Some recent books

I cannot do answering comments lately. Please excuse: excessive amounts of being swamped going on in life.

Timothy Zahn, Star Wars: Scoundrels. Del Rey, 2013.

I have always loved Zahn’s Star Wars novels. Scoundrel is Star Wars meets Ocean’s 11, with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian the only original trilogy characters really appearing – and with Han in the role of the man organising the Grand Heist. It takes place some time before the Battle for Hoth, between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

(A couple of my favourite extended universe characters – Kell and Winter – also appear here.)

It is a really well done heist narrative, with complications and recomplications, although I think one of the withholding-information tricks Zahn used in order to work another familiar character in did not, in final analysis, actually pay off.

Still really fun.

Martha Wells, Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Del Rey, 2013.

Another novel set after A New Hope and before Empire Strikes Back. Wells is an excellent writer and tells a good story – but for a novel purporting to focus on Leia, her character carries nearly none of the story’s emotional freight. So that was a little disappointing.

Not disappointing at all, however, is how filled with interesting female characters Wells’ vision of Star Wars is.

Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine. Grand Central, 2013.

A delightful urban fantasy with weird gods and weirder family dynamics set in Toronto. Well recommended.

D.B. Jackson, Thieves’ Quarry. Tor, 2013.

Urban fantasy set in Boston in the 1770s. Entertaining, but not especially my cup of tea. Characters felt a bit flat, and the central mystery felt more People Running Around At Cross Purposes than actively compelling.

Diane Duane, Star Trek: The Wounded Sky. Titan, 1989.

Duane’s Star Trek novels are always interesting space opera.

Kelly McCullough, Blade Reforged. Ace, 2013.

Entertaining second-world urban fantasy with assassins and a coup and Deeply Laid Plots. Fourth in series. Recommended.

Jeanne Lin, The Sword Dancer. Ebook.

Romance set in historic China. A bit odd (but that is a function of it being a romance), at points a bit slow, but entertaining.

Helen Lowe, The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. Orbit, 2010-2012.

Oh dear sweet overblown Grand Epic Fantasy. These books have serious structural problems and occasional line of direction fail. And yet. I would have loved these when I was thirteen, and they still curled into the Fond Of Overblown Destiny and COOL SHIT corner of my heart.

Madeleine E. Robins, Sold For Endless Rue. Forge, 2013.

Historical novel based on the bones of a Rapunzel story. I am a sucker for female doctors and Salerno, but I don’t think the structure worked as well as it might have. Still, very good book.

Alex Bledsoe, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing. Tor, 2011-2013.

One of these is a very good book: The Hum and the Shiver is an excellent work of small-town fantasy, playing up its liminality and strangeness. It does not resolve all its threads, but it resolves many…

Wisp of a Thing, on the other hand, is full of manpain, has some dodgy SPECIALNESS, and resolves with an extra dodgy nod at a happy ending which SKEEVED ME THE FUCK OUT, okay. Thanks for ruining The Hum and the Shiver for me, Wisp of a Thing.

Andi Marquette, Friends in High Places, A Matter of Blood, and Edge of Rebellion. Ebooks.

Fun, pulpy, not excessively well-written (but on the other hand far from terrible) space opera. With lesbians. That is not a lesbian romance in terms of its focus. With a feel somewhere between Star Wars and Firefly.

Gaie Sebold, Babylon Steel and Dangerous Gifts. Solaris, 2011-2012.

I do not know how to talk about these books. I love them a lot: they are like a cross between noir and sword-and-sorcery in the Conan mould – except centering women. It is sword-and-sorcery for the girl who wanted to grow up to be Conan (except better), and I’m very happy with that.

Elizabeth Bear, Book of Iron. Subterranean Press, 2013.

A brilliant standalone novella in the same world as Bear’s Range of Ghosts and Bone and Jewel Creatures. Read it.

Robert Graves, The White Goddess. Review copy, 2013 reprint.

I want those hours of my life back.

nonfiction

Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After.

Which I spoke of previously.

Pál Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary 895-1526. English translation by Andrew Ayton. I.B. Tauris, 2005.

Which I also spoke of previously.

Daniela Dueck, Hugh Lindsay, and Sarah Pothecary, Strabo’s Cultural Geography: the making of a kolossourgia. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

An interesting collection of papers on Strabo’s work.

Books in brief

Reading has been decidedly difficult for me lately: I lack some level of emotional energy necessary to involve myself in demanding texts at the same rate as heretofore.

Anyway.

Melissa Scott, Star Trek DS9: Proud Helios. Ebook.

Jean Lorrah, Star Trek Next Generation: Survivors. Ebook.

Diane Duane, Star Trek: Sand and Stars. Ebook.

So, these are all actually pretty good light entertainment, although Lorrah’s is a bit squicky and problematic.

Katherine V. Forrest, Amateur City & Murder at the Nightwood Bar. Ebooks.

Murder mysteries from the 1980s, starring a lesbian detective with the LAPD. Pretty excellent stuff, actually: I’d really like to get my hands on the other books in the series. I MEAN IT. THESE BOOKS ARE AWESOME. ACE. GIVE THEM TO ME I NEED THEM.

(I know their names, even if I don’t know what order they go in or WHERE TO GET HOLD OF THEM. Liberty Square. The Beverly Malibu. Apparition Alley. Sleeping Bones. Hancock Park. Murder By Tradition. GIVE ME THEM! LET ME FIND EBOOK (non-Amazon) EDITIONS OR SOMETHING.)

Ahem. This is because of a certain someone Who Knows Who She Is. Who sent me a box of delightful books (which I am slowly working my way through), but among them was Daughters of a Coral Dawn, which reminded me that Forrest had written murder mysteries, which led me to the discovery I could get the first two as ebooks.

(OH GOD I WANT THEM ALL.)

Claire McNab, Death by Death & Murder at Random. Gifts.

Lesbians. Spies. Whee? Whee!

(Everything’s better with lesbians.)

Ali Vali, Blues Skies. Ebook.

Lesbian fighter pilots. Rah military is boring. But everything is better with lesbians.

Sara Marx, Decoded. Ebook.

Serial killer thrillers are usually boring. But everything is better with lesbians.

Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou, The Gemini Deception. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with espionage/thriller entanglements. Unbelievable setup! But – sing it with me now – EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH LESBIANS.

Lauren Beukes, The Shining Girls. ARC.

Reviewed for Tor.com. I did not like it.

China Miéville, Railsea. Review copy.

Reviewed for Vector. I LOVED IT.