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text 2017-11-26 16:07
Square 10 Task - 5 Favourite Books this Year
The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
The Game of Kings - Dorothy Dunnett
On a Red Station, Drifting - Aliette de Bodard
Forest of Memory - Mary Robinette Kowal

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. 


Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!


I'm afraid I can't really do the second part because most of my chosen books are ebooks. 


It was also pretty tough to figure out what should make the cut. I stuck mostly with my higher-rated books and ones that have stuck with me or led me to try out more of the author's work.


1. The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

This one was a no-brainer. I keep telling everyone I know to read it because it was awesome. It's basically pure escapist fun and it was like a breath of fresh air after Frederik Pohl's Gateway which I was reading at the same time. It was also the first novel that I read by Kameron Hurley and I've been slowly working through her back catalogue. It's basically a story about a bunch of people who live in dying worldships trying to find a way to gather enough resources to keep going. It's a fun adventure romp, basically. And the best part is that there are no whiny males who beat up women in front of little kids and justify it to themselves with a bunch of pathetic psychobabble (see Gateway). Don't get me wrong; these aren't all nice, peaceful people. But it was a nice break from the patriarchal norm.

My review of The Stars are Legion.


2. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

This was a reread but I liked it so much I went out a bought my own copy of the author's preferred text. Neil Gaiman doesn't always work for me in the sense that although I usually like his books, I frequently don't love them. This one works for me though. I like the creepiness and the Marquis de Carabas.

My review of Neverwhere.


3. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

This first book in Dunnett's Lymond series was well-constructed and riveting. Not an easy read, but still pretty awesome. I'm including this because I'm slowly working my way through the series and so far the first has been the best (ok, so I've only read 2 of the 6 books so far). Lymond is a great example of a protagonist who's almost too awful to like but does actually have redeeming depths. I need to get back to this series, actually.

My review of The Game of Kings.


4. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

This novella was my introduction to Aliette de Bodard's writing and a great atmospheric read. It was a kind of family drama, really, which isn't usually my cup of tea, but this world with its far-future Vietnamese empire was just neat. Plus throw in a faltering AI, politics, and a slow-burn narrative... Aliette de Bodard seems to like to create science fiction and fantasy worlds with unusual settings. Here we have a futuristic Dai Viet Empire, and in one of the other series of hers that I'm reading, the books take place in the Aztec Empire.

My review of On a Red Station, Drifting.


5. Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

This was another read that just clicked for me, and it was also my first introduction to Mary Robinette Kowal's writing. It was a creepy and thought-provoking tale of a woman who drops off the grid in a hyper-connected world when she's kidnapped by a man whom she surprises tranquilizing a deer. A lot of questioning of how much we can take data for granted and did I mention it was really creepy?


So...three sci fis, an urban fantasy, and a historical fiction. I guess I really do like science fiction. :)


Some honourable mentions:

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World - Peter Wohlleben This popular science book with its descriptions of how trees in a forest communicate and share resources was so close to making the cut but I went with Forest of Memory instead. I do think a society that could actually communicate with its forests and negotiate with them would just be downright cool, and so I still say this should be mandatory reading for science fiction writers.


There's also a bunch of stuff about how trees that don't grow up in a mature forest get short-changed in how their wood develops because they aren't forced to grow slowly. The book explains it better. Go read the book.


My review for The Hidden Life of Trees.


Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story - Angela Saini This was a great concise overview of the issues that have set back women’s rights, societal expectations, and health. It was an interesting read, and I used it to find more interesting reads via the references it makes. I've even started to go down a bit of a rabbit hole because those books have led to other books which have led to yet other books right down to my current read, Alas, Poor Darwin.


I thought it was so good that I bought a copy for my shelf and ended up with two copies because Canada Post was so slow that the first copy took two and a half months to get to me. Still haven't figured out what to do with the extra copy.


My review for Inferior.

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review 2017-10-11 04:00
Harbinger of the Storm by Aliette de Bodard
Harbinger of the Storm (Obsidian and Blood Book 2) - Aliette de Bodard

Series: Obsidian and Blood #2


The Revered Speaker has died and the council must agree on his successor before the Fifth World succumbs to the star demons (this is a fantasy set in the Aztec Empire in the late 15th century). Acatl (the high priest for the dead) investigates when a star demon appears to have been summoned within the palace to murder someone. They believe the stars are demons that can fall from the sky and rip a man apart (sun worshippers, remember). Basically, Acatl becomes afraid that if the council takes too long to choose a new Revered Speaker, they won't have sufficient protection and the stars will fall from the sky and bring about the end of the world. The end of their world, anyhow.


Unfortunately, the middle part of the book with the investigation seemed to go on too long and it feels like I took forever to read it. It was a lot slower (reading time wise) than the first book, anyway. I'll still go on to read the third one but I really hope it picks up.


I read this for the "Monsters" square for the Halloween Bingo. It qualifies due to the star demons and the ahuizotls (water creatures). There may have been other creatures mentioned but I don't remember them specifically. This book would also work for the "Murder Most Foul", "Supernatural", "Demons", and "Terrifying Women" squares.

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text 2017-05-26 22:37
In Morningstar's Shadow by Aliette de Bodard
In Morningstar's Shadow: Dominion of the Fallen Stories - Aliette de Bodard


This is super short at 46 pages. Should I add dates read to count it or not? I'm undecided.


It's basically just a series of vignettes that provide a lead into Aliette de Bodard's book The House of Shattered Wings where we have fallen angels in Paris.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-09 23:53
Fantastic second part
The House of Binding Thorns (A Dominion of the Fallen Novel) - Aliette de Bodard

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by Fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.
House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal—to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.
In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom—and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear....
As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength—or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.





Dear Aliette De Bodard,


Sunita introduced me to your work and I am so happy that she did. Her and Janine did a comprehensive review of the first book in this trilogy here at DA (will link) therefore please beware of the possible spoilers for the first book in my review as well.  I am not planning to do any big reveals, but there are could be things I want to talk about that may turn out spoilerish.


As blurb tells you House Silverspires was dealt a terrible blow in the first book and in this part of the story we hear very little about them (pretty much that they are licking their wounds and their Head of the house is cautiously reaching to their houses). The center of this book is House Hawthorn and that mysterious underwater dragon kingdom which was briefly mentioned in the first book.


Those who read the first book know that Asmodeus takes Madeleine back to House Hawthorn at the end and their doctor is dealing with her addiction to angel essence – a substance which is pretty much a magic of the Fallen but also can lead to horrible addiction. Madeleine is trying to fight it off, but it is not easy for her and I thought that but for her consuming fear of Asmodeus she probably would have given up fighting at all.


But Asmodeus gives her a choice ( not really a choice unless one fancies dying faster rather than dying from the torture) and Madeleine tries to bring herself to the land of living more or less, because he wants her to be part of the envoy to the dragons and he may need her to use her magical skills there. Supposedly other people would be doing something complicated and Madeleine would only need to do something simple magic wise.


Of course we all know what usually comes out of “you will not have to do anything complicated” promise that one character makes to another, but off to the underwater kingdom Madelaine goes together with Clotilde and Efron.


Apparently they are supposed to negotiate the marriage between Asmodeus and one of the dragon princes – I hesitate to call Asmodeus gay, but those who read the first book know that he used to have a male lover, another Fallen who died as part of what happened.  Come to think of that since we know that Fallen can change bodies, do their gender even matters? Although I think the very strong implication is that they cannot change bodies every day at will, that it only happens between their lifetimes so for now Asmodeus is very much male and very much prefers male lovers and he sends his envoy to negotiate the stronger ties with Dragon kingdom and get himself a consort.


Of course with Asmodeus one can never be sure of his real goals and we know that as much as he would do anything to protect his House and his dependents, he won’t hesitate to do anything no matter how sinister to the “outsiders” (his words) if the House is threatened.  He can torture, kill people (and not just bad people, no), but also protect those who are part of Hawthorn no matter what costs are for him personally.  And I am still amazed as to how much the author made me care for his character. Seriously, good writing can change any (or almost any) preconceived ideas of what I like or dislike in the characters, or in the story itself. Asmodeus is a power hungry piece of work, who took over the House from the previous Head of the house and spilled so much blood, just so much blood and the narrative makes no excuses for that – no, people who died did not deserve it, and I still hope that he actually will have a future to live in.


I won’t tell you what problems Madeleine and others encounter in the Dragon Kingdom and encounter problems they do, especially since Dragons have their own issues to deal with and it all entangled with Houses’ problems in one intricate mess.  Power struggles underneath the water threaten their whole Kingdom which is already weakened since somebody is supplying them with Angel essence and dragons are dying because of that. Is Hawthorn involved in this awful trade? What does Asmodeus really want from Dragons and will he end up being married to anybody?


I have to mention here just how much I really loved the writing in this book. It is so beautiful, so clear, I wanted to savor every word, but where the dragons are concerned, it also has a dreamlike quality. The author mentioned that her dragons do not spill fire, they are water dragons and have Vietnamese origins and sometimes I felt like I was looking at them through the water of Sienne, which made sense I suppose.


I also really appreciated that we get to see some of Vietnamese community in Paris (as it exists in this world of course) and Phillippe’s connections to it are explored in more depth. I just wanted some happiness for poor guy and I am keeping my fingers crossed, especially since one of the themes of the book seems to be that things can change for the better and future rather than death is a possible outcome for many characters.


This is supposedly a second book of the trilogy, but I did not think that this part had any issues that second books sometimes have for me. The characters’ arcs were explored in more depth, the story moved forward, plenty of action, a lot of questions were answered, but not all of them and no cliffhanger.


All in all right now it is the best book I have read this year so far.

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review 2017-03-30 02:37
Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard
Servant of the Underworld - Aliette de Bodard

Series: Obsidian and Blood #1


Servant of the Underworld is a fantasy mystery novel set in the Aztec Empire in the 15th century. Overall I liked it, but it was more of an intellectual liking than an emotional one. The concept of reading a Mesoamerican fantasy novel was interesting, but writing in a first-person POV distanced me from the narrative rather than engrossed me in it. It’s like I kept forgetting who was doing the talking, even though after a while I got used to the fact that it was Acatl. I’m not saying he had no personality, but I didn’t feel much of it when I was looking through his eyes. First-person POVs are tricky, and I don’t think this one entirely worked for me. Plus there was lots of sacrificial blood magic although it wasn’t too graphic.


Even though we’re introduced to the mystery (and the crime scene) almost immediately, it still felt like the book took a while to get going and draw me into the story. Things did finally start to pick up about a quarter of the way through. Anyway, if you want to try a mystery story in a different fantasy setting, you might want to check this one out. I plan on checking out the sequels (it’s part of a trilogy).

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