Weekly reading, 3 August 2016

Last book finished: Rise by Mira Grant. I’ve already squeed a fair bit about this, but it’s worth squeeing again. The Newsflesh books are great–fun, intelligent books about the post-zombie apocalypse rather than the actual zombie apocalypse. Rise is a collection of short stories set in that world, and they’re terrific gap-fillers. The stories set during the Rising are amazing–heart-wrenching and real, in a way I didn’t expect because they’re about ordinary people rather than the superheroes. Or about ordinary people and the way they become heroes. Grant examines the mythology of a hero in most of these stories, which is fascinating to me.

Many of the other stories examine the recovery process and the ways having zombies as a constant threat changes society. The story that breaks my heart every time is “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell”, because it’s about schools, and somehow, that cuts even deeper than the story of the final San Diego Comic Con. It’s not a story for the fainthearted, and you won’t be able to sleep easily after reading it, but it’s important for too many reasons to count. Reading all those stories in one swoop, instead of bit by bit as they were released, made the breadth of what Grant has done really stand out.

There are two never-published-before stories in this collection, too, and they’re both terrific. Oddly, it was the story about the elder Masons that caught me the most. I expected it to be the story about Georgie and Shaun, the protagonists from the original trilogy, which really got me, but no. It was Michael and Stacy Mason, recovering from everything they’d had to do to survive Berkley during the Rising. They’d been characters I actively disliked in the original books and although this story doesn’t make them nicer, better people, it makes me understand them and feel sympathy for them. That’s an impressive feat and may be why I took more out of “All The Pretty Little Horses” than I did from “Coming to You Live”. Not that Georgia and Shaun’s story was bad or weak–far from it–but I didn’t feel I learned anything new about them, while I did with Michael and Stacy Mason.

This is definitely a book where you need to read the original trilogy first, but I highly recommend it, which means you probably need to get onto the Newsflesh books if you haven’t already.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I’m setting myself a deadline: must finish it before I go to England next month. Argh, only a week to go!

I’m in kind of a fluffy phase right now, and simultaneously reading two books by the same author: Class and Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan. Hugely enjoying both of them.

And like the rest of the world, I’m also clued to The Cursed Child, which I was lucky enough to score from the library on release day. I’m going to need my own copy…

Next read: I have Imprudence by Gail Carriger sitting on my coffee table. As soon as my current library read is done, it’s mine!

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

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Weekly reading, 27 July 2016

Last book finished: Hounded by Kevin Hearne. It’s the first part in his Iron Druid series and I found it a lot of fun. Not the best book I’ve read this year, but definitely entertaining and with enough promise to add the next one to my wishlist. Actually, it was a character introduced late in the book that really got me interested in continuing, but that’s because she grabbed me in a way the viewpoint character hasn’t (yet). I’d say it’s a fun distraction for an afternoon, particularly if you like your urban fantasy with some Celtic influences, but don’t go in expecting huge universal insights into humanity. This is strictly a magic and adventure book.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I’m setting myself a deadline: must finish it before I go to England next month.

I’m onto the never-seen-before short stories in Rise, by Mira Grant, and OMG SQUEE. A story about Michael and Stacey Mason and suddenly they make so much more sense. I’m loving this. I also finally started Justice Calling by Annie Bellet, which was free a while ago and has been sitting on my Kindle ever since. It’s another fun distraction, on the short end for a novel, and I’m enjoying it more than I expected. If you’re an RPGer, particularly DnD, I suspect this book will be even more entertaining.

Next read: I have Imprudence by Gail Carriger sitting on my coffee table. My Hugo reading is almost done and I’ll have done my vote by the weekend. Yeah, I’m diving into steampunk joy next.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Weekly reading, 20 July 2016

I know, I didn’t post a report last week. It was a weird, busy week, and blogging slipped by me. I’m claiming the Hugo progress report the week before as that week’s weekly reading post, too. So this is the first “proper” report since…uh…June. Shockingly, I only seem to have finished one book since my Hugo binge. At least it was a good one!

Last book finished: Trade Me by Courtney Milan. I’m a big fan of her historical romances, but this is the first (and so far, only) contemporary she’s written, which may be why it sat unread for so long. I’ll pick a historical over a contemp every day, but I did finally get started on it (because it’s Courtney Milan)…and consumed it very fast as soon as I did. Milan’s trademarks are all here: fun, witty writing, protagonists who don’t fall into stereotypes, and a plot that isn’t just about their relationship. She did it in a modern setting, though, and she did it really well. Tina Chen is a wonderful heroine, clearly drawn from some of Milan’s own background, and I instantly liked her. Blake Reynolds was harder to like initially, but I began to have sympathy for him very quickly and could absolutely see why Tina fell for him. One thing I particularly liked is that for both of them, their issues stem from their parents and it would be very easy to have drawn their parents as unrelenting bad guys. It’s a popular trope. Milan examines those issues and relationships more closely, though, and I ended the book really liking all the characters even though I could also see how they had led to so many of the problems Tina and Blake have.

And speaking of problems, this is a book that deals with mental health issues and eating disorders. Not the ones you’re thinking, though. It’s Blake dealing with an eating disorder, and Milan writes it sensitively and beautifully. Tina can’t heal him on her own, any more than Blake can fix Tina’s problems, and I always appreciate a romance where sex isn’t the magical heal-all. This is a book that’s a lot of fun, a bit painful at times, and completely compelling. I stayed up way too late a couple of times because I couldn’t put it down, which shows how much I loved it.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I read a page, though. An entire page. Maybe if I reach for it instead of my Kindle during my sessions of pacing around to relieve back pain…

I’m reading Rise by Mira Grant, but I’ve learned that zombies are definitely not good bedtime reading, so progress has been a little slow. I’m also most of the way through Hunted by Kevin Hearne. He’s coming to my local comic con in November, so it was clearly time to dig this out and read it. So far, it’s fun. Not the height of brilliance, but entertaining with a lot of promise, so I’ll probably be checking out more in the series.

Next read: I got a lot of Hugo reading done, but I still have a few short stories to dig into. Must get to those this week.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Hugo progress report 1

Earlier in the year, I vowed to at least attempt every work on the Hugo ballot that I could get my hands on (without paying, in the case of Puppy picks). And so far, I’m well on track to have sampled (at the least) everything in the fiction categories. I need to get working on the Campbell and related works, though, and I’ve got one film left to view. The short form dramas may not all get viewed, largely because the newest seasons of Grimm, Supernatural, and My Little Pony aren’t available on any of the streaming platforms I subscribe to yet, and they’re Puppy picks so I’m not paying for them. We’ll see how that goes, though. Maybe by the end of the month…

You want my category by category thoughts? Well, here you go.

Novels

I had already read three (Ancillary Mercy, The Cinder Spires, and Uprooted), so I was well ahead of the game here. I adored The Fifth Season, so much that I preordered the sequel the moment I finished it and I still can’t decide whether to put it or Uprooted (my nominee) at the top of my ballot.

Seveneves was less of a success for me. I ranted a bit about it here and I finally gave up at page 364. I made it past page 100, though, which was better than some Hugo finalists have been for me. It’s definitely getting the last slot on the ballot, although I can see why many people would have nominated it, so I won’t be using No Award in this category.

Novellas

I nominated Penric’s Demon, so I had four to read in this category. I finished Binti a few days ago and loved it – it’s currently vying for top of the ballot with Penric’s Demon.

Perfect State frustrated me because I usually like Brandon Sanderson’s work, and this was not one of his better pieces. It was an okay novella, but not brilliant, and Sanderson has definitely written much better stories than this.

I didn’t make it past page three of Slow Bullets. I tried, but torture disguised as miliSF does nothing for me. I’ve got The Builders on my Kindle, so I’ll probably tackle that one shortly.

Novelettes

I’ve only made it to two of these so far, but that’s largely because “Obits” was sent as  PDF and I need to sit down with my iPad to read it. And two novelettes are from the same anthology, so I need to sit down with my iPad for those, too.

Thankfully I was able to put .mobi copies of “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead” and “Folding Beijing” on my Kindle, so I read those at the weekend. “Folding Beijing” reminded me a lot of The Three-Body Problem in style, which makes sense because Ken Liu was the translator for both. The ideas behind it were so creative that I’m currently favouring it over “And You Shall…” for top slot, but that may change. After all, Stephen King is one of the great writers of our time, so I have high hopes for “Obits”.

Short Stories

I nominated “Cat Pictures Please”, so again, I had four left to read. I’m still steeling myself for “If You Were an Award, My Love”, and “Seven Kill Tiger” is in the anthology that includes two nominated novelettes. “Asymmetrical Warfare” is another PDF-only that I need to sit down with my iPad for. Hopefully that will happen this weekend.

“Space Raptor Butt Invasion” was mercifully short and had fewer typos than anticipated. Uh, that’s all I can really say in its favour.

In conclusion…

The novels were definitely a stronger category than the shorter works. And so far, I’ve DNF-ed fewer than anticipated. Although, as the remainder are the ones I was least looking forward to, that may change. After all, I promised to try them all. I never promised to read past the first page of anything I judged truly atrocious.

Weekly reading, 29 June 2016

Last book finished: Out on Good Behaviour by Dahlia Adler. It’s wonderful. An f/f new adult romance that manages to be hot and sweet at the same time, which I think deserves applause. It doesn’t fall into the “BFFs with kissing” territory that some YA/NA f/f books can, but the sex isn’t hard core erotica, either. It’s exactly the balance that worked for me. The plot happily dives into the player/virgin trope in the best way possible and made me smile the whole way through, even during the slightly angsty parts. Although coming out is a part of the story, for Sam anyway, the real plot is about Frankie–the player–learning that being in love can be wonderful and doesn’t change who she is. I loved this book so much, and I can tell it’s going to be a happy comfort read for me.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. It got buried under a recipe book avalanche this week, so I need to do some tidying up and get reading on it!

I gave up on Seveneves. I made it further than I expected–page 364–but I just couldn’t do it to myself any more. So much over explaining. So little characterisation. Such awful pacing. I started to rant about it for the fiftieth time and realised that I was only reading due to bloody minded determination, so I put myself out of my memory. Onto the DNF pile it went!

I picked up Rise by Mira Grant instead, and it’s such a relief to be reading something with better writing. Grant knows how to get characterisation and pacing right, while writing compelling plots that are as scientifically rigorous as a zombie novel can be. And she does it without throwing every damn piece of research she’s ever done into the text.

I’m also reading Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger, which is pure joy and hilarity.

Next read: I’ve got to make some headway on the rest of the short Hugo works, so that’s going to be my task over the long weekend. Wish me luck.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday…er, Thursday reading, 16 June 2016

I got so engrossed in my current read that I forgot to do this yesterday. Woops! At least I have a good reading-related excuse for forgetting to post about my reading?

Last book finished: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear. I like the Maisie Dobbs books–historical mysteries are one of me things and the protagonist is great in these–and it wasn’t a really bad book, but it wasn’t a good one, either. It was a ‘meh’ book for me, with a few elements that felt a bit troubling because I don’t know enough to know whether the representation of the Rom was as problematic as it felt. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to that, after seeing so many people talking about the bad depictions, but I felt uncomfortable in each scene because I couldn’t tell how good or wrong those parts were. The mystery plot was intriguing at times, but the resolution felt too easy and too clean. I did appreciate some long-running plots being tied up, giving room for new developments, and was what saved this book. Overall, it’s not awful, but not one that I can wholeheartedly recommend. Hopefully this is just a dip and the next in the series will be back to its usual standard.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. Bribes still aren’t working. Maybe I need to put a reminder in my calendar, block out fifteen minutes a day for it.

I’m reading The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua and I’m loving it. It’s a book of joy and wonder. I can’t decide whether it’s the footnotes or the endnotes that charm me the most. Maybe it’s the way Ada Lovelace is firmly places as the heroine. I don’t know, but I cannot say enough good things about this. Hopefully it sticks the landing!

I should finish The Great Hunt soon. Maybe even this weekend. One of the things that fascinates me is that Jordan writes such fascinating, vivid women, all with agency and complexity, but the way his male characters think about them is so different. It’s a running theme that the men don’t know how to talk to women and constantly feel the need to protect them. And then we’ll get a chapter from one of the women’s POVs and they’re entirely capable of looking after themselves, thank you very much. The men have rather old fashioned ideas about the women, which can grate a little after spending too long in Rand or Perrin’s head. This may be why the chapters with Nynaeve, Egwene, or Moiraine are some of my favourites.

Or it could be due to this being Rand’s most tiresome book. Honestly, he’s not the brightest hero ever. Selene is clearly sign posted in every way possible as evil, but a pretty face is enough to turn Rand’s head. Maybe this is why Rand is my least favourite character. Thank goodness Jordan gave the other characters more and more chapters per book as the series went on. Too much time in Rand’s head is a recipe for frustration.

Next read: Seveneves just arrived at the library for me, so I guess that’s my next read. I’ll probably pick something fluffy and fun on my Kindle as an antidote for all that hard SF. Maybe a light F/F romance, that seems like a good thing to read right now.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday reading, 8 June 2016

Last book finished: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines. As I noted last week, it took me a while to get into it, but then I was sold and the resolution to one of the plots at the end made me do little seal claps of joy because it wasn’t what I expected.

I’ve been trying to figure out why it took me a while to get into it, and this is what I’ve come up with: it’s a first person male POV, written by a straight man, and it took me a long time to accept and go with the flow on that. There were thought patterns and observances that kept pulling me up short, which was distracting, and I think it’s because this isn’t a POV I read much. Yeah, the straight white male POV took me a long time to get accustomed to, which I suspect says a lot about my reading fare. It was the first person aspect that did it. Right now, I’m reading a Wheel of Time book so there’s lots of Rand POV (straight white male) but none of it is first person, and the extra degree of intimacy in the first person POV kept throwing me. The last book that I read with a first person male POV was Sutphin Boulevard by Sanito Hassell, who is neither straight or white, and I’m pretty sure every other first person story I’ve read over the last year was a woman narrating.

That’s not to say that Hines is bad or did anything that put my back up. It was just a different experience from all my other reading, and it took me a while to get used to. I enjoyed the book a lot and will probably read the rest of the series, because he’s got me intrigued.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. Bribes did not work. Need to find better bribes to get pages read.

I’m around a third of the way into An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear, which is fun enough, but not brilliant. I’ve loved Maisie Dobbs and her friends since the first book and I’m here for them, but I’m feeling a bit wary about some of the plot elements.

And as noted, I’m still reading The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan. The more I read, the more I’m remembering that Rand wasn’t the character I was in these books for. He’s the POV character for a large chunk of the first book, until everyone had to split up, and I think the books work best when his POV is interspersed with everyone else. He’s not an easy character to like, and the books would be hard going if we only got his view. Out of the three male MCs, it’s really Perrin that I like. He’s good to the core without ever being dull, and his struggle with his nature as a wolf brother appeals more than Rand’s struggle with his destiny.

But really, it’s the women I’m continuing to enjoy. For all of its flaws, Wheel of Time has some great women and they’re all complex with different motivations. Now that we’re getting more sections from their viewpoints, they’re getting more fleshed out and I love it. You know what happens when you get multiple women with complicated motivations and relationships? You get the Bechdel and Mako Mori test passes with flying colours!

Next read: I still probably won’t need another Kindle read for a while, thanks to Robert Jordan, but I’ve accidentally ended up with a bunch of library books that need reading. Oops. Mount TBR isn’t shrinking at the rate I’d hoped for, particularly now that it’s June and some preorders are coming in.

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday reading, 1 June 2016

Last book finished: I did a lot of comics catching up, so there aren’t any prose books finished yet. I can highly recommend the final issues of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel and the new writer is equally awesome, so don’t stop reading it just because Kelly Sue is gone. The current run of A-Force is great fun, too. Possibly the one that surprised me is volume two of Lumberjanes. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the first volume, but this volume hit its stride and I can understand why it’s such a big favourite now. I’ll definitely be getting volume three.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I’m thinking of assigning myself bribes. Maybe a Twirl Bite per page?

I’m a few chapters into The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, and I’m realising how much I’d forgotten. Wow. It’s a really good thing I’m rereading before I read the WoT books I didn’t get to before, because I can tell that I would have been really lost if I hadn’t. I’m also remembering how many women there are in these books. After all the talk about how good Game of Thrones is for the number of powerful women, I’d like to point out that the Wheel of Time books are equally filled with women and they’re allowed to be fantastic without rapey backstories to trigger their awesome. How revolutionary! 😉

I found the first few chapters of Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines hard to get into, but something happened at around page 100 and suddenly I’m right there for this. I don’t know what it was that changed, it’s just working better in my head than the early chapters did. Let’s hope he sticks the landing.

Next read: I still probably won’t need another Kindle read for a while, thanks to Robert Jordan, but I’ll need a dead tree book. It’ll probably be Games Wizards Play or Ink and Bone, because they’re crying out from Mount TBR. I should also do some more comics catch-up. I’ve got a ton of Ms Marvel to read…

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday…er, Thursday reading, 26 May 2016

Last book finished: So many! So very many. This is what happens when I take a week-long staycation–I read a lot. I think that I’m currently at six books read for the vacation, but the one I really need to talk about is The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin.

It’s one of the two novels on the Hugo finalists list that I hadn’t read yet. I’ll confess, I hadn’t read it because I read The 10,000 Kingdoms a few years ago and didn’t really enjoy it. Intellectually, I could see that it was a well-written book, but it didn’t do much for me on an emotional level and I never read the other books in the series. So when everyone was raving about The Fifth Season last year, I just sort of…didn’t bother. I had a feeling it would end up on the Hugo list anyway, so I knew that I’d probably read it eventually, but I had other books that I was more excited about.

I’d like to slap past me for that, because I loved this. Loved it in ways that I can’t express. If someone had sat down and tried to plot out a book that would be tailor-made for my narrative loves, it would be this book. From the world-building to the characters, I was enthralled. Global disasters and their aftermath? Intriguing dead civilizations? Strange abilities? Characters growing beyond what they’ve been told they can be? Epic adventure? Personal journeys? I got all of those!

Even the structural elements that I wasn’t sure I’d like–specifically, the use of second-person in certain chapters–worked because they were done well and pulled me into the narrative in a way that I didn’t expect. And as the pieces came together, those choices made even more sense.

In case you were in any doubts about how much I loved this, I went straight out and preordered the next in the series. Highly recommended, run to your bookshop or library and read this immediately.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I accidentally put a different book down on top of it on its new coffee table position. Clearly, moving it was a bad idea, so it’s back to its original position.

After finishing two books yesterday afternoon, my current reads are so new that I can’t talk about them much yet. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan is a reread, but it’s been fifteen years so I’ve forgotten most of it (which is why I’m rereading). And Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines has a fun opening chapter.

Next read: I really need to tackle Mount TBR a bit. Libriomancer will help, but I pulled a couple of books off the shelf for my vacation reading stack, so it’ll be one of those: Ink and Bone or Games Wizards Play. I’m reading the Jordan on my Kindle, so I probably don’t need to pick another Kindle read for a while!

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?

Wednesday reading, 18 May 2016

Last book finished: Er…I confess, I have not actually finished anything. My weekend didn’t result in as much reading as I’d have liked and all my Kindle reading has been fanfic this week.

Current read: Still working on Russian History: A Very Short Introduction. This will always be my status. I accidentally put a different book down on top of it on its new coffee table position. Clearly, moving it was a bad idea, so it’s back to its original position.

I’m still reading Vicious by V. E. Schwab, and it’s still blowing me away. More impressively, the book that I thought I was reading when I was loving it last week? Yeah, it’s not that book. It’s doing this thing where you think you know what the story is and who all these people are and how it’s going to end…and then she slowly smashes each assumption to pieces. It’s a far more interesting read than the story I expected to get, which delights me.

Next read: My library hold on The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin just came in, so that’s what’s up next. It’s never too early to start the Hugo reading! I’ve got a week off next week, so I’m anticipating plenty of reading time. As for my Kindle…my choices are so wide. I need to get some short fiction written, but I’ll probably take some time to wallow in comfort reading to contrast the Jemisin, which I’m told isn’t the easiest read ever. So either a historical romance or the next Wheel of Time book!

What are you reading this week, and would you recommend it?