Dec. 31st, 2015

alithea: (Windswept Francine)
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy. Entertaining adventure story which is about as close to the TV adaptations I remember as Disney's Three Musketeers is to the original, I wasn't expected it to be narrated by his wife for a start. It does however, rely on classic case of telling rather than showing - we're told she's regarded as the cleverest woman in Europe but she spends most of the book being remarkably dense!

Foxglove Summer (Rivers of London book 5) by Ben Aaronovitch. Yet another thoroughly entertaining instalment. I love how these books manage to be both really funny and yet also feature quite dark urban fantasy that never resorts to popular stereotypes [Kindle]

A Liaden Universe Constellation 1 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Short story collection. Some gems here, especially the story of how Ren Zel comes to be dead and flying with the Dutiful Passage, and the one about the scout stranded on the world that is killing him at the end, which made me teary.

A Liaden Universe Constellation 2 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Another short story collection, mostly Plan B and Surebleak era stuff this time although also Miri backstory, which I enjoyed.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Yeah, I see why this won so many awards, and it's so nice not to have to qualify that with anything problematic (Wind-up Girl this is not, in a good way).

Zero by J.S Collyer. Space opera by a friend of the Boy's. This went somewhere I really wasn't expecting half way through but was a pretty good space action/thriller story. My only complaint would be that she cut too much of the character stuff - several of the background characters end up being names and jobs, and the characterisation of the two main characters suffers somewhat from having relationships with characters that are not explored in quite enough depth for you to really get the emotional impact of everything that happens to them. Oh, and I was somewhat annoyed by one of the three female characters disappearing half way through too. Overall, it read a bit too much like she'd cut half of the interpersonal stuff out. [Kindle]

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. I think I actually enjoyed this more than the first one in the end. She continues to build on and explore her setting and while the plot becomes arguably less sweeping, I liked the more personal edge and focus on the characters as Breq develops from single-mindedly pursuing a goal she assumes will kill her to working out how she can make a difference to the lives of the ordinary people caught up in the machinations of those so distant from them. Maybe less radical in terms of ideas than the first book (although I'm not sure how she could have avoided that really) but more engaging character-wise for me.

Goddess by Kelly Gardiner. When I found out someone had written a novel in English about Julie D'Aubigny, La Maupin, the 17th Century swashbuckling bisexual opera singer, I knew I had to read it, especially as I've been vaguely contemplating doing similarly (as an exercise at least, I doubt it would ever have seen the light of day!). Unfortunately, it's rather disappointing as the author has obviously done her research but her decision to structure the novel with every other chapter being Julie monologuing from her deathbed makes the entire thing a tragedy, from the abused child to the grief-stricken lover left behind when the love of her life dies, the love of her life who only features in last few chapters. Some of the third person chapters are quite entertaining once she gets going and there's no doubt that it's readable but her characterisation of Julie tends more towards the pathetic than the sympathetic (understandably really given she's dying but it seems an odd choice of style for someone who apparently wants to celebrate her life). Plus the narrative style means none of the other characters are very well realised and we are mostly told the relationships rather than seeing them in a light where they make much sense. This is particularly glaring at the start because although the same sex and mixed sex relationships get more equal treatment later in the story, we are supposed to believe that Clara and Julie are so obviously enamoured of each other that one of them gets banished to a convent without them speaking to each other(!), but then they apparently can't manage to invent lesbian sex between them, and that all they do is gaze into each other eyes and hold hands, and daydream about what would happen if Julie woke up as a man, and only kiss once *because it scares them too much*. All in all, what I wanted to read was the version of La Maupin's life Ellen Kushner might write and this is very much not it.[Kindle]

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Rather entertaining comedy of errors involving a bunch of mostly bumbling historians time travelling back to Victorian Oxford in pursuit of what turns out to be a hideous urn which disappeared when Coventry Cathedral was destroyed during WW2. Laugh out loud funny in places and the time travel is delightfully twisty - can our heroes fix the time line so events unfold as they are supposed to, and who really broke things in the first place?

The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. After reading the House of Niccolo books, I am firmly of the opinion that there is no pleasure quite like a Dunnett novel and this did not disappoint. Lymond seems to be a charismatic villain but of course, nothing is as it seems and gradually his plotting and other people's is revealed for what it really is. As usual, her historical backdrop is rich in detail (mid 16th Century Scotland at war with England) but the real joy of the book is the character studies and the way her masterful use of point of view gradually reveals their plotting and scheming and who we can really trust. I laughed and cried and was gripped to the end - what more can you ask for?

Necessity's Child by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. In which we meet some hidden inhabitants of Surebleak. I love Lee & Miller's world building, the little glimpses of where the Bedel have come from and how their society has evolved are wonderful. Entertaining as ever.

Queens' Play by Dorothy Dunnett. Politicking and politicking and yet more politicking, I see why some reviewers suggest you read this twice! The examination of the personal responsibility of leaders is fascinating.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. A watery dystopia that reads like a fairy tale. Very atmospheric.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman.

Ms Marvel: No Normal

The Wicked and the Divine, volume 1

Saga, volume 1

Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb.

Daughter of Mystery by Heather Rose Jones. Regency-esque lesbian romance set in a fictional European country and filled with inheritance-related intrigue and mystic ritual. Thoroughly enjoyable, my only complaint is that the romance is treated with too light a touch in places - I wasn't expecting erotica from the reviews but the scene where they finally confess their feelings falls a little flat because she cuts scene without even allowing them a passionate embrace on screen.[Kindle]

The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones. The blurb for this only refers to the romance storyline between two of the background characters from the first book but actually this also picks up Barbara and Margerit's story 2 or 3 years later. The intrigue plot is engaging and she's a bit braver with showing the romance on screen this time, very enjoyable if you're into regency-esque society intrigue and romance, I'd happily read another one if she writes more in this setting. [Kindle]

Ms Marvel volume 2

Ms Marvel volume 3

A Liaden Universe Constellation 3 by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie.

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. A mixed bag as these things usually are but some very enjoyable stories in amongst the selection.[Kindle]

Lucia's Progress by E.F. Benson. Lucia invests in the Stock market and uses the profits to buy her way into the affections of the town, having failed in her attempt to get elected to the council. Delightful social backstabbing. [Kindle]

Tremontaine, episodes 1-3 by Ellen Kushner et al. Prequel to Swordspoint being published via Serial Box in weekly instalments but also available via Amazon for Kindle. Diane, Duchess Tremontaine is playing a dangerous game with her family's fortune, will the chocolate traders be her allies or part of her downfall? Meanwhile, her husband has started an affair with a tempestuous student who wants to start his own school for commoners and a farm girl is discovering the wonders of mathematics. Great stuff, I eagerly await the next instalment![Kindle]

The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal. Very well done short story about the choices we face especially as we get old. Recommend having tissue or two handy. [Kindle]

Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler. I see why this won so many awards, it packs a real punch for such a short piece.[Kindle]

Tremontaine, episode 4-6 [Kindle]

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. [Kindle - free from Project Gutenburg]

Tremontaine episode 7 [Kindle]

Trouble for Lucia by E.F. Benson. [Kindle]

Tremontaine episode 8 & 9 [Kindle]

Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold. [RE-READ]

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