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Some Books I’ve Read Lately

I don’t actually have much time for reading non-work related fiction these days. But I got into the whole writing thing because I loved to read, and so I do try to make time to read at least every now and then!

In the past several months, I’ve read:

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

When I first started reading An Accident of Stars I was a bit frustrated–I hadn’t realized just how tired I’d gotten of your garden variety portal fantasy. Or maybe it was that I’d read quite a lot of portal fantasies at a particular time in my life, when I was perhaps a less demanding reader. I suppose they’ve been out of fashion for a while, and I never really noticed that, but on beginning this book I found myself sighing a bit. “Really? Not-terribly-popular white teenager visits other world, turns out to be The Chosen One who will Heal the Land or whatever (extra points if it’s allegorical for problems they face in the “real” world), saves universe, returns home having Learned a Valuable Lesson and maybe even Grown Up a Little.” But I kept reading, because I figured Foz was planning to go somewhere interesting with it.

As it happens, there are two protagonists in this book. (Or maybe there are four. I’d entertain that argument.) One is the aforementioned teenager, but the other is a middle-aged woman who’s lived her life between two worlds. To a certain extent she serves as a guide and teacher for the younger protagonist, but she’s a major character in her own right and shares the narrative with Saffron. There are also plenty of other women in the story–young and old, mothers (or not) and daughters, so that there’s no question of either Smurfettes or Singular Girls, and no suggestion that becoming older, or a mother, or disabled for that matter, removes you from eligibility for having adventures of sufficient import or interest. Saffron is not The Chosen One, either, and the cultures and languages she encounters aren’t just cardboard versions of Medieval Europe with their serial numbers halfheartedly scuffed up. Quite the contrary.

So this was basically all the things I’d enjoyed about portal fantasies as a younger reader, with the dubious gifts the suck fairy might have bestowed either questioned or removed. I ended up enjoying An Accident of Stars quite a lot.

Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone

This is actually the third book in a…series? Sequence? Sequence I guess. I gather the numbers in the titles tell you which comes first, second, etc in “in story” order, but not in actual publication order. I would complain about this, but I’m the author of a trilogy all titled Ancillary [X] and readers often get confused about which book comes where in the trilogy, so, glass houses. Anyway, I actually recommend you start out with Three Parts Dead, the first in the sequence.

As so often in fantasies, gods are real in the world of these books. I feel like sometimes writers don’t stop to really think about what that means, if gods are real, let alone if gods of many different cultures and religious traditions are real. Max has thought about it, and has built a world where actually a lot of the gods have died, but their power is still a real force in the world, though it’s wielded by banks and lawyers and basically is the world’s economy–money as magic. These books are smart and fun, and they wear their reliance on the real world as source material on their sleeve, which sometimes annoys me but here I enjoy, I suspect because it’s done very deliberately and not out of thoughtlessness. As a bonus, these books offer a lot of engaging women characters, particularly Full Fathom Five, which once I closed it I realized was basically all the major characters and quite a few non-major but important ones.

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed reading these so far, and at some point (hopefully in the not too distant future) I have every intention of picking up Four Roads Cross.

A couple things I’ve read

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When I was a child, I had several Dream Jobs. I wanted to be an astronaut, of course, and I also considered careers in paleontology and archaeology. But high, very high on my list was “any job where people will pay me to read, or failing that, give me lots of free books.”

Reader, it turns out that I now have such a job. And in some ways it is exactly as awesome as I had dreamed. More awesome! And yet. Now that I get books sent to me for free on a regular basis (nothing like Scalzi gets, but still, it’s a couple a week in my email or in my PO box), I do not have time to read them all.

I do try to read them! Because, I mean. It’s just, it takes me a while, because I have so much other job-related reading to do.

Anyway. I get books. And I read them, if slowly. And sometimes I enjoy them quite a bit! Like for instance.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker. This is I think what the kids call urban fantasy. Which mostly isn’t my sort of thing–I’ve got nothing against it, but it usually doesn’t do a lot for me. I’m pretty sure I’m not its target audience. But I enjoyed Borderline quite a lot. And this is the part where I should say why I enjoyed it, but I am remarkably bad at doing that. I can talk about things that caught my eye–the protagonist has Borderline Personality Disorder, which is treated pretty matter-of-factly, without romanticizing or demonizing the character or her illness. The other characters were nicely drawn as well, I thought, and I enjoyed the Hollywood setting (though to be honest, Hollywood might as well be Faery itself as far as I’m concerned). If you enjoy urban fantasy, you should check this out. If you aren’t a UF reader, well, maybe check it out anyway, because it’s a lot of fun.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. If you’ve read any of Yoon’s short fiction, you know he’s fabulous. I confess myself partial to “The Winged City,” which I bought for GigaNotoSaurus several years ago. Now he’s got a novel coming out, and it’s (unsurprisingly) excellent. It’s out June 14, but I got an ARC and boy am I glad I did. Here’s a blurb I found at the Amazon listing:

“I love Yoon’s work! Ninefox Gambit is solidly and satisfyingly full of battles and political intrigue, in a beautifully built far-future that manages to be human and alien at the same time. It should be a treat for readers already familiar with Yoon’s excellent short fiction, and an extra treat for readers finding Yoon’s work for the first time.”

Every word of that is true. I know because I wrote that blurb myself.  Honestly, you should read this as soon as you can. And you should check out Yoon’s short fiction as well.