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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

2017 Year in Review: Stats

Shadowhouse Fall - Daniel José Older Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin Clean Room Vol. 3: Waiting for the Stars to Fall - Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt
Did anyone else end up with a broken counter on the Goodreads stats page? I know they had an issue with the date read field earlier in the year. While that eventually worked itself out, my total for 2017 is way off. The states page claims over 100, but the list is really only 79.
My breakdown of the 79 "books" I finished in 2017:

anthologies: 0
collections: 0
Adult novels: 50
YA novels: 8
MG novels: 0
graphic novels: 1
art book: 0
comic omnibus: 15
magazine issues: 0
children's books: 2
nonfiction: 3
I make a demographics list every year as a way of giving myself the opportunity to think about who I've read and how I can do better.
Across all categories:
  Written by Women: 53 (67%, down from 72% in 2016)
  Written by POC: 29 (37%, up from 17% in 2016)
  Written by Transgender authors: 5 (6%, up from 1% in 2016) 
  Written by Non-binary authors: 2 (3%, up from 1% in 2016)
While this looks like a large improvement from last year, I should note that this is not unique authors, but total across all my reading. I went on Cassandra Khaw and Daniel José Older benders this fall that account for a lot of my non-white reading. I also went on a Courtney Milan bender in January that is helping inflate the written by women category. 
My favorite book from 2017 were really hard to select! It was a great reading year, but I narrowed it down to 10. Please don't ask me to order them as that's clearly an impossible task. They should all appear in the banner at the top, but here's a list, alphabetically:
I reviewed all 79 titles read in 2017, which is really more than I expected. Not all those reviews are great, but in terms of quantity, I beat my expectations. 
My favorite new-to-me author of 2017 is Cassandra Khaw. She's talented and her range includes (nay, celebrates!) splatterpunk. 

2017 Year in Review: Rape

I know I said I would do better this year at making notes when I encountered rape in a book, but I actually did worse in general at taking notes and keeping gr up to date on my reading. Instead, I moved, took a new job, spent some time abroad, and generally failed on being organized across all swaths of life...


Following what I did last year, I'm going to discuss the few prominent rapes in my fiction reading, rather than a detailed list. Also, I'm using the spoilers tag for the whole because, yeah, spoilers. But I'm not using the spoiler tags for individual book descriptions. Scan at your own risk.

read more »

2017 Year in Review: Pre-Order Outcomes

When I made my pre-order posts last spring, I though it would be fun to come back at the end of the year and see what I thought of those titles I'd picked out for the year. Of course, I wasn't planning to have my credit card stolen twice, move and have repair work in two houses, spend three weeks in Europe, change jobs, flying to DC for a protest, get sick 3 times, and generally have the kind of year that kept me too busy to get to the bookstore on weekends (it's 4 hours, round trip).


The not making it to the book store means I picked up 5 months of releases part way through December, so no way will I finish those by the end of 2017. Also, a few titles never got reserved so when I finally did make it down, the stack was thinner than expected. Maybe they decided I was never coming back? 


The credit card hi-jinks taught me something I didn't know about Amazon's e-book marketplace. Namely, while pre-orders of physical books get charged to whatever you currently have listed as your primary payment method when the book ships, Kindle pre-orders charge whatever payment method was selected when you placed the order, but not until the order is ready to fulfill.


And you have to update them one by one. 


And there is no easy way to see a summary of what got charge to a particular payment method, so you have to go through each order individually to check it, fix it, hope you didn't miss one.


On the plus side, after doing this the first time, I contacted their customer support, who did it for me the second time. I'm not sure which time an order was missed, though. and an order was missed.


Anyway, let's do this thing!



Martians Abroad: A novel - Carrie Vaughn  - e-book. I read this in February, which was conveniently when my book club's theme was Mars. 4 stars because I loved the protagonist's voice.

The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley - Hardcover. Actually released in February and read in March. 4.5 stars, loved everything about this.



Amberlough - Lara Elena Donnelly - Hardcover. Languished on my shelves for months, and then I picked up the audiobook, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal. 3.5 stars because it has a few slow parts and ends either 2 chapters too late or 6 chapters too soon.

The Classic & Craft Cocktail Recipe Book: The Definitive Guide to Mixing Perfect Cocktails from Aviation to Zombie - Clair McLafferty,Jon Santer - Paperback. I don't generally rate none fiction. I wish the balance had been more history and less recipe, but it's a solid book.



Hunger Makes the Wolf - Alex Wells - e-book. Started it as soon as it got to my Kindle. 4 stars, excellent, action packed romp with solid characters. 

Gwenpool, The Unbelievable Vol. 2: Head of M.O.D.O.K. TPB - Christopher Hastings,Irene Strychalski  - Paperback. Didn't get around to until September and didn't love, giving only 3 stars.



Tender: Stories - Sofia Samatar - Hardcover. There is only one story in this collection that I haven't previously read, and I'm saving it for a rainy day. 



Owl and the Electric Samurai (The Owl Series) - Kristi Charish - e-book. Casualty of credit card theft, so I didn't actually purchase it until October. 3.5 stars because of issues I have with the plot, but I am so looking forward to the next installment.

River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey - e-book. Read as soon it came out. 3.5 stars because I didn't realize it would be a series and it ends without resolving enough stuff.



The Refrigerator Monologues - Annie Wu,Catherynne M. Valente  - Hardcover. Didn't get from the bookstore until December, and am still reading it at year's end.

The Prey of Gods - Nicky Drayden  - e-book. Casualty of credit card theft, and the price when I figured out it had been missed was triple the pre-order price. I picked it up on sale towards the end of the year, but I am only half way through. Excellent so far.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss - e-book. 5 stars, could not put down, loved everything about it.



The Rift - Nina Allan - e-book. Tried, but did not like and did not finish.

Strange Practice - Vivian Shaw - e-book. 4 stars, good, but kind of a sausage fest. 

At the Table of Wolves - Kay Kenyon - e-book. Did not read because in 2017 I am just not up for sexy Nazis. I wouldn't even own this if I'd read that post before my pre-order arrived.

Dichronauts - Greg Egan - Hardcover. Bookstore didn't have reserved or in stock. I do have it now, but I haven't even opened it yet.



Autonomous - Annalee Newitz - Hardcover. Picked up in December and haven't gotten to it yet.

An Unkindness of Magicians - Kat Howard  - Hardcover. Picked up in December and haven't gotten to it yet.

White Trash Zombie Unchained - Diana Rowland  - e-book. Devoured as soon as I got it. 3 stars, good but not as good as most of the series.



The Broken Heavens - Kameron Hurley - Paperback. Finally one that isn't my fault. This has been pushed back to 2018.

The Breathless - Tara Goedjen - Bookstore didn't have and rereading the description, I'm just not interested at the moment.



The Beauty - Aliya Whiteley - Paperback. Bookstore did not have and when I went to order it online I realized it's a republication of a novella from a few years ago. So not actually a new book.



Barbary Station - R. E. Stearns - e-book. 3 stars, a fun read.

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse) - James S. A. Corey - Hardcover. Bookstore didn't have, but I'd already purchased and read the e-book before I made it to them. 4.5 stars. Some great scenes and a good overall plot, looking forward to the next one.


So, yeah. I'm reading less and less physical books. While I kept up at the beginning of the year, by the end of the year, I had so many other titles on my tbr pile that several of these are now languishing on shelves. There are two on this list that I purchased second copies of in an alternate format and read that way. There's at least two more books this year that I did the same thing with, but they weren't pre-orders.


I think between my obvious format shifting and the issues with pre-orders in both physical and e-book forms, I'm not going to do pre-orders the same way next year. Instead, I'm going to make a single list, and add it to a monthly calendar reminder to myself so I can review each closer to purchase date to pick a format. Hopefully this will also make less work for me when my cards get stolen. Also, as much as I've loved supporting an indy bookstore, B&N are increasingly getting exclusive content and there are 2 within 15 minutes of my house. 

Review: Persepolis Rising (The Expanse 7)

Persepolis Rising (The Expanse) - James S. A. Corey

Someone asked what I thought of this right after I finished, and my short answer was that the amount of time spent with weird, alien stuff in this one is great, but I'm kind of over the characters. And that is true, but not complete.


My longer response is that this is at least the third book I've read this year about a fascist regime taking over, and it's by far the most successful implementation of this becoming-standard-to-me plot structure. Possibly because, in spite of growing weary of some characters over time, I'm actually already invested in the people and existing political structures and the book doesn't have to spend a lot of time building investment in a reader who knows everything is going to shit at the same time. Especially in a year where real people and institutions I care about are under attack from my own fucking government.


I only have so much bandwidth, but I found some to spare for this. I was rewarded with big ideas, weird alien shit, great characters, and a Tom Stoppard reference. I rarely make it more than a few books into a series, and these aren't small books. There is only one POV character that I was done with almost as soon as he was introduced, but on the balance that works out just fine. And if that's the trade off for having Drummer as a POV character, fine. 


Also, a nice part of making it this far in a series is seeing payoffs for long standing questions. For some of the alien tech, and for a particular "how would that go" that's been hanging out there since book 2. 


On the other hand, I am kind of done with Holden, Alex, and Naomi, and running out of fucks to give for Amos. It isn't even dislike so much as familiarity becoming predictability. They've been the same people in the same roles since early in the first book. And I have failed to warm up to Clarissa. It really is for the best for me that have fewer and fewer POV chapters as the series goes on. 


Overall, a solid installment in a solid series with quite a bit to look forward to in the next volume.

Review: Amberlough

Amberlough - Lara Elena Donnelly

The second book I've read this year about a fascist regime taking over, but this time from the point of view of characters better in the know, a smuggler and a spy. Well written and interesting characters. Also some great sex scenes.


I think this may just not be my subgenre. 

Review: Six of Crows

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

Spectacular YA Fantasy Heist novel. If you like Leverage or Lies of Locke Lamora, give this a try. Great characters, great setting, fast paces plot with plenty of disastrous missteps and surprises.


A warning, you will want to start the second one immediately. I'm only just barely managing to save it as a reward for finishing something else.

Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai

Owl and the Electric Samurai (The Owl Series) - Kristi Charish

Serious love/hate relationship with this book. I adore Owl being so very much herself, but some of her decisions in this one make zero sense:


Like, she's being followed everywhere, but her master plan is to find the people everyone is looking for to "help" keep them from being found? Yeah, no way that could go wrong. And yet that's the fucking plan even after she keeps being surprised that people find her anywhere she goes?

(show spoiler)


The last act is better, though. I'm sold on the ending. I laughed my way through the last few chapters because I am a terrible person who wants bad things to happen purely for my own amusement. Bravo.

Review: Barbary Station

Barbary Station - R. E. Stearns

We shall see if, by the time this posts, the correction I made to the author name has taken. When I added this book, I typed in the correct name, but BookLikes decided to assign it to some random dude with the same last name instead of taking my entry.


When I was reading it, disinterested was my constant state. I'd put it down due to lack of investment. A few days after I set it aside, I'd find myself wondering what the characters were up to and how they'd get out of this one and what it would cost them. Basically the same kinds of things that I think when I can't put down a book, but only with any intensity when I wasn't actually reading it. 


And I have no idea why! I can't point to any serious flaws or stylistic choices that don't work for me. This just didn't. There are a couple of times where momentum is lost for an extended look at a character's current emotional state, but those are few and far between. Stretch as I might, that weak sauce is the closest to a complaint I can muster.


The two main characters are great individually and divine together. The brother is just the right level of annoying.  The secondary characters get some great moments, if not a lot of depth. The concept of the work space for interacting with AI's is super cool - see Stearns' Favorite Bit post for a description.


I just don't know what is wrong with me that I'm not giving this all the stars.

Lost dates read

Anyone else having an issue with goodreads where your date read is suddenly blank for most books you've read this year? A truly annoying glitch to happen right at the end of the year...


I tried to manually re-add dates to a few and it doesn't appear to have taken.

Review: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas

The second Lady Sherlock novel, and even better than the first. I adored this. I stayed up too late three nights in a row reading it. One night, I fell asleep reading it and hit myself in the face with my Kindle.


The prose is lovely. All the characters are well realized and wonderful to read about. And the mystery is so much fun to follow along with. 


And the conclusion. Oh my, every scene in the last act is dynamite. Such a delight to read!


I really want to see a BBC adaptation of this, one book per series. Or a visual novel adaptation on my iPad. Something to take all the clothing and food descriptions off the page and into beautiful visuals for a solid story with great characters.

Review: Raven Stratagem

Raven Stratagem - Yoon Ha Lee

I liked this book quite a bit, but I stumbled through the first 20% wondering if I had massively misunderstood the end of the last one. Because all of the narrators are new to the story and are quite certain of something I recalled being not true.


It's a very strange thing to have a major reveal in the last act be something the audience knows for the whole length of the book. I am undecided on it. The whole book holds together with or without that bit of information. But it made the experience of reading it feel like rereading a suspense novel, while simultaneously having no idea what was going to happen.


Interesting, but I think I enjoyed the first one more. Super excited to read the third one.

Review: A Song for Quiet

A Song for Quiet (Persons Non Grata) - Cassandra Khaw

This feels like it starts from the same seed as LaValle's The Ballad of Black Tom, but goes in a completely different direction. Both are lovely, almost complimentary tales.


While this is a second Persons Non Grata novella, John Persons' inclusion is more like The Doctor's in Blink than a regular episode. Not a complaint, it works quite well. However, I'm glad I had read the first one first so I knew who he was.


Will be delighted to read more of these. 

Review: Hammers on Bone

Hammers on Bone (Persons Non Grata) - Cassandra Khaw

Love the prose and characters in this one, but it felt a little thin on plot. More like the outline of a story not quite completely fleshed out. 


Conceptually, this is another Lovecraft inspired tale with far better writing. The main character feels like one with a lot of opportunities for future stories.


Good, but not as compelling as some of Khaw's other stories.

Sad News for Shadow Police Fans

London Falling - Paul Cornell The Severed Streets - Paul Cornell Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? - Paul Cornell

I missed this blog post when it went up on the 21st, but saw it earlier today. Tor UK has dropped the line, so the last two books remain unwritten. These dark, procedural UF novels are excellent and I was so excited to read the next one. They are desolate and hopeful and one has a fucking Neil Gaiman cameo.


I would be more saddened, but the cover art rework and the format change to a paperback release for the third book make this also not terribly surprising.


If anyone sees him doing some crowd funding to finish the series, please let me know. I will definitely throw money at him for two more books.

Review: White Trash Zombie Unchained

White Trash Zombie Unchained - Diana Rowland

Is this . . . the last book in this series? I honestly can't tell. There's a lot of plot threads that seem to reach an end here, but maybe the series is just headed in a new direction?




Not quite as funny as some of the previous ones, but with a lot of interesting content. And one annoying habit on the narrator's part. There are three doctors heavily featured in this book, but only the male one is consistent referred to as Dr. The two women with the same credentials are consistently referred to by first name with no title. I know that's a pretty minor complaint, but it really got on my nerves. 


Whatever, hopefully the FBI agents will show up more in the future if there are more of these.

Review: Bearly a Lady

Bearly A Lady - Cassandra Khaw

On my flight back to the states, I went on a bit of a Khaw bender, ending with this paranormal chick lit adventure about a werebear who's just trying to get laid and not kill anyone.


This is the second paranormal chick lit story I've read this year, and I think it's a genre I fucking wish was real. Why the fuck isn't this a genre I can easily pull up lists of recommendations for, for fuck's sake? Is it so much to ask for urban fantasy heroines to star in stories about friendship, sex, and fashion?


Anyway, not at all the splatterpunk aesthetic of Khaw's other work, but quite successful in it's own right.