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Reviews: Books

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This is it, the inventory of the book haul! The final count is either 20 or 22. (I also bought two of Candace Robb's backlist as e-books while chatting with her, but I'm not sure if that counts.) As usual, the books fall in certain themes, based not only on longstanding interests, but on current research topics.

For the Lesbian Historic Motif Project

“Passing Strange” by Ellen Klages is a lightly fantastic tale of life in San Francisco’s lesbian culture in the 1940s. A wistful romance, in part. A mystery as well. Framed by modern bookends steeped in the culture of geeky collectables. It’s a quick and engrossing read and is an excellent example of how the same world-building techniques essential to SFF are put to good use in period settings.

I actually meant to get this review up a week ago, and then a project at work fell on me like a ton of bricks. And then I figured I'd have all week to write it up to make this week's customary Friday review slot, and then...well, let's just say that I could have gone yet another seven years without a burglary and not missed the lack. But here it is, still Friday, and I'll get the review in. I have a mental block against starting a new book until the last one is reviewed.

Someone (and apologies for not having taken note of who) about a year ago posted a list of early utopian fiction by female authors and I went of and hunted down several of the titles listed. one of those was Mizora: A Mss. Found Among the Private Papers of the Princess Vera Zarovitch (1890), which purports itself to be a memoir "written by herself" but is copyrighted by Mary E. Bradley. (And despite the fiction that it was written by a Russian, the social and political concerns and assumptions are unmistakably American.)

Serpentine is a young adult fantasy novel with a historically-inspired Chinese setting that revolves around two major themes. The first is the domestic story of the protagonist Skybright, a foundling who is handmaiden and companion to the well-born Zhen Ni, as both of them stand at the edge of womanhood. The external peril is an invasion of supernatural creatures who have found an opening into the mortal world and are being fought off by a martial order of monks.

There have been several times in conversations on facebook groups where people threw out the question "what do you look for in a LesFic book?" My answer has often been "beautiful writing," but it can be hard to explain what I mean by that. So now I have something I can point to and say, "That's what I mean by beautiful writing in LesFic."

If I had to sum up Lundoff’s collection Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories in a single word (which would be a totally unfair thing to require me to do) it would be “versatile.” This volume touches base on a broad variety of genres and subgenres yet succeeds in being a unified stylistic whole. There is everything from steampunk horror to hard-boiled alien invasion to magical police procedural, each story both drawing lovingly from its literary inspirations and turning them upside down.

It might be easy to understand why I enjoy reading Stephanie Burgis's combination of real 18-19th century history, romantic adventure, and touches of magic. She has an impressively solid familiarity with the history and manners of the era she draws from (which, if you check out the topics of her graduate education, is no surprise). The Congress of Vienna, sorting out the political consequences of Napoleon's defeat, is a natural setting for intrigues of all sorts.

So, I don't DNF (did not finish) books very often. If a book gets my attention enough to move up the list to having me start it, I generally want to give it the chance to show me what it's got. But I read one treadmill-session worth of Musketeer Space and then closed it and chose a new book. And I'd like to explain why, even if just to myself.

I'd meant to read this quite some time ago but iBooks had some glitch and claimed the file wouldn't open and it took entirely too long for me to remember that I needed to follow up on the problem in a place and time I could track down the glitch (in iBooks, not the file). I finished the main River of Souls trilogy a year ago and in an odd way, having that much of a gap before reading "Nocturnall" worked very well, because we return to Ilse and Raul a considerable time after the end of Allegiance.

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