cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
[personal profile] cyphomandra
Rather than keep getting further behind I will post all this behind a cut: this is all of January except for four books by Robin Stevens that I loved and which will get their own entry. Someday.

Sarah Dressen, Dreamland
Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit
Yoon Ha Lee, Raven Stratagem
Yoon Ha Lee, Revenant Gun (x2)
Sherry Thomas, Not Quite a Husband
Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy
Stephen King, Riding the Bullet
KJ Charles, Wanted, a Gentleman
Jenny Lawson, Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Naomi Alderman, The Power
Megan Abbot, You Will Know Me
Elin Gregory, The Eleventh Hour
Emma Newman, Between Two Thorns (the Split Worlds, book 1)



Sarah Dressen, Dreamland. Teenage girl dealing with the sudden weight of parental expectations after her older sister runs away ends up in abusive relationship. It's done well but I didn't actually feel a lot for the characters - I've been meaning to read Dressen after various recommendations, though, and I'd definitely give another one a go.

Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit (re-read), Raven Stratagem (re-read), Revenant Gun (x2). For beta. I really enjoy these and also I may finally stop misspelling stratagem (revenant I've been mostly okay with since my Stephen Donaldson phase).

Sherry Thomas. Not Quite A Husband. Historical het romance which starts with estranged English couple - she's a doctor, he's a successful society man and mathematician - meeting again via rather improbable coincidence on the northwestern Indian Frontier in 1897. I really liked the setting and the characters, but their reason for estrangement never worked for me, to the extent that I am not sure I could describe it to anyone else, and neither did the extremely rapid way they get back together again (also, having sex with someone who is delirious with fever does not strike me as particularly sexy or, indeed, sanitary).

Jenny Lawson, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and Furiously Happy. Read in reverse order. I remember flicking through the first of these in Powell's books in Portland about four years ago and finding it incredibly funny, so I suspect it's me that has changed. I liked these but the second one in particular feels too bloggy - the repetition of themes is just repetition without building to effect - and also, reading them all at once does make the author seem a bit too deliberate in her quirks. I also think that the lack of a comments section detracts from the experience.

Stephen King, Riding the Bullet. Long short story/novella in which a hitchhiker takes a ride with the wrong person. This is all just so well done that it's a joy to read - everything serves the story, voice, plot, character, and in particular the choice of where to end it is unexpected and perfect. I still have a handful of his I haven't read yet and there's this tension between wanting to read them and not wanting to run out, because one day there won't be any more. Arrgh.

KJ Charles, Wanted, A Gentleman. Historical m/m. Editor of matchmaking newspaper hooks up with former slave trying to stop his ex-master's daughter from eloping with fortune-hunter. I liked a lot of the period detail and the characters, but the problem with this plot is that the final climax is really the daughter's ultimate choic and the leads are sidelined. I also agree with a friend's comment that while it's great to see black characters as protagonists it would be nice if Charles would stop sending them into the English countryside where they become the only black character there and everyone keeps commenting on it.

Naomi Alderman, The Power. Women - initially teenage girls, then nearly all of them - develop the power to deliver electric shocks, based on a new biological structure along their collarbones called a skein. The balance of power (pun intended) in society tips accordingly, and it's told through a frame structure in a matriarchy with about the same level of benign despotism ad cod-evolutionary psychology justifications as our current patriarchy. This has a great set-up and I like a lot of it, but it goes adrift in the second half when Alderman's three main leads (a runaway who starts a religious cult as Mother Eve; a gangland girl with incredible levels of power; a male Nigerian journalist who's been following the changes since they started) all end up in Moldova (I think), helping/preventing a coup, which feels both distant and more minor than the build-up would expect. Author of Zombies Run!, which I really must play sometime.

What it does really well is the little details of things changing, and my favourite scene is one in which her other lead, an American female politician who has concealed her ability to use her skein, is in a TV debate with her male rival, who verbally attacks her until she snaps - and zaps him (non-fatally). Appalled noises from the audience, triumph from the male rival's campaign manager - and then all the populace go into the ballot boxes and vote for her not despite this abuse of power but because of it. It's more than a little painful to read in the current context.

Megan Abbott, You Will Know Me. Family of high-powered female gymnast on track for Olympic competition disrupted by the hit-and-run death of a guy who helped at the training club. This does a lot of the things I most dislike about thrillers. All the tension relies on uncovering events that have already happened, not in moving on from them, and the final conclusion reinforces social stereotypes rather than complicating them. At around the same time I flicked through a book in a bookshop that did a fairly similar thing (can't remember title or author; daughter of female serial killer of children is taken into conventional family while going through her mother's trial, where she is testifying. Obvious twist is that she has herself killed one of the children (ostensibly to save him from her mother) and will go on to kill the teenage daughter of the family she is living with, because if you're born evil that's it). I think both are good examples of how the best twists are those for the characters, not the readers.

In contrast I started reading Pierre Lemaitre's The Great Swindle (while at a friend's place who had it out from the library, which is why I've only read the first 80 pages or so), which starts confidently with an event that would be the twist reveal of a lesser novel; in the closing days of WWII, a corrupt French officer manipulates his men into an attack that he hopes will give him more status by sending out two of his men on reconnaissance and shooting them, framing the Germans and inspiring revenge; another man discovers his plot but is then buried alive when the officer, seeing him note the bullet wounds in the backs of the dead soldiers, tosses a grenade next to him, and the man who digs him out suffers terrible shrapnel wounds. What is interesting is what will happen next, as the corrupt officer continues his social climb and the two damaged men (one physically, one mentally) try to recover, all three of them inextricably intertwined.

Elin Gregory, The Eleventh Hour. Historical m/m set in England in the 1920s, all Bolshevik plots and exploding anarchists; field agent Briers Allerdale is chasing down a deadly (foreign) enemy and ends up moving into a boarding house with Miles Siward, a more desk-bound agent who nonetheless is an excellent female impersonator, with the two of them posing as a couple in order to watch the suspicious goings on at a neighbour's. Lots of nice details, interesting plot, pretty good ending.

Emma Newman, Between Two Thorns (Split Worlds, book 1). Can't remember where I got this recced from, but I read it rather grudgingly once I realised it had both fairies and a quasi-Regency England (and contemporary England; the quasi-Regency world is the Nether, between here and the fairy world), neither of which are my favourite things unless very well handled. Which here they are not; it's a mismash of references, inconsistent world-building and excruciatingly irritating characters, and I only kept reading it because I was having issues with my Kobo and for a while it was the only thing I could read on it. The bits I particularly disliked were when the two supposedly sympathetic leads must break up with their partners for, in one case, very vague reasons, and do so by being cruel in such over the top ways that they seem to be enjoying it.
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