sholio: (Avatar-upbeat attitude)
The Aeronaut's Windlass is the first book in this series and the only one out so far. It's self-contained, or reasonably so -- that is, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger -- but is also obviously setting up the dominos for a longer series.

This is by the same author as Dresden Files. I know some people were turned off by sexism in the early books of that series, but it might still be worth giving this one a try; it has several excellent female protagonists, and no sexism in sight (nothing discernible to me, anyway) aside from the societal kind, due to their society being kinda-sorta Napoleonic-Wars-era in nature.

The cultural worldbuilding is somewhat flat, which is one of my two issues with the book (the other concerned a character I couldn't stand, but that's just a matter of personal taste). It's pseudo-19th-century-fantasy-Europe with airships. It does get somewhat more interesting once we start to get into the political landscape -- people on this world live in tower cities above an inhospitable wilderness, and while the protagonists' tower is pseudo-England, the others aren't. Also, while the series is fairly standard steampunk with airships, ether-based energy weapons, etc., there is a cool twist to the tech, which is kind of a spoiler (more of a premise spoiler than a plot spoiler, and might be an enticement to some), so I'm going to put it under a cut: Mild spoiler )

Anyway, there are two main sets of protagonists: a group of 20-something aspiring soldiers/sky Marines, and an older generation of 40-somethings sharing a tangled and mysterious past, which includes most of my favorite characters, such as a kickass female sky pirate and a swashbuckling swordfighter guy who is in a happy long-term relationship with a woman who is for all intents and purposes his common-law wife. There's a huge ensemble cast with a character for every taste (a young woman struggling to prove herself as a soldier, a fighter-type who belongs to a race of people who are part cat, a ~moody and brooding~ airship captain, likable antagonists, and so forth). This is probably not a good series for people whose tastes run towards deep and complex worldbuilding, but it has tons of swash and buckle, action and adventure and h/c. It's also 600 pages long, so even though there's just one book in the series so far, there is a lot to sink into, and I'm really looking forward to finding out how the various plot and character threads develop in future books.
sholio: Autumn leaves (Autumn-leaves 1)
... okay, seriously, I gotta get on this Yuletide thing, if I'm going to do it this year. Signups close tonight!

One of the things I wanted to do before I get my letter up was post recs for the more obscure books I'm requesting, since it looks like most (all?) of my requests this year are for book fandoms, and hey, if I liked them, maybe you will like them too! And maybe I'll have more people to talk to them about!

Let's start with Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde. It's recently back in print ... with an absolutely terrible cover. The cover on the older edition was a bit young for the book itself, but at least it was cute and generally fairly accurate to what happens in the book, even if they aged the protagonist down by about 5 years. (The writing style is middle-grade-ish, but the characters are in their late teens.) The new one looks like it should be the cover for a self-published YA vampire romance. Not that there's anything wrong with YA vampire romance, but that's really not what this book is.

This book has been one of my comfort reads for at least a decade or more. It's fast, funny, sweet, has a surprisingly well-crafted mystery given the simplicity of the style, and it never fails to make me happy, despite the book's somewhat dark premise. It's about a young man in a rural, medieval-ish village who is accused of murder, and because they don't know what to do with him -- murder isn't something they have to deal with very often -- the villagers wall him up in an ossuary cave with the dead man's corpse. Luckily for him, he's not the only person in the cave; there's also a witch (sarcastic, hyper-competent, and AWESOME; she's great) who sneaks in every so often to steal bits of corpses for spells.

She agrees to help him, and so the accused murderer and the dead man's ghost team up to solve the murder. Complication #1: they can't stand each other (which is why he was accused of killing the other guy in the first place -- they had a longstanding and very public feud). Complication #2: due to a necromantic spell gone wrong, the (sarcastic, annoyed) ghost came back trapped in the body of a bat. Meanwhile the witch just wants to know what she did to deserve being saddled with these two idiots. Things pretty much go (hilariously) downhill for everyone from there.

I love this book; it's been one of my perennial Yuletide recs for ages. Parts of it still make me laugh, no matter how many times I've read it, and it's a lovely riff on the general theme of misjudging people based on first impressions -- everyone from the dead guy to the witch to the main character's love interest turns out to be more than they appear at first. It's also a short book and a fast read, so it's not that much of a time investment, unlike the fantasy doorstopper I'm about to rec in the next post.
sholio: Cocoa in red cup with cinnamon stick (Christmas cocoa)
This book is wall-to-wall h/c idfic, OMFG.

It was one of my favorite books as a teenager, reread 'til it was falling apart, but I was concerned it wouldn't hold up since I think it's been at least a decade since I last read it. I needn't have worried. DID I MENTION THE WALL TO WALL IDFIC. And it's a pretty solid book otherwise, too.

Rusalka is set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia, with deliciously believable magic -- subtle and often deniable (is it the Yard-Thing that drinks the saucers of milk left out for it, or the barnyard cat?), but omnipresent in everyday matters of luck and superstition. Sasha is a young man who has magic powers, or at least he believes so. He can make things happen just by wishing them. Literally anything. When he was a small child, he made the house burn down to stop his father's abuse, killing both his parents -- or so he and everyone else in his hometown believe. Now the whole town thinks he's bad luck, and Sasha has desperately trained himself not to want anything, or think about things, or get angry, for fear of accidentally killing someone, retreating into a life of miserable isolation. (As the other protagonist says to him later: "That's hell you live in, Sasha." And it is.)

Pyetr is the orphaned son of a murdered gambler, cultivating wealthy friends in an attempt to rise above his gutter beginnings. He doesn't believe in magic -- or in nebulous things like friendship and love for that matter. His career of inveterate rakitude comes to a sudden and bloody end when a jealous husband stabs him near-fatally on page three. His wealthy fair-weather friends abandon him and the only person in the whole town who'll help him is fellow outcast Sasha, which leads to the two of them on the run in a winter-dead wilderness full of old, wild magic.

Pyetr soon attracts the attention of a rusalka, i.e. the ghost of a drowned girl, who can only survive by stealing the life energy of the living, although she doesn't want to. This is Eveshka, the third major character. Between this and the sword wound, Pyetr spends the entire book in various states of swooning, feverish collapse, in between getting attacked by monsters and railing against the fact that he DOESN'T BELIEVE IN MAGIC DAMMIT and WHY THE HELL IS THIS HAPPENING TO HIM. Meanwhile lonely Sasha attaches to him hard, and Pyetr starts to figure out how to be the hero Sasha and Eveshka think he already is.

The book is currently out of print and can be bought directly from the author as an ebook or as a used book from Amazon. There are two sequels, which I vaguely remember were somewhat disappointing, or at least less massively idficcy, but I'll be reading them next, so I guess we'll see.

ETA: There's an interesting about-the-book page on the author's website in which she talks about how, when she was writing this book in the 1980s, the Cold War was still going on and the reference materials on Russian mythology, plants, etc. that she needed to write the book were next to impossible to find. She ended up swapping sci-fi with Russian fans in return for reference books.

ETA2: Wikipedia article on the books talks more about them, with no major spoilers.

Book rec

Aug. 31st, 2015 10:18 pm
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Lately I've been trying to work my way through my unread paperback box. These are a grab bag of books acquired from used bookstores, garage sales, and heaven knows where else, most of them by authors I've never heard of. Usually this results in a lot of dreck with some tolerable reads, but sometimes I'll stumble onto a gem.

Like this one: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. It's partly a murder mystery and partly a slice-of-life glimpse of small-town Mississippi, moving back and forth between the early '80s and the present day.

Thirty years ago, a secret friendship develops between Larry, a white redneck farm kid, and Silas, the son of the black squatters who live on their land. Things blow up between them in ways that are probably predictable given that it's rural Mississippi. Three decades later, Silas got out, went to college and became a cop, while Larry got sucked into the downward spiral of small-town poverty and is now the town pariah, blamed for the rape and murder of a young woman who went missing after a date with him.

Now another girl has gone missing under similar circumstances, and Larry is the prime suspect. Silas has to figure out whodunnit while also confronting everything that happened between him and Larry all those years ago.

Content warning: the plot revolves around the rape/murder of two young women, and this is very much Silas and Larry's book, so there are only a handful of female characters anyway and all of them are in the background. I know that's an understandable dealbreaker for some. Also, due to the book's setting and theme, there is a ton of textual racism and racial slurs to be navigated, as well as the sharp edge of rural poverty.

However, this book hit my friendship/family/reconciliation buttons hard, while also managing to avoid (at least I felt so) most of the cliches that I would expect to run into in fiction about race relations in the South in a book written by a white author. The characters are flawed and unpredictable, the general depiction of life in small-town Mississippi (the good and the bad) felt believable for both the black and white characters (the '80s are not the '50s are not the 2000s, and the different flavor of life in different eras was well done, I thought). Nobody learns a ~valuable lesson about racism~, and Larry's unconscious racism and Silas's cutting defense mechanisms are both realistically portrayed. It's a painful book at times, an uncomfortable one at others, but overall there's a sense of warmth and optimism that flows through the book -- a feeling that things could either careen headlong into tragedy or come out okay, and at any point, individual characters' choices could give it the push that's going to turn it one way or the other: is this the time we do the right thing, the humane thing -- the time we manage to be better than our past selves, better than the people we grew up around ... or not?

On the basis of this book, I also checked out The Tilted World from the library, co-written by Franklin and his wife Beth Ann Fennelly, and set during Prohibition in rural Mississippi. Very good so far, with a female bootlegger, a pair of prohibition agents investigating a murder deep in moonshine country, and an Accidental Surprise Baby they acquire after a shooting.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Okay, I am the laziest of the lazy with this, because I read these books last winter and kept meaning to write up a rec and never did. (Aargh.) Though I've rec'd them to a few people privately in the meantime.

Around the time I got involved in the Paranormal Romance Writing Adventure of DOOoooooom, I finally got around to reading Lia Silver's Werewolf Marines books. And, guys, they're really good. I think it's no secret that romance isn't really my thing (which makes it hilarious that I have discovered I genuinely enjoy writing it) but these books, Prisoner and Partner in particular, have a lot of appeal, I think, for non-romance readers. At least they did for me. Laura's Wolf is set in the same world with related characters, but is more in the traditional romance vein (though it veers off in a direction mid-book that is somewhat more like the other two).

If you're going to try them, especially if romance (and shapeshifter romance in particular) is something you don't read much or at all, Prisoner is the one I started with and the one I recommend starting with. The book starts off in a way that was guaranteed to make my id stand up and take notice -- we meet the male protagonist, DJ, while his best friend is bleeding out in his arms after they're shot down in Afghanistan. DJ, who is a werewolf, has to bite his buddy and make him a werewolf too, in order to save his life. Then they're separated and DJ ends up in a ~secret government lab~, where he's controlled by threats against his friend (also being kept prisoner by the same people), and he meets fellow prisoner and enemy agent Echo, who is emotionally damaged and bitter, and similarly being controlled by threats against her terminally ill sister.

The books are very ensemble-oriented and in general have a similar tone to action/sci-fi/ensemble TV shows of the Fringe or Agents of SHIELD type. They're also much funnier than you'd expect from the basic premise (in particular, the thing that initially draws Echo to DJ is that he makes her laugh). And DJ is the opposite of a typical romance hero, or an action hero in general; he's funny, sweet, laid-back, and has literally NO ANGST AT ALL, aside from the obvious angst resulting from being locked up in a lab and forced to do werewolf things for the bad guys. DJ loves being a werewolf, he's totally well-adjusted, and he has a wonderful, loving family who support him. Echo, conversely, is a fascinating mess, although her sister is remarkably well-adjusted despite also being a secret government experiment who lives in a lab; among other things, her life is a series of nonstop dating shenanigans with Evil Lab goons and she's addicted to trashy romance novels, which is a source of running in-jokes throughout the series.

The series does some really fun things with the tropes of the genre, especially with the Men In Black/Secret Evil Lab thing -- most of the workers at the Evil Lab are just your basic government contractors, so you get to meet people like the Secret Evil Lab cafeteria barista. The worldbuilding in general is fairly detailed, so if you like your werewolves with a side of How Werewolves Work (and I do), it's pretty great. There's also the nifty detail that each werewolf has a unique superpower to go along with their wolfliness (telepathy, super strength, being able to control electricity or kill people with a touch, etc). So the whole thing is basically a sort of unholy mash-up of superhero and black-helicopter/secret-lab tropes -- Dark Angel meets Agents of SHIELD meets Fringe -- with tons of found-family dynamics and h/c and explosions. But there's also a lot of emotional realism, especially in the way characters react to trauma (which their lives are obviously FULL of), because the author is a trauma therapist and that familiarity with the inner workings of people under pressure comes through in a lot of little ways that make the characters feel unexpectedly real.

It is really a lot of fun.

The reading order I went in was Prisoner --> Laura's Wolf --> Partner, which I felt and still feel is the optimal order to read them in. No matter what order you read them in, some of the books will spoil other books, since Laura's Wolf takes place more or less concurrently with the Prisoner-Partner duology (soon to be a trilogy; there is a third book forthcoming, Packmate). You can also just read Prisoner and Partner, and try Laura's Wolf if you want more of the world, since it fills in some of the gaps. I think certain parts of Partner make more sense if you've read Laura's Wolf first, but I don't know how confusing it would be since I did read it first. And it really has a very different feel to the other two, so liking one doesn't guarantee you'd like the other.

But anyway, they're great and I've been meaning to rec them for AGES.

(Obligatory disclaimer: Lia is a friend, and I suspect I might not have tried these books if not for that -- but I'm very glad I did, because I ended up absolutely loving them.)

Book rec

Jul. 10th, 2014 11:15 am
sholio: (Books)
Night Over Water by Ken Follett. My expectations weren't that high, but I really loved it.

This book falls squarely in the "group of strangers, each with their own agenda, trapped together by circumstances beyond their control" genre. In this case, circumstance is a fictional flight of a real plane, the amphibious Boeing 314 Clipper. Pan Am's first trans-Atlantic flights were luxury "sleeper" flights (the seats folded into bunks) and the book fictionally extends the extremely brief tenure of the commercial Boeing 314 flights into the early days of WWII. The passengers include a family of fascists fleeing the U.K., a German scientist escaping the Nazis, saboteurs, criminals, a runaway bride, etc etc. It's a lot of fun and seems to be pretty well researched as far as I can tell. I particularly enjoyed the way the characters' storylines wove in and out of each other, and that the female characters were as fleshed out and had as much agency and interesting backstory as the guys did.

The book also did something I really liked with sexual consent, although this is slightly spoilery and slightly NSFW, so I'll put it under a cut.

Consent issues in the book - some spoilers )
sholio: sun on winter trees (Art-red blue leaves)


It's always a bit awkward reccing friends' books, especially since I got to read an earlier draft to give beta feedback. But I couldn't not rec this, because it's really really good, and I want the sequel nowwwww.

SL Huang's website has buy links for various online retailers, and here is Zero Sum Game on Amazon, where you can read a preview. (Or just click on the cover.) These links have the proper blurb and so forth, but basically: this book is about a mercenary whose superpower is math.

I can't seem to write a proper rec tonight to save my life, so I figured instead I'd throw together a bullet-point list of things I loved about this book for enticement purposes:
  • It reads like a good, character-based action movie. Fun and fast enough for popcorn reading, with enough thinky undertones to keep it from being too light. I'm not actually sure whether I'd class it as sci-fi or not -- I think it could go either way -- but if you like things blowing up plus character stuff: HERE YOU GO!
  • No romance whatsoever. (Yes, this is a selling point for me, and I think for a few of you as well! XD I'm thoroughly burned out on the Obligatory Action Movie Love Interest plot, and the heroine interacts with, and has interesting relationships with, multiple male characters and has no sexual interest in any of them. Let's face it, with stuff blowing up and people trying to kill you, there are other priorities ....)
  • Kickass, snarky, emotionally damaged female protagonist.
  • Twisty plot that genuinely threw my expectations in multiple places.
  • Non-neurotypical characters.
  • Mostly PoC cast.
  • There's a general theme of "band of misfits against the world!" but it never seems forced. That is, the characters fall together naturally, don't really get along, and have legitimate reasons to be (temporarily?!) working together, mostly of the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" variety.
  • An antagonist whose powers/abilities have really disturbing implications - and the book totally goes there.


On a side note, the author really knows her stuff on action scenes; she's been helping me out as a gun/weapon/fight-scene beta for a couple of years now, and her blog has a useful series of posts on gun basics for writers.

So there you have it. :D ALL THE THUMBS UP!
sholio: (Books)
I haven't done a book report post in a while.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - This is an absolutely brilliant, cannot-put-it-down book even though parts of it turned me into a sobbing mess. Every mention of this book that I saw on my flist prior to reading it said, basically, "This book is awesome! Do not let yourself be spoiled for anything that happens!" and they are SO RIGHT. (Well, okay, you should know that it's set in a French prison camp during WWII, and it's a very harrowing book, because some of the things that happen to the characters are unspeakably awful. But it's very very good.) ETA: I figured this went without saying, but based on comments, apparently not: the above only applies if being surprised, as a reader, is part of your reading pleasure. Which you probably know about yourself by now, so if not, hey, knock yourself out and spoil yourself all over the place.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman - Lovely YA fantasy with beautiful worldbuilding, great characters, and AWESOME dragons. Dragons and humans exist in an uneasy state of truce, but when a murder threatens the tentative peace, the main cast of humans and dragons have to solve it or their two species will be plunged back into war. Which is an overly simplistic description of a book that really has quite a lot more going on, including nicely understated magic and a fantastically original take on dragons that I don't want to spoil, since it is revealed slowly through the first half of the book. If you do want it spoiled: click the cut tag and then highlight the text. ) (I feel like sticking in a small caveat, because I know the author and I always feel a bit weird when I'm talking up my friends' books as the BEST THING EVAR! But I would have loved this book even if I didn't know the author. It really is fantastic.)

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch - Third book in an urban fantasy series that is getting right up there with Dresden Files and the Ben January books as my favorite series that I'm collecting right now. I adore the characters, and these books hit my "crew of misfits" and platonic-living-together narrative kinks really hard. They just keep accruing more misfits, but there's enough of a dark underbelly to the series that I'm always a little nervous that some of them won't make it out alive. In this book, there are weird doings afoot in the London Underground, Peter (our hero) is adorable, Leslie (his best friend/sidekick/kinda-girlfriend) is snarkily awesome, and I want a Nightingale of my very own. (ETA: one of the things I absolutely love about this series is that it portrays a realistically diverse London in a very convincing, authentic and above all respectful sort of way. As one small example, this book includes in its supporting cast an observant, hijab-wearing Muslim cop and an evangelical Christian cop, neither one of whom is presented as an intolerant fanatic or any of the other negative stereotypes that you might get with characters like that.)

Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler - A really interesting twist on the buddy-cop genre: in the first chapter, one-half of the partnership is killed, and the book alternates between his surviving partner and friends trying to solve his murder in the present day, and flashbacks to the first case they ever worked together, 50 years earlier during the Blitz. Which probably sounds like the most depressing book EVER, but actually it's twisty and funny - a little overly quirky-for-quirkiness's-sake in places, but I liked it. Another thing I liked is that, while the characters all belong to a special unit of the London police that solves "peculiar" crimes (i.e. paranormal and other weirdness), the book never comes down specifically on the side of whether or not magic and the supernatural are "real" or not; everything has a rational explanation, but every once in a while there are little hints that magic might be real (but in a way that can still be explained rationally if you're so inclined). It's sort of like anti-urban fantasy, and I liked it. If you're still on the fence about reading the book, under the cut is a major spoiler, which you really shouldn't read if you like being surprised, but if you're unsure about the book, this might make a difference: click on through and then highlight. )

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - This is a really neat book that takes the form of a series of separate, but connected stories. Each of them breaks off in mid-story and then you jump forward in time to a new character who is discovering the previous story: for example, the first story is in the form of a journal written by a traveler in the mid-1800s; the next one is a series of letters written 50 years later by someone who has found the journal among some old books; and so on. It's a very meta book, and beautifully written. It's also a movie - here is the trailer (which gives you a good feeling for what the book is like, but also spoils a number of things).

... and there were a few other books in various series that I'm working through (I read a couple more Didius Falco books, for example), but the above are the standouts and the main ones I recommend from the last couple months' reading.
sholio: Text: "Age shall not weary her, nor custom stale her infinite squee" (Infinite Squee)
Okay, one more post because I had to drop by and make squeeing sounds about the book I started reading tonight. I'm already 2/3 of the way through because I can't put it down -- well, I forced myself to stop for a while because I wanted to get some writing done tonight, but I can't wait to pick it back up again. :D

The book is The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis, and it's the first in a series of historical murder mysteries set in Ancient Rome. Assuming nothing horrible happens in the last third of the book (I reallyreallyreally hope she doesn't kill any main characters, because I adore all of them!) I am already addicted and will be dashing off to the library for the next few books in the series. Luckily there are a LOT of them.

And the book is an absolute delight. The narrator, Marcus Didius Falco, is basically an Ancient Roman private detective. The general tone of the books is similar to a hardboiled P.I. novel, except that the narrator only thinks he's hardboiled, but is in fact a HUGE pushover for the book's large supporting cast consisting of his friends and his ginormous, mostly female family, all of whom basically have him wrapped around their finger. He reminds me a lot of Harry Dresden minus the magic (his narrative voice is very similar), although he starts out with a lot more of a support system than Harry has. His best friend Petronius is a Roman city watchman who TOTALLY makes me think of Peter Burke in almost every conceivable way, and there is a fantastically snarky, practical love interest who reminds me of Terry Pratchett's typical heroines. (I was trying to figure out what Falco and Helena's dynamic makes me think of, and finally got it: Moist von Lipwig and Adora Belle Dearheart from Going Postal. Though there is a lot more genuine animosity between Falco and Helena at first.) And, yeah, I know that I'm comparing every single character to someone else, but they really are very much themselves -- it's just that I'm only starting to read the series and I'm still at the "these people make me think of all these other people" stage.

But basically, the characters are adorable, the setting is very vivid and (as far as I can tell) well researched, and the story alternates between laugh-out-loud funny and heartrendingly serious. If you like light, breezy historical fiction -- and once again with the caveat that I've only read the first 2/3 of a book in a series that's got like 15 books in it -- I wholeheartedly recommend!
sholio: (Books)
Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch - The second book in the series that starts with Midnight Riot a.k.a. Rivers of London. I'm still absolutely loving this series; Peter Grant and his mentor/boss Nightingale make a fabulous bantery team, and the supporting cast is just great. This book directly continues some of the plot and character threads from the first book, as well as bringing back minor and major supporting characters, which is one of the reasons why I love it so; it's really frustrating to be introduced to an interesting character only to have them wander offstage when their part of the story is done, and these books do a great job of fleshing out the world and making each minor character a fully realized person.

The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer - This was great! Although my favorite parts of the book were mostly concentrated in the first half, which totally hit all my "wilderness survival against all odds" kinks, I'm definitely going to pick up the next book in the series when it comes out, because I really like the characters and the world. It's adventure fantasy, but very different from your typical elves-dwarves-and-wizards epic fantasy. The characters are traveling with a merchant caravan trying to cross a dangerous mountain pass in early spring. Having to contend with avalanches and other hazards is bad enough when you don't have also have to deal with spies, secrets and an angry magician trying to kill you. The book is tense, fast-paced, and just when you think things can't get worse for the characters, something even more dire happens. (Also, one of my very favorite characters in the book only appears in a few scenes - he and his female sidekick/second-in-command remind me SO MUCH of Mustang and Hawkeye from FMA - and the ending of the book gives me a great deal of hope that they'll have a pretty big role in the next book. ^^)

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales - This book analyzes a number of life-threatening situations, from a mountain climber breaking his leg on a 20,000-foot peak to the World Trade Center collapse, and tries to draw conclusions about what causes some people to do all the right things and survive, while others panic and die. I think some of his reasoning is a little spurious (the author is a journalist, not a neuroscientist, but he tries to write like he's both) but a lot of the conclusions are really interesting and thought-provoking. I think this book also does a really good job of dismantling the idea that people die in life-threatening situations because they "did something stupid"; he spends a couple of chapters developing the thesis that "stupid" behavior in a crisis is simply our brains doing what has always worked for them in the past (in a person's individual past, as well as our past as a species) - however, some people are able to break out of that cycle and survive, and the book has a lot of interesting things to say about what might enable anyone to be able to do that. (I'd be happy to go into more detail in comments if anyone is interested, because speaking as someone who lives in a state - Alaska - that tends to throw life-threatening crises around at the drop of a hat, I got a lot of useful tips out of the book!)

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson - Aww man, if you like to travel or if you daydream about traveling, this YA book is like crack. The main character, Ginny, receives 13 blue envelopes from her deceased aunt, and is instructed to open each one only after completing the instructions in the previous one. The envelopes take her all around Europe, doing things like leaving an offering for the Vestal Virgins or visiting an artist who lives in a castle in Edinburgh. The book doesn't have a whole lot of dramatic tension, but it's a wonderful road-trip story, all about the places she goes and the people she meets and the way that her adventures change her. There is a sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope, that I have on order from Amazon right now. \o/

This entry is also posted at http://friendshipper.dreamwidth.org/366972.html with comments.
sholio: (Books)
Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch - The second book in the series that starts with Midnight Riot a.k.a. Rivers of London. I'm still absolutely loving this series; Peter Grant and his mentor/boss Nightingale make a fabulous bantery team, and the supporting cast is just great. This book directly continues some of the plot and character threads from the first book, as well as bringing back minor and major supporting characters, which is one of the reasons why I love it so; it's really frustrating to be introduced to an interesting character only to have them wander offstage when their part of the story is done, and these books do a great job of fleshing out the world and making each minor character a fully realized person.

The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer - This was great! Although my favorite parts of the book were mostly concentrated in the first half, which totally hit all my "wilderness survival against all odds" kinks, I'm definitely going to pick up the next book in the series when it comes out, because I really like the characters and the world. It's adventure fantasy, but very different from your typical elves-dwarves-and-wizards epic fantasy. The characters are traveling with a merchant caravan trying to cross a dangerous mountain pass in early spring. Having to contend with avalanches and other hazards is bad enough when you don't have also have to deal with spies, secrets and an angry magician trying to kill you. The book is tense, fast-paced, and just when you think things can't get worse for the characters, something even more dire happens. (Also, one of my very favorite characters in the book only appears in a few scenes - he and his female sidekick/second-in-command remind me SO MUCH of Mustang and Hawkeye from FMA - and the ending of the book gives me a great deal of hope that they'll have a pretty big role in the next book. ^^)

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales - This book analyzes a number of life-threatening situations, from a mountain climber breaking his leg on a 20,000-foot peak to the World Trade Center collapse, and tries to draw conclusions about what causes some people to do all the right things and survive, while others panic and die. I think some of his reasoning is a little spurious (the author is a journalist, not a neuroscientist, but he tries to write like he's both) but a lot of the conclusions are really interesting and thought-provoking. I think this book also does a really good job of dismantling the idea that people die in life-threatening situations because they "did something stupid"; he spends a couple of chapters developing the thesis that "stupid" behavior in a crisis is simply our brains doing what has always worked for them in the past (in a person's individual past, as well as our past as a species) - however, some people are able to break out of that cycle and survive, and the book has a lot of interesting things to say about what might enable anyone to be able to do that. (I'd be happy to go into more detail in comments if anyone is interested, because speaking as someone who lives in a state - Alaska - that tends to throw life-threatening crises around at the drop of a hat, I got a lot of useful tips out of the book!)

Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson - Aww man, if you like to travel or if you daydream about traveling, this YA book is like crack. The main character, Ginny, receives 13 blue envelopes from her deceased aunt, and is instructed to open each one only after completing the instructions in the previous one. The envelopes take her all around Europe, doing things like leaving an offering for the Vestal Virgins or visiting an artist who lives in a castle in Edinburgh. The book doesn't have a whole lot of dramatic tension, but it's a wonderful road-trip story, all about the places she goes and the people she meets and the way that her adventures change her. There is a sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope, that I have on order from Amazon right now. \o/
sholio: Made by <lj user=foxglove_icons> (Tea)
Book rec: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. I think I've found a new series to love. :D I've been looking for ages for something else that hits me the same way Dresden Files does, and I think I've figured out what it was that wasn't working for me in so much of the urban fantasy I've been reading -- it's either hyper-serious, gritty and dark, or so silly that it verges on parody. Midnight Riot hit the exact right balance of funny/absurd and serious for my tastes, plus I really loved the cast of characters, and the world-building (and sense of place) is absolutely first-rate. Peter Grant is a rookie cop in London who discovers that he has a talent for magic, which leads to the subsequent discovery that there is a branch of the London police force that handles magic-related crimes, which he is now a part of, whether he wants to be or not. Aside from the fact that it was a little disconcerting reading a book in which the protagonist is named Peter while concurrently fanning on White Collar like a mad fanning thing, I had a blast with the book and I've just ordered the sequel, Moon Over Soho, from Amazon. If you're looking for something generally Dresden Files-like, I strongly recommend!

[livejournal.com profile] fkficfest/[community profile] fkficfest has just started posting stories. Somewhere in the mix, there's one by me (and one for me, too!).

I posted my official stepping-down notice over at [livejournal.com profile] sga_genficathon. I've been reluctant to admit that I've wandered pretty far afield from SGA these days, but I think it's become increasingly obvious from the content of my journal that this is, in fact, the case. I still consider SGA a "home" fandom for me, and I suspect that I'll continue to wander in and out of it over the years (like I do with ST:TOS and a couple of others), but I don't think I'll be participating in any more SGA fic exchanges/challenges/etc. in the near future -- the inspiration is no longer there. It's been a good long run, though.

This entry is also posted at http://friendshipper.dreamwidth.org/358529.html with comments.
sholio: Made by <lj user=foxglove_icons> (Tea)
Book rec: Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. I think I've found a new series to love. :D I've been looking for ages for something else that hits me the same way Dresden Files does, and I think I've figured out what it was that wasn't working for me in so much of the urban fantasy I've been reading -- it's either hyper-serious, gritty and dark, or so silly that it verges on parody. Midnight Riot hit the exact right balance of funny/absurd and serious for my tastes, plus I really loved the cast of characters, and the world-building (and sense of place) is absolutely first-rate. Peter Grant is a rookie cop in London who discovers that he has a talent for magic, which leads to the subsequent discovery that there is a branch of the London police force that handles magic-related crimes, which he is now a part of, whether he wants to be or not. Aside from the fact that it was a little disconcerting reading a book in which the protagonist is named Peter while concurrently fanning on White Collar like a mad fanning thing, I had a blast with the book and I've just ordered the sequel, Moon Over Soho, from Amazon. If you're looking for something generally Dresden Files-like, I strongly recommend!

[livejournal.com profile] fkficfest/[community profile] fkficfest has just started posting stories. Somewhere in the mix, there's one by me (and one for me, too!).

I posted my official stepping-down notice over at [livejournal.com profile] sga_genficathon. I've been reluctant to admit that I've wandered pretty far afield from SGA these days, but I think it's become increasingly obvious from the content of my journal that this is, in fact, the case. I still consider SGA a "home" fandom for me, and I suspect that I'll continue to wander in and out of it over the years (like I do with ST:TOS and a couple of others), but I don't think I'll be participating in any more SGA fic exchanges/challenges/etc. in the near future -- the inspiration is no longer there. It's been a good long run, though.
sholio: (Books)
Reading my flist, I came across this announcement and wanted to pass it along.

Little White Mouse is a very fun comic about a girl trapped on a space station with nothing to keep her company but homicidal robots, the memory of her dead sister, and a ghost who may or may not actually be there. It's sweet, poignant, funny, and fascinating, as well as full of sci-fi goodness like space pirates, alternate timelines, street punks on hovercycles and bad guys in battle cruisers.

I started reading it when I was still doing the self-publishing convention circuit back in 2002 or so; Paul and I both lived in the Midwest and had tables at a lot of the same shows. And then he married one of my best friends and turned out to be a really awesome guy as well as simply a very nice guy when I'd say hi to him at cons. At the time he was publishing LWM through a small-press publisher; since then he's regained the rights to it and moved into self-publishing, which is a tricky game at the best of times (believe me, I know) and is downright rough with the economy like it is.

I suspect that an all-ages comic with a female, PoC heroine would be Relevant To The Interests of quite a bit of my flist, either for yourself or maybe a Christmas present for a kid, niece, sister, sci-fi-addicted older relative or whatnot. It's all available online for free (ETA: Okay, the cover link doesn't click through to the rest of it: start here instead and let me know if you have any further problems; I'll pass them along.) And if you sample and like it ... get the book! If possible, ordering it through a comic shop would help Paul out a lot -- there are details at the above link, but basically, you bring the Diamond order code "DEC100959" into your comic store and ask them to order it for you. That way, Diamond gets good sales figures for the book, and they carry more of his books in the future. (But I know most of you aren't really comic-shop-going people, so, you know. Get the book wherever it's most convenient for you. :))

This entry is also posted at http://friendshipper.dreamwidth.org/301296.html with comment count unavailable comments.
sholio: (Books)
Reading my flist, I came across this announcement and wanted to pass it along.

Little White Mouse is a very fun comic about a girl trapped on a space station with nothing to keep her company but homicidal robots, the memory of her dead sister, and a ghost who may or may not actually be there. It's sweet, poignant, funny, and fascinating, as well as full of sci-fi goodness like space pirates, alternate timelines, street punks on hovercycles and bad guys in battle cruisers.

I started reading it when I was still doing the self-publishing convention circuit back in 2002 or so; Paul and I both lived in the Midwest and had tables at a lot of the same shows. And then he married one of my best friends and turned out to be a really awesome guy as well as simply a very nice guy when I'd say hi to him at cons. At the time he was publishing LWM through a small-press publisher; since then he's regained the rights to it and moved into self-publishing, which is a tricky game at the best of times (believe me, I know) and is downright rough with the economy like it is.

I suspect that an all-ages comic with a female, PoC heroine would be Relevant To The Interests of quite a bit of my flist, either for yourself or maybe a Christmas present for a kid, niece, sister, sci-fi-addicted older relative or whatnot. It's all available online for free (ETA: Okay, the cover link doesn't click through to the rest of it: start here instead and let me know if you have any further problems; I'll pass them along.) And if you sample and like it ... get the book! If possible, ordering it through a comic shop would help Paul out a lot -- there are details at the above link, but basically, you bring the Diamond order code "DEC100959" into your comic store and ask them to order it for you. That way, Diamond gets good sales figures for the book, and they carry more of his books in the future. (But I know most of you aren't really comic-shop-going people, so, you know. Get the book wherever it's most convenient for you. :))
sholio: (Books)
I've been meaning to write up something on these books for ... er, awhile now. I took along the first, Warchild, as airplane reading material back in August, and oh, I fell hard for it, hard enough to rush off to Amazon the first time I had Internet access and order the next two so that they'd be waiting for me when I got back to Alaska. (Sadly, it looks like most of them are out of print, but they're pretty easy to get from Amazon's used book resellers.) Anyway, I'm sick and I can't sleep, so I thought this might be a good time to write about them for a while, because I really want to talk about them and I don't know anyone else who's read them! :D This rec is cut for length, not spoileriness -- I've tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but if you have triggers relating to sexual violence or child abuse, read the warnings (in paragraph three) before reading the books. They contain potentially quite triggery material!

Cut for length )

But still -- I loved these books a lot, and I'm crushing pretty hard on some of the characters right now. They totally mashed down my buttons for found-family and getting up from the wreckage and just generally trying to be a good person in the face of overwhelming odds. And if you want to read some really good military sci-fi or space opera, these books are definitely that!

ETA: I have found other people who've read them! *bounces* And there will be SPOILERS in the comments - though not in the post itself!

This entry is also posted at http://friendshipper.dreamwidth.org/287262.html with comment count unavailable comments.
sholio: (Books)
I've been meaning to write up something on these books for ... er, awhile now. I took along the first, Warchild, as airplane reading material back in August, and oh, I fell hard for it, hard enough to rush off to Amazon the first time I had Internet access and order the next two so that they'd be waiting for me when I got back to Alaska. (Sadly, it looks like most of them are out of print, but they're pretty easy to get from Amazon's used book resellers.) Anyway, I'm sick and I can't sleep, so I thought this might be a good time to write about them for a while, because I really want to talk about them and I don't know anyone else who's read them! :D This rec is cut for length, not spoileriness -- I've tried to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but if you have triggers relating to sexual violence or child abuse, read the warnings (in paragraph three) before reading the books. They contain potentially quite triggery material!

Cut for length )

But still -- I loved these books a lot, and I'm crushing pretty hard on some of the characters right now. They totally mashed down my buttons for found-family and getting up from the wreckage and just generally trying to be a good person in the face of overwhelming odds. And if you want to read some really good military sci-fi or space opera, these books are definitely that!

ETA: I have found other people who've read them! *bounces* And there will be SPOILERS in the comments - though not in the post itself!
sholio: (Books)
I'm currently reading Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen by Michael Sledge. I came across it by accident while Googling for details on how the military dead are retrieved in combat situations, and picked up a used copy on Amazon for cheap. It contains a wealth of information, not just on that topic but also quite a lot of little details that are useful to me (as a non-military person myself) for accurately and respectfully writing a subculture I've never been part of -- including lots of stuff I hadn't even thought about (and the show certainly doesn't go there), such as the code of conduct for handling, identifying and repatriating enemy dead. I've never seen that subject addressed in an SGA story and I think it might make an interesting one...

... and, augh, I'm starting to despair of getting my sgareversebang story done. Even though the deadline's not until July, I have to finish it by Sunday morning, because that's when I'm heading out for a two-week Internetless vacation (and earlier would be better, in case there are problems with the formatting or such). 3400 words so far, but my plot is foundering.

The weather is absolutely gorgeous, though! The past few days have been perfect Arctic summer -- 75 degrees or so, sunny with occasional rain squalls to keep it from getting too hot. The mornings and evenings are best ... it's 10:30 p.m. and there's still sunlight slanting through the yard. The mosquitoes haven't been bad, either, and we're almost past what's usually the worst time of year for them.
sholio: (Books)
I'm currently reading Soldier Dead: How We Recover, Identify, Bury, and Honor Our Military Fallen by Michael Sledge. I came across it by accident while Googling for details on how the military dead are retrieved in combat situations, and picked up a used copy on Amazon for cheap. It contains a wealth of information, not just on that topic but also quite a lot of little details that are useful to me (as a non-military person myself) for accurately and respectfully writing a subculture I've never been part of -- including lots of stuff I hadn't even thought about (and the show certainly doesn't go there), such as the code of conduct for handling, identifying and repatriating enemy dead. I've never seen that subject addressed in an SGA story and I think it might make an interesting one...

... and, augh, I'm starting to despair of getting my sgareversebang story done. Even though the deadline's not until July, I have to finish it by Sunday morning, because that's when I'm heading out for a two-week Internetless vacation (and earlier would be better, in case there are problems with the formatting or such). 3400 words so far, but my plot is foundering.

The weather is absolutely gorgeous, though! The past few days have been perfect Arctic summer -- 75 degrees or so, sunny with occasional rain squalls to keep it from getting too hot. The mornings and evenings are best ... it's 10:30 p.m. and there's still sunlight slanting through the yard. The mosquitoes haven't been bad, either, and we're almost past what's usually the worst time of year for them.

*flails*

Mar. 30th, 2010 10:11 pm
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Okay, I'm done with Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books -- all four that are published so far, anyway; though it looks like the last one came out in 2004, and the series is very emphatically NOT OVER YET ... which means this might be one of those series that leads to ten-year intervals between books, and sincerely hoping that the author doesn't die before finishing it ...

Anyway, I need more people on my flist to read these books so that I can talk about them with someone, rather than just flailing by myself in the corner! There's really no limit to the awesome that is contained in these books -- wonderful female (and male) characters; deep friendships and found family; loyalty and bravery; hurt, and comfort, of both the emotional and physical sort; tragedy and betrayal; the thrill of discovery; the wonder of science and magic, and the odd intersections of the two; edge-of-your-seat adventure; mysteries that you get to figure out along with the characters; alien life that is truly alien. These books capture the wonder of traveling to new horizons, and the comfort of settling down with close friends for good conversation. I don't think I've discovered a new series that I've loved this much, or that's contained so many of my favorite things all in one place, in years.

If you read these, you definitely want to start with the first and read them in order, since they build on each other, and seemingly inconsequential clues dropped in earlier books become important later on. The books are:
- The Steerswoman's Road (omnibus edition collecting The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret, which are apparently out of print)
- The Lost Steersman
- The Language of Power

So far my very favorite has been The Outskirter's Secret (second half of The Steerswoman's Road), with The Lost Steersman a close second. But really, they've all been captivating. So if you're looking for a good book that includes any of the above list of awesome things, you may want to give these a try! And meanwhile, I will be clinging sadly to Amazon.com, waiting for a new one to appear ...

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