Several books recently read

Here are some books which I read in recent weeks.

Karina Sumner-Smith, Defiant. Talos, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Excellent sequel to a very good debut.

Kate Elliott, Court of Fives. Little Brown, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

A really excellent Young Adult fantasy novel. Will talk about it in a Sleeps With Monsters column, and also probably closer to the publication date if someone reminds me – it’s AMAZINGLY good fun, with interestingly crunchy bits. Also tombs. I am fond of tombs.

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove, White Raven. Egmont UK, 2015.

Another excellent YA from Wein – not quite as heart-wrenching as her Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, but very good.

Stacey Lee, Under A Painted Sky. Putnam, 2015.

Historical YA debut. Two young women on the run for their lives in the 1849 American West. A lot of fun.

Sandra Barret, Blood of the Enemy. Ebook.

Fun fast not terrible space opera with queer women in.

Barbara Ann Wright, The Fiend Queen. Bold Strokes Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Conclusion to series. Structurally off-balance, but entertaining enough.

Julie Cannon, Because of You. Ebook.

Lesbian romance. Not particularly great.

Gun Brooke, Advance. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Space opera. Terrible worldbuilding. Prose not-so-great. Characterisation could use work. Somehow it still entertained me.

A.J. Quinn, Hostage Moon. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with serial killers in. Neither great nor terrible.

A.J. Quinn, Rules of Revenge. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with spies in. Neither great nor terrible.

Merry Shannon, Prayer of the Handmaiden. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, variant of epic. Worldbuilding on the naive side. Prose okay. Characterisation pretty good. Entertaining.

Rae D. Magdon, The Second Sister. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, sort of fairytale retelling (Cinderella). Could have used better worldbuilding and smoother prose. Still entertaining.

Rae D. Magdon, Wolf’s Eyes. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Fantasy, starts out looking like a fairytale retelling, develops werewolves, turns into a variant on epic. Could have used better worldbuilding, smoother prose, and some more thought in its structure. Still entertaining.

M.B. Panichi, Saving Morgan. Ebook.

Lesbian SFF romance. Near-future solar-system science fiction. Could have used a stronger structure, and the romance felt rushed, but it was fun.

M.B. Panichi, Running Toward Home. Ebook.

Sequel to Saving Morgan. Very uneven pacing and I’m not sure it has a plot so much as a collection of incidents, but I found myself entertained anyway.

Heather Rose Jones, The Mystic Marriage. Bella Books, 2015. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.


It’s not a romance, not structurally, though it appears to be being published as one: it’s a complicated novel of relationships, friendships, family, alchemy and intrigue. Jones has leveled up from Daughter of Mystery in terms of her skill with prose, narrative, and characterisation – and they were already pretty freaking good. The only point at which the novel weakens slightly is the climax: it is an effective climax-conclusion in emotional terms (although I really feel that one of the characters was a little short-changed), but in terms of concluding the current of intrigue underlying the novel, perhaps not so much.

I love it a lot. I am planning on writing a whole column about it.


Theresa Urbainczyk, Slave Revolts in Antiquity. Acumen, 2008.

A slight volume that nonetheless succeeds in providing a comprehensive – and enjoyably readable – overview of slave revolts in antiquity and their presentation in both the ancient sources and the historiography of slavery and antiquity. A useful addition to anyone interested in either slavery in antiquity or – particularly – the political situation during the late Roman Republic.

Recently arrived review copies: Sumner-Smith and Martinez

Karina Sumner-Smith's DEFIANT and Michael J. Martinez's THE VENUSIAN GAMBIT.

Karina Sumner-Smith’s DEFIANT and Michael J. Martinez’s THE VENUSIAN GAMBIT.

Courtesy of Skyhorse, Karina Sumner-Smith’s second novel, DEFIANT, and Michael J. Martinez’s third, THE VENUSIAN GAMBIT.

Pity I haven’t read either of Martinez’s first two, because I’m out of the habit of being able to pick up book three and not mind how little I can follow along.

Books in very brief: Morgan, Sumner-Smith, Huang, Cogman, Shepherd, Simone

Richard Morgan, The Dark Defiles. Gollancz, 2014.

Read for review for Strange Horizons. Interesting and effective conclusion to trilogy.

Karina Sumner-Smith, Radiant. Talos, 2014.

Debut. Read for Sleeps With Monsters. Fun, interesting, solid beginning.

S.L. Huang, Half Life. Ebook, 2015. Copy courtesy of author.

Sequel to Zero Sum Game. Read for Sleeps With Monsters. Fun, hectic, fast.

Genevieve Cogman, The Invisible Library. Tor UK, 2015. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Debut. Read for Sleeps With Monsters. Fun, demented hilarious fun.

Mike Shepherd, Kris Longknife: Tenacious. Ace, 2014.

Yes, I am still reading this series. Things blow up. It is not at all like Target (THAT BOOK WHY), and it is fun.

Gail Simone, Red Sonja: The Art of Blood and Fire. Dynamite, 2014.

It is like having Xena back, except with less moralising and more PUNCHING PEOPLE INNA FACE. YAY. More please.

Gail Simone, Tomb Raider: Season of the Witch. Dark Horse, 2014.

Bit like an acid trip. Doesn’t make a great deal of narrative sense. On the other hand, lots of fun, and Lara PUNCHING PEOPLE INNA FACE and female friendship and taking care of people whom you care for, and also bits of it are set in Dublin and I quite like that, right.


INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair: in which I write up more notes

Continued from the previous post:

Doing some more wandering around the fair floor, I found my way to the geek corner of the book fair, where SFWA and ChiZine had booths right beside each other. Since I was sticking around for the SFWA Showcase on one of the small stage areas at 1700, this was serendipitous, and I made the acquaintance of Matthew Johnson, as well as that of Alyx Dellamonica, her wife, and Karina Sumner-Smith, with all of whom I had absolutely delightful conversations, and with all of whom I deeply regret not being able to spend more time in conversation.

The 1700 SFWA Showcase consisted of a series of short readings from Alyx Dellamonica (reading from very intriguing short story), Ed Hoornaert (my notes say: “sexist. Middle-grade? Indie-published? WHAT AUDIENCE?!” It is possible my notes were a bit cranky that evening.), Robin Riopelle (reading from debut novel Deadroads, sounds pretty good, my notes add: “find publicist, try to acquire copy for column reading”), and Karina Sumner-Smith (reading from debut novel Radiance, excellent reading, will read the book).

Thereafter, I was a touch on the tired side, and returned to my hotel room to stare at the internet, drink half the can of courtesy beer I’d been provided by Tourism Toronto (something called “Steam Whistle,” really not to my taste but it was that or go looking for caffeine), and arrange dinner plans en group via Twitter – where I learned that we would be joined by the most excellent Michelle Sagara/Michelle West/Michelle Sagara-West, who I’d had the very great pleasure of meeting at LonCon3. So of course I went to the hotel restaurant far too early from eagerness to talk to ALL THE PEOPLE again – but that was okay, because there was a very nice member of the hotel staff from the Ukraine there, who commiserated with me on how incomprehensible baseball and American football are.

Then dinner with Ana, Thea, Jane, and Michelle – I cannot remember if Kelly was there too: my memory grows faulty, and it was dinner so I took no notes, of course. It was delightful. I was still full from breakfast and lunch, but there was a delicious soup, and a plate of things called “sliders”: tiny burgers in tiny buns. Very delicious. All the talking. So much talking. So much excellent talking in marvelous company that I wound up talking to Michelle in the foyer of the hotel until after midnight, after all the others had headed off for sleeping.

That was Friday. I slept well in the gigantic hotel bed and rose in time to do a tourist thing and find a Tim Horton’s to eat doughnuts for breakfast. Delicious, delicious doughnuts. You don’t get doughnuts like that around here.

Then it was closing on 1100 Saturday, and I went to Deborah Harkness’s panel even though I’d never read any of her books. According to my notes, I found her talking about being a historian much more interesting than her talking about her books: all the notes I took were to do with history, not books. “As a historian, I’m concerned with errors of interpretation,” she said. “As a historian, my goal is to use history to teach empathy.” Writing fiction gave her “permission to imagine the past.” Harkness is an engaging speaker, and listening to her talk almost made me want to read her books – although from the sounds of them, they are strongly marked Not For Me.

I had a lunch (I think) and wandered back over the the Geek Corner of the fair floor, where I fell into conversation with Jaym Gates, Matthew Johnson, Robin Riopelle, Crystal Huff, and Michael Matheson (not all at once, but over the course of the afternoon), in between attending William Gibson’s and Kathy Reichs’ respective panels at the main stage. I do not have any notes for the Gibson panel bar: “haunted by the idea he was working with a 1984 idea of contemporary weirdness” “change in human society is now driven by emergent technology,” and re: the future, “I navigate by looking for resonance,” while for the Reichs panel I wrote one thing down: the interviewer/host is a boring ass.

Back at the Geek Corner of the fair floor, Michael Mathesen extolled to me the virtues of David Nickle’s Rasputin’s Bastards by telling me it was a “Cold War spy novel with X-men powers and telepathic giant squid, and I wrote down titles of books that also sounded interesting: Nancy Baker’s Cold Hill Side, Caitlin Sweet’s The Door in the Mountain, and Gemma Files’ new collection/not-mosaic-novel, We Will All Go Down Together.

Then at 1700 there was another SFWA panel, “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be,” with Andrew Barton, Stephanie Bedwell-Grimes, Julie Czerneda, and Douglas Smith, for which my notes are mostly illegible, but at which I recall being entertained. Then there was “Y(oung) A(ncient) Literature,” which was a discussion/set of readings featuring Patrick Bowman (my notes say: “Classicists, only read his book while drunk”), Christian Cameron (“has done research, but sounds very grimdark”), Beth Goobie (“literary”), and Caitlin Sweet (“Minoan retelling: sounds like a good book, but probably not to be recommended to Bronze Age Aegeanists like your supervisor”).

After this, I found myself generously enfolded into the dinner plans of Michael, Jaym, Crystal, two Andrews, and at least one other person whose name I embarrassingly do not recall. ETA: Matthew Johnson. (I am extremely grateful for their welcoming friendliness.) Dinner was at a sushi place, where I would never have ventured solo, and I paid the learning-new-things tax to discover that no, sushi is really the very wrong texture for my mouth. But gyoza udon is fucking amazingly delicious.

I still cannot use chopsticks, though. Seriously. I know how you’re supposed to hold them, but damn if I can pick anything up with them. (It is not like one gets a lot of practice in Dublin in general or at my dining table in specific.)

I ate dessert in the hotel, because I was craving chocolate and they had a chocolate cake thing. And then I went to my giant comfy hotel bed and slept like a dead thing until Sunday morning