Witness me trying to catch up on my Reading Round-ups with this really long Round-up of all things June and July. I’ve organized it by genre so that you can just skip to your favorites there. If you can’t find something you enjoy on this list, I cannot help you. I read far too many books (and by too many I mean not enough, because THERE CAN NEVER BE ENOUGH). Anyway, here we go.
I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction, and that is probably at least in part the fault of Lois McMaster Bujold. We’re going to start with everyone else, though, so let’s dive in.
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
I have a lot of feelings about Brandon Sanderson’s books, and that was before the whole Kickstarter thing. I tend to love his short stuff and think the longer stuff just…runs a little long. The beginning of Skyward was no exception — there are a lot of technical details in this book about How Stuff Works that I just didn’t need as a reader. I’m not coming in new to the genre of science fiction and so a good forty percent of the technical descriptions made me yawn. That said, by the end of the book I was fairly engaged. As always, Sanderson’s action sequences are pretty great, and I love a good aerial battle. (Young Adult, Science Fiction)
Alleluia Files by Sharon Shinn
This book continues my reading of Sharon Shinn’s Angel novels, which are technically science fiction! Arguably any of these could be a standalone — while things certainly build from book to book, each feels almost set in a new world since there is a gap of a couple hundred years between them. That said, it’s probably best to read these in chronological order. I found this latest book to be scarily plausible in predicting how people might react to finding out their very active deity figure was actually a machine. (Science Fiction, Fantasy)
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
Someone recommended this book to me ages ago and I finally got around to reading it on vacation, proving that I should never remove anything from my TBR, thank you. This is a young adult science fiction story that deal with pandemics, zombie-ism (of a sort), and gene hacking. A lot going on is an understatement. I found several elements of this book really compelling, especially the gene hacking and body horror pieces. Ultimately, though, I don’t know that I will finish this series. There were some very YA tropes that popped up in this book which kind of push my buttons, mostly of the evil mastermind/parental abuse variety. It’s not my jam, generally, but it might be yours, and if you like exploring squicky biotech, the book is overall well-written. (Young Adult, Science Fiction)
Eclipse the Moon by Jessie Mihalik
One of the delights of my adulthood is finding the subgenre of space romance. I love space romance, and specifically I love Jessie Mihalik’s space romances. They’re cute, and then things explode. This particular book is the second in the Starlight’s Shadow series, and follows the hacker extraordinaire Kee as she navigates both an interstellar plot and her messy relationship with Varro, a telepath from the planet that her people used to be at war with. It’s a lot of fun, plus there’s a fashion show. (Science Fiction, Romance)
Shards of Honor/Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
And now we make it to the part of this list that is all about the Vorkosigan Saga. We’ll start with the technical beginning of the series, Shards of Honor, and lump in Barrayar since it continues that story. You might have realized already that these books absolutely kept me hooked. Bujold has a curiously spare writing style that I really love, and a gift for writing characters who are nuanced and thoughtful in their handling of moral quandaries. When Captain Naismith first meets Aral Vorkosigan, they’re enemies. But they’re made to work together and eventually find common ground, until war tears them apart once more. This is an awesome love story that is simultaneously romantic and practical, full of politics and action. Cordelia Naismith is my actual hero and I would possibly die for her, which would probably make her sad. She’s not perfect — none of Bujold’s characters are perfect. But she’s good, and how often do we find such creatures in any future? (Science Fiction)
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
This book is properly a standalone set in the Vorkosigan universe, so it might be a good place to start if you want to get a feel for Bujold’s writing but don’t want to become attached to the Vorkosigans and their drama. This book is a wildly compelling take on allyship and revolution set in space, one that looks at these themes without being overly preachy or trying to sort people into neat boxes. A middle-aged engineer, Leo, finds himself tasked with teaching genetically modified humans how to do his job — only to realize that they are essentially slaves, owned by the company he works for. He has to confront his own privilege, of course, but what I found most interesting about this book was how other characters who also worked for the company reacted — some with sympathy but an inability to force themselves to act, some working to clean up the fundamentally unjust system (with predictable results), some outright dehumanizing the genetically modified people in question and treating them as essentially inanimate objects. It seemed altogether too plausible. (Science Fiction)
Thanks to the Vorkosigan Saga, I’ve read profoundly less fantasy than science fiction this go round. But there are some gems in this list both old and new.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip
I ordered this book back when Patricia McKillip passed away as part of my effort to read my writing foremothers. I don’t know that I had expectations for this book exactly, and at the beginning of it I almost bounced off. But ultimately this became one of my favorite books I’ve read this year so far. It filled me with a lovely nostalgia, and ultimately this narrative was a kind one, despite everything. It’s a story full of magical creatures, a sorceress and her power, and men and their fear. I heartily recommend it. (Fantasy)
Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney
As I’ve mentioned, I really love Claire’s work, and also she’s a delightful human. My feelings about this book are so vast. It’s a rambling ossuary of a book, appropriately so, with footnotes and strange histories embedded in the corners. More importantly, it’s lovely. I felt like this was the most representative expression of the strange panromanticism of my youth I have ever read. The fluid love, the beauty of everyone, the desire to hold and be held. It’s embedded in all the horror and death, appropriately, because Lanie Stones is simultaneously in love with Saint Death and the fires of life, for all that the love sometimes wounds her. This is not an easy read, but I very much enjoyed it. (Fantasy, LGBTQ+)
A Thousand Steps into Night by Traci Chee
Switching gears to a book that was much more fast-paced, this book is a quick romp that you might like if you enjoyed Six Crimson Cranes. There was time travel I didn’t hate, I really liked the bird, and I enjoyed the Japanese mythology influence. (Fantasy, Young Adult, Eastern Asian)
A Strange and Stubborn Endurance by Foz Meadows
This book requires trigger warnings. Overall I think it was good, but there several things I would have appreciated being done a bit differently, personally. Can’t really talk about it without spoilers, but for a book that picked as its central theme healing from trauma, I felt like that healing was not handled in a way that was healthy and the unhealthy things were not well-confronted by the text. That said, the mystery was compelling and the worldbuilding interesting and I wouldn’t mind reading about these characters again. (Fantasy, LGBTQ+)
Star Eater by Kerstin Hall
I thought for a while about whether this should be sorted into fantasy or horror, and ultimately I decided that the cannibalism made it horror. That said, fans of epic fantasy with a high tolerance for eating people are going to enjoy this book, which posits a corrupt matriarchy, a magic system based off of eating your mom, and an STD that turns your male lovers into demons that crave human flesh. It’s great, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m only sorry it took me so long to read it. (Horror, Fantasy, LGBTQ+)
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
As always, T. Kingfisher is a delight. This book in particular was a fun reimagining of “The Fall of the House of Usher” that captured the creepy gothic feel of the original but with more zombie rabbits. And how can we argue with zombie rabbits? (Horror, LGBTQ+)
The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky by John Hornor Jacobs
This is the first novella in John Horner Jacobs’ collection A Lush and Seething Hell, which I am including separately here because I have not started the second novella and I feel like it can easily stand on its own. “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky” is simultaneously Lovecraftian and all too real. While the land of Magera is fictional, the story of it is not a fiction — South America contains several countries which experienced similar atrocities and histories. That the goal in this case is magical and not economic allows us, in some ways, the distance to explore those atrocities more closely. It’s a small story, but nonetheless a strike to the heart. (Horror, LGBTQ+)
There are two things I have to mention in this Round-up, so if you’ve stuck around this long, my thanks. These aren’t precisely new releases or new reads for me, but they’re two of my favorite stories.
The Innkeeper Chronicles, Graphic Audio Edition
I’ve talked about the Innkeeper Chronicles before, a series of self-published books by one of my favorite author teams over in House Andrews (aka Ilona Andrews). I love these books, but I recently realized that they are being released on Graphic Audio. If you haven’t listened to a Graphic Audio book before, they are closer to a radio play adaptation in some ways. I absolutely loved listening back through this series and recommend it to those who are new to Innkeeper or those who want to revisit this world. (Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy)
Lore Olympus Volume Two
Lore Olympus is an internet sensation and I really hope that it also becomes a animated series at some point. That said, if sitting and reading a webcomic is not your speed, you can now get a good chunk of the comic in print! Volume Two came out this summer, and I can’t wait for Volume Three in the fall. This story is just as good on the re-read as it was on WebToon. (Mythology, Romance, Graphic Novel)
That’s it! I have updated you on all of my reading thoughts for the two months of high summer! Until next time!