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Transcription - Kate Atkinson
The Wych Elm - Tana French
Cross Her Heart - Sarah Pinborough
Catwoman: Soulstealer - Sarah J. Maas
Record of Spaceborn Few - Becky Chambers
The Hollow of Fear - Sherry Thomas


Transcription is a historical novel that jumps around between WWII, the 50s, and the 80s. The bulk of the action is set in WWII where a young woman is drafted to transcribe bugged meetings between fascist sympathisers for MI5, it then picks up in the 50s and 80s where her wartime actions come back to haunt her. The WWII sections are really good; atmospheric, well drawn, and compelling. The parts set in the 50s are harder going, and contained more information about the internal politics of the BBC children's service of that era than I really cared to know. Recommended for fans of WWII novels and unreliable female narrators.

The Wych Elm is the first Tana French novel not set in her Dublin Murder Squad series, and doesn't have any of the nods to magical realism that I have such mixed feelings on in those books (I thought it worked in Broken Harbour, was a bit on the nose in The Secret Place, and that The Likeness was stupid.) In it our protagonist is Toby, the handsome, upper middle class poster boy for unthinking privilege. His privilege is put on spectacular display early in the novel where he confidently assumes he got his job as a green as grass graduate over a woman with decades of experience because he was the better person for the job, or when he runs off a guy who was hanging around his girlfriend's job and pestering her without even trying to understand why she was so frightened. All the same, he's not a bad guy, he's just...he's that guy. After Toby interrupts burglars at his flat and survives a terrible beating he goes to his Uncle Hugo's house to recover (because Toby is also the guy who has an Uncle Hugo), where a body is discovered in the garden. From there it becomes both a really engaging mystery (it edged close to having one too many twists for me, and I still can't decide if it pulled it back in time) and a study of the way Toby's privilege both no longer helps him (of course the police suspect the twitchy, nervous guy with the holes in his memory and the weird face) and still does (he's still a white guy with well off parents.) Highly recommended.

I remembered really enjoying Sarah Pinborough's Dog-Faced Gods trilogy years ago, so to say I was disappointed in Cross Her Heart would be something of an understatement. This thriller had too many stupid, ridiculous, suspension of disbelief shattering 'twists' to recap. But the one I found most egregious was the idea that a forty year old could convincingly pass herself off as eighteen to other teenagers for months on end. I mean, come on.

I returned to DC's YA series with Catwoman: Soulstealer after not reading the Batman instalment for the same reason I plan on skipping the Superman one, which is, you know, very much not caring. I actually, and much to my surprise, liked the Catwoman book a lot more than I enjoyed the Wonder Woman one. Maybe it was that I care for Sarah J Maas's writing more than I care for Leigh Bardugo's, or maybe it was just that the Selina, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn team up, and the idea that Harley's relationship with the Joker is toxic and she should be with Ivy instead played up to exactly what I like in my DC.

After frickin' loving the first book in Becky Chambers Wayfarers trilogy and being only so so on the second I am pleased to report that Record of a Spaceborn Few is a return to form. In this one we visit the Exodan Fleet, a human society based around the generational ships they first left Earth on. Like the rest of the series it's told using revolving povs and is rather light on plot, but the povs are endearing, and it's a really interesting study of an insular society and the people who choose to leave, choose to stay, and choose to move in. The whole series is really worth a shot, and you'll know almost instantly if the style isn't going to work for you.

All year I have had nothing but good things to say about Sherry Thomas' Lady Sherlock series; alas, I felt like The Hollow of Fear went off the rails somewhat. A little bit it of my discontent was the overly convoluted plot and the reliance on information the reader couldn't possibly have, but mostly it was that by now Charlotte Holmes is pretending to be the bedridden genius Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock's sister (who is somehow not Charlotte Holmes), and while wearing a false beard and fake paunch Sherlock's brother Sherrinford Holmes. I'm sorry, Sherry Thomas, but this is where I get off.
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The Feather Thief - Kirk Johnson
Everything Trump Touches Dies - Rick Wilson
Fear - Bob Woodward
Artificial Condition - Martha Wells
When Katie Met Cassidy - Camille Perri
The Governess Game - Tessa Dare
Red Sister - Mark Lawrence
Grey Sister - Mark Lawrence
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss
Lethal White - Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)


I was saying recently that I don't read much true crime because it makes me feel voyeuristic and just plain icky. I do have one big exception, and that's crimes where no-one gets hurt, and that are esoteric or just plain weird. The Feather Thief is everything I want in a true crime novel and more. It's the story of a classically trained flautist who as a child became obsessed with ye olde Victorian art of fly tying and ultimately knocked off several filing cabinets worth of centuries old preserved birds from the British Museum in order to maintain his hobby. It's weird and fascinating and awesome.

For a Scot I sure have read a lot of books about US politics this year. I read two this month. Fear doesn't really contain any revelations that are new to people who follow the news, or have, you know, eyes and ears. It's basically a drier, better researched version of Fire & Fury. It's also pretty obvious who talked to Woodward (Bannon, Porter, Cohn & Graham), and I know that if we wait for a boy scout to blow the whistle on this administration we'll be waiting a long time, because there isn't one, but I am super not interested in anything that lets wife beating Rob Porter paint himself as a hero. In the end Fear was mostly interesting as yet another Watergate comparison in an administration that could really live without them. Rick Wilson is a republican operative who I'm pretty sure I disagree with on literally everything except for the fact that Trump is the worst. Anyway, he hates Trump, is hilarious, and I think I enjoyed reading Everything Trump Touches Dies more than Fear.

The second Murderbot novella Artificial Condition was as good as, maybe better than the first - Murderbot makes friends with a spaceship! They're exactly as charming as everyone says they are. The only thing that sours me on them is the way they're being released as four novellas - four expensive novellas - when they'd easily make one long novel, or at least a duology. I'm not saying it's a money grab, but it feels like a money grab. Still planning on reading the rest of the series, though.

When Katie Met Cassidy; or, why do all lesbian romances suuuuccck, part a million. It's a slap-slap-kiss romance between two corporate lawyers (belch). And while it's nice that Cassidy, the lesbian character, is butch, she pretty much veers into parody, and the other character Katie is basically an amalgamation of every straight girl having a gay awaking. And, by the way, the book could have been about half the length if it had ever used the word 'bisexual'. Basically, ugh.

Tessa Dare's id - brainy heroines and grouchy rakes with hearts of gold - works for me so much more than I would have expected it to if you described it to me. The Governess Game is more of the same, and I really liked it.

A few years ago I read the first book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, which was notionally about assassin nuns, but was in reality a sort of meh YA fantasy romance. Where, I have been wondering since then, is my boarding school story set in assassin nun school? And if that seems like a weirdly specific request, I'll have you know that it was more than satisfied by Red Sister and its sequel. And if the fact that it's a boarding school story set at assassin nun school isn't tempting enough for you, let me leave you with the first line: It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men. Highly fucking recommended.

In The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter Mary Jekyll, daughter of the doctor of the same name, meets Diana Hyde, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein for adventures. Sherlock Holmes is there. As is Renfield. It felt like the author was too busy jamming in every victorian and gothic reference she could think of that she neglected to write an actual, you know, plot.

I really like the Cormoran Strike series. I liked Lethal White, and I'm sure I'll like the inevitable BBC adaptation even more. But holy smokes, it reminded me of the later Harry Potter books in the sense of really needing a good editing. I don't know if they just don't care, or know it'll sell like hotcakes anyway, but it was six hundred and fifty pages long and I feel like a good two hundred of them were superfluous. I also got a little snagged on the mentions of the Olympics and it being set in 2012; it didn't ruin it or anything, but it was a bit jarring in a book that came out just last week. Rowling can write the hell out of a mystery though.
netgirl_y2k: (gwen beer)
Give Me Your Hand - Megan Abbott
Dear Madam President - Jennifer Palmieri
Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli
I'll Be Gone in the Dark - Michelle McNamara
Future Home of the Living God - Louise Erdrich
Unhinged - Omarosa Manigault Newman
A Study in Honor - Clair O'Dell


Give Me Your Hand revisits Abbott's favoured topics of female friendship and female rage, this time set in a research lab studying severe PMS. And if you've liked previous Megan Abbott books you'll probably like this one too. I must admit though, I keep picking up her books thinking I'm going to like them more than I do, and I can't put my finger on exactly why they don't entirely work for me, because they're all technically brilliantly written, and about subjects that should be right up my alley. I guess they're maybe that little bit too dark for me.

Jennifer Palmieri worked in both the Obama White House and on the Clinton campaign and her contribution to the ever growing "what that fuck is happening?" genre is a slim volume framed as a letter full of advice for America's eventual first female president. Dear Madam President is a quick read - I read it in a single sitting - and its biggest takeaway is that people hold women to different, and harsher standards than the do men. Not an original observation, to be sure, but a valid one, and one that a lot of people seem weirdly reluctant to accept.

I didn't read Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda but I did really love the move adaptation, and there was a bit (the bit where all the kids are meeting up in costume to go to Bram's party) where it seemed like they were hinting at Leah having a thing for Abby, so I jumped straight into the second book Leah on the Offbeat where that is indeed the case. God, if I'd read this book as a teenager teen me would have over-identified like whoa with nerdy, overweight but not bothered by it , never been kissed Leah Burke. And thirty-five year old me really loved the book too.

I don't read a lot of true crime. It's like Gillian Flynn says in her introduction to Michelle McNamara's I'll be Gone in the Dark, you have to accept that you're making yourself a voyeur to the worst thing that's ever happened to another person. And the fact that McNamara died suddenly while writing it added, for me, another layer of ick to it. But there had been a lot of buzz about this book looking the golden state killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorised Californians for a decade during the seventies and eighties, not least because not long after its publication he was finally caught. McNamara is a brilliant crime writer, a brilliant writer full stop, which is never more obvious than in the places that her collaborators have had to fill in the blanks to get the book ready for publication. And it is darkly fascinating. But, still, ick.

Future Home of the Living God is a reproductive dystopia (there's lot of them about lately) set in a world where evolution has stopped, and in some cases started running backwards. The scene where a sabre tooth tiger eats a chocolate lab while our protagonist watches out her kitchen window illustrates the premise well, but, darn, I could have lived without it. Pregnant, and later on fertile women, are expected to turn themselves into the government to see if they can produce quote normal unquote babies. It was brilliantly written; it was also meandering, bleak, and ultimately unsatisfactory.

Okay, I'll hold my hands up. As part of my continuing addiction to the soap opera/prelude to the end of the world that is US politics, I read Omarosa's book. I am not proud of myself. I also felt like I needed to shower after finishing it. If asked to summarise it I would do so thusly: Holy revisionist history, Omarosa!

A Study in Honor is a near future, pre-cyberpunk, political dystopia set in a US riven by a second civil war. Janet Watson is a PTSD riddled veteran with a malfunctioning cybernetic arm who through circumstances ends up sharing an apartment with undercover federal agent Sara Holmes. It is a perfectly acceptable pre-cyberpunk, political thriller. But the weakest thing about it, the very weakest thing, is pasting on the names Holmes and Watson. Look, just because Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain and you can use it, doesn't mean you should. Watson's PTSD was really well done, and making her black and a lesbian was an A+ choice. Although I did have some quibbles about the way the book leaned into its portrayal of race, which as the whitest person in the world second only to Benedict Cumberbatch I am utterly unqualified to comment on; I'll just say I was not surprised to discover that the author was white too, and leave it at that. But Sara had nothing in common with Sherlock beyond a last name; she was a spy not a detective, and her "deductions" were the result of cybernetic implants and high speed wifi. She was also a blank slate; the name Holmes obviously being meant to stand in for any depth, personality, or characterisation. It was really disappointing.
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
It's been prime reading outside with a beverage weather these last couple of months, so.

What You Want to See - Kristen Lepionka
The Unexpected Truth About Animals: a menagerie of the misunderstood - Lucy Cooke
You All Grow Up and Leave Me: a memoir of teenage obsession - Piper Weiss
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza - Shaun David Hutchinson
The House on Half Moon Street - Alex Reeve
Provenance - Ann Leckie
Tell it to The Bees - Fiona Shaw
Force of Nature - Jane Harper
Feel Free - Zadie Smith
Difficult Women - Roxane Gay
Who is Vera Kelly? - Rosalie Knecht
The Photographer - Craig Robertson


Whee, I'd been looking forward to the second Roxane Weary book, about a hard-drinking, noirish, bisexual private eye and What You Want to See did not let me down.

If you have ever wanted to horrify the people down the pub with anecdotes about necrophiliac penguins then The Unexpected Truth About Animals is the book for you. It's also the book for you if you like Mary Roach, books where it's clear the author knows her stuff and is only too delighted to be telling you about, or gross out humour. I loved it a lot.

You all Grow Up and Leave Me featured two things I constitutionally have a hard time sympathising with: 1) poor little rich kids, and 2) people writing books about other people's tragedies to which they happen to have been adjacent. Piper Weiss was a teenager on the upper west side when her tennis couch was found to have sexually abused some of his students, although not her. It was not a badly written memoir and might be quite an interesting read if, unlike me, you could muster up a more nuanced opinion of the author than: you are a bad person and you should feel bad about having written this.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza is YA about a teenager who was the product of a virgin birth who discovers that she has the power to heal the sick, but with the side effect that every time she does other people get raptured to god knows where. I was loaned this ages ago and kept not reading it because that plot summary did nothing for me. But in the end it had loads of things I dug. A bisexual protagonist! And no love triangle! Teenager characters who behaved like teenagers and not mini 35 year olds! An ambiguous end!

Caution: if you dislike ambiguity in your resolutions the lack of explanations in this one will probably make you want to bite people, but it really worked for me, better than probably any more definite conclusion could have.

The House on Half Moon Street is Victorian set crime novel featuring a transgender man as its hero. Not a woman dressing as man to escape the restrictions placed on woman at the time (those are good too, its just not what this is...) but an actual trans guy, although poor Leo (formally Charlotte) doesn't have that language for it. And it is so good. It's apparently the first in a series and I for one cannot wait.

Content warning, because forewarned is forearmed: there is a very brief scene where our hero is raped, because I know that might be a deal breaker for a lot of people.

Provenance was... I guess it was nice to see what humanity is like outside the Radch, and maybe I liked the Imperial Radch trilogy a little less than everybody else (I actually remember very little about them, although it was only a couple of years ago that I read them) but this was just, kind of, fine.

Mostly I use tumblr as a way of getting notified as to whenever two female characters are going to make out in a movie or on tv, which was how I came to see the trailer for Tell it to the Bees staring Holliday Grainger and Anna Pacquin. And I immediately went and read the book, set in post-war Britain where a single mother falls in love with the local lady doctor; it has a happy ending and is de-frickin-lightful.

Zadie Smith is smarter than I am. I mean, I already knew that. But her essay collection Feel Free makes it clear that she's smarter than me by the same order of magnitude as I'm smarter than my dog. I was really impressed by her take on the brexit vote, and when she was talking about Get Out or Key & Peele it was almost like we shared a common language, but then she got onto modern art or experimental film... Zadie Smith is smarter than I am, and it makes for an impressive collection but not necessarily an enjoyable one.

I don't always remember that I like Roxane Gay's writing, because every time I finish one of her books I'm so raw that I need, like, a year to recover. But then I go back, because her writing is like...cauterising a wound.Dangerous Women, her collection of short stories is the same: beautifully written, deeply upsetting.

Content warning: sexual violence. whoa boy, sexual violence.

Who is Vera Kelly? is an understated, low-key spy novel about a lesbian (bisexual? Vera thinks of herself as a homosexual but sleeps with a guy more than once during the book, so) CIA operative in Buenos Aires on the eve of the Argentine revolution. It's good, but it's low low-key. If you go in expecting James Bond then you will be disappointed.

My favourite bit was the flashback to Vera's first time in a lesbian bar where no one will talk to her because they all think she's a cop. That's what I'm going to chose to believe from now on: everyone thinks I'm a cop.

The Photographer is a perfectly serviceable tartan noir. I mean that in the most neutral possible way.

(Graphic Novel:

Batwoman: The Many Arms of Death

Heh. Didn't love. It's been suggested to me that maybe I'd like the earlier run of Batwoman better. Or Batgirl.)
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The Queens of Innis Lear - Tessa Gratton
Down Girl: the logic of misogyny - Kate Manne
Only Human - Sylvain Neuvel
The Covert Captain - Jeannelle M. Ferreira


The Queens of Innis Lear is a female focused fantasy retelling of King Lear. Sounds right up my alley, right? Except whatever seed of promise it has quickly gets buried in tediously overwritten prose and at least three hundred unnecessary pages. Needed a good hack-and-slash editing.

Okay, reading Down Girl was my own fault. I'd seen something about the book somewhere and come away with the impression that it was for general audiences. It is not. And when I realised that instead of putting it down and seeking out something more my speed I ploughed on through hundreds of pages of moral philosophy. I don't disagree with anything Manne says about misogyny as the law enforcement arm of the patriarchy, but I also understand a lot better why Chidi Anagonye ended up in the Bad Place.

The law of diminishing returns is strong with The Themis Files. The first book in the series was outstanding, the second was fair-to-middling. By the time we get to Only Human... Oh, dear. The ending is unsatisfying, and the author has gotten locked into the format (which worked so well in book one!) of presenting everything in the form of interviews. Except by book three they're not interviews. They're just two characters who know each other well talking. Seriously, that's not an interview. It's a conversation. Stop it.

The Covert Captain is SO BAD, YOU GUYS. It's about a woman who's been disguised as a man in the army for years and when she returns to England she falls for her commanding officer's sister. And I am 100% the audience for a book with that plot, and if it were any good at all I would surely be reccing it to high heaven, but alas it is SO, SO BAD. It is bad on a technical word handling, sentence structure level. It is bad on a characterisation level; can we see how the fiancée got from freaking out that her intended is a woman to being totally cool with it? Does the character who spent 10+ years disguised as her dead brother have any thoughts about gender or identity? No, okay then. It is bad on a plot level; never mind dealing with the gender reveal because now here's a long lost brother! Never mind that! Now they've all got scarlet fever!

*insert obligatory whine about how shite f/f romances are here*
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Strange Weather - Joe Hill
A Princess in Theory - Alyssa Cole
The Woman Who Fooled The World: Belle Gibson's Cancer Con, and the Darkness at the Heart of the Wellness Industry - Beau Donelly
The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating - Anthony Warner
You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump - Alec Baldwin


Strange Weather is a series of short novels, because Joe Hill is allergic to the word novella, I guess. The title is a bit of a misnomer because except for the last one none of the novellas really feature weather as more than background noise, but despite my disappointment not to be reading four stories about the environmental apocalypse I really fucking loved them. Snapshot is about a polaroid camera that steals people's memories and really feels like an old school Stephen King story, which I suppose makes sense with Joe Hill being King's son. Loaded is a musing on gun violence in the US; I can't tell if it's the weakest story in the collection or just the most out of place, it certainly had the weakest ending. In Aloft a guy has a skydiving accident and lands on a cloud/UFO, and there's a whole extended metaphor about unrequited love/the "friendzone" that I really dug. My favourite was Rain where rain starts falling as metal shards; I loved it both because Hill was making fun of his own tendency to write long, rambling fantasy novels (although I would have merrily read six hundred pages about a grieving butch lesbian and her cat loving MMA fighting sidekick in the world of killer rain; it actually made me want to pick up The Fireman, which I think was the one Hill was sending up in this.) I also really appreciated the post-script where Hill said he'd been writing the story during the 2016 election, and in the original draft the president had been a harried and overwhelmed, but basically competent woman, and the story had had a much happier ending.

When I delve into the romance genre I usually go for historicals (what can I say, I enjoy a good duke pun) but I branched out into contemporaries with A Princess in Theory. The setup is a lot of fun: you know those Nigerian spam emails, what if you were getting inundated with those claiming you were the lost betrothed of an African prince, and what if they were legit?

And it was a lot of fun, but it was also two books; the first was about a harried STEM student finding love in New York, and the second was a fairy tale about the heroine discovering she really was the lost princess of not!Wakanda. And both books were good, it was just that the join was pretty obvious. Also, the hero lied about his identity for a huge chunk of the story, if that's the sort of thing that bothers you, although the heroine remains mad at him about it for a satisfyingly long time.

The hero also had a dapper lesbian sidekick, whose story I will get in a side novella if at all, but that's a known bug in my relationship with a lot of romance series.

Years ago I was the worst employee ever in a shop that sold a lot of these supplements and detox teas, and I came up with Gillian's hierarchy of wellness bullshit:

-Someone who tells you that you should quite smoking, ease up on the drink, and try to get more green veggies and oily fish in your diet knows their stuff; listen to them, or don't, you being a grownup who knows your own mind.
-It was a cold and you were getting better anyway, but the placebo effect is a real thing, and echinacea isn't going to hurt you - fill your boots.
-Anyone who uses the word detox or cleanse thinks you're a mug and wants your money.
-Anyone claiming they can cure your cancer with anything other than conventional medicine should go to Hell via prison.

And I have a lasting fondness for reading debunkings of these bullshit merchants. The Woman Who Fooled the World is about an Australian woman who lied about curing the terminal brain cancer that she didn't have with diet to the tune of an Apple endorsement and a book deal. It was a story I already knew, told in a not particularly compelling or well written way. It was worth reading though for the chapter on the real Belle Gibson, a single mother who actually does have terminal brain cancer and how her life looks nothing like the airbrushed, instagram ready image Gibson used to bilk the desperate and gullible out of christ knows how much money.

I usually enjoy Anthony Warner's profanity laden takedowns of various fad diets, but if that sounds like something you might enjoy too, I recommend his Angry Chef blog so much more than the accompanying book.

You Can't Spell America Without Me. Um. Look, I like Alec Baldwin's Trump impression on SNL too, but why anyone thought it was worth stretching out into a book I do not know. And the joke about Ivanka sneakily feeding her dad anti-psychotics disguised as vitamins has not aged well.

(April Graphic Novel:

Bombshells, vol. 3: Uprising

I loved the previous Bombshells trades for both the aesthetic and All The Superheroines, but volume three was the first one where I really felt like the plot had worked for me, too. Plus there was a lot of canon Harley/Ivy which might have gone some way to earning its spot in my affections.)
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Red Clocks - Leni Zumas
Disobedience - Naomi Alderman
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit - Jaye Robin Brown
The Wanderers - Meg Howrey
Anatomy of a Scandal - Sarah Vaughan
A History of Britain in 21 Women - Jenni Murray
The Seagull - Ann Cleeves
Utopia For Realists: and how we can get there - Rutger Bregman
Null States - Malka Older


I keep reading about how there is a new wave of feminist dystopia novels coming. Gosh, I wonder why that might be. Red Clocks is set in a US five minutes from now where a president most people didn't vote for and a number of ideologically driven governors amend the constitution to ban any and all abortions and make fertility treatments really hard to come by. The thing I really liked about it is-- Like, The Handmaid's Tale is scary, but it's allegorically scary, it wouldn't happen like that, not exactly like that, and not that quickly; but this, the idea that there could be this huge sweeping reduction to women's rights, and there would be some grumbling, and some protests, but mostly life would just chug on, that's more insidiously frighting, because that's possible in the short to medium term. And because the tragedies that come from it - because you can't force a woman to go through with a pregnancy she absolutely doesn't want, all you can do is force her into taking stupid risks, and come down like the fist of a vengeful God on terrified teenagers - are small and intimate and not a large scale horror movie, people just, kinda, get used to it.

The bit of world building that really fascinated me was the Pink Wall, where the US has somehow strong-armed Canada into turning any woman suspected of seeking an abortion back at the border. It got me thinking about about the Repeal the 8th vote coming up in Ireland, and how my sister who's lived in Galway for years thinks that there would have been a vote ages ago if not for the fact that it's so easy (not easy, no, but there's no one turning you back at the airport) to go to England, allowing people to just... keep not thinking about it.

There are four pov characters: a teenager who's pregnant and doesn't want to be, her teacher who can't get pregnant and desperately wants to, the mother of two young children, and a weirdo who lives in the woods and knows more about the gynaecological uses of plants than the authorities are comfortable with. It's actually a very good literary dystopia, with a dystopia that feels all too possible.

I read two books about religion and lesbianism in quick succession, and my reactions to them probably tell you more about me than it does about the books.

Disobedience I picked up because of the Rachel Weisz adaptation coming out later this year (trailer here), and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it someone on that basis. The trailer makes it look the movie will focus much more on the relationship between the two women; in the book their relationship is pretty incidental to a study of grief and an insular religious community. I also wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for a book about a happy f/f relationship; the two women don't end up together, and I don't think as a reader you were meant to want them too. But if you're interested in a very quiet, very British, room-with-a-view-with-a-staircase-and-a-pond type novel about the orthodox Jewish community in London then I can quite honestly recommend it.

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits is a YA novel set in, well, Georgia where the out daughter of an evangelical preacher agrees to go back into the closet for a year at the behest of her father, and then, dun dun dun, meets a girl. It is bright, it is cheerful, it is well written, it has a happy ending where the two girls end up together. And it left me feeling squirmy and uncomfortable and particularly British. Maybe it's the generally hangdog vibe of the anglican church, maybe it's that nothing will cure you of catholicism quite so thoroughly as thirteen years of catholic school, but there's something about evangelical religion, particularly US style evangelical christianity which makes me, well, squirmy and uncomfortable.

Anatomy of a Scandal is a courtroom drama about a disgraced politician accused of rape. With plot twists that wouldn't be out of place in a soap opera and some really questionable punctuation choices I barely finished it.

The Wanderers is about three astronauts participating in a simulated mission to mars for a private corporation, a la space x, to help work out the logistics for a later manned mission. But as the simulation continues and becomes more and more elaborate they start to wonder if maybe they haven't been sent into space for real. It's claustrophobic, and ambiguous, and paranoia inducing, and I really liked it a lot.

A History of Britain in 21 women was by the lady what does Women's Hour on the radio, and I'm not sure who the intended audience was? Each chapter was a precis of the life of one british woman from Boudica to Nicola Sturgeon; it was too much stuff I already knew about the women I was familiar with, and not enough information on the ones that were new to me. I'm just not sure who this book was actually for.

I've never really been able to get into the Vera novels before, even though the the TV show is excellent, with a top-notch line in dramatic shots of the Northumberland countryside, and grouchy upper-middle aged lady detectives. With The Seagull I finally cracked it, you've got to pretend Brenda Blethyn is reading it to you. If they're not having her narrate the audiobooks then they're missing a trick.

In Utopia for Realists Rutger Bregman advocates for a universal basic income, a fifteen hour workweek, and a world without borders. And, look, I am totally convinced by his arguments in favour of a universal basic income. Partly because I work in social care, and my retirement plans are a) universal basic income, or b) that comet that wiped out the dinosaurs, I guess; and partly because you can tell that UBI is what Bregman is passionate about, it's what he's thought most deeply about, and where his arguments are most cogent.

He's pretty good at making the case for a fifteen hour workweek too, and I can't tell if the fact that I was less convinced was because his argument was less refined, or because my lived experience of mcjobs and bullshit jobs has made me a cynic, because that seems to me distinctly more utopian and less likely to happen in my lifetime than UBI. By the time Bregman gets to the section on universal free movement... well, he throws in some statistics in support of his case, but you can tell that he hasn't really tuned his giant, empathetic brain onto the subject with any kind of focus.

So the book starts strong and fades, but there's still lots of food for thought there, and I'd really recommend it.

I'd really freakin' adored the micro-democratic world-building of Infomocracy where people are governed in clusters of ten thousand people, and your government may be totally different from the government two streets over. So I was so disappointed when most of Null States took place outside the world of micro-democracy. This is the second book in a series; murders were committed and then never solved, plot arcs were set up and then barely advanced an inch. It was a second book so second book-y that it made me not want to read the third book.

I will say that the first book, Infomocracy, was really good and didn't feel like it needed a sequel.

I started but DNF'd The Woman in the Window having decided that I'd liked it better back when it was called The Girl on the Train.

(February Graphic Novels:

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat!: Careless Whiskers
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: BFF


I have decided to embrace that what I like in comics are bright colours, simple stories, localised happiness, and female characters aplenty. Sorry, dude who's my only rl friend into comics, but I am never going to read The Killing Joke.

AKA Hellcat! was easily my favourite of all the comics I've read so far. I'm bummed that it's finished, but also not bummed because I feel like three trades is a complete story and plenty for me to treasure forever.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was super lovely, but I feel like I got it and don't need to read more. I shall certainly look forward to the upcoming animated show for mornings when I am hungover and/or sad.

The other thing I've decided I like in comics is things that are off to the side and don't get hijacked by the main continuity. Like, I don't care that She-Hulk got taken out of commission in whatever smash-bang comic book event was going at the time, she should have been able to continue being bffs with Patsy in AKA Hellcat!, goddammit!

This is true of the movies too. I keep saying that I don't care about the MCU, even though I've liked-to-more-than-liked the last three that I've seen (Homecoming, Ragnarock and Black Panther), when what I really mean is that I don't care about Steve, Tony, Infinity Stones, or Thanos.)

Books

Dec. 19th, 2017 02:35 pm
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
Dog Update: Freya is on such strong painkillers that she thinks she's fine, meanwhile I'm trying to keep a hyperactive three year old gun dog confined to a single room of my house while dealing with all sorts of pet insurance villainy (per condition limits, exclusions, percentage payments). And this is for a non life threatening injury to my dog; I'm beginning to understand why Americans are so tetchy all the time.

She's going in for surgery tomorrow and they're talking about fusing her ankle joint, and then we're onto weeks and weeks of crate rest. Oh boy.

In the meantime I have had this post half written since last week, so lets talk about books, I think I'll find that soothing:

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls - Various
The Bloodprint - Ausma Zehanat Khan
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
The Duchess Deal - Tessa Dare
Lies We Tell Ourselves - Robin Talley


Okay, the first mistake was mine. I saw the title of The Secret Loves of Geek Girls and thought this was going to be an anthology of nerdy women talking about the nerdy things that they geek out over. It was not that. Instead self-identified "geeky" women wrote or drew stories about their romantic lives in various stripes of meh. Look, an anthology where a bunch of women loosely connect by whatever nebulous whatsit talked about their loves lives was never going to do much for me. Judging by my baffled scroll through its glowing goodreads reviews it seems like if this book spoke to you then it really fucking spoke to you. It did not speak to me.

I have really enjoyed Ausma Zehanat Khan's crime novels, so when I heard she was writing a middle east inspired feminist fantasy novel I was super excited to read it. Unfortunately The Bloodprint was... not good. First mistake, if you have a magical group of women called The Oralists and not one of them is a lesbian then I seriously question your life choices. I mean, seriously, the Oralists. The second mistake was the the worldbuilding felt thin. Like, super thin. There was a Wall and a Citadel and an Ashfall Court, but they all felt like they'd been plucked at random out of the Big Bag of Fantasy Cliches and never came together into any sort of cohesive or convincing world. The one sort of, kind of interesting aspect of it, that the bad guys were loosely based on the Taliban (or not so loosely based, given that they're called the Talisman) could have been good villains in the hands of someone who wasn't writing Baby's First Fantasy Novel, but here, nah.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is about a widowed bookseller who rediscovers meaning in his life when he adopts the baby girl who was abandoned in his bookstore. If you love books about books, have a high tolerance for twee, and can overlook the fact that that's not how adoption works then the first three quarters of the book are actually lovely. A bit like The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and what I'd wanted The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend to be earlier this year. Then in the last quarter it changed from a sweet and uplifting love story about second chances to the story of the protagonists death from a rare form of brain and his grieving wife and daughter. Like, holy change of tone, Batman!

The Duchess deal is the first regency romance that I've read this year that I've really properly enjoyed. In it a battle scarred duke and a disgraced vicar's daughter agree to a marriage of convenience, and, of course, ultimately fall in love. It was hot, and fun, and was just what the doctor ordered.

I have bounced pretty hard off Robin Talley's books in the past, but I really loved Lies We Tell Ourselves, a super well-researched novel set in a Virginia high school during desegregation. And far be it from me to want less lesbians, but the relationship between two teenage girls, one white one black, didn't quite hit the mark for me. I couldn't see what the black the girl, Sarah, saw in her love interest, other than the fact that she was maybe not quite so blatantly racist as everyone else at the school.

(This year I've been dipping in and out of various comics trying to work out what I like, and it turns out what I like is Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! I read the first two trades, Hooked on a Feline and Don't Stop Me-Ow and I just want to swim around in how perfect for me they were. More like that, please! I also read two trades of the oft recommended Matt Fraction Hawkeye, My Life as a Weapon and Little Hits. And is this why people like MCU Clint, because they think he's this guy? Obviously I can't be impartial about these because of how Clint takes in Pizza Dog after he gets hit by a car, but I'm pretty sure I would have liked them regardless.)

Books

Nov. 27th, 2017 02:38 pm
netgirl_y2k: (kahlan white dress)
Final Girls - Riley Sager
The Last Place You Look - Kristen Lepionka
The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden
Wolf by Wolf - Ryan Graudin
Artemis - Andy Weir
Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng


I already had Final Girls - a fairly generic thriller in which three 'final girls', the only survivors of previous massacres, find themselves the target of a new killer - out from the library when I read the thing about how Riley Sager is the pen name of a dude named Todd who was trying to cash in on the fact that female penned thrillers in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train seem to make real money. And while lots of authors write under more than one name, and it shouldn't necessarily be a big deal, something about this one left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't know if I would have liked it more had I read it without knowing about the author, but as it was a lot of the handling of the female characters made me think, yeah, this was written by a dude named Todd.

Luckily, I liked The Last Place You Look a whole lot more; plus I'm almost entirely sure Kristen Lepionka really is a woman. It's about a hard drinking bisexual private investigator called Roxane Weary. I really love it when these noir-ish sorts of of books are about women, and this was a good one. Apparently it's the first in a series, and I will certainly be back for more.

Prey of Gods is one of those books that's super hard to explain, so I'm going to talk about by means of a pro - con list.

Pros: the AI uprising, South African demigods, one protagonist is a super violent demigoddess nail technician, another is a transwoman, two more a teenaged gay couple, it is really fucking good.

Cons: phonetically spelled South African accents.

So, you know, you can make up your own mind.

The nazis won alternate histories are a dime a dozen, and while I've enjoyed some of them (The Small Change Trilogy comes to mind) Wolf by Wolf was not one of those. It's about a girl who is experimented on in a concentration camp and ends up with face changing powers. And first of all, the idea of someone getting superpowers from eugenics experiments was, I thought, in very poor taste. And then, of course, the assassination of Hitler is down to this teenaged girl, all the while she's caught between two boys, and oh god...

In the end, the tastelessness bothered me more than the generic YA-ness of it all, but both were offputting.

Artemis is a heist set on the moon. In the end, it's not quite as cool as that premise makes it sound. The nerdy, engineering details are a bit pasted on in places, and it doesn't quite have the same charm as The Martian. But it's still a heist set on the moon, and as such is very, very cool. I also feel like I want to give points to Andy Weir for making his new protagonist a woman of Saudi Arabian extraction, because I feel like it would have been easy for him to write white guy sci-fi forever.

I had really liked Celeste Ng's first novel, but Little Fires Everywhere, set in the US suburbs in the 90s and featuring class differences and cross racial adoptions, did very little for me. Maybe if I were more of literary fiction person...

(Graphic Novels of late have been: The Mighty Thor: Lords of Midgard, The Mighty Thor: The Asgard/Shi'ar War, Bombshells: Allies, Mockingbird: I Can Explain.

Jane Foster!Thor continues to be my favourite, and of the comics I've tried so far the one where the art style works best for me.

Bombshells with it's ladies kissing and no super dudes allowed clubhouse is so very much in my wheelhouse that I don't even care that the plot lurches around a tiny bit incoherently.

I'm not surprised Mockingbird was not long for this world, it was cute and funny and all, but it leaned too hard on the puzzlebox aspect which was not nearly as clever as it seemed to think it was.)
netgirl_y2k: (Default)
The thing I hate most about how hard it is to get an NHS dentist is that I'm stuck with the dude who, every time I go in, grabs the front tooth that was knocked skew whiff by an overly affectionate labrador retriever (totally worth it) and attempts to waggle it, with a gleam in his eyes like, Do you want a quote for your inevitable bridgework now or later?

Anyway, books.

Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage - Jennifer Ashley
Mr Cavendish, I Presume - Julia Quinn
The War on Women - Sue Lloyd Roberts
The Tiger's Daughter - K Arsenault Rivera
The Dime - Kathleen Kent


It's been a while since I've read any regencies, so I decided to jump back into two series I'd started a while back. I'd liked the first book in the Mackenzies series, but Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage was meh in the extreme. Mr Cavendish, I presume was better written, unfortunately it was the second part of a duology and all it did was retell the events of the first book from the pov of a different character. It was like Julia Quinn had decided to remix her own novel, and done it in the least interesting way possible.

The War on Women is a series of essays on FGM, sex trafficking, the magdalene laundries, and all those other things that you know about but can't think too hard about in order to get through your day. Sadly the author passed away before she could finish the chapter on the pay gap in the UK, with specific references to care assistants versus male dominated jobs like dustmen. Hey, I know somebody who would have been interested in that!

Ugh, The Tiger's Daughter vexes me. On the one had it is high fantasy with two lesbian leads set in fantasy Mongolia. On the other hand it has an insurmountable structural problem that the entire narrative is told in a letter one character sends to another, recapping their shared history, and detailing events that the recipient of the letter was both present and awake for; I was not surprised when I read in the postscript that the author had got the idea while playing D&D because obviously; and there is not nearly enough attention paid to the fact that one of the characters is slowly turning into an orc. On a surprise third hand, it had fantasy Mongolia and lesbians and reading it so delighted me that I don't really care about its many and glaring flaws.

The Dime is a fish out of water story about a lesbian detective (I have a shelf on my goodreads account just called harold-they're-lesbians) from New York who moves to Dallas, Texas. It was a perfectly serviceable thriller until the last third where it took a disturbing turn into torture porn.

Books

Oct. 10th, 2017 06:09 pm
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
Wonder Woman: Warbringer - Leigh Bardugo
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman
What Happened - Hillary Rodham Clinton
SPQR - Mary Beard
The Ruin of Angels - Max Gladstone
Waking Gods - Sylvain Neuvel


DC's new, shiny thing is hiring Young Adult authors to write YA novels about their headliners, of which Warbringer was the first instalment. It had a couple of things working against it for me: I am super fussy when it comes to YA, and I've bounced pretty hard off Leigh Bardugo's work before. It also features a slightly different Themyscira from the movie, which felt like a mistake with the book following so hotly on its heels, and an actualfax teenaged Diana, which, um. That said, it was a fun adventure, it neatly sidestepped the het romance I was dreading, and the teenaged characters were fine, even though they were, you know, teenagers...

Hey, I think I've just put my finger on why most YA doesn't work for me!

I can't say I've much interest in the upcoming Batman or Superman books in the same series, but I will probably tag back in for Sarah J. Maas' Catwoman instalment.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is about a woman in Glasgow who grew up in care, has no understanding of social niceties, and is in massive denial about how lonely she is... then she accidentally makes a friend. As someone who doesn't have the best social skills (but is certainly more cognizant than Eleanor of where I'm going wrong) my levels of secondhand embarrassment reading this were off the charts like whoa. But once I got over that it really was a very lovely, very uplifting book.

My first reaction to What Happened was that I wasn't going to read it, but I would defend to the death Clinton's right to have written it. I mean, it's not like Hillary Clinton is the first politician to have lost an election, or the first to have written a book about it. I don't know what it is about her specifically that makes people think that she should put her herself out to sea on an iceflow, accompanied only by that woman from Game of Thrones shouting SHAME. Just kidding. Of course I know why that is, everyone knows why that is.

Then bits of it started leaking out, and it seemed like she was mad at all the same people I was mad at, and baffled by all the same things I was baffled by, so I picked it up. It opens on election night, and I immediately started bawling like a baby. I'm still baffled by the reviews that called it an exercise in deflecting blame, because she accepts responsibility in this, she accepts so much responsibility that by the end I was going 'okay, it was your fault, I get it, enough already.' Mostly the book is her going: 'I was the candidate, the buck stops with me. But this was a weird election, and other things were happening. Here are some of them.' Which seems more than fair to me.

It did veer into the saccharine in places, mostly where she was talking about religion, but that might have been me being British and going 'ew, get this religion off my politics, it's all sticky'. And she does go on a fair bit about having won the popular vote, which is fair enough; in her position I would have had that tattood on my face.

I kind of want to say you done fucked up, America, but I feel like you already know that.

I have never been that interested in ancient Rome, but I have been extremely fond of Mary Beard ever since she got publicly lambasted for daring to go on Question Time looking like how you'd expect an oxbridge classics professor to look, while also being a woman, and shortly thereafter doing a BBC series on Calligula while wearing gold lame converse because zero fucks were given.

Anyway, SPQR was very readable, even for someone who picked it up more out of feminist feeling for the author than interest in the subject matter.

I've talked before about how much I love Max Gladstone's godpunk Craft sequence, and on paper The Ruin of Angels should have been my favourite; it featured library heist and all the relationships were f/f, but it felt like the flaws of the previous books were writ large in this.

The worldbuilding always was the best thing about this series (and it is seriously fucking awesome) but here it felt like the books were starting to crumble under the weight of all that worldbuilding. The plot, such as it was, felt like we were just moving from one worldbuilding set-piece to another until everything happened in the last fifty pages. And the characters desperately tried to avoid telling each other plot relevant information in case that accidentally created some story momentum.

On the upshot, there's an admin demon who considers taking bloody, demonstrative action to stop people erroneously flagging intra-office mail as triple urgent, and a lady knight who breaks her lady love out of prison with the line: knights can rescue their ladies from towers; that's practically what knights are for.

Basically, there's individual moments of brilliance interspersed through a sea of meh.

Waking Gods is the sequel to Sleeping Giants which I'd really loved a couple of months ago. It's plot can be summarised thusly: what good does a giant, unstoppable robot do you when the other guys have thirteen giant, unstoppable robots? Both books are told through interviews and log entries, and even if I'm not totally sold on the SF plot, they are super quick, super twisty, super fun reads.

(Graphic novels were Bombshells: Enlisted, and The Mighty Thor: Thunder in her Veins, both of which I got a hell of a kick out of. Because I am new to comics, and because there are so many, while I am but one person, my method to winnowing them down to the ones I might want to read is: no dudes need apply.)

Books

Sep. 7th, 2017 12:34 am
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
Behind the Throne - KB Wagers
Children of Time - Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Humans - Matt Haig
Sleeping Giants - Sylvain Neuvel
Mongrels - Stephen Graham Jones


I really wanted to like Behind the Throne. It's about a gunrunner who is dragged back home to become empress of her Indian inspired matriarchal space empire; I should have liked it, but it's just... not very good. Firstly, it's meant to be set in a space faring society, except this has little to no relevance on the plot, and on the rare occasions that they actually mention spaceships or aliens it actually throws you out of the story because you have to stop and go 'oh yeah, they're in space, I'd forgotten'. There's literally nothing to distinguish it from a generic, earthbound fantasy story; they're fighting saxons, for fuck's sake. At least there's palace intrigue, I told myself; bland, predictable, telegraphed from a mile away palace intrigue. The heroine is a hyper-competent, green-haired, natural leader, who everyone instinctively follows; so far so generic YA heroine, and the fact that she's thirty-eight does nothing to change this. Did I mention that her full name is Hailimi Mercedes Jaya Bristol (My Immortal flashbacks, anyone?), and yet she's thirty-eight, and this book appears to have been marketed towards people who aren't thirteen?

Yeah, I didn't like it.

Luckily Children of Time was an excellent pallet cleanser. So, thousands of years in the future a decadent humanity decides to seed a planet with some monkeys infected with a virus that will accelerate their evolution and intelligence enabling humans to have monkey butlers when they finally colonise the planet. Except. Except all the monkeys die on impact, the humans never arrive, and the virus infects the local spiders. The book follows the developing spider society as they discover God, atheism, and gender equality (the male spiders would like the females to stop killing them after sex, please and thank you). Intercut with this are the last refugees from a dead Earth, navigating a hostile universe, and slowly realising it's the planet of the spiders or extinction.

I was Team Spider, but you should make up your own mind.

The Humans is about an alien who takes over the body of a mathematician without knowing anything about life on Earth and has to navigate his baffling life in Cambridge. It was also written following the author's struggle with depression, and is an ode to how life can seem awful and baffling and pointless, but there are always dogs, and peanut butter sandwiches, and Beach Boys songs, and maybe the little things can be enough until you get a handle on the big things.

I can see how some people might find it twee, but I thought it was lovely, not least because one of my coping methods for brain weasel attacks genuinely is: but, dogs!

Sleeping Giants is about parts of a mysterious, impossible giant robot being found buried under the earth and the quest to assemble it, and is told pretty much exclusively through interviews with a shadowy man-in-black figure. Two things, 1) this was a super quick, super fun, super well-written read, and 2) it's the first instalment of a series, and I can easily see how the aliens planted a giant robot on prehistoric Earth storyline could easily go off the rails, so I'm reserving judgement.

I will for sure read book two though.

Mongrels was a time jumping, steam of consciousness tale about a boy coming of age in a family of werewolves. Now, I know I'm not interested in stories about young men coming of age, and I hardly ever like werewolf stories as much as I think I'm going to, so it's no surprise I didn't love this, but I can see how it would work hella well if this was more in your wheelhouse.

(Graphic novels were Wonder Woman: Love and Murder which is exactly as bad as you'd expect Diana written by Jodi Picoult to be, and Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More, Stay Fly & Alis Voltat Propriis which started fun and charming, and then went off the rails giving me a taste of what it feels like when a story you've been merrily following gets highjacked by an event you haven't the foggiest about.)

Books

Jul. 2nd, 2017 01:15 pm
netgirl_y2k: (brand new day)
Fates and Furies - Lauren Groff
Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour
Into the Water - Paula Hawkins
Nimona - Noelle Stevenson
American War - Omar El Akkad
Giant of the Senate - Al Franken
Hunger - Roxane Gay


Fates and Furies, or A Portrait of a Marriage Between Two Terrible Heterosexuals Who, Quite Frankly, Deserve Each Other. Lotto and Mathilde (and the fact that their names are Lotto and Mathilde tells you everything you need to know about them) are an upper middle class couple whose twenty year marriage is based on them having quite a lot of sex and both being mildly dreadful. Lotto (short for Lancelot, fucking Lancelot) is an eternal manchild, failed actor, and playwright so self-involved that he spends more than a decade failing to notice that his wife is rewriting his plays while he sleeps. Mathilde is the chick from Gone Girl, only lacking in any of the things that made the chick from Gone Girl compelling.

The writing is intermittently beautiful, and the rest of the time drips with pretension so thick you can practically taste it.

File under: fuck off.

Everything Leads to You was meant to be a palate cleanser, a sweet lesbian romance. Not unrelatedly, why are most f/f romances so shite? Even without the romance it hit one of the things I hate most in YA: characters who're still teenagers, yet live the lives of thirty year olds. The protagonist in this was still in high school, but she was also a set designer in Hollywood. Aye, right. And most of the book focused on her getting tapped to work on an indie movie. Now every time this indie movie is described you get the impression that all the characters and the writer herself think that this is some sort of cannes festival winning level genius, but everything you see about it makes it seem so twee that it would be laughed out of day one of an intro to screenwriting class.

Oh, and when we first meet the protagonist's love interest, she's homeless. But not real, actual homelessness where it's traumatic, and stressful, and terrifying, the type of homelessness that only exists in not very good novels where homeless shelters are like sleepaway camps, you make lots of new friends, and get cast in a not very good indie movie.

I mean, the spelling and the grammar is all correct, which hasn't always been true of all the f/f romances I've tried to read. But you could also have achieved the same effect by just writing the word MEH in five hundred point font.

Into the Water, or Another Book by that Woman What Wrote The Girl on the Train, was about a suspicious suicide and it was... fine. It got a little baggy in the middle in that way a lot of second novels do when the writer worked on their first book for ten plus years, and then had eighteen months to write the follow up. But while it could certainly have used a bit more tightening up, it wasn't so noticeable as to be a dealbreaker, or even particularly distracting.

It was more overtly feminist than The Girl on the Train, which I liked, but without the oh, fuuuck gotcha moment that made that book such a big hit. The twists here were all fine if guessable. If Paula Hawkins doesn't just want to retire and live off her The Girl on the Train swag then she has a bright future in front of her writing okay-ish thrillers.

My local library has found some money from somewhere to make themselves all fancy (and here I was thinking that the magic money tree only gave out to the DUP and the bloody royals) and as a result now has a pretty cool graphic novel section from which I picked up Nimona, a charming graphic novel about a young girl who apprentices herself to a supervillian, oh, and she can turn herself into a dragon when the situation calls for it. It was funny and lovely, and also seems to have been the thing that finally unlocked whatever it was in my brain that was stopping me from parsing graphic novels.

(That lock picked, I also read and enjoyed the first two Ms. Marvel trades and the first collection of the female Thor, which I'm mentioning in an aside because for esoteric and inexplicable reasons I'm not counting them towards my yearly total. Though this may change if I feel like my numbers need to be artificially inflated come December. Also, I don't really have anything to say about them except that, yeah, I consumed them and enjoyed doing so.)

American War was the first book in a while that I have really, really loved. The basic setup is that the US government has banned fossil fuels (seems unlikely given recent events, I know, but just go with it) causing several southern states to band together and declare independence kicking off the second civil war.

It's not about the war, per se, but about life as a refugee, and the indoctrination of child soldiers, and acts of terrorism, and it handles all of these topics with grace. Highly, highly recommended.

More than ten years ago I bought Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them to give to my sister as a birthday present. Just as I was coming out of the bookshop I ran into a boy who I'd met for the first time at a party a few nights before. Because we were at uni together we decided to go for a quick pint to bitch about our upcoming exams. At four in the morning I crashed through my backdoor; us having hauled the Franken book around a number of bars and clubs for twelve hours, and one or both of us having been sick in the bag with the book in it. And that's the story of how I met my best friend, and also the story of how I had to buy the same Al Franken book twice.

In the years since Franken has become a senator, which I didn't know about because pre-Trump I didn't follow US politics with an ever mounting sense of WTF??? But once I realised he wasn't joking, he really is a senator, this was a read I really enjoyed. It's interesting, and funny without being facetious, and even if it wasn't those things it would still be worth reading for the Ted Cruz bashing.

Hunger is Roxane Gay's memoir about all the weight she gained after being gang raped at the age of twelve and fucking ouch. It's important and raw, and if you can read it you should, but fucking ouch.

I also DNF'd The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend which was about a Swedish tourist opening a bookshop in small town America, which I was expecting to be like a cross between Gilmore Girls and The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and had the charm of neither.

Books

May. 14th, 2017 04:49 pm
netgirl_y2k: (kahlan white dress)
A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers
A View From the Cheap Seats - Neil Gaiman
Of Fire and Stars - Audrey Coulthurst
Within the Sanctuary of Wings - Marie Brennan
Want You Gone - Christopher Brookmyre


A Closed and Common Orbit is the second instalment in Becky Chambers Wayfarers series, and it took me a wee bit longer to get into than the first, only because I was that wistful that we weren't rejoining the crew from that book. Although it picks up with a couple of minor characters from the first book this one could be read as a standalone (although you really ought to read Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, because it's lovely). It's about found families, and sentient AIs, and transcending sucky circumstances. Cosy sci-fi that doesn't skip on the worldbuilding - I have my fingers and toes crossed for more in this world.

It's not a secret that Neil Gaiman's fiction does little for me (it always reads as oddly flat) but I do like his brain; I've loved the things he's written about the importance of libraries, and of creating things. So I picked up A View From the Cheap Seats, a collection of his non-fiction. And, yeah, about 15-20% was that, but the rest of it was reprints of intros he'd written to other people's books, and that can seem kind of circle-jerky at the best of times, but at least when the author is talking about things you've read you can agree or not with them, or where your tastes overlap you might discover new things to check out. But Gaiman's tastes are a bit too... 'boy nerd' to be helpful to me. So this was largely a collection of intros to books and comics I haven't read, and have no desire to read, as such... meh.

Of Fire and Stars is a YA fantasy where a princess travels to a new kingdom to meet the prince she's been betrothed too since infancy, only to find herself falling in love with his sister. And the f/f romance was lovely, it was a slow burn hate-at-first-sight to love that was, alas, trapped inside a painfully generic YA fantasy. If you were to write a YA novel using a write-by-numbers kit this is the book you'd write. The characterisation of the central pairing was thin (one is nice, the other is feisty) while the characterisation of the secondary characters was non-existent. Even the prince, upon discovering his fiancee in bed with his sister, manages to react with a little less feeling than a dead dodo. The worldbuilding lurches between the non-existent and nonsensical, even by the standards of YA fantasies.

My thing with this book was, like, imagine someone had written the book of your dreams, but it was shite.

Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the final instalment of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, the outrageously delightful adventures of a pseudo-Victorian lady naturalist who specialises in dragons.

(I say final instalment because I read somewhere that Marie Brennan is working on a book set in the same world but a couple of generations down the line, which I am leery of because I am wary of diminishing returns, I mean look what happened when the Parasol Protectorate time skipped like that. But the Lady Trent series is complete, and, as mentioned, de-fucking-lightful.)

There is twist in this final instalment, that I don't want to give away, but in the hands of a different writer could have come across as straining suspension of disbelief but in Marie Brennan's made me look back on the previous four novels and go ooh, that's clever. I give the entire series a solid A.

While I'm on the topic of series that know, or don't, when to end: Christopher Brookmyre is one of my favourite writers, and Jack Parlabane my favourite of his creations. But this eighth instalment in the Parlabane series is an inadvertent argument that Jack should have been put out to pasture with, probably, Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks. Although, Black Widow was a good take on a reporter of legally dubious methods in a post Leveson world, but showing Jack back on the top of his game in Want You Gone kind of undercuts the value of that outing.

Also, Brookmyre has generally done a good job of moving Parlabane with the times, and as middle aged Scottish blokes go, he's pretty progressive, so the scene where the middle-aged Jack sleeps with twenty-five year old bisexual with an undercut kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.

Basically, authors, know when to let your self-inserts go.
netgirl_y2k: (kahlan white dress)
The Wolf Road - Beth Lewis
Only Ever Yours - Louise O'Neill
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
A House Without Windows - Nadia Hashimi
The Mandibles - Lionel Shriver


You know that bit when you were reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road and you thought, you know, I would be enjoying this book a lot more if it featured women and apostrophes?

Um, that may just have been me...

Anyway, The Wolf Road is really good. It's set post-apocalypse (the cold war turned hot) in which a young woman discovers the mysterious man who raised her is a serial killer, and goes on the run pursued by her past, a frontier lawman (law-woman?), and a semi-tame wolf. Along the way she rescues another young woman from dystopian sex-traffickers and discovers the meaning of friendship. So, yeah, this book is pretty much catered exactly for my id, and I really loved it a lot. Also, it's properly punctuated, so that's good too.

I got only Ever Yours as a job lot with Asking For It, like, a year ago, and then didn't read it because Asking For It fucked me up so much. While that one was a contemporary YA about the aftermath of a gang rape, this one was a dystopia where women (called Eves) are designed from scratch and raised to be either wives or concubines. It's like the world's most horrifying boarding school story. And as a straight dystopia it doesn't quite work, there are too many holes in it; the idea that female infanticide would reach such levels that women would simply stop conceiving female children is not how biology works, especially not over the course of a generation or three. But as a parable about how society treats teenage girls, and encourages them to treat themselves, it really does work.

So, yeah, whatever it loses for ill-thought out worldbuilding, it more than makes up in will-fuck-you-up-ness.

His Bloody Project is about a murder in a 19th century Highland crofting community, and if you like faux discovered historical documents and unreliable narrators this might just be for you.

A House Without Windows is set in Afghanistan, about a woman accused of the murder of her husband and the Afghan-American lawyer fighting to free her. And that plot was fine, but much more compelling to me were the scenes set inside the women's prison, where more than half the women were locked up for 'morality' crimes, and some of them had been turned in by their own families to keep them safe from so called honour killings. I really must find a book about that to read.

I read The Mandibles and holy mixed feelings, Batman! The first three quarters of it I really liked; it was set in 2029 and all about the catastrophic implosion of the US economy. Economic dystopias are fast becoming my favourites; I think because the best ones speak to what we're afraid of, and while I'm not afraid of nuclear winter, I am afraid of having to work till I'm almost ninety caring for people only a little older than myself.

But then the last hundred pages skipped another ten years into the future after there had been a partial recovery, and holy mackerel, did I change my tune. The problems I had with it were threefold:

-Firstly, I think it's safe to say that Lionel Shriver disagree on basically everything to do with taxation and redistribution of wealth. The part I found most objectionable was the idea that caring for the elderly and vulnerable is only worthwhile if it's on an individual charitable basis, and society wide safety nets are what's going to doom us all. Oh, fuck off.

-Secondly, Shriver's obvious self-insert character, who had been fun up to that point, saved the day and lived to one hundred and three. Ugh.

-And thirdly, in the flash forward people have to have a chip implanted under their skin to use like a credit card; and there's a really gross and overwrought comparison between that procedure and sexual assault. And, like, that's one of my hard no's in fiction. You know what's like being raped? Being raped, and literally nothing else. I'm not saying that other experiences can't be as bad or even worse, I'm just saying that those experiences should find their own word.

So, yeah, Lionel Shriver? Start and stop at We Need to Talk About Kevin.

As for what I'm going to read next... my TBR is looking a little listless. Anyone read any good books lately?

Books

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 '...eh, 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.

Books

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?

Fifty-five.

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.

Favorite?

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

Oldest?

Not sure.

Newest?

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; ...how 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.

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