hoursgoneby: (Hourglass)
What I Just Finished Reading: Sparrow Hill Road, by Seanan McGuire. I enjoyed this much, much more than Rosemary and Rue. The ending did not disappoint the way R&R did, and I found myself genuinely liking Rose and concerned with what would happen to her. The world, one of the dead, of bean sidhes and roadwitches, and the power of roadside diners, was fascinating and I found myself wishing I could see more of it when the book was done.

Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. I had high hopes for this after Sparrow Hill Road, and while it wasn't bad the best I can come up with for it is 'eh, 's alright'. I wanted to like it more, it just sort of felt like the protagonist was trying too hard. (Competition ballroom dancer/cocktail waitress/parkour expert/cryptozoologist/priestess. Alright, priestess to sapient mice, but still.) The romance felt tacked on and predictable, and the mice were - weird. I mean, things in a book about cryptids should be weird but not 'reminds me of the space mice from Voltron' weird. I would have liked to see more non-humanoid cryptids as well, though part of that might be because the book takes place in New York City and the really weird stuff might not flourish there. There also wasn't an armageddon, discount or otherwise. Has anyone read more of the series? Is it worth trying to push on?

I did get to introduce the concept of cryptids to my husband, though. He knew about Sasquatch, chupacabra and so on, just not the term.

Butterflies (The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal #2), by K.J. Charles. So having encountered Simon and Robert in Remnant, the crossover with Whyborne & Griffin (link to that entry here) I wanted to know more about them. Butterflies tells the story of their second encounter, but gives you enough information you're not lost. I liked it: it was decently creepy and the plot is very weird. (I like weird horror.) The story is available for free, so you can go ahead and check it out here if you're curious. The #2 comes from it being the second story: if you read The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal it's the 2nd story in the book anyway.

I went ahead and looked up more by Charles, quite surprised to find some of her books available online at the provincial library. (I can borrow books to my ereader, I don't even have to leave the house! I love the future.) I live in one of the more conservative provinces, let's put it that way.

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies #1), by K.J. Charles. After the deaths of his father and brother, Lucien Vaudrey returns home from China after twenty years to take up the earldom. Inexplicably, he begins to suffer from blackouts during which he makes attempts at suicide. Summoning a practitioner of magic, Stephen Day, after the most recent blackout he learns that he's not only inherited the family title, but a family curse as well. Vaudrey and Day must travel to Vaudrey's family home to unravel the curse and the web of plots surrounding Vaudrey.

I quite liked it, for characters, plot, and atmosphere all. You really feel you're surrounded by the inexplicable in a decaying mansion in the English countryside. Charles also uses the technique, in a few places, of giving just enough description that you can imagine something really horrible.

A Case of Possession (A Charm of Magpies #2), by K.J. Charles. I liked this one better than The Magpie Lord, overall. It gets more into the practice of magic in England, and how that magic is regulated. There's a larger cast and we see more of Stephen's fellow practitioners/coworkers. Unfortunately, events stemming from the first book mean that his fellows have cause to suspect he's turned warlock, and in Victorian England he can't explain why he hasn't without revealing his relationship with Vaudrey. And there's a plague of giant rats closing in on London, endangering Vaudrey's friends and acquantainces as well as his lover.

Interlude with Tattoos (A Charm of Magpies 1.5), by K.J. Charles. A playful, NC-17, short story about Vaudrey and Day, without anything trying to possess or kill them. You'd need to read The Magpie Lord for this to make sense, though. If you have, or if you're OK with a bit of confusion, you can read it free here.

A Case of Spirits (A Charm of Magpies 2.5), by K.J. Charles. The last short story was playful? Yeah, not this one. (Which is also free, but only through Amazon. Kindle software for your computer/tablet/phone is free too, though, which is good because I would certainly never suggest removing the DRM and converting it to epub.) This one is pure horror. You will definitely need to read at least the 2nd book in the series to understand this, or you won't know who 2/3 of the players are.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, by K.J. Charles. As the title suggests, this is a series of short stories, which cover the life of Simon Feximal and Robert Caldwell after their first meeting till the end of WWI. I felt this was more unevenly done than A Charm of Magpies and that at times the story felt rushed, especially when Robert refers to stories we don't see. In-universe they were published in the not-secret casebooks, but we don't have those. The story needed more time and development: it would have worked better as a longer book, or as a series that would let the author flesh out the characters and their stories a little more. So, OK but not great.

What I'm Reading Now: Accidentally rereading Hunter of Demons, by Jordan L. Hawk. I say accidentally because my ereader has a habit of taking longer to move from the last page of a book back to the home screen, and I forget this, tap twice, and end up opening whatever it's showing/suggesting where my thumb lands. So I just went with it. Hunter of Demons takes place in a version of our world where the paranormal isn't hiding behind a masquerade and there's a government branch (SPECTR) in charge of hunting down demons etc. and watching over normal humans with paranormal talents. (Think Mutant Registration Act, here.) Sadly my library has no books by Hawk available, so, while I'll probably pick up the omnibus of this series sometime, learning more about the conspiracy theory that promises to weave through the series will have to wait.

What I'm Reading Next: Flight of Magpies, by K.J. Charles. The library alerted me that the copy I'd put on hold was now available. (How this works with ebooks I'm not sure - there must be a limit on how often a copy can be checked out simultaneously, or maybe they do have to purchase multiple copies as with paper books?) I like to read series in sequence, as I'm quite sure everyone's noticed by now. ^_~ Then, I think I shall take a day, put on a pot of tea, curl up in a quilt, and reread The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. <3
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What I Just Finished Reading: Magic's Promise, by Mercedes Lackey. This is definitely the strongest book out of the trilogy. It's more plot and less character driven compared to the others, making for a much tighter story, without the major plot elements crammed in at beginning, middle, and end, as the other two books in the trilogy did. You definitely get a sense of the magic and politics of the wider world of Valdemar, which is great, but sadly the momentum won't last.

If I were to edit this, now, I'd lop out most of the first book, keep this one largely intact, trim out about the first half of the third and expand on the last quarter, and print it as a single novel.

Hunter of Demons, by Jordan L. Hawk. I got this as a free book after I signed up for the author's mailing list. (Seems a fair exchange for a couple of emails a month, yes?) You can also download it for free from Smashwords via the link. I liked it well enough - though not as well as Whyborne & Griffin *g* - and will probably pick up the omnibus edition of the 1st series at some point. Hunter of Demons takes place in a version of our world where the paranormal isn't hiding behind a masquerade and there's a government branch (SPECTR) in charge of hunting down demons etc. and watching over normal humans with paranormal talents. (Think Mutant Registration Act, here.) Per Smashwords:

When Caleb is possessed by a vampire spirit named Gray, his only hope lies with hotshot federal exorcist John Starkweather. The only problem? If Caleb can't keep Gray from giving into Bloodlust, Starkweather will have no choice but to kill them both.

There also seems to be an underlying conspiracy theory that's no doubt spread through the rest of the series, and we also Gray's thoughts as he experiences life in a living body (previously he only possessed the dead), two things that honestly interested me more than the story itself.

Magic's Price, by Mercedes Lackey. I wanted to like this much more than I did. I should have, because there are a lot of elements in it that I like, just...Vanyel's moodiness and uncertainties and 'woe is me!' attitude just wore on me. It didn't help that the actual crisis of the novel - of the trilogy - was just kind of crammed into the last few pages and then - fizzled.

I was definitely not happy to have Rape As Drama gratuitously dumped in there. There were at least three ways to avoid Vanyel's capture period and there are just some things I do not like to see dropped in a story purely for shock value, and that's one of the big ones.

Overall the entire series felt like a fanfic - and that's not a shot, god knows that would be hypocritical - where the author wants to explore the characters away from the main storyline and so just uses the main storyline as background. That's not bad: I've read some wonderful stories that do that. It just doesn't work here.

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black, by E.B. Hudspeth. Would you like a beautifully illustrated horror story that sends cold tendrils creeping up your spine ever so slowly? May I suggest the above. This was amazing! Very impressive, especially considering a powerful story is delivered in roughly 50 pages - the 2nd half of the book is anatomical drawings of mythical creatures - and is one of the best examples of Nothing Is Scarier I've ever encountered. You have just enough information your imagination fills in the rest. Very definitely recommended!

Academ's Fury, by Jim Butcher. I did like this better than Furies of Calderon, though not enough that I'm rushing through the series. It's still in 'fill in the last allotted space of library books I can check out' territory. It didn't feel as unfinished as the first book, but where the first felt like it had more pages than story, this one almost feels like there's too much pressed into it. [livejournal.com profile] hamsterwoman suggested it would pick up around book #4, and I'm willing to give it at least that long. I might check out a wiki or TVTropes for info on #3 and just push ahead to 4, even.

Restless Spirits, by Jordan L. Hawk. And this is the book i got in exchange for signing up for the author's mailing list. Spiritualists and debunkers in a haunted castle? I can get behind that. It's set in roughly the same time period as Whyborne & Griffin (late 19th/early 20th century, during the Spiritualist craze) and has a few similarities. Vincent and Henry are distinctly different characters, however. Henry tends to be an ass at times and did a few things I didn't like. (Don't out people. Don't.) He can recognize or be brought to recognize his mistakes, though, so there's a promise of growth. I do like the steampunk-y feel to the book, which actually is in line with the time period. Think Edison's Spirit Phone.

My favorite character in the book would have to be Jo. Technically inclined women? Yes please! :D

What I'm Reading Now: The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany. Trying to read, anyway. When you keep glancing at the page numbers to see how much further you have to go it's not a good sign. I don't know if it's the language or just that I had higher expectations but this is seriously heading toward the 'abandoned' shelf. Which I don't have, but am thinking of creating, just for this.

What I'm Reading Next: Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel, by Seanan McGuire. I've seen mixed review for this, but I read part of the sample for book #2 in the series and found it hard to tear away, so I'll give it a shot. The blurb on Goodreads doesn't sound terribly original, but you never know.
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What I Just Finished Reading: The Last Wish, by Andrej Sapkowski. I thought it got a little bit awkward and stretched with what it was trying to do near the end, but I also liked Geralt a lot better at the end of the book than the beginning. You could see more of his personality beyond 'silent deadly merc sorceror'. I'm interested in seeing what the other two books are like.

Magic's Pawn, by Mercedes Lackey. I got partway through this and thought, "okay, so it's a coming-of-age story, about a kid escaping from his family that doesn't understand him and finding out who he really is." It certainly is that, but the crisis of it was a lot more dramatic and shocking than I expected it to be. I didn't really get into it until about halfway through, and it picked up after that. I did get a little impatient with the teenage drama and Vanyel sulking like, well, a teenager, and yet another fantasy land with anti-LGBT+ prejudice - though I recognize that that may not have been such a trope when the book was written and there are people who can use a fictional character with their problems to identify with. I would have adored this when I was a teenager, and god knows I still empathize with Vanyel on the 'not having a name for what you are' front even though those days are thankfully long past. Still, it interested me enough to read the 2nd book in the trilogy which so far seems to be a lot less teen drama and angst.

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. I meant to read the above trilogy all in a row and not be a literary magpie this time, really I did, but my ereader ran out of battery power and shut itself off, so I had to go to physical books and this will always be one of my immediate fallbacks. :) Maia's such a good character, and so kind. I'd hug him, but while Kiru might just haul me off by my ear, Beshelar would gut me first and say it was his job immediately after. (Anyway, a glance at TGE fanfic gives one the impression Maia goes on to have impressive amounts of sex with pretty much everyone, so I'd say he's OK on the physical contact front. :P)

What I'm Reading Now: Magic's Promise (Valdemar: The Last Herald-Mage #2), by Mercedes Lackey. This takes place well after the first book, which I found a little jarring. I see from Goodreads that it's The Last Herald-Mage #2 but Valdemar #5, chronologically, which accounts for it, though that sort of thing is something I associate with comics rather than novels. It's not that events aren't referenced, but they're referenced sort of offhandedly and while the characters understand what's going on, the readers could have used a bit more explanation. Vanyel's much older, and calmer, and less prone to drama (so far, I have a feeling drama is incoming) and it talks more about magic and creatures, which I like.

What I'm Reading Next: Magic's Price (Valdemar: The Last Herald-Mage #3), by Mercedes Lackey. Apparently we're saving the world?

Academ's Fury (Codex Alera #2) by Jim Butcher. Well, it took me a couple of books to get into The Dresden Files too, so I'll give Codex Alera another shot or two. Thank goodness for libraries.

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black, by E.B. Hudspeth. I can't remember who recommended this to me, or if it was recommended to me, or if I just happened to like the cover. I borrowed the ebook from the library so it could even be a recommendation algorithm tossed it my way. I'm really hoping the illustrations show up well in my ereader.

Here's the blurb from Goodreads: Philadelphia, the late 1870s. A city of gas lamps, cobblestone streets, and horse-drawn carriages—and home to the controversial surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a grave robber, young Dr. Black studies at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?
hoursgoneby: (Hourglass)
Fandom Snowflake Challenge bannerDay 7

In your own space, share a favorite piece of original canon (a TV episode, a song, a favorite interview, a book, a scene from a movie, etc) and explain why you love it so much. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

Just this past December - as anyone whose read my 'What Am I Reading' entries knows - I fell in love with Jordan l. Hawk's Whyborne & Griffin series. Turn-of the century, Lovecraftian, town-with-a-dark-secret horror? (And sometimes 'temple with a dark secret', 'lost city with a dark secret'...) Sorcerors, evil cults, Old Gods, couples being sweet at each other while overcoming odds, possibly incoming cosmic horror? It's like someone peeked into my psyche, I swear, then dropped this in front of me.

Which is actually kind of like what happened. I'd been looking at these, debating, then [livejournal.com profile] just_ann_now messaged me to let me know book 1 is available free at Smashwords. It took me a while to get to it, seeing as there are a fair number of sex scenes in each book and I was at my in-laws over the holidays. They wouldn't intentionally read over my shoulder and certainly wouldn't go through my ereader but just in case there are some things I'd rather not explain.

Here's the author's blurb:

Some things should stay buried.

Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.

So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.

As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?

The first book is very reminiscent of Sarah Monette's Kyle Murchison Booth short stories - not a copy, mind, just the same feeling - but less dark. And with more sex. It moves away from that feeling in books 2 and 3, though.

If you're curious, here's the link to the free copy of book 1, Widdershins.
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Right, so this year I set my Goodreads reading challenge at 50 books again, and hopefully will manage to meet it this year. So far we're 8 towards fifty, but to be fair it's counting a few short stories in there.

What I Just Finished Reading: Corambis, by Sarah Monette. I'd taken it out to verify something and found myself reading it instead of researching and reshelving. Oops.

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2), by Scott Lynch. Man, now I don't know which I like better, this or The Lies of Locke Lamora! Now I want to read the rest of the series not only because it's wonderful and gorgeously written, but to find out if there's a Gentleman Bastard book that doesn't rip my heart out and stomp on it at some point.

Eidolon (Whyborne & Griffin #1.5), by Jordan L. Hawk. Dammit, I am a sucker for couples being sweet at each other while overcoming odds. Toss in some horror on top of that and it's like dangling a string for a kitten, I swear. This is one of the short stories, just a few thousand words long. You can read the rest of the series without having read this, but why would you?

Carousel: A Whyborne & Griffin Short Story, #3.4, by Jordan L. Hawk. Everything in Widdershins has underlying horror. Everything.

Necropolis (Whyborne & Griffin #4), by Jordan L. Hawk. (Are we sensing a theme yet?) Lovecraftian cosmic horror in Egypt! Lots and lots and lots of Christine, too, which makes me happy because I'd just been feeling in Stormhaven that we weren't getting to see enough of her.

Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin #5), by Jordan L. Hawk. Or, Whyborne & Griffin: The Wham Novel. I was annoyed with Whyborne for much of the book, then the realization of the underlying reasons for his attitude and behaviour set in and I began to understand the reasons. Not excuse, mind, but you begin to get even more of a sense of just how lonely and rejected he's always felt, everywhere. This probably has the strongest and most obvious Lovecraft influence, and if you're familiar with his more famous works you'll probably see where it's going, though it does swerve sharply in tone and message regarding certain characters, and thank god for that.

Hoarfrost, Whyborne & Griffin #6, by Jordan L. Hawk. Whyborne, Griffin, Christine, and Iskander go to Alaska! Whyborne is not pleased - and as it's freaking cold here right now, too, I am in complete sympathy, especially once you get to the decriptions of frontier inns in the early 20th century. This ties back to events in Necropolis and Bloodline, though it's not nearly as intense and heavy in tone as the latter. It's still dark, mind, but you get a bit of a breather.

Maelstrom, Whyborne & Griffin #7, by Jordan L. Hawk. Murderous cults! Mind control! Niles trying very hard to be less of a bastard! I actually thought this was going to be another breather (comparatively) until about 2/3 of the way through then the real crisis of the novel hit. Jesus. I mean, I sort of saw it coming, I just didn't realize it was going to be as intense as it was.

What I'm Reading Now: Last one, I swear: Remnant: A Caldwell & Feximal/Whyborne & Griffin Mystery (The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, #3; Whyborne & Griffin, #3.5), by K.J. Charles and Jordan L. Hawk. I have no idea who Caldwell & Feximal are, and am just going to admit right up front I'm reading it for Whyborne & Griffin. The bright young things of London are being murdured by magic, and the only clues available are written in Egyptian hieratic. This takes place during W&G's London stopover on their way to Egypt in Necropolis. Poor Whyborne: bad enough he hates travel he keeps getting yanked into mysteries. 's what happens when you're marked by occult powers I guess.

The Chrome Borne, by Mercedes Lackey. It's an omnibus edition of the 1st and 4th books in the SERRAted Edge series, which I've never read. Actually, I haven't read a whole lot by Lackey: I can't recall them being in my local public libraries and my school libraries sure as hell weren't going to stock them. Plus, I didn't have any other fantasy fans near me who could rec the books or lend them to me. *settles in rocking chair* You kids today, with your Internet, don't know how good you have it! *gets up* I finally got around to it and oh man, do I love this! Please, are there any more series with elves driving race cars I should know about?

What I'm Reading Next: A lot of fanfic that I've been alerted to but haven't had a chance to read, plus the Star Trek fics [livejournal.com profile] runpunkrun recced to me for Day 2 of the Snowflake Challenge. Then, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and perhaps the 2nd and 3rd novels in The Inheritance Trilogy.
hoursgoneby: (Hourglass)
What I Just Finished Reading: Ooh, this'll be a long one. We went to visit family for the hols and because I a) don't drive and b) don't care to watch endless marathons of either news or reality TV I spent a lot of time reading. I was also trying to reach my 50 book target for Goodreads this year but...I don't think that's going to happen in 2 days. Still, 5 or 6 shy of the goal isn't bad. Thank god for ereaders: I'd've had to pack a whole other bag for books otherwise.

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera #1) by Jim Butcher: I don't dislike Jim Butcher's work by any means - I pretty much marathoned all 15 Dresden Files novels in a week not that long ago - but I suspect it'll take me a book or two to get into this series as well, as it did with Dresden Files. I enjoyed the book, certainly, but it felt unfinished. Not surprising, given that it's part of a series, but I can't help feeling that even with a series you should be able to read the individual books without feeling either unfinished or lost. I've still gone ahead and added the 2nd book to my library wishlist to remind me to borrow it when next I log in to borrow some things.

Pretty Polly and Whisper by Barbara Hambly: These two novellas are set in the world of Hambly's Darwath series (originally a trilogy, now encompassing five books and sadly out of print) and are available to purchase from Smashwords, where Hambly sells a number of short stories (Continuing Adventures) for her various series. I was edgy about reading Pretty Polly because I don't like it when bad things happen to animals in books and filmbut the titular cat winds up with a happy ending, to my relief.Whisper felt a little more awkward than Pretty Polly, as if it should have been larger and was cropped down to novella length. The reasons in-story make sense, but I would very much have liked a more intricate plot. The ending felt a little pat too but overall I liked it, though of the two Pretty Polly was my favoriate. It's been a while since I read anything mid-apocalyptic and longer since I read the Darwath series (puts on list) but I was surprised and pleased at how easy it was to drop back into the world.

The Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly: I picked this to reread because I like to have long, continuous books to read when we're driving - well, he's driving, I'm being driven - or when I have long stretches of time to read. Plus, Lydia, Don Ysidro, and James - won't say no to reading about them! While I didn't think this was one of the stronger entries in the series when I first read it, on reread I like it better.

Widdershins, Threshold, and Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk, the first three books in the Whyborne & Griffin series: Widdershins is available free at Smashwords, and the link will take you there. Thanks so much to [livejournal.com profile] just_ann_now for letting me know! I bought Threshold and Stormhaven, and perforce another copy of Widdershins, in an omnibus edition right after finishing Widdershins and pretty much spent the last two days with my nose in my ereader. The first book is very reminiscent of Sarah Monette's Kyle Murchison Booth short stories - not a copy, mind, just the same feeling - but less dark. And with more sex. It moves away from that feeling in books 2 and 3. Threshold has a significant Lovecraftian feel, though with more readable prose, much more likeable main characters, and a genuinely weird and engrossing plot. Stormhaven was a little harder for me to read, as it deals with a Victorian/Edwardian mental asylum and I know enough of those (read: pretty much anything) that it would make me uncomfortable even if I wasn't often edgy about treatment of the mentally ill in fiction. It also delves deeper into Griffin's past in an asylum and how he was subjected to "gay 'cure' therapy", and sexual assault (by attendants and as part of said "therapy"). (He wasn't committed for being gay, and doesn't know who told the doctors, just to horrify us more.) You can skip those pages and still understand the book, however. It doesn't feel like something tossed in just for the sake of drama and a tragic backstory: Griffin is still affected by what he was subjected to - and it would be disingenuous to pretend horrific things wouldn't happen to a 19th century psychiatric patient even if he wasn't gay - and it does have an effect on his reactions through the books. Apart from that my only real complaints are that the sex scenes are a touch OOC, especially in the first book, and Whyborne's jealousy gets formulaic and grating by the third.

What I'm Currently Reading: Taking a break from short novels and novellas with Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentlemen Bastards #2) by Scott Lynch. Despite this being book 2 in a series, you could actually pick it up and understand it without having to read The Lies of Locke Lamora, especially with the way Lynch interweaves past events with the present events. (One scene with Father Chains is copied directly from Lies, in fact.) I'd still recommend reading Lies, because it's wonderful. :)

What I'm Reading Next: Whyborne & Griffin #4-6. :)
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What I Just Finished Reading: The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner. I think I enjoy this book more every time I read it. :)

A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer. Okay, first, that cover has next to nothing to do with the book. (There's a carrying scene. It's brief, and practical and not nearly as dramatic as the cover makes it seem.) The book takes place in a world where men are exceedingly rare, to the point that one man marries an entire family of sisters, and selling and trading of brothers rather than dating and romance is pretty much the only way to find someone(s) to marry. Men are considered property.

The book never goes into detail but I rather get the impression that there was a catrastrophe sometime in the past that resulted in heavy depopulation and fewer boys being born. This results in huge families - the protagonist, Jerin, has nearly three dozen siblings - with one father and multiple mothers. Women having intimitate relationships with other women isn't seen as unsual, and at least one character doesn't see women dressing as men (for sex work anyway) as anything odd, but there's no mention of what life's like for men who are anything other than straight and cis. This isn't unusual in speculative fiction, but the fact that it's addressed for women and no one else is one of the things that really helped drive home the fact that men are property in this world. It's not just gender-flipped for the sake of having a Lady Land, either, a lot of this is actually discussed by the characters.

The book also averts the STD Immunity trope: syphilis is a big big problem, so much so that whole families have been wiped out and if there's even the slightest rumour one member of the family might have it, you're off the marriage market. All of you, since all sisters share one husband, meaning everyone can be infected before the disease is discovered.

The world in question seems to be at about a mid-1800s technology level: rifling for cannons has just been invented, there are steam powered boats and the microscope is a recent discovery. It's kind of like a matriarchal Old West, with a monarchy and a little bit of Jane Austin thrown in for good measure. If you're curious, an excerpt is available here.

Oh, did I mention all the men have long hair? Because all the men have long hair.

What I'm Currently Reading: Celts by Martin J. Dougherty. I think this is the only non-fiction book I've mentioned here? I picked it up initially because it was cheap and I needed to buy something to read while I was waiting to meet someone at the Starbucks in my local Chapters.

What I'm Reading Next: Of Bone and Thunder: A Novel, by Chris Evans, the author of The Iron Elves trilogy. From the Goodreads page, since I haven't read the novel itself yet:

Channeling the turbulent period of the Vietnam War and its ruthless pitting of ideologies, cultures, generations, and races against each other, military historian and acclaimed fantasy writer Chris Evans takes a daring new approach to the traditional world of sword and sorcery by thrusting it into a maelstrom of racial animus, drug use, rebellion, and a growing war that seems at once unwinnable and with no end in sight. In this thrilling epic, right and wrong, country and honor, freedom and sacrifice are all put to the ultimate test in the heart of a dark, bloody, otherworldly jungle.

In this strange, new world deep among the shadows under a triple-canopy jungle and plagued by dangers real and imagined, soldiers strive to fulfill a mission they don’t understand and are ill-equipped to carry out. And high above them, the heavy rush of wings slashing through the humid air herald a coming wave of death and destruction, and just possibly, salvation.

I'll have to let you know if it lives up to this or not.
hoursgoneby: (Hourglass)
I'm a couple of weeks behind on this, aren't I? Oops.

What I Just Finished Reading: Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward. It contains a lot of standard fantasy tropes, but does so on purpose. The main characters are on a typical quest and they know it. I wouldn't go so far as to call it outright satire of the genre, more something poking good-natured fun at it. It kind of reminded me of The Flying Sorcerors by David Gerrold, which does much the same thing with light SF.

Hellboy: The Fire Wolves, by Tim Lebbon. It...does what it says on the tin, really. Hellboy fights fire wolves. I like that it was set in Italy, but I wish it would have done more with the setting of Pompeii, which is pretty much just there for background. I would have also have liked it to include more B.P.R.D. members than just a couple phone calls to Liz Sherman. (The books follow comic canon, so Liz and Hellboy aren't dating.) A big part of why I like Hellboy is his interaction with Liz, Abe, Roger, etc. and it was mostly missing.

The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson. I haven't gotten anything done since the weekend because I've been busy reading this book. Fantasy, a truly alien world with alien flora and fauna (not just humans plunked down somewhere where everything has different names: the plants have rock shells and can move and retreat into themselves for protection; the 'dogs' are some kind of insect/crustacean/thing, etc.), references to fallen civilizations, an incoming disaster, engrossing characters, lost tech...sign me up! :D I enjoyed all the characters, but I'll be honest and say that Kaladin is my favorite. I may have neglected other character's chapters in order to skip ahead and find out what happened to him. Like Otherland it has several characters' storylines running in parallel, but it moves much faster.

What I'm Currently Reading: The Very Best of Tad Williams. Otherland didn't grab me, but I enjoyed Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn and Tailchaser's Song just absolutely broke my heart. This anthology has a bit of everything, but I think my favorite so far is Child of an Ancient City, which features an Armenian vampire!

What I'm Reading Next: Still might go back and read The Doctrine of Labyrinths again, although now I'm also thinking of rereading Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. Or just trying to work down The Stack.

Oh and, speaking of Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor has been nominated for a Locus award, and is also up for Best Novel at the Hugo Awards this year. *crosses fingers* (Yes, I know about the problems with the Hugo nominations this year. Which is why I think it'd be a lovely thing for a novel written by a woman to win. And that is all we will say about that.) Love to see that get more attention. I had a very happy moment the other day when I saw paperback copies of it (so glad I didn't wait for that, I would have waited a whole year!) in the book section at the drugstore. Sandwiched in among the cheesy romances, but hey, at least it's there.
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What I Just Finished Reading: The Lies of Locke Lamora. So much love for this book. It's lush, engrossing, clever, and heartbreaking. I had to walk away and calm down a bit at a couple of points because the events actually affected me. This is definitely one I'm going to go back to again and again.

What I'm Currently Reading: Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward. Light vs. dark is a standard fantasy trope, and so is the idea of the balance between them. I think we normally see the idea of dark conquering and light having to fight back. This novel explores the idea of what would happen after light wins the war and banishes everything 'dark' - thieves, assassins, sorcerors, unhappy thoughts, lack of conformity - from the world.

The world's name is Chiaroscuro. Guess how well that goes.

Fortunately for the world, a thief, an assassin, and a Druid walk into a bar - sorry are on a quest to make things right again.

What I'm Reading Next: No idea. Maybe The Way of Kings, maybe The Doctrine of Labyrinths again. Not sure yet.
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Well, that was a rough few weeks there. I was laid off and there was some bad news in the family. OTOH, I'm now unemployed and living in a city where there isn't much work-wise so at least I've got plenty of time to read? (And marathon things on Netflix, play video games: I am looking for work, it just doesn't take much time out of the day. *sigh*)


What I Just FInished Reading: Swordspoint again, as promised. The Priveledge of the Sword, which I enjoyed just as much, once I skimmed through to find Richard's name ("Wait, he's not - he has to be!). I wasn't sure about Katherine at first, but I liked her much better after she decided to, pretty immediately, show some grit and adapt to everything Alec was throwing at her. Possibly unfairly, I was expecting scenes of hysterics and flouncing first. But no, her development from silly girl to determined young woman is steady and believable. So then I read it again.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente. This is the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I picked up in a drug store a few years ago when the 'ship of her own making' bit serendipitously caught my eye. (I have a liking for women in the STEM fields.) I want to tell you about them both, because they're both fantastic, but at the same time I don't want to risk spoiling anything because part of the charm is discovering as the protagonist, September, does exactly what is going on and how to fix it. It's about consequences, responsibility, and growing up and at no point does it feel preachy.

What I'm Currently Reading: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Everyone's been telling me to read this and I'm so glad I finally got round to it! It's just magnificent, everything: the worldbuilding, the characterization, the language, the plot. All of it. I particularly like the worldbuilding. We are told about the world around them in a way that feels natural, not like an infodump - even though it sometimes is an infodump, as when things are being explained to child!Locke - because it makes sense in the setting. I almost don't want to finish it because then it will be done, even though I can just read it over again.

What I'm Reading Next: What an excellent question. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson is next on the pile, but that doesn't mean anything. I guess I'll just find out when I get there.
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What I Just Finished Reading: Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. Wow. Just...wow! And who knew reference to fish could be so romantic?

No, I'm not explaining that. If you don't know you'll have to read it and see.

What I'm Currently Reading: Swordspoint again. The first time through I found the beginning a bit rocky, and I think it will make a difference knowing how to read the rhythm of the piece and the personalities of the characters. (Alec, Alec. I feel like I ought not to like you, and yet I do.)

What I'm Reading Next: Not sure. Possibly Kushner's The Priveledge of the Sword. Perhaps The Lies of Locke Lamora. I may make one of them my upstairs and the other my downstairs book. (Because I will forget to bring my book with me from one place to another. Except when I do. This is why, no matter how intent I am on keeping my bookshelves organized and tidy, it doesn't happen.They wind up upstairs, downstairs, and in stacks. I will eventually try to organize them, get part way through, and find a book I haven't touched in ages, like meeting an old friend by chance, and it will all start again. I will grow old, and sit among my stacks of books, drink my tea, and read.)
hoursgoneby: (Hourglass)
What I Just Finished Reading

Doc Sidhe by Aaron Allston. If you're looking at the title and thinking of Doc Savage, you are on the right track entirely! Doc Sidhe is a fantasy novel (duology, with the sequel, Sidhe-Devil) and an homage to the pulp magazines of the 30s. Most of it takes place on the Fair World, a kind of alter-dimensional twin of Earth (called the Grim World) that was the basis for our legends of magic and elves. The technology runs about 60 years behind ours, so you have magic and airships, elves and iron-framed skyscrapers. And yes, the inhabitants of the Fair world are allergic to iron, which is a plot point. It's not steampunk, though - in fact, some of their tech is greener than ours. The story is excellent, the pacing tight, and all the characters are distinct and definitely have their own voices.

The link up there will take you to the full novel, available online for free from Baen eBooks. The first seven chapters of the sequel are up as well, but for the full version you'll have to hunt down a (sadly out of print) copy. (Never know, you might be surprised; my copy of Sidhe-Devil has an inscription from the author.)

What I'm Currently Reading

Still working on Otherland: City of Golden Shadows by Tad Williams. It has started to pick up in the latter half of the book, with the disparate threads starting to weave together and make more sense. I may reconsider not reading the second one in the series. We'll see.

The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth by Sarah Monette. Set in an unnamed city during the early twentieth century, this is a series of 10 short stories about the title character (Booth, no one calls him Kyle) and the bizarre and horrifying events that find him after his first unwilling brush with the occult. Booth isn't a typical protagonist: he's painfully shy, awkward, clumsy, stammering, uncertain. These are not bad things; they make him feel like a real person who gets dropped into situations most people only have nightmares about. I think I've only had this a couple of months and I keep rereading it! it's just so perfect.

Continuing on a theme, apparently, I'm also rereading The Goblin Emperor by Katherin Addison (pen name of Sarah Monette). I didn't mean to, I just took it down to verify something in a fanfic and got (willingly) drawn in again.

The book centres around Maia, a young half-elf/half-goblin who is the youngest son of the reigning Emperor and who unexpectedly inherits his father's throne when his father and brothers die in an airship crash. Maia was the fourth son, and has been effectively living in exile under the care of a cousin since the death of his mother, the Empress Chenelo. Unprepared for the role, and unprepared for court, the plot centres around Maia's growth into becoming Emperor and the mystery behind the crash of the airship.

What I'm Reading Next

The list remains the same from last week: either, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente, sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, or Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner if it's delivered before I finish Otherland and/or pick up another book.

Swordspoint has not been delivered, but The Privilege of the Sword came today. So I have that to look forward to as well. (And a book stack that may soon be tall as I am...)
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Day 7

In your own space, share your love for a trope, cliché, kink, motif, or theme. (More than one is okay, too.) Tell us about it, tell us why you love it, give us some examples and recs. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

Trope: Pretty much anything that falls under the umbrella of Cosmic Horror Story. Anything by Lovecraft is an example and if you really want a mindscrew, go for Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow. For me this trope works better in print, because in visual medium there's too much of a tendency to show instead of hint and cosmic horror is always worse when you have to use your imagination.

Cliché: Love at First Sight, although I prefer it when people fall for each other but we still see them have to work at it to maintain the relationship. You know, like in real life. I even like it if the relationship doesn't last - hey, just because you don't end up with the person doesn't mean you didn't love them. It just means it didn't work out. Enchanted has a good treatment of this: it's not impossible but you should get to know the person you've just fallen for before committing to them for your entire future.

Kink: Long hair. Mmm. Especially on men. Examples would be Lord of the Rings, of course, and A Brother's Price which, taking place in a gender-flipped world, has long hair as a masculine trait and short as a feminine one. I also have a voice kink, although that one's a little harder to pin down and define. Some voices should do it for me and don't, some are unexpected.

Motif: Pretty much any fairy tale motif, especially if they involve dragons and/or female characters who win through by being clever. One of the first books I ever had headcanon for was The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch; I liked to pretend that at the end of the book Elizabeth managed to rescue another princess and they went off and had adventures together. Another favorite is All-Kinds-of-Fur, also known as Donkeyskin, Catskin, Cap O' Rushes and more. All-Kinds-of-Fur is beautifully put together as a comic by Erstwhile and is available here. (Seriously, check out Erstwhile, they do gorgeous work.)

Theme: Works that deal with the balance between good and evil. There's a lot of these, especially in fantasy. Eve Forward's Villains by Necessity is downstairs in my 'to-read' pile and it looks to have an interesting treatment: the good guys have won over, screwing up the balance and from there it does what it says on the tin. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I also like works that don't have a great overarching stop-the-world-from-ending theme but deal more with people and their development. I'm going to rec The Goblin Emperor for this because it's an amazing book and deserves all the love. In fact, that link will take you to an online excerpt of the first four chapters and I would be happy to see people come back and comment 'dammit, now I have to read the rest of it!' :)

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My god, this book. If you know Katherine Addison as Sarah Monette, her real name and the one she used with her previous publishing house, you already know you're in for an amazing read. (According to Monette, the pen name was required by the new publisher because "publishing is deeply weird".)

The book centres around Maia, a young half-elf/half-goblin who is the youngest son of the reigning Emperor and who unexpectedly inherits his father's throne when his father and brothers die in an airship crash. Maia was the fourth son, and has been effectively living in exile under the care of a cousin since the death of his mother, the Empress Chenelo. Unprepared for the role, and unprepared for court, the plot centres around Maia's growth into becoming Emperor and the mystery behind the crash of the airship.

There's court intrigue, light magic, political maneuvering, steampunk, fantasy, and just a smidgen of clockpunk. I stayed up all night reading it by flashlight, then read it over again. I don't regret picking it up in hardback (indeed, probably the best plan since I know I'll read it over and over again) but a quick peek at Chapters.ca shows me the paperback is available for preorder if that's more your speed.


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