beckyh2112: (TFG1: Kill Them All)
( Dec. 16th, 2011 01:14 pm)
Did Not Finish

This book has:
- a Decepticon double-agent on board the Ark
- a visit to Velocitron spoilers )
- a visit to Junk
- I'm told there are pirates later on

Despite all of this, I was near bored to tears by the book because I didn't care about any of the characters.
The cover says this book is a companion to Graceling, but you can read it without having read Graceling. From what I can tell, having not read Graceling, the two books take place in the same world but only very lightly touch on each other.

The titular character of Fire is a human monster, the last of them in the Dells. Monsters have the physical forms of normal animals, but have very unusual colors - there's a sky-blue rabbit monster mentioned in the book, for instance. Fire herself has amazingly red hair that resembles a fire.

Monsters crave human flesh and, especially, the flesh of other monsters. They stun people with their beauty, then get inside your head and make you passive while they kill you. From what we see with the human monsters, it's a form of psionics. Fire, and her father Cansrel, are both very powerful coercive psionics. They literally cannot turn off the basic effects shared by all monsters, but, being human, they can and have learned more things to do with their abilities than the animals monsters have. (I suspect the smarter animal monsters could also learn a few of the things Fire and Cansrel can do.)

There's this amazing running counterpoint in this book between Fire and Cansrel. The attraction the human monsters naturally generate has had vastly different effects on Fire than it has on her father. People react to a woman with those powers far differently than they do to a man.

I like how soft and relaxed the romance in this book is. It's not the focus of the plot. It's not even a focus of the subplot. It's just there, running under various other things. She falls in love with him, he falls in love with her, they don't make a big deal about it. There's more important things going on.

Specifically, they are trying to strengthen the position of the King of the Dells. Cansrel was the adviser of the previous king, and he pretty much dominated the man and drove the kingdom into the ground with his appetites and temper. So now Fire is struggling to use her powers for good, help the current king and prince deal with various uprisings, and live at court after a lifetime of living in isolation in the mountains.

Such an awesome book. Very enjoyable.
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In St.-Lo, at the headquarters of the 84th Corps, Major Friedrich Hayn, the intelligence officer, was making arrangements for another kind of party. He had ordered several bottles of excellent Chablis, for at midnight the staff planned to surprise the corps commander, General Erich Marcks. His birthday was June 6.

They were holding the surprise birthday party at midnight because Marcks had to leave for the city of Rennes in Brittany at daybreak. He and all the other senior commanders in Normandy were to take part in a big map exercise that was to begin on Tuesday morning. Marcks was slightly amused at the role he was supposed to play: he would rpresent the "Allies." The war games had been arranged by General Eugen Meindl, and perhaps because he was a paratrooper the big feature of the exercise was to be an "invasion" beginning with a paratroop "assault" followed by "landings" from the sea. Everyone thought the Kriegsspiel would be interesting - the theoretical invasion was supposed to take place in Normandy.


The Longest Day is Cornelius Ryan's history of D-Day, published about fifteen years afterwards. It's not just a history of the event, but a story of the people involved - occupied French, Allies, and Germans.

He wrote it based off of official reports and countless interviews with people who had been there on all sides. There's so much in here that gets you down on the ground with people, so much showing how personal it all could be, how the fog of war affected things, and all the strange quirks of that day. It's amazing, tense, horrible and uplifting by turns. Several times, it moved me to tears.
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Southern Gods is possibly the best piece of cosmic horror I've read in a long time. Largely, this is because the hero and heroine do things, unlike Lovecraft's protagonists and William Hope Hodgson's heroine. Just because the universe doesn't care about us, or is outright inimical to us, doesn't mean we shouldn't do things. Besides faint, LOVECRAFT.

(A lot of Lovecraft's cosmic horror never really got to me as scary - I love the strangeness of it. I guess this is because the existence of the Mythos deities doesn't strike me as negation of the existence of my own deity. Also, either way, the idea of the universe not caring about us doesn't bother me.)

Way back in the 1870s, a young boy dying of tuberculosis gets offered a bargain with a dark power that came out of the woods around his plantation home. If he takes up his father's sword, kills the people in the house, and eats his brother's heart, he will be made well.

Fast-forward to the 1950s. Bull Ingram, a WWII vet from the Pacific theater, gets hired by a Memphis DJ to find two people: an agent of his who has gone missing and a mysterious bluesman called Ramblin' John Hastur. His music drives the living to madness - just hearing a recorded sample of it almost drives Ingram into a killing rage - and raises the dead. There's power in it, dark and terrible.

Meanwhile, Sarah leaves her abusive husband and takes her daughter with her back to her family home on an old plantation. She decides to care for her mother, who is dying of lupus, and her daughter Franny is just delighted to meet Sarah's friend Alice's two children. They run around as happy little hellions.

Sarah takes up translating a book from her parents' library as a way to pass the time: Oposculus Noctis, or The Little Book of Night. For you Mythos types, there are some familiar titles in that library. Very familiar.

Things gradually go to hell as Ingram tracks down John Hastur and Sarah translates that book. When Ingram winds up injured at Sarah's home, things really kick into overdrive - we have Father Andre show up to explain the cosmology, and Franny gets kidnapped to be used and violated to open the way for the Old Ones.

Jacobs does a really good job with this book. The descriptions of the pictures in the Necronomicon are the first time I've understood how a Mythos book can damage someone's sanity. It certainly damages Sarah's, and he does a good job of describing the mental shift they induce in her.

The setting is suberb - everything really feels like the Deep South to me. The unfolding, creeping horror is excellent done, though I think having Father Andre explain the cosmology of this universe detracted from it. To me, not everything needs to be explained. Having so much explained felt like it detracted from the strangeness of it all.

There was something going on with Sarah and Alice's friendship, though I never quite got what it was.

The ending of the book sent chills through me.

If you have abuse or rape triggers, do not read this book. Both of them are treated as very bad things, and very little of it is on-stage, but it's present enough.
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The Dark Wife is a retelling of the Persephone and Hades myth with Hades as a lady. It's a good, powerful lesbian romance told entirely from Persephone's point-of-view. The romance builds slowly, giving Persephone time to explore the Underworld and come into herself as a young woman rather than a girl.

This is also pretty much the first Greek myth retelling I've read that deals with the fact Zeus is a rapist. There's some very bleak things between him and Demeter, and some serious nastiness towards the end of the story where Persephone is forced to demonstrate she is an adult in her full power now.

Diemer does a good job with the gods and the mythical settings, especially with how unpleasant the Greek underworld is. There's some distinct differences from how it was shown in Alcestis, but we've got two different writers with two very different stories they were telling. I do kind of wish we'd gotten a chance to visit Tartarus, but I can well understand why we never did.

I really liked Hermes in this - there was something bright and slightly manic about him that I loved. Hades is absolutely lovely, and Charon was delightfully creepy. The choice of giving Persephone and Hades a mortal (dead) friend in the form of Pallas was excellent, since otherwise we'd have had Hades and Persephone wrapped up in each other the entire time Persephone was in the Underworld. We needed the chance to see Hades performing her duties, as well as seeing Persephone go out on her own in the Underworld.

Good book. It's self-published, so you won't find it in stores, but the link above takes you to a page where you can get e-book versions or order a dead tree version.

I would dearly like some sort of Greek myth retelling where Hera gets to be a sympathetic character, randomly. Not that she's not sympathetic in this story - she doesn't appear at all. Which makes sense, since this is a story about Persephone.
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beckyh2112: (TFG1: Astrotrain!)
( Sep. 30th, 2011 05:53 pm)
This is a really good piece of Optimus/Megatron slash. It's not really a good piece of military science fiction. (There was one point where I was thinking, "wow, I'd rather be reading a David Weber technical explanation than this".)

The sequel is coming out Tuesday. I will likely pick it up, because I am promised action on the lost Cybertronian colonies.

Bullet points!

- The Aligned continuity seems to be a synthesis of as many previous incarnations of Transformers as it can manage.
-- G1 cartoon (Vector Sigma, Alpha Trion, Omega Supreme being the guardian of Crystal City)
-- Marvel comics (lots and lots, mostly in place names)
-- Dreamwave (Orion Pax being a data clerk, Ultra Magnus being a Wrecker)
-- Armada (minicons - whatever those are in Aligned, the book isn't too clear)
-- Animated (Ultra Magnus with his lightning/EMP hammer)
-- Bayverse (what happened at Tyger Pax)

- For a story about Transformers, there is very little about their alt-modes. These really should be used more in Transformers fiction, because they are a fundamental part of any given character. Here, we've got almost no idea what anyone turns into. Heck, we barely know what they look like in robot-mode; Irvine seems to be allergic to describing his characters.

- The info-dumps in the first handful of chapters are really annoying.

- The author sometimes seems to forget who his minor characters are. (ex. Halogen - we are initially told few Cybertronians believed anything he said because they figured it was part of a plot to annex the Hydrax Plateau, like he's been trying to do for aeons. Then when we go visit the Council, he's the respected speaker for the Council.)

- I do like the use of different minor characters' points of view to show events where the big four aren't. Even if we do sadly either have them die or have them never show up again.

- Die, Alpha Trion, die. Also, not too fond of the Covenant of Primus being a book of fate type of artifact.

- The Dark Energon plotline was not compelling. After the politics and rebellion in the first half of the book, this was disappointing. By contrast, the exodus plotline was quite compelling.

So, for those keeping track at home, it was: Good stuff, BORING, good stuff.

- Alex really seems like he needs an editor keeping track of things for him. Way back before Orion Pax became Prime, we have Soundwave overhearing a discussion of awakening Omega Supreme, the guardian of Crystal City. Then he doesn't show up until chapters and chapters later, and he's in Iacon for no explicable reason. We have a reference to Starscream having been a scientist once, then later on it's said he's not a scientist. There's a bit where Optimus Prime, Jazz, Ironhide, and Sideswipe are mentioned as a "team of four" going off to do something, then suddenly Bumblebee pops up halfway through the sequence and they act like he's been there the whole time.

- Okay, we're thousands, possibly millions of years, into the war. Why is the narration still referring to Megatron's ground troops as "gladiators"? They haven't been that for a long, long time.

Also, what is with referring to various nameless Decepticons as "it"?

- So I'm not sure if the Underworld denizens are mutants or what. They're definitely not demons, since Optimus references them as being Transformers not sworn to Megatron but also not caring about the surface. On the other hand, when he's fighting some guards in a place described as having Underworld influences, the guards are not really described any different from normal Transformers. So, what? Cybertron has an Underdark?

- Did we seriously need to capitalize Corruption Spikes?

- What is up with Jetfire and the Aerialbots? Okay, the Aerialbots are Seekers loyal to the Autobot cause. Jetfire is the only defector Seeker. Where did the Aerialbots come from? I was pretty sure it was mentioned the Vos-Tarn exchange caused a number of Seekers to join the Autobot cause, which suggests there should be more defectors than Jetfire.

It's a problematic book, it really is. The slash, though....

"We will always be brothers. We are bound together," Megatron said. "You cannot escape me, brother. I will hound you across the stars if I must, until every star in the galaxy has burned itself into a cinder. I will hunt you, and I will find you, and when I find you-"


It practically writes itself.
beckyh2112: (Gluttony)
( Jun. 27th, 2011 09:50 pm)
I should not have started this trilogy until I had the third book in my hands.

Spoilers )
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I spotted [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll's review today, and belatedly remembered that yes, today is June 1. Somehow writing it on all those people's deposit slips didn't make that sink into my head.

The Lord of the Sands of Time is the story of a change-war1 ranging up and down humanity's past and future. The stakes are the entire human race. The ETs came in the future, and we lost the war to hold the inner solar system.

But we have time machines. But, no one's coming from the future to help us in our fight, which strongly suggests we don't have a future. So we send out AIs in cyborg bodies, Messengers, to defend humanity and change the past so we don't lose against the ETs.

The ETs have time machines, too, and they mean to wipe us out root and branch.

This story is told in alternating points-of-view, that of Lady Miyo in 200-something AD Japan, and that of Messenger O, one of the AI Messengers, all up and down the time-stream. With Lady Miyo, we get the story of one specific conflict against the ETs, while O shows us the beginnings and the choices the Messengers have made in their battles.

O comes across as very war-weary and only keeping going because stopping means the extinction of the human race. Lady Miyo wants to protect her people, at first in an abstract way then in a more personal way as the brutality of the war with the ETs washes over her land.

I read this book in a day, and I was so glad I started it on a day I had off from work because if I had had to put it down to go back to my teller window, I would have been miserable all the rest of the day. It was so engrossing and engaging, and I needed to find out how everything ended.

For some reason, the back-cover advertises this as a romance. Yes, there is something of a love story going on, but this book is not at all what I would call a romance.

Luna, you would probably like this.

If you try to look for The Lord of the Sands of Time in your local bookstore, I have no idea where you will find it. I found it in the SFF section, but I've seen reports of employees shelving Haikasoru books in the manga section due to their manga-esque covers and Japanese authors. I'd check both places, myself.

1. Think "Terminator" and "Back to the Future". A time-travel war where you're busy trying to change history out from underneath people, and they're trying to change it right back.
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beckyh2112: (Default)
( May. 14th, 2011 02:00 pm)
@[livejournal.com profile] dormouse_in_tea: I see you're doing your best to discourage casual thieves. And casual hurricanes. ;-)
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This book. This booooooooook. *rolls in it* <3333

This is the best vampire horror story I have ever read1. It builds so beautifully slowly, but it just keeps gaining momentum until you hit the last section of the book when everything swings into end-game.

It's a hell of an end-game. Once I hit it, I only put the book down to drive home.

Ben Mears returns to Jerusalem's Lot for the first time since his childhood in order to exorcise some personal demons regarding a local haunted house, the Marsten House, and write his new book. He meets a pretty local girl, and they hit it off well. The town goes on about its life around them.

A fellow named Straker arrives in town to set up a new furniture shop and occupy the Marsten House with his reclusive partner, Mr. Barlow. Straker is a creepy but somewhat charismatic man, while Mr. Barlow is off in New York on a buying trip.

A dog is found nailed up dead over the cemetary gates. Shortly thereafter, a young boy disappears while going through the woods with his brother. His brother dies not a week later.

The vampires in Jerusalem's Lot are what my dad terms "Macedonian vampires", based off of some vampire-hunter RPG he no longer remembers the name of. The key and important trait of the Macedonian vampire is that anyone they feed to death on arises as an undead.

In 'Salem's Lot, the undead are fairly... I wouldn't say dumb, but they seem to be acting more on instinct than particular thought. Whereas Barlow is more than thoughtful enough to sadistically toy with our heroes. Damn. Some of the things he did gave me the shivers.

I really want a story about spoilers )

One of the things that really impressed me with this book was that the ending was not bleak and horrible and everyone dies. Even though pretty much everyone died. But the ending was actually pretty hopeful.

Such a good book. *rolls*

So, if I want other books like this book by King, which of his works do you recommend?

1. The best overall vampire book I have ever read is Robin McKinley's Sunshine, but 'Salem's Lot is definitely a close second.
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The Demon King and The Exiled Queen are the first two books in the Seven Realms quartet. The third book, The Gray Wolf Throne, is due out in September, and the fourth book is being written. So this series ought to finish up in the next year or two, which is infinitely preferable to some of the other YA series I've gotten involved in.

Long ago, the Seven Realms were one realm ruled by the Gray Wolf Queen in the north. The upland clans, a pseudo-American Indian people, possessed a type of green magic, but the impression is given that no one else had magic. Then the wizards came from the Northern Isles and conquered the realms, marrying one of their own to the Queen, and creating the rule of the Gifted King. This lasted for some centuries until Princess-Heir Hanalea fell in love with a young wizard named Alger Waterlow. Instead of marrying the consort chosen for her by the Wizard Council, she ran away with him.

The wizards were not pleased, but Alger Waterlow was a vastly powerful young wizard. The battles were hard, but in the end, he was betrayed and tortured to death, and she bowed her head to duty and married a man she did not love.

Waterlow had the last laugh, though, as these events led to the Breaking of the World. It's never entirely made clear what this consisted of, but when the dust settled, the wizards and clanfolk had hammered out an agreement wherein the wizards would not enter the Spirit Mountains, only the clans would make the amulets needed to control wizard magic, many types of magical devices were outlawed, the High Wizard was magically bound to serve the Gray Wolf Queen, and the Gray Wolf Queen could never marry a wizard.

The wizards had to accept the short-end of the stick in this deal as the clans would not use their magics to heal the Breaking, otherwise.

This has all been back-story. The actual story of the Seven Realms novels starts a thousand years later. Spoilers for The Demon King )

The way I'm telling this is somewhat misleading, as I am trying not to a) tell you the book, and b) spoil the book completely. This was an enjoyable bit of YA, though I found the ending rather abrupt. Definitely unsatisfying - it didn't feel like a complete story had been told - but fortunately the second book was already out for me to easily get.

However, let's take a moment to talk about Princess Raisa's father, Averill Demonai.

He's amazing.

He's pretty much a tertiary to secondary character, and I love him to death. He's the son of the Matriarch of the Demonai Clan. He used to be a Demonai warrior, who are pretty much the warriors par excellence around here as well as the people who keep the wizards in line when wizards need to be lined up in graves. He's currently a trader. Yes, he's the Queen's Consort, and he actively goes out and does trading. He's warm and loving, and I just visualize him as Hakoda whenever his name comes up. So awesome.

He also doesn't show up at all in the second book. D:

In The Exiled Queen, Spoilers for The Exiled Queen )

Surprisingly, things go better for Han this book than they did last book. Which just tells you how much last book sucked for Han. Raisa kind of comes out even on all of this, in my opinion.

The second book had a much more satisfying ending, and it convinced me that I wanted to stick around for the next two books.

Some thoughts on the overall story so far:
- I am really annoyed with the way Han's friends keep getting shuffled off-stage. Okay, in the first book it made sense. Han and Fire Dancer aren't going to be hanging together in the city, and most of his city-friends are people he knew from when he was in the Raggers. However, in the second book, he's got Fire Dancer and Cat both very close by, but they're pretty much shoved off-stage for most of the story. They're there but they never seem to be as important in his life as his enemies and dubious allies are.
- All of the people who keep coercing Han to work for them really aren't going to like what happens by the end of the series, I am sure.
- The second book kind of reads like the author invented more world-texture as she was writing it. We see things like a slightly different slang, for instance. No one called the clansfolk copperheads in the first book, but it shows up all over the place in the second book. Not really irritating, but it was noticeable.
- I really like it that the author gives all the characters a dosage of racism, sexism, or classism. No one's pure and shining, they all have their prejudices. Also, even the bad guys have nuances - the author does an excellent job of showing us that not only is the enemy of our enemy our enemy's enemy, she shows that just because someone is scum on this particular aspect doesn't mean they're scum in all aspects. I definitely appreciate that.

Book three should takes us back to Fells and hopefully back to Averill Demonai.
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I'm at page 82 of "Troubled Waters" by Sharon Shinn and am completely in love with the blessing coins.

[Bex]: ... I think the blessings thing is going to make me roll in its awesomeness.
[Bex]: There are blessings associated with each of the five elements, plus a handful of extraordinary blessings. They seem to be individual? And physical symbols of them are kept. The heroine has hers as silver charms. Her father had his as decorative wall-art.
[Bex]: I do not know how one acquires them. I must read more.
[Pux]: oooooooh
[Bex]: One does not have any say in one's own random blessings, and so far they seem to come in threes.
[Bex]: ... Interesting
[Bex]: One goes out and finds strangers to beg random blessings for one's child.
[Pux]: huh.
[Bex]: The first two people her father asked for blessings had coins with symbols on them. But apparently the traditional way is for you and the stranger to go to the temple, pay the tithe to enter, meditate or not to achieve balance, then go to the big barrel of blessing coins and have the stranger pull one out.
[Pux]: *nods*
[Bex]: And the stranger draws a blessing for themself, and you draw a blessing for you.
[Bex]: .... *ROLLS IN THE AWESOME*
[Pux]: *grin*
[Bex]: "that was the point of random blessings: you were not supposed to show caution or discrimination about the people you approached. You were supposed to rely on the people who'd been sent to you by the unchoreographed currents of the universe. You were supposed to understand that wisdom could be imparted by anyone, no matter how unexpected, that everyone had a gift to bestow."

'What is the boy's name?' Monk Gyatso asked as he ran his hands through the coins in the blessings barrel. )
I'm trying to write more about the books I read this year.

I picked up Dragon Sword and Wind Child after... I think [livejournal.com profile] james_nicoll or one of his commenters mentioned it for some reason, because I was already keeping an eye out for it when I saw the cover in the bookstore.

Long ago, the God of Light lay with the Goddess of Darkness and they produced myriads of children. The last child the Goddess bore was the God of Fire, who burned her horribly. She fled to the Underworld in her pain, and the God of Light slew the God of Fire with his sword. Then he pursued the Goddess of Darkness, but when he found her in the Underworld, he recoiled and fled back out then rolled a great rock over the entrance of the Underworld.

So the two forces have been separated. Neither can work directly in the lands of Toyoashihara, so their Children must. The twin children of the God of Light, the golden Princess Teruhi and the silver Prince Tsukihiro, work tirelessly to conquer Toyoashihara, bind up the other earth gods first created between the God and Goddess, and bring the people to the worship of Light.

The Children of the God of Light are immortal and unchanging. They renew themselves from all damage, though they still feel all the pain until the wounds are healed.

The Children of the Goddess of Darkness reincarnate constantly and work to stop the spread of the Light. They fight to free the earth gods from their prisons and to allow the people of Toyoashihara to worship the gods they wish.

Saya, a foundling in her village, is the incarnation of the Water Maiden, the Priestess of the Sword who stills the rage bound into the Dragon Sword. It is one of the most potent weapons of Darkness, but none of them can truly wield it. Even the Water Maiden can only still it, but the rage bound in it from when the God of Light used it to kill the Fire God is terribly difficult to control.

She, however, was raised in a village that worshiped the Light, and she is horrified when the other Children of Darkness come to reveal her heritage to her. She does not want anything to do with the Darkness; she wants only to serve the Light. They shake their heads but cannot and will not force her.

After they depart, Prince Tsukihiro happens upon her and he recognizes her as the Water Maiden. He pledges to take her to his palace and keep her as a handmaiden and eventually a wife. Saya is delighted.

She is far less delighted when she comes to the palace and meets Princess Teruhi, as well as the scheming and contempt of Tsukihiro's other handmaidens. She also gradually comes to realize that Tsukihiro does not love her, and is not capable of loving her - his immortality prevents him from connecting to her on certain deep levels.

One of the other Children of Darkness comes to be with her as her servant and to hopefully find the Dragon Sword, which Princess Teruhi stole from the previous Water Maiden. But he is found out and slated to die.

Saya realizes the only way to free him is to find the Dragon Sword herself. When she does, she also finds the priestess who has been stilling it - a third Child of Light who the world never knew existed.

I love this book and will happily evangelize it to anyone who holds still long enough. It's an excellent translation, the various tensions and wars make complete sense, and the way everything unfolds speaks happily to some of my inner story-loves.
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Dayumn.

It is incredibly easy to see why this book won the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards as well as inventing and defining an entirely new science fiction subgenre.

Just... damn.
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Buddha by Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong set out to write a biography of the Buddha with this book. One of the very first things she says is that it's impossible to write one that isn't reliant on Buddhist scriptures, so if you have a problem with that, tough. There isn't anything she can do about it. She talks about using the scriptures and what we know of the time-period to construct a reasonable idea of what his life was like. She also discusses the mythologizing of his life and how the stuff that's clearly mythology is still useful in what it tells us about what people want us to know about the Buddha.

The book runs from the Buddha's birth to his death, and somewhat before and after both of those events. It's fascinating and well-written. Karen Armstrong is an author who knows how to write well instead of writing drily or worse yet, writing so that the reader's eyes start to glaze over with WORDSWORDSWORDS. Ability to write well is something I revere in history writers, and so far, Ms. Armstrong has yet to disappoint me.

The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel by Drew Hayden Taylor

This is one of my favorite recent vampire stories. In it, Tiffany, an Amerind teenager, has to deal with her family and her life and the general trials of being an Indian teenager on a reservation, while an Amerind vampire comes home to his tribe's lands for the first time since he went to Europe so long ago. They interweave beautifully, so often passing each other by while they tend to their own lives but coming together at the end.

No, it is not at a romance at all, and no, she doesn't die.

I have an especial fondness for the sequence where Tiffany is sulking over her father moving her into the basement so their boarder can have an actual nice room, and the vampire shows up and goes, "... A nice bedroom where I can see the sunrise. How... nice. But I'd really prefer the lightless basement."

Snake Agent by Liz Williams

The first book in the Detective Inspector Chen mysteries. I read this one, then I went and immediately bought all of the others that were available. That should tell you how good I found this book.

In Singapore-31, we have a world dancing a line between the magical and the technological. The majority of the world is at mid-near-future levels of technology, but then we have people like Detective Inspector Chen, who serves the Singapore-3 Police Department as the go-to for supernatural problems since he is a servant of Kuan-Yin who knows enough magic and lore to visit Hell and deal with Heaven.

In this book, he is asked to look into the case of a high-society young woman who died and didn't end up in Heaven like she was supposed to.

Meanwhile, Zhu-Irzh of Hell's Vice Department is looking into some of the ghost-brothels who are dealing in unlicensed girls. It's not that Hell objects to ghost-brothels, you understand, but unlicensed and not paying the fees? Bad for business.

Chen and Zhu-Irzh run into each other while searching for the same girl. Things go downhill from there.

1. The Singapore franchise thing never is explained.

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

This is a nonfiction book studying the culture of bullying among girls. It was an absolutely fascinating, enlightening read as it showed a lot of things I just took for granted as a part of how things were and how people behaved. Sometimes it was hard to read, and a lot of the time I could barely put it down.

The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Things I love: Mongols, romances, well-done diary stories, fairy tales. Things "The Book of a Thousand Days" does well: Mongols, romances, well-done diary stories, fairy tales.

Dashti, maid to Lady Saren, and her lady are shut up in a tower when Lady Saren refuses to marry the man her father has selected for. The two prepare for a dark and long imprisonment, with Dashti writing her chronicle to help keep herself sane and Lady Saren succumbing to a slow depression. They are visited by the cruel man Lady Saren was betrothed to and by the man Lady Saren professes love for. Dashti must speak to both men, for she is the one with the courage and the backbone (and, to be honest, the smarts). Which is how Dashti comes to fall in love with the man Lady Saren loves.

Their imprisonment is supposed to last ten years, but two years into it, they realize the guards are gone and they have not seen anyone for some time. They are running low on food, so Dashti decides they must leave. Once they escape, they learn the lands of Lady Saren's fathers have been devastated by war. Their only hope is to travel as refugees to the lands of Lady Saren's love and proclaim her there.

But when they arrive, Lady Saren is too frightened to do so, and she begs Dashti to pretend to be her until they can see if this lord is any safer than the last one Lady Saren was supposed to marry.

This was recommended to me by [livejournal.com profile] bookblather, and it is awesome and she should feel awesome.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

I lovelovelove the Little House books. They are one of my pleasures from childhood reading that still hold up as an adult. So imagine my sheer delight at finding another book-series set in the same general time-period, focusing on a little girl and her family as they live their lives. Now triple that delight, because Omakayas and her family are Ojibwa.

This book follows Omakayas through all four seasons of the year 1847, when a historically documented smallpox outbreak struck the Ojibwa of the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. It starts warm and sweet when she and her family move from their winter lodgings to a birchbark house by the lake. Her father is out trapping pelts to trade, so it's up to her grandmother and mother to manage the children and gather for the winter.

It's during the winter the smallpox comes, nearly destroying the little family, killing a number of others, and forcing everyone to the edge of starvation. The author doesn't pull her punches with this, though she does her best to lighten it in other ways. Me being the trickster girl I am, I was particularly fond of Omakayas's father convincing the storekeeper to go a few rounds of chess with him. He played badly, getting the storekeeper's confidence up, then bet he could win the next game- and if he did, the storekeeper would consider half his bill settled.

To Tempt a Scotsman by Victoria Dahl

I've been following Victoria Dahl on Twitter for some months now. She's great fun, and definitely one of those writers who don't believe in the "glamor" of writing. I finally got around to picking up one of her historical romances, and hoo boy~! Excuse me while I fan myself.

As a 'fallen' woman, Lady Alexandra Huntington doesn't have to be bothered by minor things like keeping her reputation up. If she wants to seduce the large, dark, and handsome Collin Blackburn, well, who's to say no? Especially since Collin is quite willing to let himself be seduced.

Until he finds out she's a virgin, and he's just taken her virginity.

Delicious, delightful story. Very worth reading and a great pick-me-up. It's also one of Ms. Dahl's earliest novels, so I look forward to reading some of her more recent stuff. If that's her level of quality when she was just getting started, well.
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This is probably going to be a short list, since I am notoriously oblivious about new and upcoming things until they are introduced to me. This is why Scalzi's The Big Idea column has been a great act of marketing.

In no particular order:
- Wildefire by Karsten Knight: I'm told this is a coming-of-age story involving a Polynesian volcano goddess. That pretty much sold the book to me.

- Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce: Tortall short stories! Squee!

- Harbinger of the Storm by Aliette de Bodard: I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and I want to see if the second book will show the hero growing enough that I'd be comfortable reccing this. Also, dude, more Aztec magical murder mysteries, yes PLEASE.

- Ghost Story by Jim Butcher: The cliffhanger at the end of Changes was brutal, man.

- Late Eclipse by Seanan McGuire: Show of hands who this surprises.

- The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan: The Demon's Lexicon was one of the best filial-love stories I've ever read. I'm going to complete this trilogy.

So what books are y'all looking forward to coming out in 2011?
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beckyh2112: (Rage; Vampires)
( Dec. 28th, 2010 06:35 pm)
What stories do you consider to be good, recent1 vampire stories?

1. For working purposes, we'll define "published after 2000" as recent.
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