Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: In the Hours of Darkness by Tygati

I received a copy of this story from publisher in exchange for honest feedback.
preorder page at Less Than Three Press
Published by Less Than Three Press
Available on September 29th, 2015.

You're not going to believe this because of my reputation as a lady's man, but I'm incredibly awkward when talking about sex. It's not that I feel awkward, it's that I'm going to make you feel awkward listening to me. Or I'll feel awkward that I think I'm making you feel awkward... One of us definitely going to have weird feelings about the whole thing. My brain goes into fits of giggles at any euphemism for genetalia or sex acts and I end up clamping down hard on that impulse by picturing it as literally as written which snowballs into simultaneous confusion and amusement (and occasional repulsion). That's all well and good when I'm sitting at home reading, for example, dragon erotica, and less fun when one or both of us is naked. Lucky for you I have pants on right now and am using this rambling preamble mostly to get to this point: I have read enough bizarre and stilted sex scenes in fantasy/scifi books to know that this one is not that, it is erotica and I am not the person to evaluate its merits. So I'm going to leave the discussion of the sex scene to someone else. For me, it detracted just a little from my enjoyment of the story not out of lack of skill by the writer but because I was enjoying the story and characters by that point and felt like that scene shifted focus from adding characterization to titillating.

Official blurb:
On the frontier planet No Man's Land, Sheriff Charlie Colcord upholds the law and protects the people of Deadwood Gulch. His job is difficult and often dangerous due to the vicious native creatures which inhabit the plains and mountains of Noman, but Charlie and his riders have one advantage: dragons. 
But the dragons come with their own difficulties in the way of a secret known only to a few. Charlie is a man used to keeping secrets, and it's not the dragons' secret that keeps him up at night. His secret is known to only one other, and keeping it makes their lives complicated enough that hunting monsters on the plains of Noman is almost relaxing.

I really liked the faux-western setting of this story. Maybe it was the beautiful cover art, but the mental cache of landscapes from which I pulled to picture the planet of No Man's Land was the area around the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Garden of the Gods in Colorado. While Tygati gives a lot of touchstones to the wild west for readers to latch on to and use to build the world, there isn't a lot of description, so I was left to my imagination. Luckily, as a kid, I was taken on a lot of roadtrips through the Southwest US, so I had a lot to pull from. Swap out a lot of the wild west elements for fantasy/scifi elements (electric whips, rayguns, strange fauna, etc), and that's the setting of this story in a nutshell.

The relationship between Charlie and Zorevan (the dragon) was interesting though I didn't feel myself sink into that "romance" place. I want to keep reading, but not because I find their romance sweet. In fact, I find it a bit scary. Zorevan "claimed" Charlie while he was a young teen and is incredibly territorial and protective. He's also stubborn and dominating. I think Charlie's affection for Zorevan is genuine, but even he acknowledges that he doesn't have much of a choice.

As far as other characters go, they were pretty one-dimensional. There was the Mayor, the only female character so far, who relentlessly hits on Charlie, and Jeremy Jasper, the troublemaking kid who won't go to school. Charlie actually has a great moment with Jeremy where he figures out how to motivate the kid. I expect the cast of characters and their characterizations to expand as this series continues.

Overall, despite some problems, I liked Charlie as the wild west Sheriff and I'm interested to find out what happens on the planet. I might read the next instalment just to find out what happens to Jeremy Jasper.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ten Books I'm Reading This Fall

It's Tuesday again and I'm still enjoying these thought exercises, so hopefully you are too. Here's a link to the host blog The Broke And The Bookish where you can browse other Top Ten Tuesdays if you are so inclined.

As the year is wrapping up, I have to buckle down and get some of the books from The Spreadsheet read if I hope to complete all of my challenges. I'm down to 8 critical books for my challenges and I'm adding on two from my Audible TBR pile to round out the list.

In alphabetical order:

This is not my first run at Catch-22. The first time around I finished about twenty pages and couldn't keep going. The circular thinking was driving me crazy and I didn't see how I could possibly read an entire book of it. However, I tend to be able to get through books in audiobook that I would never be able to complete in print, so I picked Catch-22 up at an Audible sale and am going to try again.

Airships make me fall asleep (except in Leviathan by Scott Westerfield), and even though the first book in this series didn't have too many airships, they still made me feel sleepy. So, even though I liked Soulless, it's taken me a while to get back around to Changeless. Fortunately for it, it fits into three of my challenges: The Unloved, Subgenre Focus, and Read the Sequel. Maybe coming off of this one I'll have the momentum to read the rest.

My husband just finished this book and really liked it, so, with the television series looming, I've decided to join the swell of people reading the book. I like space opera and hard scifi, so I know I'll like at least half of it. For the other half, detective stories miss me about 50% of the time.

Of All Possible Worlds is my pick for 1955 in The Definitive 1950s SF Challenge and the last of that challenge that is critical to get read this fall (the challenge lasts into next year). I don't have a lot of expectations because I don't know much about the book. I've decided to keep it that way for the fun of discovering the book without baggage.

A PKD winner and that's enough to keep this on my list. I don't always like PKD winners, but I almost always appreciate having read them.

I love transhumanism as a theme and am surprised that I haven't gotten to this book sooner. Se la vie. So so many books to read. Have I posted pictures of my library yet?!

I own a lot of China Mieville books, especially given that I've only read Perdido Street Station. I swear I will get to all of them at some point!

I'll be honest, the blurb for this book is near gibberish, but ¿maybe? the kind of gibberish that I could groove on.

I have vowed to read more horror because I find that much scary scifi/fantasy is buried in the "horror" section (and visa versa). This one looks to be interesting, plus it has creepy kids. Who doesn't love creepy kids?

A Hugo Award winner about cloning in a post-apocalyptic world, this has also been on my list forever. It's pretty short too, so hopefully I won't get bogged down by reading it in print (rather than on my Kindle, which seems to be the only place I get things done lately).

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Supersymmetry by David Walton

Supersymmetry is a great followup to Superposition. In my review of Superposition I pointed out one of the great character moments for Jacob Kelly was his connection with his teenage daughter Alessandra. In Supersymmetry we leave Jacob behind and follow his, now twin, daughters, Alex and Sandra, as they try to solve the mystery of an imploded stadium and battle the varcolac again.

I really liked all of the primary characters. Alex and Sandra, who are the same person split by contact with the varcolac in the first book, are so similar and yet Walton does a good job of diverging them and showing how much a person can change in 15 years. Angel, the robotics geek who helps Sandra out with the stadium disaster investigation, is perhaps the first book-crush I've had in a long time. Ryan Oronzi, the scientist who "rediscovered" Higgs projector technology, is misguided and arrogant in a very believable way.

My one criticism holds over from last book, the villain (not the varcolac) was too evil for my tastes. It's hard to know how cackling-madperson they would have come across in print, but in audiobook they were maniacal.

The pace remained brisk, the science remained interesting. Walton tackles a host of topics including Last Tuesdayism, multiverses, black holes, and time travel. And like last time all of the science is explained in an accessible way, making this perfect for casual lovers of science.

I will almost certainly pick up future books by David Walton.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Comic Review: Jem and the Holograms: Showtime by Kelly Thompson

Jem and the Holograms: Showtime (collects issues #1-6)
Published by IDW
Available October 29th
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell and Amy Mebberson

The new Jem and the Holograms comic is everything I could have possibly hoped for: fashion, cheezy songs, romance, and band drama.

The first story arc, collected in Jem and the Holograms: Showtime, follows essentially the same plot as the first episode of the television show. Jerrica, a bland young woman with stage-fright, fronts a band with her awesome adopted sisters. They are going to enter a music competition against the Misfits, but Jerrica's anxieties almost ruin everying. ...until she discovers that her father, now deceased, left her a secret hologram-creating AI called Synergy. With Synergy's help, Jerrica becomes Jem and everything seems to be saved.

If you can't tell already, Jerrica bores me to tears. She's too perfect and her perfect romance with Rio makes me gag.

So, let's leave Jerrica (and Jem) behind for the rest of the cast, because they make this comic more than worth picking up.

First up, and my favorite part of the entire comic: Kimber. Kimber is the youngest of the sisters, impulsive, and girl crazy. She can be capricious and forget her obligations while chasing her obsessions, but she's there for her sisters when it counts and she's always trying to be better.

Her current obsession (and the best parts of the story) is Kimber's romance with Misfit's keytarist Stormer.

I love everything about Stormer. I love seeing a plus-sized lady do more than break furniture or be comic-relief. I love that she gets to be fashionable. That outfit above isn't even her best outfit in the comic, but I want you to have that moment of being tacken aback at how gorgeous Stormer looks dressed for the show.

Stormer looking....stormy.
Stormer is the soul of the Misfits. She's patient where Kimber is impatient. She reaches out when Kimber runs away. Their courtship had me going through all of the ups and downs of a new romance.

Shana (purple) getting in the middle of Aja (blue) and Kimber (pink) fighting.

Next up is Aja, the guitarist for The Holograms, and Shana, the drummer. They're definitely side-characters in this arc, but I think they'll both get a lot more development as issues pile up. There have been hints of it already.

No review of the characters could go without mentioning Pizzazz, frontwoman for the Misfits. She's everything bad you've ever heard about a diva. Two-faced, vengeful, wrathful, and vain. She's a mustache-twirling villain. I have hopes though, that one day she may realize that she doesn't have to put Jem and the Holograms down to be on top.

The art, as you have seen, is gorgeous and clean. Before I read any issue I flip through the pages marveling at how pretty everything is. The full-page layouts when the bands are performing capture eighties girl band glam in all its glory.

Now that I'm all caught up, I can't wait to get home and break open issue #7!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top 10 Cat Books On My TBR Pile

I am not normally one to participate in anything. But in this case, I'm making an exception, not because I want to be part of anything, but because The Broke and the Bookish has done the work of coming up with topics and I like thinking about books. I love thinking about books. It sets off some happy part of my brain and maybe thinking through what your list would look like will give your brain some happy feelings.


This list is dedicated to Pookie.

Meeting Pookie was not my first encounter with a cat, but the first time I had a "favorite" cat. Pookie may have also been the start of my contrarianism; no one loved Pookie, so I loved him extra hard. Pooked drooled and did not have a very soft coat. Sweetest cat I've ever met. He inspires my love of cats and if I ever find a story with Pookie in it that might be the end of my quest.

So, for Pookie, here are 10 books that are on deck for the Cat Quest, in no particular order (click on their cover to go to their Goodreads page):

10. The Green Millennium by Fritz Leiber

Fritz Leiber is the author of my unicorn, The Big Time. For a long time, my single bibliophile goal was to collect all of the Hugo Award winners. The Big Time was my last, and I loved it. So, when I discovered the Fritz Leiber wrote a cat book about a man and his green cat named Lucky, I was in.

9. Cat-a-lyst by Alan Dean Foster

The 2nd snowball in an avalanche of cat books. This seems to be an adventure book where the adventurer brought along his cat. I'm waiting for the literary acrobatics around that.

8. Tailchaiser's Song by Tad Williams

This is the book that everyone points me at because Tad Williams is such a well-known fantasy author. I have high expectations.

7. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett, not one to let something silly go unremarked upon, has written his own contribution to the talking-cat subgenre. I know it's a take on the Pied Piper of Hamlin and am eager to check it out.k

6. The Wild Road by Gabriel King

Another that I'm excited about. Gabriel King is a pseudonym of M John Harrison and Jane Johnson. I can only imagine that this book will be creative and wonderful.

5. Ratha's Creature Clare Bell

Clare Bell's story in Catfantastic II, Bomber and the Bismark, was fantastic, so I was excited to find that she's written a series of cat books. I'm looking forward to this one.

4. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

3. Tempting the Beast by Lora Leigh

There seems to be quite a bit of paranormal romance that features cat people. I figure I have to at least dip my toe into the pool. I'm a bit awkward at sex scenes, so I'm sure the review of this will be fun.

2. Varjak Paw by SF Said

I definitely picked this one up because of the cover, also, I suspect that the perfect cat book has illustrations.

1. Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter

This series is so popular that there has to be something to it, right?

Honorable Mention to the Catfantastic series:

Putting all five of these on the list would be cheating. Additionally, it takes me forever to get through short story collections, so these will almost assuredly stay sprinkled throughout the Cat Quest. ...but look at those covers!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Published in 1917
Challenges: Pick and Mix Challenge

A Princess of Mars, the first in the John Carter of Mars series, follows John Carter in his first adventures on Mars. From gaining the respect of the green Martians, to winning the heart of a princess, Carter's adventures are epic in scale.

I started A Princess of Mars as a quick read between other books, not realizing that it is a full-sized novel, and, thanks to the fact that I was reading it as part of the Sense of Wonder ebook, which is thousands of pages long, I didn't know exactly how long it would be. Which is to say that, while I was waiting for this book to get good, I thought it might end at any moment. Fortunately it did get good enough to carry me through to the end.

I'm not the person who could write a scholarly essay on A Princess of Mars in literary history (though there is a brief essay on the subject in Sense of Wonder, which is one of the reasons I picked it up and am enjoying it so much), nor am I the person to break down its racism, sexism, classism, etc. I can tell you that I felt it was worth it as a piece of science fiction history and was fun once it got going.

There are a lot of things that keep this from being a "must read", but the primary one is that it starts far too slowly. I can deal with a slow beginning if it pays off, but this one doesn't. I could have started the book at the moment he meets Deja Thoris, the Princess of the red Martians, and not have missed much. Perhaps Burroughs should have been as succinct with his descriptions of how John Carter came to be on Mars as he was with the final showdown of the hero green Martian chieftain and the villain green Martian chieftain:
There was no alternative. That decree was final, and so Tal Hajus drew his long-sword and advanced to meet Tars Tarkas.
The combat was soon over, and, with his foot upon the neck of the dead monster, Tars Tarkas became jeddak among the Tharks. - location 3345 
When I wanted Burroughs to be succinct he drew it out, when I wanted him to tell me more the story was brief.

It is not so irritating though that I could not persevere and there were times when the book was beautiful. So I'll leave you with this:
 And thus in the midst of a city wild conflict, filled with the alarms of war; with death and destruction reaping their terrible harvest around her, did Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, true daughter of Mars, the God of War, promise herself in marriage to John Carter, Gentleman of Virginia. - location 3499

Friday, September 11, 2015

Audiobook Review: Clariel: The Last Abhorsen by Garth Nix

Published in 2014 by HarperCollins
Awards: 2015 Locus YA nominated
Challenges: Pick and Mix, New in 2014

Rather than making it feel like an afterthought, I will begin by praising the audiobook narration by Graeme Malcom. I never felt like any character didn't fit their voice and he never pulled me out of the flow of the story. Some stories need the narration to have distinctive flair, but this one didn't, and Mr Malcom filled the roll of storyteller well.

Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen is the story of how Clariel, a member of the Abhorsen family but not The Abhorsen, starts down the path to becoming Chlorr of the Mask, a powerful Free Magic sorcerer and villain. At first it didn't seem like a great book. It didn't meet my expectations. But once again I found that I was the one that was wrong, not the book. It all clicked into place once I realized that "lost" has many meanings when applied to Clariel.

Lost = Adrift
Lost = Astray
Lost = Wasted
Lost = Unremembered

Clariel is not a hero; she's a teenager, of age with Sabriel and Lirael, and she is an outsider, coming from a small city on the edge of a vast forest to the capital. She is on the cusp of adulthood, still under her parent's guidance but confident in where she wants her life to take her. She has strong ties to the forest city of Estwael and has secretly been training to be a Borderer, a protector of the forest. When her parents suddenly move the family to Belesair, the capital city, to further Clariel's mother's career, Clariel is severed from the roots she has put down in Estwael. She does not take the change well and continually plots her escape from the city. That is the first way that Clariel is "lost". She is adrift.

Once her goals are yanked out of reach, Clariel finds that she is both stronger and more vulnerable than she ever thought. She comes into contact with a Free Magic being and is immensely tempted by the power it can offer her. She has the strength to take that power, but is so desperate to get back to her familiar life in the forest that those powers are able to steer her to their own ends. I won't give too much away, but you already knew she ends up a villain. This is the second way that Clariel is "lost". She is led astray.

Again, without giving away too much of the plot, but knowing where Clariel ends up, it is clear that her heritage as a member of both the royal lines and the Abhorsens, combined with her natural inclinations, put her in a position where she could have been an important person. Her friendship with her cousin Bel, also an Abhorsen and enthusiastic about bringing the position of The Abhorsen back to its former vigilance and effectiveness, could have helped her to be an asset to the kingdom, whether she ended up as The Abhorsen or not. But none of that can come to fruition. Clariel's potential is lost, wasted.

Her story is unremembered by the time Lirael encounters Chlorr of the Mask. By that time, no one cared or could care that Chlorr was once a young woman with innocent ambitions and intentions. Clariel is truly lost.

There is a lot to like about this book besides just the variations on the theme of "lost". Bel is a wonderful character. I'm a bit sad that Garth Nix has not announced a plan to tell Bel's story. He is tenacious, clever, and sincere, exactly the type of character I like to read about. We haven't gotten to read a story of a "typical" Abhorsen, if such a person could exist, and I would like to see the Old Kingdom with renewed strength before the decay that we know is coming.

Clariel is also asexual and refreshingly undramatic about it. The story is not a discovery of her lack of sexuality, but it is an integral part of her character, avoiding the "just happens to be ____" and "just happens to not contain romance" cliches. Clariel could not just be replaced with a sexual character and Nix doesn't pretend that romance couldn't be a part of this story.

And Mogget. Mogget is here, not in his full glory, but certainly in his full Moggetness. He's part of the "astray" variation on "lost", and his interactions with Clariel are a joy to read.

Even a few days after I finished it, this book is sitting well with me. I'm glad that it exists and I'm eager for new stories set in the Old Kingdom.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Audiobook Review: Superposition by David Walton

Amazon link

Published: April 2015 by Pyr
Challenges: Pick and Mix

I've taken to reading the monthly "what's being released this month" posts. Not only do I get to find out if there's anything I want to read, but it's a good exercise in recognizing what type of blurbs do and do not cause me to pick up a book (Good: things that sound like Firefly/Star Trek episodes and weird fiction. Bad: galactic empires and coming of age quests). On September's list was Supersymmetry by David Walton. My eyes perked up like the ears of a confused cocker spaniel. The blurb sounded right up my alley and--¿don't I recognize that name, David Walton? Several clicks down the internet road later I was pleased that I had recognized the name--he won a PKD--and mad at myself because Supersymmetry is the second book in a series and ¿how did I not know about the first because it sounds awesome too! Ah yes, because it only came out in April, though Note To Self: make sure I'm following people who read stuff like this when it comes out. A few clicks later and the audiobook for Superposition was in my Audible library and I was ready to go.

Superposition is about Jacob Kelley, a theoretical physicist, who is accused of murdering his old friend Brian, also a theoretical physicist. Brian was doing research that is the quantum physics equivalent of picking up the big Latin tome with Cthulhu on the cover, so naturally things got scary and he reached out to Jacob who, being a rational man, said something along the lines of, "I don't care what the voices in your head told you about your magic powers, stop pointing that gun at my wife!" The book follows Jacob as he tries to solve Brian's murder while on trial for it.

Everything was perfectly paced. The courtroom drama, the action, the science (and science speculation), all came at exactly the right times and exactly the right durations to keep me listening. For all of that, some of my favorite moments were character moments: Jacob has a teenage daughter, Alessandra, that he didn't connect with until they were left alone to cope with tragedy; A minor character and her husband have an emotionally moving scene in which they disagree about their daughter in relation to her disability. These scenes (plus a few more) made me feel emotionally invested in the book, and I like that Walton didn't shy away from them. He leaned in to the emotion and allowed his characters to be genuine. The emotional connections elevate the book from pure fun to a wholly engaging read.

And though it always seems like an afterthought to talk about the audiobook narration, it is not. LJ Ganser did a great job of making Jacob feel intelligent, incredulous about the events going on around him, and genuinely scared for his family. With Ganser's narration I was able to get the feel that Jacob's smartass nature is only suppressed because of the circumstances. It's a great narrator who can help the listener understand the characters better.

Amazon Link

I was delighted to realize, upon finishing Superposition, that its sequel Supersymmetry has just been released. LJ Ganswer also narrates the audiobook and I have already picked it up. Unless Supersymmetry is terrible (which I doubt) David Walton is going to be an author whose books I autobuy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top 10 Finished Series I Haven't Finished Yet

I am not normally one to participate in anything. But in this case, I'm making an exception, not because I want to be part of anything, but because The Broke and the Bookish has done the work of coming up with topics and I like thinking about books. I love thinking about books. It sets off some happy part of my brain and maybe thinking through what your list would look like will give your brain some happy feelings.

So here is my...

Top 10 Finished Series I Haven't Finished Yet (and Why)

10. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson

I want to want to finish the The Baroque Cycle, but reading Seveneves and re-reading Snow Crash has burned me out on Stephenson for a long time, and The Baroque Cycle is not something to go into half-hearted. One day.

9. The Culture by Iain M Banks

I've only read the first book, Consider Phlebas, but I loved it. I fully intend, one day, to move forward and read the other books as I've heard very good things about them, and they are mostly standalone.

8. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

I read the first two books in a row and then came to a screeching halt at the third. The Final Empire is possibly one of my favorite books ever. I especially like how satisfying the ending is, but I didn't get that same satisfaction from the The Well of Ascension and so I lost momentum. Now I'm at a point where I would need to reread the first two going into the third, so it's a bigger commitment than just picking up one more book.

7. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

I first read Mervyn Peake in a small paperback, The Inner Landscape, that collected The Boy In Darkness with a short story by JG Ballard and one by Brian Aldiss. That little book started off what may turn out to be a real love of JG Ballard, but this entry is about Mervyn Peak. The Boy In Darkness is so perfectly creepy and weird that I had to track down more from Peake. Titus Groan continued that amazing creepiness but is very heavy reading. I just haven't been in the place to dive into that ocean again.

6. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

I have read all but the last volume. The problem was that the last two volumes were only out in hardback when I was reading the series and I just haven't circled back. I 100% intend to finish this series once I have the time to reread the first four volumes.

5. Alex + Ada

I have read this in single issues right up to the last issue. I think I've been putting this off because if I read the last issue it's really over.

4. The Elemental Apocalypse Quartet by JG Ballard

This is a loose quartet that is linked thematically and probably wasn't written as a series. But I'm including it anyway because after reading a lot of JG Ballard's early short stories and The Drowned World I need to get around to reading The Wind from Nowhere, The Drought, and The Crystal World.

3. The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix

I've read all but the last book, Lord Sunday. I just ran out of momentum with this series, not because of the book themselves, just because I was listening to them all in a row. My husband and I are reading this series intermittently out loud at night, so we'll get there eventually. I am pretty curious about how it all ends.

2. Discworld by Terry Pratchett

What can I even say about Discworld that hasn't been said? It's amazing so far and I will one day get through all of them. But there are a lot, so I'd be willing to bet that there are quite a few people for whom this is an unfinished finished series.

1. The Uplift Saga by David Brin

The Uplift Saga is the #1 finished series that I have't finished because it is the one that I most feel I should finish. The Uplift War is right up my alley for scifi and is, if the internet is to be believed, the best of the three books. I enjoyed both of the previous books, so why haven't I gotten to this one yet? Good question.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Women of Genre Fiction challenge - completed

There is a lot of good discussion right now in the science fiction community about under-represented groups. I won't weigh in on anyone else's opinions, but here's mine.

When I was a kid I didn't have a lot of friends. We moved around a lot and I wasn't very good at fitting in at new schools. So I read a lot. Books didn't reject me and when I was reading I didn't need anyone else. I eventually made friends where I was, but they were always uneasy relationships. I always felt on the verge of being rejected. Even now that little voice inside me that talks on behalf of my social anxiety tells me that my friends, who I am otherwise quite confident in, are just putting up with me.

Books have always been an escape from that feeling. They were sources of new worlds to learn about and distractions from the real world. In them there were people like me to reassure me that I wasn't alone and people unlike me to remind me that we are all unique. When I was a kid I needed more of the former than the latter and I was lucky that there are lots of books with people like me. There were even more books where boys were the protagonist. In fact, there are gobs of young-man's-epic-journey books or men's adventure stories.

I seek out books written by women because I know, for sure, that the author has the life experiences to empathize with woman and see them as vital and valuable human beings, to see me as a valuable human being. Female authors are also examples to me, showing me that my creative works can be as good as a man's and can be taken as seriously. And by seeking them out and recognizing their worth I am contributing to that equality. All of that on top of getting to read the amazing stories that spring from their heads.

Men might seek out books written by women for different reasons. Perhaps those reasons are similar to why I seek out books written by people of different racial, cultural, gender, and sexual identities than my own. I like to learn about other people's experiences. I like to be taken out of my own head and surroundings and into someone else's. Authors who have different views of the world are in the best position to expose me to stories, characters, and settings that are foreign to me.

For the past two years, as part of the Worlds Without End Roll Your Own challenges I have challenged myself to read 12 books by 12 woman authors that are new to me. It's a surprisingly easy challenge as there are lots of women whose works I haven't read and more and more women debuting every year.

In 2014's challenge I took on some legendary books:

I also found some new books that I loved:

In all, I only outright disliked one book, Children of Men by PD James

Last year's success made this year's challenge an imperative and I am once again happy with the results.

This year I found:
  • Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy which not only made me rethink my avoidance of high fantasy but also was one of the most satisfying endings I've ever read
  • Pat Cadigan, whose book Synners feels like a part of me now.
  • Elizabeth Bear and, while Dust wasn't my favorite book this year, I loved the casual inclusion of lesbians and genderqueer characters.
  • Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring, which has been on my list forever. Everyone must be hanging on to their copies because I check the used bookstore every time I go. I loved how the book was about an immigrant community in Toronto and so mixed Afrocaribbean elements against a familiar urban backdrop. Peter Jay Fernandez did an excellent job narrating the audiobook and if I ever get my hands on a physical copy I'll probably still hear his voice.
  • Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor. It's a great example of how expectations can shape a book experience. This is a big-picture book. Though it zooms in on scenes and follows a few characters, this is the story about Lagos, not the individual characters. Once I understood that I liked it better.
  • Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Another great audiobook. The book is written as a folktale told orally, so audio is the way to experience it.
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. I keep thinking I should describe this book in some other way than "relaxing" and "a story of friendship" because that makes it sound boring, but it was both of those things and not at all boring. A lot of books are sold based on their intensity, and I love some of those books, but this one is perfect in the way it helped all of my worries and thoughts melt away while I lived the lives of the two main characters.
  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Yet another great audiobook. It might not be the most groundbreaking book, but I loved how the protagonist won by being reasonable and not a jerk.
  • The Buried Life by Carrie Patel, Revision by Andrea Phillips, and The Alchemy of Stone. All of which I liked well enough, but not enough to stay fresh in my memory even after a few months.

Having finished this challenge already feels great. The next official "reading level" for the 2015 Women of Genre Fiction was 24 books, and I won't quite make that, but I do have 7 more books on The Spreadsheet that are new-to-me women authors:

Despatches from the Frontiers of the Female Mind (already read)
Doomsday Morning
Memory of Water
The Bohr Maker
The Snow Queen
The Three
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sing

Any recommendations on which of these to read first or female authors I should make sure to read?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

August 2015 Recap

I finished 8 books in August, which isn't too bad, though I finished only one book that was on my spreadsheet at the start of the year. I can't decide how to feel about that. I'm disappointed in not having the focus that I started with, but being forgiving. Back to work and with a 4 month old daughter, my biggest reading times preclude reading traditional paperbacks, which means most of the books on my spreadsheet are out. On my drives and while doing tedious tasks at work I listen to audiobooks. While I'm pumping and after the little one goes to sleep I can read my Kindle. Synners in paperback took me forever for exactly this reason.

As far as planning everything out, I started the year with lots of goals, lots of challenges, and I had a lot of fun planning the books for those challenges. But a year is a long time to not change plans and a lot of the books I read this month I am happy with. With the cat quest added to the mix and refusing to use my Audible credits to buy more audiobooks for which I already own a physical copy, the off-schedule reading is only likely to get worse.

Here's what I read in August:

I am still feeling overwhelmingly satisfied with this trilogy. If all her books are this good, Robin Hobb may be one of my new favorite authors.

Midnight Taxi Tango (which sounds a bit like something a random name generator would come up with) comes out in January!

This book makes me excited for 2016 awards season. I'm predicting this one for the PKD longlist at least.

Mister Monday

Not part of my reviews, but read none the less. My husband and I decided to start reading out loud during our bedtime routine for the baby. Of course, she's too little for even board books, so we decided to read what we wanted to. We started with Pyramids and I convinced my husband to try out Mister Monday next. This was my third read-through and it is still fantastic.

Terry Prattchet's books have been even more popular than normal this year and I'm glad to have been on that bandwagon even a little. Pyramids may not be his best by popular consensus, but it's so good that I have nothing but excitement for Discworld books from here on out.

Still in love with this book and Pat Cadigan's writing. Of all the books that I loved this month I know that this one is the least likely to be popularly beloved, yet I feel protective of it because I felt a part of it become part of me.

A year or more ago I picked up The Engines of God and When Gravity Fails in an Audible sale and I can't say that I was impressed with either of them though they were certainly decent enough to say that I like them. Official verdict: your mileage may vary.

I'm glad I got this classic read. Heinlein books are so good. They're infuriatingly good. I can be irritated at his sexism and kinks (he clearly has a thing for teenage girls and redheads) but the book is damned good.

(review to come)
See above comment on The Engines of God.

...and one more that isn't out yet.

Review to be posted closer to release date, but you can preorder here if it looks like it might be your thing.
The Spreadsheet, as it stands at the end of August