Ooooo! Robin McKinley’s got a new book coming out in September!
Short reviews for Jemisin, Carriger, Meyer, and McGuire
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
I picked this book up because Jemisin will be at a con I’m going to. It was a fascinating story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Finished school, book 1
Sophronia Temminnick is more interested in machines than fashion and etiquette, so she’s concerned when her mother packs her off to finishing school to - apparently - learn to be a lady. However, with an airship as a school, immortals for teachers, and classes in poisoning alongside classes in dance, it isn’t quite what Sophronia was expecting.
Etiquette & Espionage is great fun and absolutely charming. I can’t wait for the sequels!
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
The Lunar Chronicles, book 2
I really liked Cinder, the first book in the series. I was less enamored with Scarlet, though I’m not even entirely sure why. The characters were interesting - Cinder is back, little Iko reappears, and I like Scarlet and Wolf, two new main characters. Not so much Thorne. But something about the story just didn’t grab me the way the first book did.
Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire
InCryptid, Book 2
Fun times. I love McGuire’s books. Her human characters are great fun and the nonhumans (or, in this series, cryptids) are fantastic.
Among Others by Jo Walton
This is a world where faeries live, and ghosts exist, and magic happens. But it’s hard to tell, because it isn’t a flash-bang sort of magic, but a subtle twisting kind. Like if you want an industrial plant to stop polluting the land - this would be a spoiler, except it happens at the very start of the book - you cast a sort of spell, and then last week the decision was made to close it down. But if you hadn’t done anything, that decision wouldn’t have been made. It’s impossible to tell what sort of ripples are caused by that kind of magic.
I love Morwenna, the main character. She reminds me in some ways of myself at that age (without the familial complications and physical limitations), devouring books after book, mostly science fiction and fantasy. Books are better, more reliable companions than people, and then of course finding people to talk about those books with is amazing. Among Others is Morwenna’s journal and in it she talks openly about her life, her family, her friends, and of course her books. Her life revolves around her books and her reading.
I don’t think you have to have read the books she discusses to enjoy Among Others (I haven’t read them all), but it certainly helps to be familiar with fantasy and science fiction from the 70s.
Omnitopia Dawn by Diane Duane
It’s a great book, I’d forgotten since I read read it just how much I enjoyed it.
I’m not much of a gamer (well, not much of a video gamer) but DD clearly loves it and wants to share the best parts, the friendship and camaraderie, the joy in creation and sharing one’s creation, the thrill of the adventure. Those are all things I can understand. A lot of other things happen, too, but I particularly enjoy the parts that take place in the game. That’s a game I would love to visit!
Also, some of her main characters are painted as genuinely good people, without being either saccharine or “hiding” it with lots of sarcasm, which is a refreshing change of pace from other books I’ve read recently (but not altogether surprising, given the characters in Duane’s other books). Not that I don’t like sarcasm and sassy characters - I do - but variety is a good thing.
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Parasol Protectorate, book 1
Alexia Tarabotti is “soulless”, a preternatural, whose touch cancels the supernatural abilities of werewolves and vampires. This ability gets Alexia into trouble, as well as out of it.
I like this book immensely. Although it is a romance and it is obvious from the beginning the direction the story will take in that department, it isn’t only a romance and there is a whole other storyline going on while the romance part happens alongside it. Alexia is fantastic and her interactions with the other characters are wonderful - her playful banter with Lord Akeldama, her verbal sparring with Lord Maccon, her sarcastic yet patient conversations with her friend Ivy.
I didn’t love everything about the book. For example, the frequent references to Alexia’s “ampleness” and apparent unattractiveness were tiresome. She’s big, I get it - and while I love reading about main characters who aren’t of the standard thin-and-pretty set, I don’t need to be reminded of it in every other paragraph. Also, there was rather more explicit sex than I expected.
The good certainly outweighs the bad, however, and I’ve enjoyed the whole series.
Machine by Jennifer Pelland
Celia has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. While waiting for a cure, her body is put in stasis and her brain is copied into a bioandroid duplicate. The body is supposed to look and feel exactly the same, to let her live a normal life while she waits - but from the moment she wakes up in her new body, her life is anything but normal.
This book reminded me in some ways of Skinned by Robin Wasserman. Both books deal with potential consequences of putting a human mind into a new body. One of the most interesting differences is that in Skinned, Lia feels detached from her new body and everything around her and does the things she does in order to feel, while in Machine Celia feels too much and deliberately seeks detachment.
I didn’t quite buy the speed of the plot. Most of the book takes place over the course of only a few weeks, and it didn’t make sense to me that, for instance, Celia would drop into depression and then instantly start scouring the net for information. Depression is paralyzing, not motivational. Also, there was a lot of sex.
It was an interesting book, but not one I would go out of my way to recommend.
Timeless by Gail Carriger
Parasol Protectorate, book 5
As a review of the 5th book in the series, this contains spoilers for previous books.
Alexia and her daughter are summoned to Egypt to meet the oldest living vampire, the queen of the Alexandria hive. Hijinks ensue, secrets are revealed, Alexia and Conall fight, Genevive acts suspiciously, Ivy behaves surprisingly sensibly, gadgets, balloons, werewolves, vampires, and so on.
Timeless has what may be best-written plot in the Parasol Protectorate series. The characters are also great, with everyone growing and changing as befits their character and circumstance. The Alexandria Queen is formidable as well, for all she must speak through a translator.
Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots
Velveteen vs the Junior Super Patriots by Seanan McGuire
Velveteen vs is a set of funny, charming, and occasionally poignant stories of Velma Martinez (codename Velveteen), a superhero with the power to animate toys, who walked away from Super Patriots, Inc. and is just trying to live her own life. Unfortunately for her, Marketing doesn’t let go that easy.
Recommended if you like - I don’t even know, just recommended. The stories are also available online here. They’re terrific.
Book of a Thousand Days
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Dashti is trained as a lady’s maid and meets her lady, Saren, on the day she is to be imprisoned for seven years for refusing her arranged marriage. Together they are sealed into a tower, and it’s up to Dashti to keep them alive and sane.
This is a retelling of a fairy tale that I am unfamiliar with, presented as Dashti’s journal including both text and drawings. It’s a great story. Dashti is a wonderful character and it’s refreshing to read about a character who doesn’t magically become beautiful at conclusion. Saren is a more difficult character but still achieves a degree of growth by the end.
Realms of the Gods
Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce (audiobook)
The Immortals, book 4
Daine and Numair go up against a group of magical creatures of a kind they’ve never seen before and when it turns out that neither Daine’s wild magic nor Numair’s Gift can effect them, rescue comes from a surprising direction. But now they’re stuck in another realm while war threatens Tortall.
There are a lot of new and interesting characters introduced in this last book in the Immortals series, including various gods, dragons, and other immortals and magical creatures, and Daine’s prejudices against Stormwings are tested. The realm of the gods itself is an intriguing place to read about, with different rules from the moral realm and wonders and dangers all its own. It’s a fitting end to the series.
I’m not fond of Margaret Strom as a reader for these books. One of these days I’ll get the Full Cast Audio version, but for now this is what I have.