Sunday recs: Stories + novels

Sunday recs! Featuring three delightful short stories, and two excellent novels.

Tomorrow When We See the Sun by A. Merc Rustad (in Lightspeed) – a weird and cool space opera. A dark atmosphere but so beautiful. Merc’s worldbuilding is great, and I especially love how they use language. Poetic writing in prose <3

And the Balance in Blood by Elizabeth Bear (in Uncanny Magazine) – such a delightful novelette!! In contrast to Merc’s story, this one is hopeful and has lots of funny bits. This story reminds me that I should get round to reading Bear’s novels.

Wing by Amal El-Mohtar (in Strange Horizons) – a lovely short piece from 2012, lyrical and strange. Mystical books, yay.

***

Then for the novels: I’ve got longer reviews/squee for these on Goodreads, but I just really want to recommend two novels from this autumn that I read recently:

Black Wolves, Kate Elliott’s newest novel – set in the same world as her Crossroads trilogy, but you needn’t have read the trilogy to enjoy this one. (I greatly enjoyed the references to the trilogy, though!) In fact, I didn’t even like the Crossroads trilogy as much as Elliott’s other stuff, but omgggg I adored Black Wolves. So, so good. A must-read if you’re into epic fantasy. It does some pretty bold things with structure, but I think it works very well. And there were so many great characters. Lots of women being awesome, and a very interesting portrayal of a fantasy society in the process of great societal changes. So great. I wish I could re-read this book again with new eyes, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy rereading it in any case.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – which I just read over Christmas. A riot of a book, vastly different from Black Wolves, but that was probably a good thing since I’d just finished BW before starting SttC. Zen Cho’s got a really good Regency thing going on: I’m so happy there’s more stuff in the general vein of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! This was a light read on the surface, but Cho also deals really well with issues of e.g. racism and colonialism.

I’m really looking forward to the next parts of the trilogies for both BW and SttC!

Advertisements

Sunday recs: art magic

Have been way too exhausted to blog lately. Should learn better time management, or possibly just somehow learn how to be less busy…

Anyway, small rec for today because I don’t want to get too badly out of the habit:

Do Not Touch by Prudence Shen (with some charming art by Noreen Rana and Faith Erin Hicks) (at Tor.com) – Awww this is an utterly charming story. I absolutely love the central concept in this, and fiction where visual arts are a major thing. This story made me giggle quite a few times, and I liked the characters. Not a recent story (this is from 2013) but utterly worth checking out!

On a somewhat related note, I read the novel The Golden Key this summer, and it was awesome. Written by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliott. An intriguing novel with painting-magic and obsession with fame as a central aspect. I loved all the descriptions of art and the art process, and how the writers showed a society changing as time passes. A wonderful and involving read, highly recommended.

Sunday recs: Court of Fives and other stories

Firstly: get yourself a copy of Kate Elliott’s newest book, Court of Fives. I finally got myself one and glommed the book in a few breathless sessions. I would’ve read it in a single day (I got halfway through in a few hours on my first reading session) but I was helping people move on Fri & Sat, so no book marathon for me. Anyway! It’s definitely the kind of book you want to enjoy in long, deliciously breathless sessions. Here’s how Kate describes the book:

I call this “Little Women meet American Ninja Warrior in a setting inspired by Greco-Roman Egypt” while the publisher has pitched it as “Little Women meets Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games.” (source)

I could go on and on about how much I loved this book. :D I’m a huge fan of Kate Elliott’s work and look forward to her new releases. I was a bit apprehensive about the YA part, because in general I’m not a big YA fan – but Court of Fives was just a damn good book, and the YA was mostly in the protagonist’s age and some of the conventions in the book. OK, so I guess the YA thing also meant that the awesome worldbuilding couldn’t be described in as much detail as Elliott usually likes to do (and which I like). But it was also cool to see how much can be revealed through rather little overt description.

Things I loved: the worldbuilding (Ptolemaic Egypt creates great fodder for inspiration!); the sibling relationships (sisters being sisterly, yessss); the Fives game itself (great descriptions of action too); how the protagonist Jes kept on being sensible and making rational decisions despite being a teenager amid difficult circumstances.

I wish the next book was out already! :D I loved the ending for CoF, but damn, it was a tantalising one.

***

In case you can’t get out and buy CoF right this minute, here are two delightful things to read in the meantime:

Et je ne pleurais jamais les larmes cicatrisantes magiques; c’est seulement un mensonge joli: Aarne-Thompson Index No. 310 by Elizabeth R. McClellan (in Niteblade) – a great Rapunzel poem with a twist. I do love a good narrative poem.

Stone Hunger by N.K. Jemisin (in Clarkesworld) – an excellent secondary-world story with creepy and compelling worldbuilding (as is usual for Jemisin – she has such good worldbuilding in all her novels too). After reading this and finding out that it was a sketch of sorts for the world of Jemisin’s newest novel The Fifth Season, I got even more excited about reading said new novel. I asked my local library network to order the book and apparently three copies are making their way to three libraries. Yay!

***

So many exciting novels coming out or just appeared! I’m especially excited about Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, Fran Wilde’s Updraft, and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. I wish I had more money so I could buy all the books, but I will ask my local library network to order them if nothing else – as in the case of The Fifth Season, it’s so great that they’re very much open to ordering new books based on customer recommendations. I heart libraries.

Sunday recs: The Goblin Emperor

A novel for today’s Sunday recs:

I just read Katherine Addison’s novel The Goblin Emperor and was, quite frankly, blown away. I haven’t loved a novel this much in ages! It was the perfect escape amidst a very busy couple of weeks. I may or may not have uttered a “noooooo” when I realised the story was done and the rest was appendix-type stuff.

Things that I especially loved:

  • The main character, Maia. Ohhhh Maia! I love characters who strive to be good, and Maia really does. He is also just so endearing in his awkwardness. <3
  • The use of language! In addition to writing really compelling prose, Addison appealed to Linguist Me by having the elves’ language (represented as English) include a distinction between formal and informal 1st and 2nd person pronouns. Such a lovely detail, and so revealing of their politeness culture. I especially enjoyed that at first the reader has to start figuring it out themself. Also: the “early modern English” features (thou/thee, etc.) were all grammatically correct! This is especially awesome because so many people do weird shit with pseudo-Shakespearean language. In Addison’s hands it felt natural instead of stilted.
  • It was so optimistic! And not in a saccharine way – just, people were decent, and the ending made me so happy.

My only sorrow is that this is a standalone. I really hope Addison writes something else set in this world… I would’ve wanted to learn more especially about Maia’s betrothed.

It’s interesting that the novel seems to be classified as steampunk. I suppose it shouldn’t be so surprising to me – after all, TGE includes developing steam/clockwork-powered machinery and revolution – but this book is just so different from any steampunk I’ve ever read. While reading I was just like “well this is a great high fantasy -esque novel with a post-medieval society, yay”.

I do urge you to try out The Goblin Emperor though, especially if you’re in the mood for optimistic fantasy! I read this as an ebook as part of my Hugo voting packet, but I ordered the paperback halfway through the book because I want to treasure this thing as a physical object as well.

Sunday recs: Three stories and a novel

Hi, this is me procrastinating! Soon, soon I will go and finish the zero draft of a story that’s been unreasonably hard to write considering that I know how it ends and all…

Anyway, here’s three stories I read sometime late last year and enjoyed:

Collector’s Item by Daniel McPherson (in Daily Science Fiction): a robot servant.

Sardines in a Tin Can by Wendy Nikel (also in DSF): robot slaves.

Dream Cakes by Kelly Jennings (in Strange Horizons): an awesome meld of SF and magicky things. No robots, though.

***

Bonus novel rec: Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred is utterly amazing. It’s been on my to-read list for ages, and I finally started it yesterday morning. Well, I ended up reading it in two breathless, long sittings. It’s been a while since I read a novel in a single day! So worth it. Most other time travel novels suddenly pale in comparison…

Sunday recs: Everything Martha Wells has ever written

I was introduced to Martha Wells’ books earlier this year through this squee post by Kate Elliott (whose work I love, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog).

I’m so glad I discovered Martha Wells! I’ve been reading everything of hers that I’ve been able to get my hands on. Wells is an amazing worldbuilder – such unique, well-thought-out worlds – but more than that, she’s a great storyteller. I’ve nommed all her books really quickly, because the plots progress with such addictive pacing that I don’t want to put them down.

I’ve especially loved the Fall of Ile-Rien Trilogy (among the best books I’ve read this year, by far! such amazing characters and world and asdgjhsdgl squee), and the Books of the Raksura. I’m currently reading the third book of the Raksura, The Siren Depths (after swiftly devouring the second book The Serpent Sea), and had to consciously stop myself from gulping it down all in one sitting. (I had things to do today, after all.) I just love Wells’ characters, her settings, just, all of it. I can only hope to be as good a writer as her some day.

In conclusion: wow, much awesome, such addictive. Do yourself a favour and read Martha Wells. I’m going to go and read some more of The Siren Depths in bed now. Will try not to stay up too late…

Women Destroy Science Fiction! (in which I also blather about other books)

Lightspeed Magazine’s special issue Women Destroy Science Fiction! is now available as an ebook! Huzzah! I just got myself a copy and am super excited about reading it. Wow! Such awesome, much destruct, so women.

So much to read! In addition to this special issue of Lightspeed, I’ve got the following books on my bedside book-table (yes, I have a separate one for books; before you imagine some towering edifice, it’s just a glorified stool):

  • Hild by Nicola Griffiths. I’m in the first third of this book – such beautiful writing!
  • William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher. Have been slowly reading this since Christmas. Awesome concept, quite funny, and usually well Shakespearified, but the misuse of the second person singular pronoun “thou” irks me (omg you cannot use “thou” to address more than one personnn).
  • Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer. I usually don’t like writing guides and such, but Wonderbook has some pretty good stuff. I’ve been slow with getting through it because I want to concentrate on it properly when reading. It’s pretty awesome to read a creative writing guide that concentrates on speculative fiction instead of turning its nose up at it!
  • The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar; Here, We Cross edited by Rose Lemberg; and Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. I only just got this lovely trio of books, and haven’t begun reading them yet because I’m so excited about them that I want to give them my full attention. I suspect they will all make me cry with awesomeness.

And then there’s the growing number of unread books in my shelves. I’m trying to avoid the library right now because otherwise I just end up reserving loads of good books from there instead of reading my own. I ♥ the public library for the Helsinki metropolitan area – there’s a lot of good SFF books. But that means that whenever I come across a book I’m interested in online, I can reserve it from the library, and of course I have to read the library books first, and… neverending cycle. For now, I’ll just write down any interesting new titles and loan them from the library later on. I’ve got around 30 unread books waiting mournfully in my bookshelves: time to tackle them first. A task for this summer, perhaps!

In conclusion: booksss. We loves them, precious.