used to be my favourite of his characters. But, really, I think it's time to retire him as a protagonist. I don't think Brookmyre has figured out how to write him in a post print journalism world, and saying that he's getting involved in all this crazy shit as a reaction against his life as a Buzzfeed style content generator just isn't working for me. It's lazy, and he's starting to suffer from author's-favourite syndrome.

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is a historical romance with a hero on the autistic spectrum, which from my totally not an expert, I cannot emphasise how little expertise I have perspective was very well researched and handled. Recommended.

Black Dog is about a girl hellhound, maybe I wanted more of a girl werewolf thing (it turns out that hellhounds and werewolves are very separate things where the id is concerned...) or maybe urban fantasy continues to not be in my wheelhouse. But, meh.

A Slip of the Keyboard is a collection of Terry Pratchett's nonfiction writing. And, like, I adore Pratchett's fiction, but I'm not sure he was prolific enough a nonfiction writer to justify this collection. It was, um, repetitive. I must confess though, that I teared up at him railing against the Alzheimer's and the continued illegality of assisted dying in the UK. Still, I feel like pretty much everything Pratchett had to say, he said best in Discworld.
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
I went away without posting my final booklog of 2015, so.

Career of Evil is the latest and, I think, best installment in JK Rowling's Cormoran Strike series. It starts with Strike and Robin being sent a severed leg, and ends on the cusp of Robin's wedding to her bag o' dicks fiancé. I am slightly nervous that Rowling is teasing a romantic relationship between Robin and Strike; I do want Robin to leave Matthew, but because he's a bag of dicks, and because working with Strike is the life Robin wants, not for Strike himself. Plus, I just really like their Batman & Robin style friendship.

I finished Anne Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy, and I join the chorus of people singing its praises. Also, I think authors of other SFF series should take note both of how quickly all the installments were published, and how the series wasn't dragged out ad naseum. I thought Ancillary Mercy was a brilliant example of how to resolve galactic scale plots on a much more intimate scale without leaving the reader feeling like they've been conned out of the plot resolution. I very much look forward to reading whatever comes out of Ms. Leckie's brain next.

After how much I'd loved The Brothers Sinister, I was so disappointed by the first installment of Courtney Milan's new series. I know Once Upon a Marquess is the first in what's to be quite a substantial series, and there was quite a lot of groundwork being laid, but honestly, the humour was forced and unfunny, the sex fell flat, the hero and heroine were barely caricatures, and the supporting characters were even more paper thin. For a book that was basically all setup for the rest of the series, there was nothing about it that made me want to read the rest of the the Worth Saga. A big, big let down.

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare was a bit more like it on the historical romance front.

For a change of pace, Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis is about a a bet between Hermes and Apollo that results in them giving fifteen dogs human like consciousness and seeing what happens. It sounds like it's going to be completely bonkers, but instead it's gorgeous, and utterly, utterly heartbreaking as all the dogs live out their lives burdened by consciousness.

All my 2015 books )

-Fifty-one books this year. Last year I was at seventy; in the years before that I'd been pushing three figures. I think fiftyish is a good number to aim to hold at. I think it's a sign both of having a good balance between reading and other hobbies, and having a less scary-awful commute. Maybe I'll shoot for fifty-two so I'm averaging a book a week.

-29 female authors to 13 male. I feel pretty good about this ratio. My most read authors of the year were Tana French and Tessa Dare.

-It's funny I think of myself as being a primarily SFF reader, but even taking the broadest possible definition of SFF, only eleven of my fifty-one reads were in the genre, about even with non-fiction, historical romance, crime, and general fiction, there's even a volume of poetry in there somewhere.

-In 2015 I got much better at abandoning books that weren't doing it for me, so there was nothing I really hated but forced myself to plow on with. It was a year of mostly fair to middling reads, with few standouts, but no book-meet-wall incidents.

-In 2016 I would like to give graphic novels a crack. I did read the first chunk of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl before I wrapped it to give it to my sister as a x-mas gift, so that might be the place to start when enough time has passed that I can gracefully ask to borrow it back.

-My five best reads of the year were:
Carol by Patricia Highsmith
The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman
The Water Knife by Paulo Bacigalupi
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Zeroes by Chuck Wendig
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
Star Trek: Destiny - David Mack
I Can't Think Straight - Shamim Sarif
If You Could Be Mine - Sara Farizan
Girl Waits With Gun - Amy Stewart
The Bad Dog's Diary - Martin Howard
The Lost Duke of Wyndham - Julia Quinn
The Tiger - John Vaillant
Escape From Baghdad! - Saad Hossain
The Grace of Kings - Ken Liu

I have been dipping in and out of the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy, about a war between the Federation and the Borg, for ages now. There were some really cool things about it: it's about a war between the Federation and the Borg, for chrissake! Riker and Troi Ezri Dax has become a ship captain! The format allows for a more diverse cast than TV, both in the sense of more diverse humans, and having really alien aliens. Some less cool things: needed more Borg, and more Seven of Nine, because surely Seven and Picard should have been the protagonists of a trilogy about a war between the Federation and the Borg. And some totally uncool things: Janeway had been killed off in an earlier book, and Paris and Torres been broken up; dick moves, guys. I liked it, 90s Trek was my first fandom and I have a lasting fondness for those shows, but I'm not going to count the post series books as canonical - which is fine, because I don't count the JJ Abrams movies as canonical.

I'm not sure if I Can't Think Straight, about a Jordanian woman falling in love with a British Indian woman on the run up to her wedding, was novelisation of the movie, or if the movie was based on the book, but, eh, just watch the movie because the book is... amateurish.

If You Could Be Mine is a YA novel set in Iran, where although homosexuality is illegal, sex change operations are totally legal. Something I didn't know, which is kind of cool and interesting, and kind of terrifyingly open to abuse. It's really well written, and if you're looking for a diverse f/f novel this is about ten thousand times better than I Can't Think Straight.

Girl Waits With Gun is the fictionalised account of one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the US. I think this suffered slightly from my thinking it was going to be about Constance's adventures as a deputy; instead it was about her dealing with her family being terrorised by a gangster, and her being deputized happens on the very last page. Still, it was really good, and I really do recommend it.

The Bad Dog's Diary -- Er, sometimes I read cute books about dogs, and I feel guiltier about this than I do about the Star Trek tie-ins I read.

I have been hearing Julia Quinn's name ever since I first got into historical romances, but I'm not sure The Lost Duke of Wyndham was the best place to start. It was cute and the romance was sweet, but I kind of got hung up on the plot. The lost heir to a dukedom turns up; he doesn't want to be the duke, he'd be bad at it; the guy who's the current duke is much more likable, doesn't want to give it up, plus he's good at it. So why not just...not? I know, you're not meant to overthink these things.

The Tiger is about the hunt for a man-eating tiger, whether tigers have the capacity for revenge, and life in the Russian tagia, and it's easily the best non-fiction I've read this year.

Escape From Baghdad! is a black comedy set in the aftermath of the Iraq war. Imagine a middle eastern Catch-22 with a bit of magical realism thrown in - it's that cool.

I had pretty much decided not to bother with The Grace of Kings, but then I happened to listen to Ken Liu being interviewed on a podcast and he sounded like a cool guy, so I renewed my library loan, and gave it shot, and I was glad I did. First of all, silkpunk is a really cool world, and the idea of writing an epic fantasy using China, rather than medieval Europe, as your cultural backdrop is really cool, and it's done really well. One of the reasons I was going to skip this one was I'd heard that it was pretty bad on the female character front, and, well, it's not egregiously bad, but it's also not great... There's a cross-dressing girl general, which is pretty much my entire wheelhouse, yes, but there's also a bit where one of the male protagonists stops two armies throwing misogynistic insults at each other by giving a stirring speech about the bravery of the kingdom's wives and mothers which reduces everyone to tears. It all kind of screamed: feminist dude trying. All the same, I enjoyed it, and look forward to the next book in The Dandelion Dynasty.

Right now, I am ripping through Career of Evil, which as far as I can tell is JK Rowling takes on violent misogyny.
netgirl_y2k: (panic)
The Water Knife - Paolo Bacigalupi
The Casualties - Nick Holdstock
Zeroes - Chuck Wendig
All the Rage - Courtney Summers
Sorcerer to the Crown - Zen Cho
The Invasion of the Tearling - Erika Johansen

September was a good month for books, despite the rugby world cup starting so now hanging around in bars and shouting at my television is eating up a lot of my free time.

The Water Knife is an almost dystopia set years into a drought in North America, with California, Nevada, and Arizona fighting over what little water there is, and where an entire city's water supply can be cut off at the stroke of a court decision. I'm probably not making it sound as awesome as it is. There's also a depiction of the plight of refugees from the dry states that's, er, terrifying in its timeliness. Highly recommended.

The Casualties is a look at a street full of misfits in Edinburgh on the run up to a cataclysmic event that will wipe out, like, two thirds of the world's population. There was a lot I liked about this one, but the book's treatment of female characters was kind of a buzz kill. There were three of note: a prostitute, a nymphomaniac, and a girl with terrible facial scars, so yeah... And while the device of setting most of the novel five minutes from now in the run up to the end of the world was neat, the last section, set half a century afterwards, fell apart entirely.

Chuck Wendig's writing can be hit and miss for me (though I really admire who he chooses to be; his comments about how if you have problems with there being gay people in the Star Wars universe then you're the Empire are getting traction for a reason) but I absolutely loved Zeroes, it's about a group of hackers who get shanghaied into joining a secret government project. This may especially appeal to people like me who've recently fallen into a Person of Interest shaped hole, although if you go in expecting a straight AI story the brief veer into body horror about two thirds of the way through may throw you. All the same, highly recommended.

I feel like there's been a run of YA books about rape and rape culture recently, which is all to the good, and I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of the sub-genre than All the Rage.

I have a confession, I bounced off Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, hard, twice. It was too long and slow moving, and too dude heavy for me (even if the BBC miniseries did leave me in the belief that Arabella and Lady Pole totally got together after the fact.) But I loved, loved Sorcerer to the Crown which has a similar sort of Victorian era but with magic setting, but it's much more briskly paced; the main characters are a black dude, who's a freed slave and the most important magician in Britain, and a Machiavellian witch of mixed race heritage; it's made of feminist themes and awesome. It's apparently the first book in a series, but it stands perfectly well as a standalone, which is how I like my series installments :-) Highly, highly recommended.

I read the first Tearling book last year. I thought that it was fine; a generic YA fantasy, with a generic plucky fantasy YA heroine, with a bit of Arthurian legend thrown in for colour. Invasion of the Tearling is more of the same, except now there's a bit of The Handmaid's Tale added to the mix too. The one memorable thing about our generic YA heroine from book one, that she wasn't attractive, vanishes as she magically - literally! - becomes thin and beautiful. The tone is wildly inconsistent; sometimes reading like something from the middle grade end of YA, then suddenly including a graphic rape scene. The magic system makes no sense. There's sudden deus ex time travel. It's like everything plus the kitchen sink has been thrown at the wall to see what sticks.

And yet, and yet... I read the second book, I will probably read the third. Johansen can write, don't get me wrong, and I look forward to the day when she comes up with a plot of her own and isn't trying to reverse engineer Merlin via The Hunger Games and The Handmaid's Tale.
netgirl_y2k: (panic)
A Free Man of Color - Barbara Hambly
Cleopatra: A Life - Stacy Schiff
Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn
When a Scot Ties the Knot - Tessa Dare

The Benjamin January series is one I've been vaguely aware of through fannish osmosis for a while now, and because I'm on the lookout for another long-ish series that I can dip in and out of between other books I decided to give the first book A Free Man of Color a shot. For some reason I had a really hard time getting into it. The 19th century New Orleans setting is different and well-drawn, the protagonist interesting and likeable. At the time I thought maybe the it was the language giving me a mental block - it's accurate to the time and place, but would be wildly inappropriate now. Now that I've finished I think it was a pacing problem; it took me three weeks to read the first three quarters of the book, then three hours to finish it. Suddenly there were women living as men, secret lesbians, and the twists and red herrings came thick and fast. The ultimate solution to the mystery was that best kind of twist where I never would have guessed it, but it didn't come out of left field, all the clues were there.

I haven't decided if I'm going to carry on with the series - I might read the second one and see if I have the same problems with the pacing.

Earlier in the year I read a book about Hatshepsut which had the premise that Hatshepsut had been forgotten by history because she was quite good at being queen, while we all remember Cleopatra because she was shite at it. And because all I knew about Cleopatra was the holy trinity of Caesar, Mark Antony, and Elizabeth Taylor I swallowed it whole. Stacy Schiff's biography of Cleopatra argues the opposite: that Cleopatra was actually an excellent queen doing her best in really adverse circumstances, and that it only went massively tits up right at the end.

I suppose the lesson would be less that history forgets competent women and remembers the fuck-ups, and more that anything that can be sexualised will be.

Anyway, I thought it was a really good pop-history; interesting, and chatty, and easy to read.

Sharp Objects was Gillian Flynn's first novel, and it kind of feels it. The plot is a pretty straightforward one of a cub reporter sent back to her small hometown and family, with whom she has a fucked up history, to report on a missing person turned child murder. The twists are pretty easily guessable. The protagonist is one of Flynn's trademark slightly monstrous women, this one being a little more overwrought than her later ones. The writing was clunkier, too.

Overall, I didn't want to put this down without ever being sure if I was enjoying it, which is how I always feel about Gillian Flynn, so.

Tessa Dare is basically my favourite historical romance author; her books are funny, charming, and off-beat in ways that really work for me. And I'd been looking forward to third installment of her Castles Ever After series, not least because of the title. I don't know quite why When a Scot Ties the Knot didn't quite work for me. Maybe it was that I didn't warm to Maddie (an illustrator with crippling social anxiety) the way I had some of Dare's previous heroines. Maybe it was that the premise (our heroine invents a fake suitor to get out of London Season, and the letters she writes to him as part of the charade end up in the hands of an actual soldier) was played too straight for my tastes. Maybe it was the hero was just a little too good to be true, or maybe it was just the endless, endless bloody phonetic spellings of Scottish accents...

Filing this under: I wanted to like it more than I did.

As for what I'm going to read next, I got The Grace of Kings out of the library because I was intrigued by the idea of epic fantasy using China as a backdrop, plus silkpunk just sounded so cool, but ever since I read a couple of reviews complaining about a lack of female characters I've been eyeing it and going eh.
netgirl_y2k: (kahlan white dress)
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
Three Weeks with Lady X - Eloisa James
Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer
Last First Snow - Max Gladstone

The Girl on the Train is being held up by all and sundry as the next Gone Girl, and it's easy to see where the comparison comes from, with the revolving POVs and unlikable female characters. I certainly had a similar reading experience with both books, where I wolfed them down in a sitting or two without ever being sure if I was enjoying them.

The thing I thought that was really well done aboutThe Girl on the Train though, were the scenes where Rachel's drunk, which were cringey and hard to read in the exact way that remembering being that drunk is. I was less impressed with the thing that pushed her from being a drinker into a drunk (I was a bit haunted by the bit where Rachel talks about how easy it is to go from one to the other; there but for the grace of god and all that...) was her infertility. I do lack a bit of natural sympathy for that trope, nevertheless I think it is overdone in the extreme as a way of motivating female characters. (Hi, last Avengers movie!)

Dark Places was about a woman revisiting the murders of her mother and sisters by her brother during the "satanic panic" of the eighties. I may be less impressed by Gillian Flynn's writing than some, but by God, the woman knows how to write a page turner, and how to rock a plot twist.

Three Weeks with Lady X is a regency romance where the bastard son is endeavoring to woo a society lady in order to make himself respectable and instead falls in love with his interior decorator. It's elevated above the generic by the epistolary sections, which are laugh out loud funny. Will probably read more Eloisa James.

I read Under the Banner of Heaven mostly because I wanted to check out Krakauer's writing/journalism before deciding if I wanted to read his book about campus rape. Sorry, but if you're a dude writing about rape culture, I want a taste of your style and credentials on a subject that's less personally fraught. I read this history of mormon extremism cumulating in the murder of a woman and her baby in horrified fascination, and I probably will read Missoula.

I will rec Max Gladstone's Craft sequence to all and sundry - it's a magic!punk world where the Gods were beaten in a series of wars by craftspeople, who are like a cross between magicians and lawyers, and it's awesome - but Last First Snow was not my favourite installment. I think because even though it's the fourth one published it's the first chronologically, and I didn't know that before I picked it up. Also it's been two years since I read Two Serpents Rise and I'm a bit hazy on the plot details, so I spent a lot of this one going, okay, I know I think Temoc's a dick, but I can't remember why I think he's a dick. I do still recommend the series wholeheartedly, though.

I'm currently failing to be gripped by the first Benjamin January novel, which is a shame because I'm in the market for a new long series that I can dip in and out of, but I'm only about 10% in, so I guess I'll give it another fifty or so pages to grab me before dropping it.


I have the cast off my broken ankle, another week off work, and instructions to start trying to walk on it. The unexpected boon of not having a desk job. On the up side, I've had five weeks off work in the height of summer; on the down, it's been the wettest Scottish summer since records began, which, frankly, is saying something, and I have a sneaking suspicion that when I do get back I'm going to find myself scheduled for every awkward, antisocial shift from now until Christmas.


While I was laid up I binge watched Person of Interest; four seasons of more than twenty episodes apiece in a little over a month.

At first I kept hitting next episode because it wasn't like I was going anywhere, and a by the numbers procedural was just what my tea and painkiller numbed brain ordered. Around about Season Three I got really into it. I kind of admire the showrunners, who probably could have kept the show on the air for ten years as a fairly unmemorable crime of the week show, committed to the AI God War direction. Even if all it nets them is another half a season to wrap things up, I think it was a bold choice.

I was surprised by how much I came out of it shipping Root/Shaw. It was If-Then-Else that really sold me on it, up until then I'd been going: well, I get what everyone else is seeing, but this isn't the sort of show where I ship people or want to consume fanworks... Er, yeah, right.

Basically, I am having many Root/Shaw and I Love Everyone In This Bar emotions, and I would like to soothe my binge watch battered brain with fic, if anyone has any recs?

Thus far I have enjoyed this apocalypse AU and this Mrs & Mrs Smith AU.
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
The Monogram Murders - Sophie Hannah
Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover - Sarah MacLean
Say Yes to the Marquess - Tessa Dare
The Secret Place - Tana French

Last month I asked folks here for recommendations as to what I should read on my holidays, I got some excellent recommendations which I dutifully loaded onto my kindle, then, as you do, I bought a paperback in the airport...

Sophie Hannah got permission from the Agatha Christie estate to publish a new Poirot novel, which was... fine. The Monogram Murders is not up there with the likes of Murder on the Orient Express, nor is it as bad as the worst of Dame Agatha's; it's a solid, if unmemorable, Poirot novel. On the plus side, I didn't know who the murderer was until Poirot got all the suspects together in a room, which is a first for me; less because I am good at figuring this stuff out, and more because the David Suchet Poirot series is rerun constantly here, and I usually get about thirty-five pages into any given Agatha Christie before I go: Oh, I know who did it!

File under: reasonably solid published fanfic.

After I'd finished that my hosts kindly loaned me Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, the latest in a series of regency romances I'd been following. The really, really awesome thing about this book is that Chase, the slightly sinister owner of the gambling hell the books revolve around, turns out to be a woman. And I'd had no idea. A+ pronoun game there. I'm glad I read the paperback instead of the e-book, because I very much enjoyed the picture of the girl in the buckskin trousers on the cover, which I'm told is the first time a regency romance has had a woman in trousers on the cover.

Actually my problem with this book wasn't with the book (which is a perfectly lovely example of its genre) it was with me. As soon as you introduce a crossdressing woman to a story that's the book I want; I wanted an entire book of Georgiana scheming against the ton, and wearing trousers, and wrangling at least three separate identities.

I am completely loving Tessa Dare's Castles Ever After series (very excited for the third one coming out in a couple of months.) In Say Yes to the Marquess our heroine is trying to convince her absentee fiancé's disreputable brother to call off their engagement, the brother is trying to plan them an extravagant wedding, and there is an elderly bulldog; hijinks, and food fights ensue, and it is entirely delightful.

Also, Tessa Dare writes some of the most smoking sex scenes I have ever read, which I was of course reading while my plane descended into Glasgow, and I was sitting next to the sort of Glasgow granny who can sense impure thoughts a mile off.

The thing is, the more I fall into historical romance, the sadder I get that there aren't a bajillion f/f examples of the genre for me to read. I wants it, my precious.

The Secret Place is the latest, and in my opinion the best, installment in the Dublin Murder Squad series. The body of a teenage boy has been found on the grounds of a girls boarding school, and a year later the investigation is reopened.

There's been a reoccurring theme in the series about police partnerships souring and going wrong, and I liked that this one featured an unlikely partnership working out. It's got a really good take on friendships between teenage girls, how they can seem cliquey and claustrophobic from the outside, and be super important to those involved -- it's sort of what I'd wanted The Fever to be and had been disappointed.

There's also -- the more I think about it, perhaps there's always been a thread of magical realism in the series, what with what happened to Rob's childhood friends and what may or may not have been living in Pat's walls. But it's more explicit and yet never addressed here, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.

I have been feeling nostalgic for 90s Star Trek (first fandom!) so I am dipping in and out of the Star Trek: Destiny trilogy. There's obviously an ongoing post-shows book series into which I have plunged heedless of continuity. On the one hand Ezri Dax is a ship captain, which is awesome, and the cast of characters is super diverse, both the human characters, and having really alien aliens; on the other Janeway has been killed off and Paris and Torres broken up, both of which are completely unacceptable. Also, for a trilogy purportedly about a war between the Borg and the Federation, needs more Borg. But mostly, Star Trek!
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson
Them: Adventures with Extremists - Jon Ronson
Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall - Anna Funder
The Creation of Anne Boleyn - Susan Bordo
Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent - Marie Brennan

It turns out that what's really good for getting me back into reading more is actually having a dedicated e-reader rather than trying to read on the kindle app on my tablet (tumblr is a ridiculous timesuck, News at Eleven!)

I find Jon Ronson's pop journalism immensely readable and really enjoyed his latest, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, about public shaming in the digital age, and what it means now that there's no longer really such a thing as it'll all be tomorrow's chip wrapping. I had lot of natural sympathy with Ronson's view that call out culture had started from a place of good intentions and great justice (his example was people's reaction to Jan Muir's horrible, homophobic article about Stephen Gately's death; I suppose a fandom equivalent might be race fail) and has since migrated to a place of willful misunderstandings and unwillingness to let people move on.

I went back and read Them, where Ronson embeds himself with extremists of various stripes and discovers that they all believe in a secret cabal of powerful people running the world, even if they disagree about who exactly is in that cabal. This has... not aged well. It was researched and written in the late 90s, and you can sort of tell that it predates constant, easy access to the internet because a lot of Ronson's investigations/misadventures could have been rendered moot by five minutes on google.

I was very young when the Berlin Wall came down, and I remember seeing the images on TV but not really having any idea of what was going on or why, and like all products of the British eduction system almost everything I knew about Germany was in relation to WWII. So although I've been to Berlin twice (I'm going again on Wednesday, actually; I think it's a brilliant city) and done all the usual tourist things I still didn't know much about the rational behind the Wall or life in the GDR. So in a fit of belated intellectual curiosity I read Stasiland which was brilliantly researched and written, and fascinating, and awful. Recommended.

The central premise of The Creation Anne Boleyn is that portrayals of Anne Boleyn throughout history owe less to any historical fact and more to the prevailing social norms at the time; which is an argument that I, at least, find difficult to argue with. It's a cultural history that moves from Anne the historical figure, to Anne the patron saint of the reformation/villainess in chief in the Protestant/Catholic culture wars, to Anne the fictional character up through The Tudors, to Anne Boleyn online 'fandom'.

As much as I agreed with the author's premise, and as much as it was really, really interesting as a cultural history I did have... niggles. I'm not sure the editing was great (my point of view when it comes to editing, btw, is that if I notice it, it's probably not great) with lots of arguments, indeed entire paragraphs, repeated almost verbatim. There's lots of criticising other historians for not questioning unreliable sources (mainly Chapuys' letters), or speculating without making it clear that that's what they're doing, then turning around and doing the same thing herself. There's also some attacks on historians and writers who've tackled Anne; I've never read Phillipa Gregory, and I know that a lot of people hate her writing, but the attack on her felt weirdly vitriolic; I objected less to her digs at David Starkey whose documentaries have always had an unpleasant veneer of sexism for me. Anyway, interesting but flawed.

The Voyage of the Basilisk was the only fiction I read this month (non-fiction can be really good for getting out of a reading slump, I find) and in this installment our pseudo-Victorian lady dragon naturalist rides sea monsters and gains a love interest. If you're not already on this ride then I highly recommend you hop on; it is so much fun!


As previously mentioned I am off on my holidays later this week, to Berlin, no less, which is awesome because huzzah, holiday! and because it means I get to hang out with the awesome [personal profile] fitz_y and her equally awesome partner. But is less than awesome because it means I have to get on a plane. I... do not fly well. I have strategies in place for getting me through flights:

1. Have an extremely large Gin & Tonic in the airport.
2. Pretend I'm not going. I'm not going to get on a plane; I am, for unrelated reasons, going to fill this suitcase with a week's worth of clothes and toiletries. I'm not going, of course, and the fact that I've booked a taxi to the airport doesn't mean that I am. I'm not going; I am going to join this queue at security, though, because I'm British and it is a queue... and so on and so forth until the plane is taxing down the runway.
3. Have a book to read on the plane that is so engrossing that I forget that I'm however many miles up in the air and not just on the high speed train to Aberdeen.

Does anybody know of such a book? Seriously, though, a total page-turner, or the sort of book you just vanish inside, or both? A book to see off an incipient panic attack, if that's not too much to ask. Any genres, fiction, non-fiction, anything?


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