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Joined 1 year, 4 months ago

I read largely sff, some romance and mystery, very little non-fiction. I'm trying to write at least a little review of everything I'm reading this year, but it's a little bit of an experiment in progress.

I'm elsewhere.

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The Sugared Game (Paperback, 2020, Kjc Books, KJC Books) 4 stars

It’s been two months since bookseller Will Darling saw Kim Secretan and he doesn’t expect …

The Sugared Game

4 stars

The Sugared Game is the second book in this 1920's queer post-war romance trilogy. It continues the very hot and cold relationship between Will and Kim amidst the background of the investigation of criminal enterprises. My own bias is a reader is that I feel like complicated relationships where people by turns treat each other poorly need sufficient explanation of the glue that keeps them still together. This book does a good job of continuing to develop rationale for why each of them still finds the other appealing and also why the things that don't work really don't work.

Thematically I appreciated that in this book both Will and Kim got what for in their "Kim-ish" behaviors. In particular, there's a number of incidents where Will unconsciously ends up behaving like Kim, using others for his own ends and keeping secrets to protect others, and there's emotional repercussions for these …

Slippery Creatures (Paperback, 2020, KJC Books) 3 stars

Slippery Creatures

3 stars

I read this book for #QueerRomanceClub. It's a post-war 1920's queer romance with a bit of a mystery element to it.

This was a fun read, but the relationship between Kim and Will was definitely a little uncomfortable in parts for me, and perhaps not quite my cuppa. I think I was not expecting something so hot and cold and hot and cold with such (understandable)! trust issues. Without the meta-knowledge that this is a trilogy with these two as leads, I as the reader would have trusted Kim even less than I did.

That said, I appreciated the complication of their messy relationship; I feel like the book sold it well both why and what worked (and didn't). Given that these books are from Will's perspective and Kim is the one who keeps secrets and lies, my hope for the future is that we as readers get to …

The Mountain in the Sea (Paperback, 2023, Picador) 4 stars

Humankind discovers intelligent life in an octopus species with its own language and culture, and …

The Mountain in the Sea

5 stars

On the surface, this is a future sf book about discovering sentient octopuses and trying to communicate with them. But, this is no Children of Ruin or even a Feed Them Silence; it hinges less on plot and characters, and feels more about worldbuilding in service to philosophy.

I quite enjoyed this book, and the strongest part was just how tightly the book's themes and ideas intertwined through the book's different point of views and the worldbuilding. It's a not-so-far future book with sentient octopuses, overfished waters, AI boats that drive themselves in search of profit, drones driven by humans in tanks, and the first android (but one reviled by humanity). It's a book about language and communication, memory and forgetting, what it means to be human and exist in community, and about fear of others.

Starter Villain (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

Inheriting your mysterious uncle's supervillain business is more complicated than you might imagine.

Sure, there …

Starter Villain

4 stars

A classic Scalzi one-shot novel--a fluffy snack with some good twists.

The basic setup is that down-on-his-luck Charlie Fitzer unexpectedly inherits his estranged billionaire uncle's villainous empire and now has to fend with other villains who were pissed at his uncle.

Key features:

  • volcano lair
  • jerk dolphins who want to unionize
  • zoom call power plays
How to Keep House While Drowning (EBook, S&S/Simon Element) 4 stars

How to Keep House While Drowning

4 stars

How to Keep House While Drowning felt like a distilled therapy session about cleaning. I saw this recommended on fedi somewhere, and felt like this was useful for me to read right now. It's less "here's my life hack productivity advice for folding shirts" and more "here's some better ways to think about and emotionally approach taking care of yourself and your space". (Honestly, this is probably the more valuable thing.)

A bunch of thoughts I enjoyed that stuck with me: * cleaning is morally neutral * your space exists to serve you (do you hang clothes on a chair? if that works for you, then that's awesome) * interrogating preconceived notions of what cleaning looks like * prioritizing health > comfort > happiness in care tasks (and cutting out perfectionism saying you have to do all of these things all of the time) * balance in care tasks between …

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Hardcover, 2018, Thorndike Press Large Print) 4 stars

Gosford Park meets Groundhog Day by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror – the …

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

4 stars

I heard about The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle because Stuart Turton has another mystery coming out this year that is on my book wishlist, and I thought I'd pick up an earlier book by him in the meantime.

The setup to this book is that Evelyn Hardcastle has been (and will be) murdered at 11pm, and the protagonist is living through the perspectives of various people at the manor house where it happens, and is tasked to figure out who is behind the murder. Oh, and there's also somebody trying to kill all of the various hosts he is seeing the world through.

It took me a little bit to get into this, as it's (understandably) a little bit disorienting with a lot of details. There were a number of "how did this weird thing happen" that got answered by "oh that was just ~time loop protagonist shenanigans", …

Splinter in the Sky (2023, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers) 3 stars

The dust may have just settled in the failed war of conquest between the Holy …

Splinter in the Sky

3 stars

Splinter in the Sky is an sf book about a tea-making political prisoner, caught between multiple factions all wanting to spy on each other. The book pitch here is "sapphically taking down an empire from within".

It's hard for me to not think of A Memory Called Empire while reading this. Mahit in that book felt very conflicted about the Teixcalaanli Empire; she both studied and dreamed about wanting to be a part of it (and knowing she couldn't ever truly be so), but also knew with eyes wide open how that empire consumed and absorbed everything it touched.

Here, it feels like Enitan has no such ambivalence. Her culture isn't appreciated; she's looked down on (at best); she certainly doesn't want to emulate said empire; her people aren't even seen as real people. She's traumatized by trying to find her sister, but I don't understand why she's not more …

The Tainted Cup (2024, Del Rey) 5 stars

An eccentric detective and her long-suffering assistant untangle a web of magic, deceit, and murder …

The Tainted Cup

5 stars

The Tainted Cup is an amazing fantasy mystery novel (first in a new series) from Robert Jackson Bennett. For what it's worth, I love love loved The Founders trilogy and quite enjoyed The Divine Cities trilogy so I'm coming into this with some bias.

I've seen this pitched as "Sherlock with kaiju", but I think the Sherlock moniker sells it short for me. The Sherlock / Watson dynamic to me is defined by one where Sherlock is the expert observer, deducer, and dilettante and Watson is the bumbling stand-in for the reader (or at best a medical expert). In The Tainted Cup, I think the sleuthing expertise is split between Kol (the assistant investigator) and Ana (the investigator in charge) and this changes the dynamic entirely in a way that makes the mystery more satisfying structurally. Also, I think personality-wise, they are also quite distinct.

Kol, the point of view …

The Monsters We Defy (Paperback, 2022, Redhook) 4 stars

Washington D. C., 1925: Clara Johnson can talk to spirits—a gift that saved her during …

The Monsters We Defy

4 stars

The Monsters We Defy is an all-black 1920's supernatural heist story. This book is a blend of both historical black Washington DC and supernatural elements like spirits, root work, and even some Soloman references. I found out afterwards that the main character Clara is a fictionalized version of Carrie Johnson from the 1919 DC race war. I just really appreciated all the historical detail that rooted this book into a particular time and place.

I enjoyed this quite a bit, and it hit all the notes of the heist genre that I enjoy: found family feelings, having to work with people you want to trust but might be working at cross purposes, and a good unseen twist (with a plot reason why the reader wouldn't know this). However it was the setting and great cast of characters that really made it all shine for me.

What Feasts at Night (Hardcover, 2024, Tor Nightfire) 4 stars

The follow-up to T. Kingfisher’s bestselling gothic novella, What Moves the Dead .

Retired soldier …

I'm keeping is what we say in Gallacia to any such inquiry, and it covers such a broad range as to convey no information whatsoever. It can mean "I am filled with unspeakable joy, my gout is cured, and angels attend my every step," or it can mean "a bear just ripped my leg off and I am, at this moment, bleeding out, but please don't make a fuss." Either way, you're keeping.

What Feasts at Night by  (Page 16)

What Feasts at Night (Hardcover, 2024, Tor Nightfire) 4 stars

The follow-up to T. Kingfisher’s bestselling gothic novella, What Moves the Dead .

Retired soldier …

What Feasts at Night

4 stars

This book is a sequel to What Moves the Dead. It was a little unexpected (to me at least!) that there'd be a sequel to something that was a riff on the Fall of the House of Usher--where do you even go from there? Apparently, another mystery! This time it follows the same set of characters (Easton, Angus, and Eugenia Potter), but instead is set at Easton's childhood lodge in Gallacia.

What I liked about this book was the way it much more tightly wove together parallels of Easton's war-related PTSD and the horror of dreams. While What Moves the Dead felt more like several unrelated stories grafted together, this was a more cohesive novella.

(If I had any petty wishes, it would be to give Eugenia Potter more of a role here. She gets some good quotes, but is ultimately a background character that almost didn't need to …