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Weekly reading review: 9/23-9/29

What a week! What an awful week! Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to say that, oh, every single week? Anyway, in the midst of *gestures towards the world* this mess, I did finish some books that on the whole were pretty good.

What I finished:
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss: I really enjoyed this one–and it’s been a bit since I found a book purely enjoyable. It’s super white, but I otherwise liked it immensely & found in it a bit of hope.

A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexander: Alexander’s books pretty much always hit the right spot for me, and this one is no exception. A sequel to A Properly Unhaunted Place, there’s a nice depth to this continuation of Rosa & Jasper’s stories.

Point of Dreams by Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett: The other Astreiant books are all ebooks and not owned by my library, so I jumped ahead to this one. These are nice for a certain reading mood, and I appreciate the worldbuilding here a lot.

Sadie by Courtney Summers: This is a searing read, with a spot-on replication of a true crime podcast. I appreciate the heart and the technical ability here. I also keep wondering if this is a book for teens, or a book about teens. Neither is better or worse, exactly, but I guess I question the YA label for this one a bit.

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys: Oh, such mixed feelings here. The surface level writing and characterization are pretty cool, and I appreciate the intent of the project. Buuuuuuut, I felt mildly to very uncomfortable with some of the nuances and conflations underneath the surface.

What I’m currently reading:
The Likeness by Tana French [ebook] (I kind of forgot about this one, whoops)
Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova: I liked Labyrinth Lost quite a bit, so I’m excited about this one. Not very far yet, but it’s pretty gutsy and engaging so far!

What I’m planning to read next:
A Trust Betrayed : The Untold Story of Camp Lejeune and the Poisoning of Generations of Marines and Their Families by Mike Magner
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

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Favorite science fiction from the last five years

I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of my favorite SF from the last few years. These are not necessarily books published in the last five years, but ones that I’ve read in that time span. (I feel like I’ve read less SF this year than normal, but I know there are also several I haven’t gotten around to yet.)

ancillary mercyscorpion rulesconservation of shadows

Ambassador by William Alexander: I read Ambassador for the Cybils back in 2014 and loved it. It’s nice to have an SF book about a Latino boy, and Alexander does a great job of incorporating Gabe’s identity and culture into the story. The concept that drives the book works well as a way to combine kids and politics.

Quicksilver and Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson: This is a really fascinating SF duology from one of my favorite authors. I’m never sure what to say about these books, because they have some great twists I don’t want to spoil. But I loved the main characters a lot, and I enjoy the way they have an SF plot with kind of a fantasy sensibility–if that makes any sense whatsoever.

Dove Arising by Karen Bao: I read this YA for the Cybils last year, and it’s really stuck with me. Less the plot (I just had to Google because I couldn’t remember) and more the characters and worldbuilding Bao was doing. I really liked Phaet, and I felt like her outlook on life is one we don’t get very often in YA.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow: This book. THIS BOOK. It’s terrifying and tense and smart and every time I drink apple cider, I wince. Terrible things happen in it, and yet I also cried because it’s so hopeful and affirming. I can’t say how much I love Greta, and Xie, and all the Children of Peace.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold:  I love Bujold’s Vorkosigan series in its entirety, as I’ve documented here many times, but I was really fascinated by some of the turns and choices she made in the latest installment. It was also really lovely to have another story from Cordelia’s point of view.

The Foreigner series by CJ Cherryh: If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you’ll know that I’ve been glomping my way through Cherryh’s massive series. I love the way she writes the atevi and the political and social customs and issues that arise. While I occasionally quibble with the depiction of the human women, overall the characters are really engaging and wonderful as well.

Promised Land by Cynthia DeFelice and Connie Willis: This is a lighter SF romance, which has turned out to be one of my comfort reads. It’s kind of a space western, but in a very different vein than Firefly.

Jupiter Pirates by Jason Fry: A fun middle-grade space adventure about a family of space privateers. Tycho and his siblings have to compete to win the captain’s seat, but there are also bigger contests going on. Fry has written a number of Star Wars chapter books, and he clearly knows what he’s doing.

And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst: I love Höst’s books, and this was the first one I read. It’s an intimate story, almost quiet, even though it’s about a terrifying world-wide event. Rather than a sweeping epic, Höst keeps the scale on a human level, and makes me care so much about Madeleine and her friends and the outcome of their story.

Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie: I basically always want to be reading this trilogy; Leckie writes ambitiously about identity, loyalty, families, and imperialism. She also pulls it off, mostly because of her rich characters and worldbuilding which also give an emotional core to the big concepts she’s engaging with.

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee: I was really impressed by this short story collection, which features so many fascinating and strange worlds, as well as some really striking characters. The prose itself is also beautiful, even when the subject matter is not. I can’t wait till I get a chance to read Nine Fox Gambit.

Persona by Genevieve Valentine: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but it turns out that near-future socio-political thrillers are very much my thing when Valentine is writing them. Persona is smart and sleek and tense. If UN + red carpet + spies sounds intriguing, this book is probably for you.