Monday, July 15, 2013

Reading Roundup

Quick notes:
Still haven't got my brain working properly to write a few words on the Flowers From the Storm audiobook. I keep trying to sit down to write something useful and all that comes out is: so much awesome. (tears) didn't know the book could get better. (joy) just listen. (more joy). holy shit the ending. (tears) Yeah, seriously, I cried! I've read that book more times than I can count but this is the first time I cried! Also, just started Code Name Verity (my library didn't have any more of Wein's Aksum series) and I'm totally hooked. This book is fantastic and flat out engrossing. And after gobbling up some Vinge I'm so full of joy smiles satisfaction at being on a good reading run. Yay!

Title: Paladin of Souls/The Hallowed Hunt
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publisher: Harper Voyager (2003, 2005)

These are next after The Curse of Chalion. Paladin is about the dowager Ista and it is awesome. And so is she! The gods are back meddling with the poor wee humans and Bujold's amazing characterization/plotting are, of course, around while she enriches the world she introduced in Chalion. The Hallowed Hunt is about some people who do some stuff... I didn't finish it. Stick with just the first two in this trilogy.

Paladin: recommended
Hallowed: not recommended

Title: A Coalition of Lions
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (2003)

I mentioned in a previous post that I finally got around to reading The Winter Prince which is a retelling of the King Arthur legend... it begins Wein's Aksum series and I'd thought I'd read 2 and 3 from the series. I picked this title up again (#2) and realized I didn't finish it the first time. I remember why I didn't finish it and it was a mistake. Coalition follows Goewin who has fled Britain after the high kings' deaths for help from her allies in Aksum (Ethiopia). There she encounters complicated politics that involve her fiance (the British ambassador in Aksum), the kingdom's heir, and her Aksumite ambassador who escorted her to Aksum. Oh, and she meets her nephew (son of Medraut) who lives with his mother and grandfather. Loved the world, loved the characters! It's been a few years since I read The Sunbird but I would say this one edges it as the better between the two. Have not read the two newest in the series.


Title: Borrower of the Night
Author: Elizabeth Peters
Publisher: Dodd Mead (1973)

I picked this one up as I was attracted to a mystery without a PI/former cop/succubus or similar as the protag and I ended up really liking Vicki Bliss but, in the end, the series was too dated for me. Too many gender based jokes, too few female allies... but Bliss did intrigue me so I went ahead and tried another (Silhouette in Scarlet) since the Bliss character had a lot of potential for me but, in the end, my first impression of the series won out and this series is not for me.

not recommended

Title: Cold Steel
Author: Kate Elliott
Publisher: Orbit (2013)

This is the third title in The Spiritwalker trilogy which is set in a world I adore. It's an alternate history (with magic) in which a Little Ice Age is underway during, um, early 1800s maybe? Books one and two mostly occur in Europe with the second book primarily in the Antilles. A desert plague (which results in ghouls!) drove several African nations to immigrate en masse to Europe and their history is co-mingled with western European history resulting in the current culture. I also really like most of the characters. Books one and two were enjoyable reads for their creativity but often let me down in the characterization (it's frustrating to like characters so much who you feel could be written better) but seemed to be steadily improving. I looked forward to the third installment but it was a disappointing finish to the trilogy. I'd talk more about this title but it's all spoilery for the first two which are way more enjoyable so instead I'll just say go try out those. Keep expectations reasonable and they'll end up being quick, fun reads with a great world.

not recommended

Title: Psion/Catspaw
Author: Joan D. Vinge
Publisher: Delacorte Press (1982); Warner Books (1988)
I read the newer Tor editions...

Cat is a poor, disenfranchised Oldcity dweller on a planet which has become the new Hub of interstellar human commerce. He's picked up yet again by Security personnel but given an alternative to prison: take a test, see if you are a psion. Psions are a minority group of humans who have tele powers (be they pathic, kinetic, or otherwise). Cat is unaware of his latent skills but is willing to avoid prison. For the first time in his life he becomes part of a group, has a safe place to live and meals to eat. If it seems too good to be true, it is; he'll soon find himself caught up in complicated interstellar schemes but the real heart of this novel is what it's like to be caught up in the schemes of humans, be they carefully crafted or emotionally tangled. And I'm only describing Psion! Catspaw continues with the interstellar politics but again focuses astutely and acutely on themes of what it means to have humanity, the temptations of power, the plight of the have-nots, prejudice, greed, fear and loathing. This is not light reading but it is worthwhile reading. My poking about the internets has revealed that Catspaw is generally thought to be the cat's pajamas (hee!) but I think I liked Psion just a little better. Both are very good so it's splitting hairs but I thought I'd mention it.

both recommended

As is probably obvious, I've been reading a lot of sf/fantasy of late. I need to take a moment to talk about awful cover art. Because seriously why does sf/fantasy trend towards awful cover art? Fantasy titles have better odds here (and some fantasy books have some truly beautiful covers) but, holy fuck, the sf covers are almost 100% just plain terrible. Am I just getting unlucky here? Can anyone point me towards some beautiful sf cover art? I also find sf cover art is often inaccurate. Body types and especially skin color are so off from what is described that I wonder if it's even supposed to be for the book I'm reading. Ugh!

What have you been reading lately?

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