book log: 2016 Hugos

I’m working my way through my treeware notebook, and have found some notes from my Hugo reading stint which it appears I never posted at the time. Here, have some belated Hugo thoughts. :-)

Naomi Kritzer — Cat pictures please

Gentle, funny short about what happens when a search engine wakes up and wants to be helpful. It has more sense than to expose its existence, so it tries to do good deeds by stealth. I was smiling on every page. Lovely if slightly creepy little story about the potential benefits of AI.

Available free at http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_01_15/

Brooke Bolander — And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead

Take one part pulp, one part cyberpunk, add a shot of very cheap bourbon, and shake well. Watch the resulting foul mouthed guttersnipe of a synthetic person take on a security AI at its own game; or maybe the reverse. Bolander sketches in some fascinating world building with a few brief sentences, but the focus is on the rescue mission Rhye’s been press-ganged into. It’s a fast moving tale with a satisfying conclusion, and deserves a spot on the Hugo ballot.

Available free at http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/fiction/shall-know-trail-dead/

Chuck Tingle — Space Raptor Butt Invasion

Okay. There’s back story on what this is doing on the Hugo ballot. It is not your typical nominee. Onwards…

Our hero is one of two men (definitely men) manning a remote observation station somewhere on a remote planet. The story opens as his teammate leaves at the end of his assignment, with no replacement arriving. Budget cuts mean the station will be solo manned from now on, and our hero will be the only living thing on the planet. So what is that mysterious space suited figure he thinks he’s seen?

So far, it’s a pitch perfect pastiche of Golden Age pulp. I have read the stories. I could make a guess at what happens next.

What happens next is that it segues into a pastiche of pulp gay porn, only with two guys stuck with solo duty on their respective nation’s planetary observation base. One of whom is a dinosaur…

Dr Tingle had far too much fun ramming every possible porn cliché into his tight virgin word processor. This is really not my taste in porn, not least because it pastiches bad pulp punctuation, but it’s very funny. My verdict as a Hugo voter is that this story gets No Awarded, but I am nominating the good Doctor’s performance art in response to its nomination for next year’s Best Related Work category.
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Book log 2015: 16) James Runcie — Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

First of the Grantchester Mysteries series, about a Church of England vicar who solves mysteries in collaboration with one of the local police detectives. The first book is a set of six short stories, each a standalone about an individual case, but with an overall arc running through them. I bought it because I’d seen and enjoyed a couple of episodes of the tv adaptation. This doesn’t always mean I’ll like a book, but in this case I’m very glad I bought it. It’s an excellent period cosy mystery, written by someone who knows the minutiae of Anglican clerical life. The ebook for this one is often low price as a hook for the series, and well worth getting.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo

book log 2015: 15) Luke Young — Friends with partial benefits

Sweetly funny milf erotic romance novel – but be warned that the characters spend an awful lot of the book being interrupted before they can actually do something about their attraction. Successful romance writer Jillian divorced her no-good husband a while back for cheating on her, and hasn’t had much luck in the dating game since then. So when her son comes home from unversity for vacation and brings his friend Brian with him, Jillian can’t help but notice that Brian’s very nicely put together. He’s also her son’s friend, which puts him off limits.

Brian thinks Jillian’s pretty hot, even if she’s old enough to be his friend’s mother. In fact, she *is* his friend’s mother, which puts her off limits…

While some of the situations they end up in are frankly implausible, the lead and supporting characters are well-written, and Jillian and Brian’s ever more frantic efforts to first hide and then give in to their attraction are entertaining. This isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste; but if it appeals to your sense of humour, it’s a lot of fun.

This is the first of a series, but there’s closure at the end of the book. The ebook is free as a hook for the series, and I think worth downloading to try it out.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo

Book log 2015: 13) Sarah Pinborough — The Death House

This is my nominee for the 2015 novel Hugo.

Yes, I liked it that much. I bought this YA speculative fiction novel when I saw Gollancz tweet an opening day offer, because I’d greatly enjoyed one of Pinborough’s tie-in novels and wanted to read more by her. I started reading it that day, and was bowled over. It is a stunning portrayal of life, love and growing up under the shadow of death; a bittersweet coming-of-age novel about children and teenagers who know they will never do so.

It’s set in a near future very much like our present, save for one thing – there is an illness so terrible that all children are tested for the signs that they are carriers. If they test positive, they are taken to the Death House. There they will be cared for and given as normal a life as possible, right up until the time the sickness activates. It may be a few months, it may be years, but one thing is certain – they will die. And they will never be allowed to leave, or have contact with anyone other than each other and the staff assigned to care for them.

Toby has been in the House for long enough to have found ways to cope with the separation from his family and the knowledge of what awaits him, but the arrival of a new girl disrupts both the interactions between the Death House inmates, and Toby’s coping mechanisms. Through his eyes we see the different ways the children deal with what their lives have become; all the emotions of a lifetime compressed into a few short years, with the teenagers like Toby finding themselves being surrogate parent figures for the younger children. There’s a mystery plot as well; and the whole is a slow-burning build to a resolution where the older children decide exactly what is worth fighting for with their foreshortened lives.

Moving and beautifully written, this was one of the best things I read all year.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo

book log 2015 – February

Yes, I am slow at my book log, which is why some of these have only brief comments…

7) Cecilia Tan — The Siren and the Sword
Previously reviewed. I liked it a lot, enough to buy the series box set when it came out recently.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Kobo

8) Doranna Durgin – Barrenlands
Reviewed earlier this week. A short fantasy novel offering an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.
http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/barrenlands/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/barrenlands

9) Helena Newbury – Dance for Me

Natasha’s a ballet student who uses dance as one of her ways of coping with her demons, not always successfully. Darrell’s an engineering genius who designs weapon delivery systems as a way of coping with _his_ demons. Darrell’s stuck on his latest design, and then finds inspiration in watching a ballerina dance – so much so that he hires Natasha to dance for him privately at his workshop. They fall for one another, but they’re very damaged people and the road will be hard, even without someone deliberately trying to break the relationship up before it really gets started. Cue much angst before the happy ending. That happy ending acknowledges that True Love doesn’t magically fix everything, and Natasha and Darrell have a long way to go before their demons are vanquished. That the characters recognise this make it much more believable that they really will make it work in the long run.

This wasn’t a bad read, but it did need rather a lot of willing suspension of disbelief regarding a lone genius being allowed to work on a a secret defence contract in his garage. It also leans heavily on the Evil Brit trope for the plot’s antagonist; which doubtless appeals to many not-British readers, but was merely irritating to me. I’m glad I read it and would happily read the next, but I’m not desperate to rush out and buy it.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

10) Mindy Klasky – Perfect Pitch (The Diamond Brides series Book 1)

Contemporary romance starting with a baseball star who is unwise enough to publicly sneer at the local beauty queen, only to find that a) this is bad PR with the team’s supporters and his manager is not amused, b) the beauty queen is no dumb blonde, and she’s not amused either. They soon realise there’s more to both of them than meets the public eye, but they’re also very much in the public eye, and Samantha’s contest contract includes a morality clause…

A pleasant enough read. Currently on offer as a start-of-series freebie.

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/perfect-pitch/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/perfect-pitch-1

11) Margery Allingham – A Cargo of Eagles (audiobook)
Abridged audiobook of the last Campion novel, read by Phillip Franks. Enjoyable, and as usual with this series of Hachette abridged CD sets, can be enjoyed even if you aren’t already familair with the novel.
Amazon UK

12) Ashley Gardner — The Hanover Square Affair
First in a Regency-set mystery series. Excellent historical mystery, and on my list of series to pursue when I’ve made some headway on Mount TBR. Currently free as a series promo.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-hanover-square-affair

Deals from Courtney Milan

BookBub alerted me to the fact that Courtney Milan has a 99c/99p deal on the first book in her Turner series, so I wandered over to Amazon to have a look, and found a number of other deals on her books. In particular, the Brothers Sinister series is in an enhanced box set for £6.50. This is the Victorian romance series I was raving about last year, because it features strong women characters, many of whom are scientists, without handwaving away the problems they would have faced. If you understand why I was Kermit-flailing when I read the dedication to Rosalind Franklin in one of the later books, you’ll probably enjoy these. It’s m/f, but there is an acknowledgement of m/m and f/f (and again, historically realistic about the need for secrecy, rather than pure fantasy), with one of the background romances for a secondary character in a later book being f/f. One of the side-story novellas is an interracial romance between an Irishman and a Black British woman. And alphole heroes are Not Welcome.

Book 1 in the Brothers Sinister series is currently free (it’s isn’t always, but Milan does regular introductory deals for her series).

Books 1 and 3 in the Turner series are currently 95p at Amazon UK, and the box set is around £4.70. Given how much I enjoyed the Brothers Sinister, I’m just going to go for the boxed set rather than trying the starter first.

Amazon UK:
The Brothers Sinister: The Complete Boxed Set
The Duchess War (The Brothers Sinister Book 1)
Unveiled (A Turner Series Book 1)
The Turner Series (An Enhanced Box Set)
author page

Author page at Amazon US:
Courtney Milan at Amazon US

Amazon Australia (hi, SallyMN :-)
http://www.amazon.com.au/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=courtney+milan

Author page at Kobo:
https://store.kobobooks.com/search?Query=Courtney%20Milan%20&ac=1&acp=courtney%20mil