It’s been a while since I did this feature round here! I’ve been meaning to resurrect it for a while. I think it started on Dreamwidth, but it seems worth having a weekly reflection on what I’m reading right now.
What have you recently finished reading?
I just finished In the Forests of Serre, last night. It’s not exactly a retelling of Russian fairytales like Baba Yaga and Ivan and the Firebird, but those character types are in the story. I think it might be one of my favourites of McKillip’s books so far; while the prose is lyrical as ever, the story is a little less dream-like and follows quite logically. At least, most of it — I wasn’t as sure about Unciel and Gyre’s part of the story.
What are you currently reading?
I just finally started on the next of Tanya Huff’s Blood Books, which is Blood Pact. So far it’s okay; I’m sick to death of Celluci and Henry bickering over Vicky, but I’m intrigued by the zombie plot. I think it’s a little too obvious where it’s all going, but it’s an interesting take on it — almost more Frankenstein than zombies, and with a scientific background.
What are you planning to read next?
I’m not sure. I’m still behind on my backlog reading goal, so it’ll be something from the backlog. I’ve been very tempted to reread The Lord of the Rings, but that’s definitely not from my backlog. That said, I’ve got some X-Men comics on the backlog, so I might read those for that and dig into LotR — it’ll save me from taking my boxset of the books back to my wife’s, because goodness knows I have enough I want to pack without those too.
Blood Lines, Tanya Huff
If you enjoyed the first two books, this is more of the same, and that’s not a bad thing at all. I find them fairly comfortable reads, though some of the themes may be fairly harrowing — the effects of the curse on Henry, Tony’s fear, the attempt to torture Vicky… But it’s also classic: it’s basically a mummy with a curse, and it’s fun to watch the characters running around trying to cope with that.
Of course, in terms of character development, the book also throws Vicky, Mike and Henry together to work with one another again. And naturally, that doesn’t go one hundred percent as any of them would hope. Mike and Henry still have to learn to work together, because Vicky won’t put up with their pissing contests. (And Henry’s relatively civilised in general, but I still feel like if Mike Celluci wanted to have a dick measuring contest, Henry could be provoked. And don’t get me wrong, I like that byplay between them.)
I like the ending a lot — not just Vicky firmly telling Mike and Henry not to baby her, but also the larger plot (though I don’t know if it gets used later) about the three of them knowing of the existence of a god who thrives on pain, who could worm his way into their minds and use them, someday. Vicky’s way of dealing with that fact is great.
Blood Trail, Tanya Huff
The second book in the Vicky Nelson series introduces more supernatural beings — this time werewolves, although the lore isn’t 100% traditional. (For example, werewolves are born, not created; if you aren’t a werewolf, you won’t become one.) It deals again, and more directly, with the problems that occur for supernatural beings living in a human community. The plot itself is reasonably obvious, and the ingredients make the outcome obvious: the way they get there and the characters surrounding them are more important, really.
Ultimately, I find this a comfort read; not too heavy on substance, more representative of real life than you often find (i.e. with Vicky’s disability, Henry’s sexuality, etc), and easy to read. There are some meaty things here — Celluci’s relationship with Vicky, and how that shapes his relationship with Henry; Vicky’s insistence on being independent, her certainty about her own skills and instincts despite her disability; prejudice against people that aren’t like you — and even some questions about justice and how exactly it can be enforced in special situations the law doesn’t cover (e.g. if someone killed a werewolf in their wolf form, so it’s not apparent that it is murder). But it’s treated with a fairly light hand, which keeps it highly readable.
I do wish Celluci would get with the program and grow up, though.
Blood Price, Tanya Huff
I read this first book of the series ages ago and enjoyed it, but didn’t go on to read the rest of the series at the time. Now I’m determined to read them all: it’s such a cool set-up, the retired police officer turned private detective who, by the way, has retinitis pigmentosa, meets a vampire romance novelist. They fight crime. I’m not even kidding: it’s supernatural crime, but nonetheless, that is essentially what Vicki Nelson and Henry Fitzroy do. (And by the way, the detective is Vicki; the romance novelist is Henry.)
It’s a pretty light read, but the kind which comes gloriously without guilt for me. It’s free of homophobia (there’s a gay character, Tony); Vicki can handle herself and when she does need help, it’s not because she’s a woman; men and women can be friends; relationships can be complicated; the Alpha-Hole character’s chauvinism is called out, etc, etc. I feel like I can always rely on Tanya Huff’s work for something which includes people like me, while also delivering an absorbing story. (And the occasional giggle, e.g. when excerpts of Henry’s novels are included.)
The story itself is more or less secondary to the characters, for me: in this book, Vicki Nelson finds herself facing a young man who summons demons to get everything he wants, not knowing that he is also being used by them. The important part is not so much the mystery, but the way it brings the characters together. And while Henry Fitzroy is fiercely attractive, he’s also frightening, and we see that side of him as well. No sparkly or idealised vampires here.
Solid and entertaining; it almost deserves to get four stars, even just because I’m comparing it to M.C. Beaton’s Snobbery With Violence, which I gave three stars. This is definitely a better book, in terms of both the plot and the execution. Still, at least in this first book, I haven’t tipped over into adoring the book and the characters yet.
Hmm, this week’s theme is about recommending stuff you like if you like something popular, and I’m never sure about what’s actually popular and what I just know about because I’m in my own little circle. So I’m just going to suggest some readalikes.
If you like N.K. Jemisin, especially The Fifth Season, try Kameron Hurley. Reading the start of The Fifth Season, I was so struck that it ‘felt like’ The Mirror Empire.
- If you like J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly in The Lord of the Rings mode, try Poul Anderson. He was also one of the founding writers of SF/F, and dug into a lot of the same material that influenced Tolkien.
- If you like Raymond Chandler, try Chris F. Holm. Mostly if you like SF/F as well, because the Collector series is a lot of fun, and riffs on Chandler and Hammett’s style and plots. But The Killing Kind is also great.
- If you like Jacqueline Carey, particularly the Kushiel books, try Freda Warrington, starting with A Taste of Blood Wine. There’s a similar lushness there in the language and style.
- If you like Ilona Andrews, try Jacqueline Carey! She has written some urban fantasy type stuff with the Agent of Hel trilogy, which is now complete.
- If you like Catherynne M. Valente, try Patricia McKillip — or the other way round, both being differently famous depending on your circles. The lyrical writing and some of the themes seem akin.
- If you like any books at all, try Jo Walton. She’s written in a whole range of genres, but mostly I’m thinking of the fantasy/coming of age story, Among Others. If you’re in love with books, you’ll have something in common with Mori.
- If you like Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, try Tanya Huff’s The Fire’s Stone. Also has LGBT themes, in a more fantastical world. Never seems to get the love I’d like to see for it!
- If you like epic fantasy, of whatever stripe, try Tad Williams. I really enjoyed the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn books, and though they stick quite close to a traditional fantasy mould, they had a lot there that I appreciated, especially by way of characters.
- If you like Gail Carriger, try Genevieve Cogman. The tone is less silly, but some of the same enthusiasm and tone is there.
I’ll be interested to see what other people are recommending here! I found this one difficult, because I’m never sure how to judge other people’s taste.
It’s been a bit of a weird and wonderful week for me, as far as acquisitions go — which surprises nobody, really. My trip last weekend to a consciousness workshop in London was really interested, and prompted pretty much all the non-fiction I’ve picked up, and then I had a three hour monster exam on Wednesday on maths and science, and my mother provided a nice chunk of Amazon voucher to reward me, so… yeah. Books!
I don’t know if I mentioned I also got a new Kindle recently — a Kindle Voyage, which has been christened Glyph, and which I should write a review of soon.
I know, I know, it’s a little unbelievable I haven’t read more of Sacks’ work already. Working on it!
On a side note, since this week covered my weird reading habits, here’s a weird blogging habit: I prefer multiples of three for covers in a row. Two is acceptable. That Oliver Sacks cover on its own is a travesty that, if I’d noticed before, I’d have fixed by getting out another library book on neurology.
Sunset Mantle was blurbed by Jo Walton, so I’m very much looking forward to it. I noticed the Tanya Huff books were only £2.50 ish each on Kindle, so I grabbed ’em to complete my collection. Goodness knows when I’ll get round to all this reading…
I have a challenge/resolution to read more of the SF Masterworks, and I’ve been meaning to try London Falling for a while, so they were my somewhat random choices at the library.
And that’s it! It’s been a busy ol’ week. How’s everyone else been doing? What have you been reading, acquiring, reviewing and squealing over? Do tell.
Third Time Lucky, Tanya Huff
I’ve wanted to get this collection since it came out, so no surprises that I read it as soon as I got chance. I love Huff’s collections of short stories: they’re bite-sized, sure, but there’s enough there to get your teeth into. Especially in this collection, which is a group of stories about the same character/world: Magdalene, the most powerful wizard in the world. I loved that she is literally the most powerful wizard, and that Huff chose to deal with that not by making her less powerful, but by making her essentially her own worst enemy. (Which is particularly true in the last story.)
I like that Magdalene is lazy, indolent, sensual, sexual — and none of this is particularly judged by the stories in any kind of “teach her a lesson” way. She still does what needs to be done, she still cares about the people around her, and she doesn’t care to boast about her. That would take effort.
In fact, arguably the only “lesson” in these stories is that she must accept herself, whole and entire, the good with the bad. Not a bad message at all, if there’s going to be one.
A somewhat acquisitive week for me! But at least I’m keeping from requesting loads of ARCs, given I have a challenge to meet that means reading 55 of them already… (Yes, that’s not even all my backlog. Just 30% of it. I am awful.)
The first three, well, I planned to get them anyway, since I’m enjoying both series. The Tanya Huff I’ve been eyeing for ages. And One Night in Sixes is a bookclub read, if I recall rightly.
Looks like a tie-in event for Captain Marvel? Might not be so fond of that… And I am getting tired of seeing Carol looking terrified/helpless on covers. Spider-woman looks fun, though.
How’s everyone else doing? Up to anything interesting?
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is books on the winter TBR. I’m not very specific about stuff like that, and I’m dreadful at getting round to books on time, but here’s more or less what I’m planning…
- Mary Stewart, the Merlin trilogy. The first book was a reread, but with The Hollow Hills I’m breaking new ground. And enjoying it, thankfully; I still think Rosemary Sutcliff has just about everyone except maybe Steinbeck beat, but I’m enjoying Stewart’s work more than I remembered.
- Jo Walton, The Just City. I got distracted from finishing this off by family visiting, and because I can’t take it to clinic with me (I’m only allowed my ereader because it’s quite discreet!). So I’m planning to finish it… probably before the start of December, really.
- Tanya Huff, The Enchantment Emporium. Also been on the go for a while, whoops. And it’s fun!
- Ben Aaronovitch, Foxglove Summer. Because omgggg.
- Garth Nix, Clariel. Because I’m dreadful and still haven’t got round to it after I wasn’t able to read it on the Eurostar on my last trip.
- Brandon Sanderson, Steelheart. Because superheroes! And it’s about time.
- Samantha Shannon, The Bone Season. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for a while, and with the next book out soon, it seems like it’s about time.
- Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan. I’m still working on reading all his books in chronological order (by publication), so this one’s up next.
- Henry Marsh, Do No Harm. I’m starting the long road to becoming a doctor, in theory. Marsh’s topic (brain surgery) fascinates me, and I feel like I should be learning everything I can and just soaking up the knowledge in that way I have of gaining things by osmosis. (Ask my mother. I don’t know how to pronounce a lot of words because they just slipped into my vocabulary via books, without me ever hearing them. She thinks it’s funny.)
- Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King. Because there’s no better time, with a title like that, right? But also because the Mary Stewart re/read is putting me in the mood for other historically based versions of the story.
What about everyone else? Share!
This week’s theme is “Top Ten Books I’d Like to Reread”, which is a topic just made for me — the first one in a while I think I could talk for ages about — because I love rereading. Honourable mentions in advance to Chalice and The Hobbit, both of which I already reread recently! And I’m just going to leave it unsaid that I want to reread The Dark is Rising books, since I do that every year.
- Seaward, Susan Cooper. I’ve been meaning to reread this for a while. Heck, by the time this post goes live, I might’ve got round to it already. It’s beautifully written, a bit more mature than The Dark is Rising, and I love the characters a lot. I read it right through the day I got it, I think, at Christmas a couple of years ago. And then I made my partner read it, and my mother, and… everyone else I could get my hands on, really.
- The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay. I think this might be the next book in my chronological-by-publishing-date reread of GGK’s work. I think it’s my mother’s favourite of GGK’s books, and my partner loves it too; I remember liking it, though it wasn’t my favourite, but it’s one of the few I’ve only read once so far (along with Under Heaven, which is too new for me to have reread yet).
- Sunshine, Robin McKinley. This is another I might’ve got round to already by the time this post goes live, because I’m tearing a streak through Robin McKinley’s work lately. Sunshine is one of my favourites; the world-building, the characters and their relationships, all the talk about food… And also, vampires done right, so that they’re genuinely fucking freaky, even Our Hero.
- Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey. And pretty much everything by Carey, actually. I love the richness of her writing, and the intrigues of the court in Terre D’Ange. Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the sex and BDSM in the book, I’d recommend it to everyone, because the actual world-building is really cool. But I’m aware it’s not something everyone can be comfortable with.
- The Fire’s Stone, Tanya Huff. I could swear I’ve already talked about wanting to reread this somewhere on the blog, but I can’t find it. I did start a reread recently, but then got interrupted. I’m particularly curious because just before I first read this, my partner and I were working on an original world/plot that was very, very similar in many ways. And I’m looking forward to the relationship between the three main characters, and the way the situation turns out for them all. It’s sweet, feel-good stuff.
- The Winter King, Bernard Cornwell. I’ve always loved the way Cornwell handles the legends. Okay, some of his characters really don’t fit with the legends, and I do like the legends, but at the same time he has one of the most likeable versions of Galahad, and a really interesting take on the magic/reality stuff where the narrator can view it as magic and we can dismiss it as trickery, or maybe not quite.
- The Thief, Megan Whalen Turner. And the rest of the series. It’s easy to read, fun, and does interesting things with the character, the world, etc. I’m less a fan of the most recent book, but I’m still going to try rereading it.
- The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin. The whole series, really, but this one is my favourite. It marks a separation from the world of the first book, which is fairly conventional fantasy, and begins to shape a place for women and a different view of the world that’s more in line with Le Guin’s own beliefs. And she’s so good at writing the small clear moments of quiet that really shine (Ged’s hand and the thistle).
- Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb. It’s been a long time, and I miss Fitz, Nighteyes and Verity. (My mother never liked Verity nearly as much as I do, but I find him one of the most genuine characters of the lot — not subtle, not perfect for his job, but doing what he can and making good despite the difficulty.) And there’s a new Fool trilogy now, which I even got an ARC for originally, so I want to reread everything to get back up to speed for it.
- Sorcerer’s Treason, Sarah Zettel. I remember these being good books, using a less typically Western fantasy setting, with a lot of Russian influence and I think later Asian? I remember finding it very different, at any rate, and I do like Zettel’s work. So, soooon. I hope.
Any of these your own special favourite? Let me know! I comment back to everyone who comments here, both on my post and on your own if you’ve done one.