june reading roundup: the fiction edition

I’d been eying Andy Weir’s The Martian for a while before I took the plunge and bought it. And boy, was it a good, fast-paced read! I finished it within 24 hours. As in: I started the book at midnight (I know, I know), stayed up till 2 am reading, sleepwalked through the next day, and finished it that evening (before midnight!).

The MartianAttention to technical detail? Check. Resourceful, optimistic main character? Check. Robinson Crusoe on Mars? Check, check, check!

My only nits are minor: occasionally the MC’s great voice slipped into teen girl–jarring!–and the language at times is cruder than I normally go for. Keep in mind that I’m Miss Prim-and-Proper (and always have been). YMMV.

I’m thrilled that the movie’s coming this fall. I’ve already informed my husband he has to read the book by then.

The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson is another Hugo nominee for Best Novel. It’s a huge book, the first of a sequel series. I was afraid I’d be lost, having never read the prequels, but it was easy to get caught up.

Short chapters, each told from the POV of a member of a large cast, helped move the story along at a good clip. The plot was neither complex nor technically demanding, and the workmanlike prose accessible. There were a few characters I particularly liked (Garrison and Orli) and several others I actively loathed. Fantasy elements like psychic powers, world trees, and elementals mingled freely with space ships and lasers. Still, it was a big book (did I mention that yet? *grin*), and I lost steam a time or two before I made it to the end.

Confession time: I’d never read any Jack Vance despite having heard high praise of his works. So when I saw The Jack Vance Treasury on sale, I grabbed it. It did not disappoint. I’m only halfway through (there are many stories) but I’ve read each through to the end so far. This is rare for me when it comes to collections and anthologies. Vance’s combination of style and storytelling hits a lot of my reader sweet spots.

Read any great speculative fiction lately? I’m always on the lookout for good reads!

may reading roundup

The Grace of KingsI’d heard a lot of buzz about Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, so I was eager to dive into the first book of this Chinese-history-inspired “silkpunk” epic.

This book was well-paced; for a big book, it went fast and didn’t get bogged down in the middle. I also appreciated the focus on minor characters from time to time. Even if they disappeared within a few chapters, Liu used them to good effect in showing the scope of the rebellion and its disruptive effects.

On the flip side, it was hard to get attached to any character, including the three major ones. Plus, the ending strongly hinted at a type of inter-family conflict in future books that doesn’t appeal to me. I’d look at a sequel, but it wouldn’t automatically go on my Must Read list.

RingworldYes, I confess I’d never read Larry Niven’s Ringworld until last month. I vaguely knew that the Ringworld was an engineered mega-structure which completely ringed its sun, but actually exploring it in this book was enormously satisfying. Might be a theme for the month, but again I found myself caring a lot more about the worldbuilding than about the characters.

The Three-Body ProblemThe Three-Body Problem, a translated work by Chinese SF writer Liu Cixin is one of the Hugo nominees for Best Novel. I found it absolutely gripping. Would read the sequel in a heartbeat.

Tom's Midnight GardenMiss M. is reading this classic British children’s time travel fantasy, so I decided to hop on board this particular train. A very nostalgic book for me, down to the perfectly bittersweet ending, which reminded me of similar works in the genre that I read as a child.

Aside from these, I read through the Hugo nominees for Best Novella and Best Short Story categories.

april reading roundup

It’s been a long time since I did one of these! It’s been hard making time to read in between all my other busy-ness but I did start on a number of books.

Early on this month, I decided to put on my reading list classics that, for some reason or other, had passed me by (I’m sure we all have those!). Don Quixote is one, as are things like Herodotus’ The Histories and Plutarch’s Lives, and pretty much the majority of the American classics that most Americans read in high school (The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick, to name a few).

It’s been a long time since my formal education, so I thought I’d get into a “study literature” mood with some reference books. The two I read bits and pieces of were The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer and How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren. I’ve decided that my high schoolers should definitely read the latter before they go off to college.

The Well-Educated Mind

I was also in the mood for science fiction short stories, so I got a Larry Niven collection and an anthology out of the library.

The anthology is Old Venus, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozoir. The premise instantly attracted me: all these stories are set in the Venus of science fictional imaginings–a world of lush tropical jungles and huge oceans–before science revealed it to be the hellish place we known of today. All the stories showed a high level of skill and detailed envy-inducing worldbuilding, so which ones grabbed me and which ones didn’t came down to a  matter of taste. My particular favorites were Matthew Hughes’ “Greeves and the Evening Star” and Ian McDonald’s “Botanica Venerica: Thirteen Papercuts by Ida Countess Rathagan”, both of which feature upper-class aristocrats (one English, the other Irish). I’m not sure what that says about me!

Old Venus

Since I published Ironhand, and have other projects in various stages of completion on my plate, I re-read Discoverability by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This book started life as a series of blog posts that you can still read for free on Rusch’s website. I love Rusch’s approach to writing-as-business. My big takeaways from the book this reading were the WIBBOW test (Would I Be Better Off Writing? In most cases, yes), the necessity of having several books for sale before launching a massive marketing campaign (working on that), and of seeing ones’ books as individual assets and treating them as such.

Discoverability

What about you? Have you read anything good recently?

WANAFriday: a new-to-me author

This week’s #wanafriday blog prompt is: Share something cool that you’ve recently discovered with your blog readers. This could be a great book, a gripping TV show, a neat tip, an awesome recipe, or something else!

Many moons ago, I was waxing nostalgic about M. M. Kaye’s Death In… mysteries and bemoaning the fact that she’d only written six of them and I’d read them all. A blog reader (perhaps it was the lovely Ellen Gregory?) suggested I try Mary Stewart’s mysteries.

Now, I’d only ever heard of Mary Stewart because of her Merlin trilogy. I’d no idea she’d written romantic suspense (back before there was such a genre). Wanting to fill the Kaye-shaped hole in my reading life, I picked up her Airs Above the Ground.

And was hooked.

In short order, I tore through The Moonspinners, The Gabriel Hounds and My Brother Michael. I appreciate Stewart’s wonderfully evocative descriptions of her setting and her attention to details of the natural world. I enjoy her courageous heroines and her very manly men. It’s also interesting to note the way attitudes have changed over time, even in something as small and simple as the fact that people in her books smoke like chimneys!

I’m delighted to have discovered Mary Stewart’s mysteries and happy to recommend them to you. If you enjoyed Kaye’s Death In… books, you’re in for a treat with these!

 

Check out other people’s recent discoveries: