drcpunk (drcpunk) wrote,
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Recent (and Less Recent) Reading


2017

72. The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne Valente: This is a multi-essay rant in the form of fiction, and quite good. Amusingly, to me, reading this and Seanan McGuire's Down Among the Sticks and Bones felt as if the two authors had temporarily traded voices. They haven't, of course; they're perfectly capable of playing in multiple sandboxes. As with much Valente, I read this one aloud to myself.

73. Daughter of Mysteries by Heather Rose Jones: The first of her Alpennia books, f-f alternate history romance. While in some ways it seems the author goes easy on her leads, it's good enough I plan to read the next two, which deal with other couples.

74. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey: A heist -- er, operation -- novella set in an alternate USA where the plan to use hippopotomi for food was set into motion. If this sounds like a recipe for disaster, well, it is.

75. Too Like the Lightening (reread) by Ada Palmer. This one is amazing.

76. Alarums & Excurions #503

77. Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer. The second in her Terra Ignota series. I may have some issues with it near the ending, but this is the kind of book where I'll need to read the rest of the series first and then reread it to see if I still feel that way. (Books that fell into this category for me include Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman's Fall of the Kings and Dorothy Dunnett's Queen's Play, so we're talking excellent company here.)

Whether someone else will like it -- well, a friend of mine described it as follows (paraphrasing): You know the cozy detective novel, and the part where you've got the scene where everything is revealed? The whole novel is like that.

My reaction to this description: Great! Let me at it!

I am aware that this may not be everyone's reaction.

78. Edom Field Manual by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Kenneth Hite: This is part of the Dracula Dossier, a sandbox campaign for the Night's Black Agents roleplaying game. In the more-or-less default campaign, the PCs are secret agents trying to thwart both Dracula and Edom, the British secret organization that has been trying to use Dracula as an asset since the 1890s. (Does that sound like a terrible idea to you? It _is_ a terrible idea!) This book has everything a GM needs to flip that premise on its head and let the players create PCs who are agents of Edom. It is lovely. I am probably going to take parts of it for my own Dracula Dossier campaign if we get so far. (Mine is not the default, using two or three variants suggested in the Director's Handbook, including the one where things start in the 1890s and slowly move forward in time.)

79. The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross. I think I enjoyed the previous one more, but the previous one was an amazing blend of hilarious, horrific, and a sudden turn to sadness. Anything after that has a tough act to follow. So, this one is merely very good. I want to read the next one.

80. Monstress volume 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. The woman who announced the winner of the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Novel has, I am quite certain, taken a whole lot of flak for neglecting to mention the artist's name. The writing and art combine in a world of beautiful, monstrous horror.

81. The Coyote Kings Book One: Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust: I have been wanting to read this one since the 2008 Worldcon in Denver, when I attended the panel "20 Essential Science Fiction Books of the Past 20 Years". I passed up a chance to buy it in the dealers' room of the Detroit NASFiC in 2014 and had been kicking myself for that. Finally, I just ordered it online. It's a little like _Mumbo Jumbo_ plus _Illuminatus!_, but that does it a disservice, because while all three works are drawing from the same well, they're taking very different directions. I gather that there will be a book two some day, and I am looking forward to that.

82. The Knight of the Cart (Constance Hiatt, illustrated by John Gretze(?)), The Castle of Ladies (Constance Hiatt, illustrated by Norman Lalibute), The Joy of the Court (Constance Hiatt, illustrated by Pauline Baynes): These are all short enough I've considered them one book. Constance Hiatt wrote some others, but I don't currently own those. These are the ones I picked up at some table or other at some WorldCon or other.

They are all tales from the story of King Arthur, each following a different knight. They aren't doing anything amazingly original; there's no new twist, no undercutting the original tale, nothing like that. And yet... they still work for me.

83. Passing Strange by Ellen Klages: The Gregory Manchess cover is perfect. The story is solid and well told, and anything I might say about it would be a spoiler. Just read it.

84. Bloody Mary, volume 8: Manga about vampires, humans that know about them, and twisted relationship politics. Very much up my alley.

85. Alarums &Excursions #504

86. An Unsuitable Heir by K. J. Charles: The third in Charles's Sins of the City trilogy. A lot of fun. I'm not sure the explanation for what's going on couldn't use more foreshadowing, which probably means I shall simply have to reread the trilogy. And my favorite character from the second book in the trilogy is great when he deigns to appear.

87. A Fashionable Indulgence by K. J. Charles
88. A Seditious Affair by K. J. Charles
89. A Gentleman's Position by K. J. Charles
(and shorts: Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh, A Confidential Problem, A Private Miscellany)

These novels and stories form the Society of Gentlemen historical m-m romances. The second novel is my favorite. A single word, oft repeated, holds both of these novels together. The third moves on from there, and while I think one of the protagonists wises up a bit too fast, at that point, the novel turns into a gay Leverage episode, and I am so up for that.

90. Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock: The third in the City's Son trilogy. I think that it came out this year in the USA, which should mean that the trilogy is eligible for some awards. I need to remember that. Solid YA urban fantasy that keeps doing things that make me say, "Wait, it's not supposed to do that! I didn't know you could do that!"

91. Horror on the Orient Express by several authors: On the one hand, I'm itching to run this, especially after seeing the new Murder on the Orient Express movie. I wanted this Call of Cthulhu campaign for so long, and I am glad I have it. There's one Dreamlands adventure that I'd love to turn into a larp. There's a lovely Invictus adventure.

But there is too much railroading for my taste, and no pun is intended, as it happens as much, if not more, off the train as on. There are a lot of assumptions of what the PCs will do, many of which are as like as not to be false, and if the PCs go in certain perfectly reasonable directions, it will break things.

Can this be compensated for? Yes. This campaign has been run before, several times. But, it would take a lot of work for me to be able to run this campaign well.

That doesn't mean I won't do it at some point. I might wind up changing the time period, which would also be a whole lot of work, but if I do, I'll likely get a player to help. I'm quite likely to use Gumshoe rather than BRPS, but that's a minor thing.

92. Black Butler 24: A child earl and his demon butler serve Queen Victoria. Lots of complex family trees and angst, and some surprising nods to historical accuracy, although this is not the primary concern (especially as some kind of very modern clothing seems to show up in this volume).

93. The Glass Town Game by Catherynne Valente: If you like the Brontes' work, you will like this better than I did. For me, it's a romp, and lighter than the usual Valente book, despite her dealing unflinchingly with dark material. I'm more partial to the Fairyland books, and I don't care for such Brontes' works as I've read -- but I'm not likely to forget them, either! And it's always a pleasure to read Valente's work, as I love what she does with language.

94. Draft of 2nd edition Over the Edge by Jonathan Tweet: 25 years ago, the first edition of Over the Edge came out. I read a late draft of it, commented on it, fell in love with the system, and had the setting grow on me. If it had come out two years earlier, that's the system I would have been running when I started gming. As it was, I finished a very, very long campaign, and when I started the sequel campaign, I used the system. I'd adapted the setting during the first campaign, moving the island from where it was. The setting was very Burroughs-esque. William Burroughs-esque. The system did things that had never occurred to me, but that made things so much simpler. For years, it was my go to system, and that didn't change until, hm, the second half of last decade, I think?

The second edition is really a completely new game, taking into account everything RPGs have been doing since Over the Edge first came out. The setting is the same, more or less, but it seems that we'd always been mislead about where precisely it was, and things are more dystopic than I remembered. Or perhaps they're merely differently dystopic. The game is also, I think, more precisely focused. I'm very much looking forward to seeing this in print.

95. Alarums & Excursions #505

96. The Express Diaries by Nick Marsh: This is a novelization of one run of the campaign Horror on the Orient Express, which I listed above, and I believe it is the reason Horror on the Orient Express got a second edition.

97. Scotland Yard Graphic Novel by Dobbs (story) and Stephane Perger (art, cover): More than one story in here. Not my thing.

98. Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker: Her second Arcadia Project book. Absolutely amazing. Urban fantasy, and I'm waiting for the third book.

99. The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer: The third Terra Ignota novel, so I now want the fourth. I liked this better than the second. Of course, I read this after the author explained how she chose the rhythms of her sentences, which meant I read it aloud and fairly slowly, getting drunk on the words. One or two things bug me, but again, I need to see how it all ends, and likely reread before I'll know for sure if they are actually problems.

100. Vallista by Steven Brust: The latest in the Vlad Taltos series, done in the Gothic mode. The chapter titles are painfully pun-ishing.

101. Alarums & Excursions #506

102. Nakba: The Civilizing War, Volume 1 by Jason S. Walters: Interesting ideas, and gets better as it goes.

103. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova: YA, and I need to check publication date to see if it's eligible for a couple of awards. Very good, and looking forward to the next book in the series.

104. Bloody Mary #9: As I said above, hits the notes I like.

105. Devils and Realist #13: The heir of King Solomon is a realist and doesn't believe in the supernatural. Well, didn't, as of 13 volumes ago. Interesting (and cool) mapping of invented demonic and angelic politics onto world events, but as usual, it's the relationship angst that keeps me reading.

106. The Changeling by Victor LaValle: This is the second La Valle book I've read, the first being The Ballad of Black Tom. Both are excellent. Oh yes, this one needs to be nominated for awards. (It probably has been, and likely won a few, or at least, I really hope so.) I consider this fine discomfort reading.

107: The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire: The latest Toby Daye book. Several shoes drop. Oh and the author twists the knife and makes the pain hurt so pretty. Mind, I still wonder how much of the book was written because she wanted a certain character to sing a certain song.

108. Murder in Pastel by Josh Lanyon: This is one of those mysteries where who did what is revealed in terms of the relationship map and the dirty laundry it shows. I like that kind of thing.

Not a novel or novella, I finally sat down and read "The Duke of Riverside", all of it, not just the parts Ellen Kushner read aloud a few years ago. Dang, it's good.

2018

1. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire: This was a fun read. And I recognized a couple of filkers who got Tuckerized.

2. Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly. Well done, but very much discomfort reading, painfully so, and there's a degree to which there's more message and less story than I prefer. This is a matter of personal taste, you understand, not a question of whether it should be that way; it's quite clear that this book had to be written exactly as it was. I'm fairly sure there's going to be a sequel.

3. Becoming a YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me by Carrie Di Risio and illustrated by Linnea Gear: Hilarious and exactly what I needed after Amberlough.

4. Season 3 of Tremontaine by Ellen Kushner, Tessa Gratton, Karen Lord, Joel Derfner, Paul Witcover, Liz Duffy Adams, Delia Sherman, and Racheline Maltese (listed in order of first episode I spotted their name on, and any errors are mine): I had some issues with season 2, and still do, but season 3 is amazing. Everyone knocks it out of the park, making the world deeper and larger. I also like the treatment of the characters who are more clearly on the villain side; they're complicated and generally not stupid. Is it season 4 yet? No? How about now?

5. Alarums & Excursions #507

6. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire: Third in the Every Heart a Doorway universe, and very good.

7. The Book of Three (reread): Lloyd Alexander
8. The Black Cauldron (reread): Lloyd Alexander

I found out that there's a first read of the Chronicles of Prydain on Over the Effing Rainbow and other places, so am using this as inspiration to do the reread.

It still holds up. Eilonwy is still amazing, a Welsh Princess Leia from the 1960s, and as Josh pointed out, possibly an inspiration for Patricia McKillip's Raederle.
Tags: #13, #503, #504, #505, #506, #507, #9
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