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K's Reading 2018

The Green Dragon

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1kceccato
Jan 2, 10:03am Top

Hello, everyone! Hope the New Year has started well for you.

Whenever I make an "Intend to Read in the Coming Year" list, I never stick to it. It always goes into flux early on, either through a change in mood or direction or a brand-spanking-new release I just have to read Right Now. So I'm going to be more general, more non-committal, and just share some thoughts on what I might be reading this coming year.

I'll start with the new Goodreads list I've made. I try to make one of these every year, and hopefully others will add to it. But when I looked through the "Can't Wait Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2018" list in order to make this one, I was pleasantly surprised at how many books with female leads it named. Lots of female authors, too!

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/119094.Upcoming_2018_Sci_Fi_Fantasy_With_Female_Leads_or_Co_Leads

Some new books I got for Christmas:
An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors (which I started last night)
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart
Everfair
Stina Leicht's Blackthorne, sequel to Cold Iron (anybody else notice that the name "Blackthorne" or "Blackthorn" seems to be everywhere right now? It's probably just me.)
A Gathering of Shadows (started this series on audiobook last year, but somebody had the brilliant idea NOT to make the audiobooks for the next two volumes available on regular CD).
I also got the audiobook of Bodard's The House of Shattered Wings.

Some books high on my radar include:
The Waking Fire
Last Song Before Night
Guns of the Dawn
The Fall of Fair Isle
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai

Planned releases for the coming year I have to get my hands on as soon as they come out:
The Infernal Battalion
Kate Elliott's Black Wolves sequel

Here is my final review of 2017, of The Bear and the Nightingale. Includes mild Spoilers.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2208522807?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I am still working my way through Oathbringer. I hit the 1000-page mark yesterday. I love this series so much. I also have very good feelings about An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors so far. My reading year has started off well.

2suitable1
Jan 2, 11:30am Top

3SylviaC
Jan 2, 11:47pm Top

Happy reading!

4Sakerfalcon
Jan 3, 11:58am Top

Happy New Year! I'm looking forward to following your reading again this year. You always manage to hit me with some book bullets!

5Peace2
Jan 3, 5:19pm Top

Happy New Year. May you enjoy your reading in the coming months.

6kceccato
Jan 7, 2:21pm Top

My first review of 2018: Oathbringer. So sprawling, so epic. Darn, I'm going to miss this book so much.

For once I managed to write a review without a bunch of icky Spoilers:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2184480456?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

With my husband's help, I did a video blog post highlighting books high on my radar. Here it is, for the benefit of the curious:
https://nanmonroe.com/2018/01/05/a-new-blog-style-for-a-new-year/

7kceccato
Jan 20, 10:35am Top

Okay, time to update my report on my reading life.

I'm approximately halfway through An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors. Apparently there are no limits to writers' powers to create unusual and interesting fantasy societies in which simply existence as a woman is a waking nightmare. Just to give you an idea: young ladies must always carry a "maidenblade," a small dagger, when they go out in public, just in case they're attacked. To defend themselves against their attacker? NO! It's so the girls can kill themselves quickly to escape the shame of having been attacked. That's some high-octane misogyny. I am past tired of reading about fantasy societies that inspire me with such rage that I grind my teeth slowly to the nub as I move through the pages. The good news is that Curtis Craddock's debut novel is very well-written, with strong prose and two central characters (the "more-intelligent-than-a-woman-has-a-right-to-be" Princess Isabelle and her musketeer guardian Jean Claude) are well worth rooting for. I'm eager to see where this story goes.

While I admire Isabelle for her courage and resourcefulness (the ways she comes up with to feed her hungry mind despite society's restrictions), one quibble I have is that her goal, at this point, is simply to survive in this sexist world and learn and discover what she can. She doesn't seem as interested in how she might make this world a better and more accommodating place not only for herself but for other women who may be as brilliant as she but aren't allowed to show it. This is a big part of my problem with "sucks-to-be-a-woman" fantasy societies -- how rarely we see actual PROGRESS made, even though exceptional women may be able to make accommodations within those societies. Right now, while I'm rooting for Isabelle, I'm having trouble perceiving any way that conditions for women might actually improve. But this is only the first book in a series, and I hope I'll be proved wrong.

For my Epic Fantasy slot I chose to replace Oathbringer with Jemisin's The Fifth Season, which is as different from Sanderson's novel, in style and tone and character, as any epic fantasy could be. This is just how I would have it. If I'd chosen another epic in the Oathbringer mold, it might only have come up short. I also know now that I did the right thing in not reading a lot of Goodreads reviews for this one. It's a wonderful book to enter with little to no specific expectations and to discover bit by bit as you go along. I can't even say very much about it yet, except that I love the post-apocalyptic world building and I'm intrigued by the protagonist, whose struggles have more to do with her being an "orogene" (a type of mage, generally distrusted) then with her being a woman, at least as far as social restrictions are concerned.

My "challenge" read is actually a reread: Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Judging by this novel, Bronte was more unambiguously feminist than either of her sisters. This novel wears its feminism on its sleeve, but I don't say that like it's a bad thing. Instead it's a case of what TV Tropes would call "Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped" -- a woman fleeing an abusive marriage (which is against the law at that time; he would have been within his rights to have her pursued, captured, and forced to come home) who can't even find sanctuary without being ostracized and subjected to malicious gossip by her neighbors. There are infuriating characters aplenty, but the one I most want to strangle is the mother of the nominal hero, who spoils and indulges both her sons while making sure her only daughter knows her value is nil and she can expect no more from life than domestic servitude. When her older son, the nominal hero, suggests that a good husband might want to make his wife happy, she dismisses the idea, telling him, "A wife's duty is to please her husband; her husband's is to please himself." No wonder marriage law reform took so long.

So there's some teeth-grinding here, too, but Helen Graham, with her fight for dignity, keeps me reading.

8clamairy
Jan 23, 10:30am Top

*waves* I'll be along for the ride. Been hearing nothing but great things about Jemisin. I've got one loaded on my Kindle, just haven't gotten to it yet. Also need to read that Anne Bronte book one of these years. That's also loaded and waiting.

9Jim53
Jan 23, 9:06pm Top

>7 kceccato: Hi Kelley! I read Tenant many years ago, and was struck by the strength of her portrayal of Helen's plight and the wrongness of it. Isn't that the one that's all letters and diaries?

I just finished a Jemisin The Killing Moon and liked it quite well. I'll be looking for more.

10kceccato
Jan 24, 5:46pm Top

8, 9: Hi!

8: I read A. Bronte's Agnes Grey last year. It's a revealing depiction of a governess's life, but the prose struck me as rather stilted, and I had to push my way through it. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is miles more engrossing. Definitely read that one first.

9: Yes! Letters and diaries. I've just reached the point where we switch narrators.
The depiction of an abusive marriage and the wife's struggle to hold onto every scrap of self-worth she can remains timely. I have a soft spot for Helen, a talented and principled woman who will not back down from what she knows is right, no matter how much the world may tell her she is wrong.

I have finally finished Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms, or as I now call it, "The Wall of Mixed Messages." The vast majority of the book pleased me, but the last 5% left a most disagreeable taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, it was impossible for me to write this review without Spoilers:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2269693545?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I admire Liu's work, to be sure, and I will be reading the third book, out of curiosity if nothing else. But I hate to see the good stuff snatched out of the hands of characters for whom I've been rooting so hard for so many pages. I wonder if some kind of mixed message might have been Liu's intent.

To give a relatively non-Spoiler idea: the ending gave me something of the same feel I had when I was reading The Aeronaut's Windlass a couple of years ago, and in one chapter, my favorite of the female characters manages to rescue both herself and her friend from the villain's clutches. Butcher's narrative even expresses strongly that she managed this feat because she refused to lie down and accept that her role was to be passive. Girl power, right? Not so fast -- the book completely undercuts her triumph when she and her friend are recaptured in the VERY NEXT CHAPTER IN WHICH WE SEE THEM, and this time they both have to wait for rescue by menfolk. For me, this ruined her previous escape scene beyond repair, as it shows her agency was an illusion and her role IS to be passive.

There was much I liked about The Aeronaut's Windlass, but sadly, these two scenes are all I remember. There was much I liked about The Wall of Storms, but I fear the disappointing ending will stick in my memory long after the good aspects have faded.

11kceccato
Feb 3, 11:03am Top

My Goodreads reviews of my latest two reads. An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2079221902?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I tend to be sparing with five-star reviews; I save those for books that have that "little something extra" that turns up rarely. But darn, this was good. Better than four stars; too bad there isn't a 4.5. For those who enjoy brainy, fearless female leads and strong male-female friendships, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Then there's The Fifth Season, which DOES have that "little something extra," even if I couldn't quite put my finger on it:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1061398325?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The first review has Spoilers. The second one, not really. I didn't want to go into too many particulars about Jemisin's novel when I still have two more volumes in the series to go. But my impression is that it deserves all the accolades it has received.

12Sakerfalcon
Feb 4, 2:40am Top

>11 kceccato: Great reviews! I'm glad you thought highly of The fifth season and you are right about it maintaining a heroic feel despite the darkness. I'll have to look out for An alchemy of masques and mirrors as the heroine sounds like someone I would enjoy reading about.

13AHS-Wolfy
Feb 4, 6:37am Top

>11 kceccato: You can do half star reviews on LT (click the higher mark twice for those that didn't know that) ;)

14MinuteMarginalia
Feb 4, 2:22pm Top

>11 kceccato: That's an interesting point about the depiction of women in Fifth Season -- something I'd missed completely. You've given me something to watch for when reading her other works.

15kceccato
Edited: Feb 7, 10:17am Top

14: I do have hope we'll see more of Tonkee in The Obelisk Gate and her relationship with Essun will evolve into genuine friendship. There was a woman in The Shadowed Sun who showed Hanani kindness (though she was initially set up as a possible rival); I just wish that relationship had gotten a little more page time, and above all that it hadn't just sort of faded out at the end as if it never mattered much, like Sorcha's "friendship" with Margery in Marillier's Daughter of the Forest.

12: I love discovering "tough meat" novels that manage to be disturbing, even chilling, yet somehow at least a tiny bit hopeful -- that somehow, something good can thrive despite nearly impossible odds. Octavia Butler's Kindred and Wild Seed are of this kind, as well as Okorafor's Who Fears Death. The Fifth Season is this kind of book. I'm eager to read the sequels, but I'm going to read a few other books before I leap into them.

Just started The Infernal Battalion and The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. Also dipping into YA with Three Dark Crowns, which I picked up because it was on sale for $1.99 on Kindle.

16MinuteMarginalia
Feb 7, 4:12pm Top

>15 kceccato: Oooh, you were lucky with Three Dark Crowns! Just went over to Amazon and it's $10.39 now.

17kceccato
Feb 8, 9:27am Top

16: I caught it thanks to a Goodreads Deal. They keep track of my Want-to-Read list for me. I picked up Ruthanna Emrys' Winter Tide about a week later; that will be my NEXT Kindle read.

18kceccato
Feb 19, 9:53am Top

Thoughts on current reads:

The Infernal Battalion is the heftiest of the books I'm reading now, so it's taking me a bit longer, but it is still my favorite. The magic in this series has always been disturbing, but in this last volume it's downright chilling (e.g. "found you"), and Winter, my favorite character, is at the heart of it. Marcus's adventures are more standard-issue military, while Raesinia is playing a political game; while I like them and their stories, more than once I've found myself impatient to get back to Winter and the dark and creepy supernatural stuff with which she must cope.

Theodora Goss's The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter is a faster read, but I don't love it quite as much. I'm enjoying the homage to classic 19th century horror, with characters like Catherine Moreau and Beatrice Rappacini in major roles, and I appreciate that for once, women play a key role in solving the mystery of the "Whitechapel Murders." (The whole "male detective tracks down a brutal serial killer who targets women" thing has become a Big Nope for me.) But while I'm involved in the investigation, I find it leaves my heart curiously untouched. I don't CARE quite the way I want to. Of course, that may not be this novel's goal. That I have to accept. Perhaps the problem is that Mary Jekyll, the central heroine, is far less unorthodox, far more conventional, than I expected her to be. Maybe by the end we'll see her burst through her restraints, but it's hard for me to take much interest in the Normal Girl surrounded by far more vibrant and surprising personalities.

Still making my way through The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I'm on the last third, and it's as good as I remembered. Anne Bronte's experiences with her alcoholic brother give this portrait of an abusive marriage a disturbing realism, and it's hard not to feel Helen's frustration very keenly as she comes to realize that nothing she does within that relationship will ever be right. She has lost the battle before she even has a chance to start fighting, and how high the deck is stacked against her when she tries to escape is darned infuriating.

I should mention also my adventures in audiobooks. I've been revisiting Lois McMaster Bujold's World of the Five Gods via audiobook. Here's my review of Paladin of Souls, appropriately Spoiler-tagged:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/548614318

My earlier review of The Curse of Chalion, no need for Spoiler tags:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/551826404?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

A review of a guilty-pleasure audio read, Julia Knight's Swords and Scoundrels -- a series with some potential, but not entirely up my street just yet:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1405964597?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

19Marissa_Doyle
Feb 19, 1:50pm Top

>18 kceccato: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter had aspects to love, but I ultimately found it unsatisfying for multiple reasons and won't be continuing the series. Not going to add spoilers now since you're only partway though, but to address your comment about your heart not being touched, my feeling is that she tried to expand this idea from her short fiction without thinking through developing the characters, among other issues.

20kceccato
Feb 20, 9:32am Top

19: That would explain a lot. I also suspect that the author got so carried away with her own cleverness that she forgot to add a dash of kindness as well. I got a similar vibe from Carriger's Soulless, though friends have told me that series gets more emotionally engaging as it goes along.

Speaking of kindness, I'm very near the end of Three Dark Crowns, and I can understand the acclaim this YA fantasy has been getting for being "outside the box" of YA fantasy in general. I will probably give this one a three-star review, because while I appreciate what the author is doing, again I find myself unmoved. Blake has created a scenario that makes it very difficult to invest emotionally in the major characters; after all, if the author follows through with her plans, two out of the three won't survive. (Not a Spoiler, since the book description makes that clear.) It doesn't help that each of the three is surrounded by factions of schemers, and it's hard to root for ANY of these factions to succeed. At one point, a character from the Poisoner faction dismisses another character as "sweet and devout" and therefore "useless." Sneering at kindness is the kind of thing villains do, but she's not clearly marked out as a villain.

All the same, I find it interesting -- everything except the romance plots, which are as shallow as too many YA-fantasy romance plots tend to be and only serve to distract us from the far more serious business going on elsewhere. If the romances were cut out, the book would be far more riveting.

21kceccato
Feb 26, 9:04am Top

My final word on Three Dark Crowns, very brief and Spoiler-free:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2270829966?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I liked the characters even less at the end than I did at the beginning. Intriguing as the premise is, I don't think I'll be continuing with this series.

Speaking of liking or not liking characters, my Question of the Day is, "Should I continue with The House of Shattered Wings?"

I got this audiobook for Christmas, and I've listened to the first two discs. Peter Kenny is a splendid narrator, but I find I have issues with the story itself. Only one of the POV characters is male -- but he's the only one who's sympathetic, the only one with a conscience. This may be because he's the only important character who is not a "Fallen," an angel kicked out of heaven like Lucifer (called "Morningstar" here). Having so many major characters be Lucifer's kin is certainly an interesting idea, something we don't see often. But I'm leery of books in which Lucifer/Satan and his ilk or followers are protagonists -- not so much from any Christian squeamishness as from the unlikelihood that certain traits I admire, such as kindness, generosity, loyalty, and genuine friendship, will be much in evidence. (This is why I haven't been in the biggest hurry to read Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy.) So far, The House of Shattered Wings is very distant and cold, with the female characters more deeply mired in moral ambiguity than the sole significant male. I suspect the characterizations of the female "Fallen" are part of a push-back, led by Kameron Hurley and others, against the idea that female characters should be "likable." All well and good; of course all well-written female characters have flaws. But in resisting pressure to make them "likable," do writers need to strip them of basic decency?

The book's prose is very strong; this is my first experience with Aliette de Bodard, and despite my issues, I'd like to read more of her work. But I thought I'd put the question out there, for those who follow my blog here who may have read The House of Shattered Wings: does it get any better? Do some of the female characters eventually show signs of decency, at least some capacity for rudimentary kindness?

22kceccato
Mar 5, 9:16am Top

I've gotten some good reading done over the past couple of weeks! Here's my most recent Goodreads review, for The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1890967716

For The Infernal Battalion:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1799248012?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

For Three Dark Crowns:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2270829966?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

For The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/553054836?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

My new rotation will include The Waking Fire (for epic), Akata Witch (for less-epic-but-still-fantasy, often YA), The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (for Challenge, since I've decided to feed some pre-1980 fantasy works into my Challenge list), and Winter Tide (for Kindle).

This morning I decided to listen to Disc 3 of The House of Shattered Wings, having taken a break from it with Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! read by Tony Robinson (abridged, but still fun). What do you know? The third disc proved charm, and now I find myself invested in it. A couple of important things helped that happen: 1) I've gotten to know Madeleine a little bit better, and found that while she may be deeply flawed, she isn't completely horrible; 2) a male villain (or what definitely seems to be a male villain) has made an appearance, thus assuring me that all the bad things bound to happen in this novel won't be the work of women. Plus, de Bodard's prose is just gorgeous. I want to see where the story goes, morally ambiguous characters and all.

23Sakerfalcon
Mar 6, 9:20am Top

>22 kceccato: Sorry, I meant to reply to you about House of shattered wings but life took over and I never found the time. I'm glad it has picked up for you. I thought the book was interesting and intriguing but felt as though I was always a bit removed from the characters, watching them from a distance rather than experiencing their thoughts and feelings. The second book was so much better in that regard that I was going to encourage you to carry on just so you could read it. Madeline continues to be important and, while flawed, sympathetic. There are also some great new characters introduced. I still feel that HSW suffers from that emotional distance but the world is so interesting and unique that I will reread it.

I'll be interested to see what you think of Winter tide. It's been on my radar for a while but I've seen some negative reactions to it.

24Jim53
Mar 6, 10:15am Top

>22 kceccato: Oh wow. I read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld a million years ago, and i don't remember anything except the cover. That might be a good bedtime re-read if I can figure out which box it's in.

25kceccato
Mar 7, 9:28am Top

23: I think part of the problem may have been that most of the first three chapters or so was told from Philippe's POV. Since he hates pretty much everyone, one might be tricked into thinking he's the One Decent Person Surrounded by Evil Sociopaths. After all, that's how he sees himself.

Now I'm getting much more balance between his and Madeleine's points of view, and it's become clearer that neither of their perceptions may line up with the complete truth. The real truths of good/evil and right/wrong are left to the reader or listener to puzzle out. Unreliable narration -- gotta love it.

24: I started The Forgotten Beasts of Eld last night. In terms of narrative style, it reminds me of the novella-length fairy tales of the Ancien Regime. In terms of prose style, it's pure McKillip, gorgeously lyrical. I doubt this one will take me long to finish.

Things that go in my Challenge spot:

1) science fiction
2) historical fiction
3) nonfiction
4) fantasy fiction written at a time when capable female leads weren't quite as common, or as expected, as they are now
5) fantasy fiction with contemporary settings
6) SFF, fantasy, or historical fiction with male protagonists

26kceccato
Apr 3, 9:59am Top

Long time no update.

I DNF'd Winter Tide, not because there was anything infuriating or offensive about it but simply because it refused to grab me. "Immersive" is a word I like to use when I describe books I like or love. I lose myself in the characters and their world. But at 42% I realized I wasn't connecting at all with the story. Here's my brief non-Spoilery Goodreads review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2201282561

My review of Akata Witch:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/615146856?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

My review of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/547019290?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I haven't reviewed The House of Shattered Wings, partly because I still haven't quite decided how I feel about it. The writing itself is solid, the world-building inventive, the situation complex and intriguing. Where I wasn't sold is in the area of the characters. The Good: I was never quite sure what any of them would do from one moment to the next, so they were full of surprises. The Bad: None of them struck me as capable of any shade of kindness or empathy, not even the self-righteous Phillipe. At several points I caught myself rooting for the ghost, and I suspect that may have been intentional on de Bodard's part.

I have heard, however, that The House of Binding Thorns is a little bit better in that regard, a slightly warmer book in which some traces of kindness may peek out of the shadows. That one I will probably read or listen to, in time. But not yet.

New to my rotation, replacing Akata Witch: Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone (which won't touchstone for some reason). So far it's fast-paced and energetic and hasn't lacked for action. Chapters are short, which helps the pacing. I like the writing style. And I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of Zelie, the main heroine.

To replace Winter Tide I've chosen a coming-of-age novel by Rebecca West, The Fountain Overflows, which I also got on Kindle thanks to a Goodreads deal. I'm only a short percentage in, but it's already more immersive than Winter Tide was. The style is elegant, very British, and I admit I love a good coming-of-age story focusing on a girl, so long as it isn't contemporary. I'm often on the hunt for something along the lines of To Kill a Mockingbird -- a novel that's ABOUT a child yet is not written FOR children. In novels written for children, the child protagonists have a huge impact on events. They save the world. In a novel about a child that isn't written for a child audience, the child protagonist observes the world, has an encounter with its darker, less safe sides, and learns a great deal, but he/she isn't a world-savior, and his/her powerlessness to impact events in a substantial way is often the point, one of the hard lessons the child must learn. I'm looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

27Darth-Heather
Apr 3, 10:45am Top

>26 kceccato: I recently read one that fits the "about a child but not for children" book - The Buried Book by DM Pulley. I thought the use of a child as the main character worked very well, as the plot is revealed through his 10-year-old perception of events but the reader can infer more background from an adult perspective.

28clamairy
Apr 3, 9:08pm Top

>26 kceccato: Glad you liked The Forgotten Beasts of Eld as that one has been moldering on my virtual TBR pile for a while.

29Sakerfalcon
Apr 10, 9:53am Top

>26 kceccato: The fountain overflows is a great book. It has two sequels, This real night which I liked less, and Cousin Rosamund which I loved.

You're the second person whose reading tastes I trust to have DNFed Winter tide. It intrigues me but I think the universe is warning me away from it!

30kceccato
Apr 26, 10:17am Top

29: Good to know there's a sequel focusing on Rosamund! I'll certainly seek out her story.

A few thoughts on current reads:

I'm making my way toward the end of The Waking Fire, part James Bond-style spy story, part Indiana Jones-style jungle trek, and part seafaring pirate adventure. It gives readers plenty of characters to keep up with, but the writing style is brisk and smart. Plus, the cast includes plenty of women in both major and supporting roles. Lizanne Lethridge is a badass.

Children of Blood and Bone is an easy sell for me because I admire YA writers who eschew common contemporary settings in favor of something more epic. I'm enjoying the world Adeyemi has built, and the use of magic. The female lead, Zelie, makes mistakes and needs help on occasion, but on the whole she's competent, powerful, and determined, and I have every hope she'll kick butt at the climax. Where I'm not sold is the central love story between Zelie and a prince who wants to protect his kingdom and people from magic even though he's a mage himself. I'm far more interested in seeing some development of a more affectionate bond between him and his own sister, Amari. Amari had to grow on me a little, but now I perceive her as a naturally loving person who, tragically, is loved by no one, not even her own brother. (The one person who gives a damn about her is killed at the beginning of the book.) If the prince, Inan, is to be redeemed, I'd much rather his redemption come through love for Amari than love for Zelie -- just because I'm tired of seeing romantic relationships given the most prominent place in every story, at the expense of all other relationships.

I like both books; they're heading toward four-star ratings. But they don't quite have my heart as The Infernal Battalion and An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors do.

I've also started Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire. I chose this as my first Scalzi because two out of the three POV characters are women. I'm enjoying the author's light touch; it reminds me a little of A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, only with much higher stakes. My only complaint at this point is the lack of physical description. I don't know what anyone looks like. This omission is deliberate on Scalzi's part, and it's a legitimate choice; it's just not the choice that I prefer.

31kceccato
Jun 22, 9:51am Top

Apologies for my lengthy absence. I don't even have a good excuse. Time just gets away from me sometimes.

As my time's a bit limited right now, I'm going to share this blog post here, which covers a lot of my reading:
https://nanmonroe.com/2018/06/14/my-mid-year-recap-june-2018/

At the moment I'm enjoying Cass Morris' debut novel, From Unseen Fire, and Jeannette Ng's Under the Pendulum Sun.

32Sakerfalcon
Jun 26, 6:11am Top

I just bought a copy of Alchemy of masques and mirrors, remembering your high praise for it. I'm really looking forward to starting it.

I too read The collapsing empire recently and enjoyed it. It's very much the start of a series but I want to know more about the characters and what will happen to them.

33kceccato
Jun 28, 6:56pm Top

32: I really hope you like "Alchemy"!

It's time for me to update my Goodreads review-sharing. Here's my most recent one, of From Unseen Fire, a historical fantasy in which "Aven" is ancient Rome in all but name:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2168782593

My review for The Summer Before the War, short and sweet with no Spoilers:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2391633771?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

The Fountain Overflows felt more like a series of episodes than a traditional-type plot, so its review also proved to be short:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/764683348

My review of Fortune and Fate is a bit longer and a bit Spoilery. I can't help feeling melancholy that the Twelve Houses series is over and done with, though of course I knew Shinn couldn't keep writing it forever.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/613882757

Then we have The Queen of Blood, which I loved, loved, loved.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1631711743

My review of Children of Blood and Bone expresses my hopes and dreams for the future of the YA fantasy genre:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2126486596

I wrote my review of The Waking Fire when I was in a hurry and keen to avoid Spoilers:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1656271640

I'm still working my way through Under the Pendulum Sun, a book whose progress I cannot predict and whose world-building fascinates me endlessly. For my Kindle read I've gone in a direction of breezy fun (an odd way to describe a book that starts out with a horrible murder of a sympathetic character): The Flaw in All Magic by Ben S. Dobson, whose Scriber impressed me no end. I had my issues with that beginning, but this book, like Scriber, features a growing bond of friendship between its male and female leads, and the genre could always use a bit more of that. To replace From Unseen Fire, I've chosen The Obelisk Gate.

34Sakerfalcon
Jun 29, 7:34am Top

So many great books! I too love The fountain overflows, Fortune and fate and Queen of blood (though I liked the sequel to the latter quite a bit less than the first book). I'm glad to see you give a good review to From unseen fire, because that one has been tempting me.

35kceccato
Jul 2, 11:12am Top

Update:
Under the Pendulum Sun has taken a seriously grim turn. I won't elaborate, but I need something a bit lighter than The Obelisk Gate to read in conjunction with it. I might try Jody Lynn Nye's An Unexpected Apprentice, just because the idea of a gender-flipped version of The Hobbit appeals to me right now. I so want to read Jemisin's work soon, however. Once I've made my way through Under the Pendulum Sun, I'll slide The Obelisk Gate into its empty slot. Not only is this series a wonderful story so far, but it makes me want to be a better writer.

I should mention also that I'm reading a bit of nonfiction: A Song in the Dark, a study of the earliest movie musicals. It's a fascinating look at a period of film history and a genre that interest me. I'm not all that keen on studies of entertainment and/or personalities from contemporary Hollywood, but start talking about the 1920s - 1930s and I'm sold.

36kceccato
Jul 11, 4:01pm Top

As it turns out, for some leavening in my reading rotation I chose All Men of Genius by Lev A.C. Rosen. It does indeed have the light, breezy style I was hoping for, being a pastiche of Shakespeare (a retelling of Twelfth Night), Wilde (key references to The Importance of Being Earnest), and Steampunk. But it turned out to be an even better choice than I thought, as it's more feminist than I was expecting.

Violet Adams, the "Viola" of this story, disguises herself as a young man -- specifically, her brother Ashton -- in order to enter Illyria College and capitalize on her gifts as a scientist and engineer. With this set-up, it would have been very easy for Rosen to portray Violet as "Not Like Other Girls," and all other women as conventionally shallow and dull-witted. For the first eighty pages or so, it's not hard to expect this, since the only other woman Violet interacts with is Mrs. Wilks the housekeeper, who drops such pears of wisdom as "A woman poet is not a lady," and strongly disapproves of Violet's interest in science. Yet once Violet arrives in Illyria, Rosen takes us the other way. Cecily, the ward of the Duke (the headmaster of the college), is at first glance an appropriately feminine contrast to Violet, the petite and golden-haired object of the male students' crushes. It turns out she's a first-rate chemist, and Violet (disguised as Ashton) bonds with her over their mutual interest in science. (She falls for "him" because he's the first one to take her seriously as a scientist). Cecily's governess, Miriam, is a clever woman determined to hold on to her freedom. As if that weren't enough, no less a venerable figure than Ada, Countess Lovelace, is a supporting character.

I have finally finished Under the Pendulum Sun. Beware Spoilers.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2137914526?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

Non-Spoilery nutshell: gorgeously written but emotionally disappointing.

37kceccato
Yesterday, 8:26pm Top

Do I ever have some catching up to do!

First, my review of All Men of Genius:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/639092408?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

I enjoyed this book more than enough to be glad I read it, but not quite enough to feel compelled to keep it around to read again someday. I've become a lot more ruthless in recent years where that kind of thing is concerned.

Then, The Stone in the Skull. I'd built up quite a lot of anticipation for this one, considering how much I loved The Eternal Sky Trilogy. This book was very good, but not quite enough (to me) for it to clear that high bar.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2456014998

The Innkeeper's Song was a bit of a sad case. The Last Unicorn had made me an admirer of Peter S. Beagle's writing, and I looked to this to provide me with some of the same dreamlike prose and fascinating characters. Somehow, though, I couldn't attach myself to this story the way I could his best-known work. It may be the constant point-of-view shifts, but I'm much afraid that it might be due to my going into this book expecting to read about three mysterious heroines and instead reading about... well, something else.. Also disappointing was that the book wasn't really ABOUT the women, but more about the other (mostly male) characters' reactions to them.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/623822767

Next up: Justina Ireland's Dread Nation. Its prose was not as beautiful as Beagle's, but on the whole I found it a much more satisfying reading experience, and another happy sign that featureless blank-slate protagonists may finally be on the way out in YA fantasy.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2349627990

Then along came Spinning Silver, to throw just about everything else I've read this year into the shade. God, what a beautiful book, and the very kind of book I love to read so much and don't see quite enough of.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2231454251

And finally, The Obelisk Gate, which I finished today. This one, like Spinning Silver, achieved the elusive five-star rating.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1799292269

So, there's a run-down of my recent reads. Currently I'm enjoying Kate Elliott's Court of Fives and Juliet Marillier's Den of Wolves, and I'm about to start The Stone Sky, lest too much of The Obelisk Gate slip my mind before I finish the saga.

38Sakerfalcon
Today, 7:25am Top

I added Dread nation to my wishlist yesterday, so I'm glad to see your praise for it. And I really will buy Spinning silver as soon as it comes out in paperback. Yours is just one of many outstanding reviews I've seen of it.

BTW, I shared your opinion of Under the pendulum sun. I will check out anything unrelated that she writes in future.

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