December 2013

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Books I Read in 2013.

Happily, I had an excellent reading year and so it was hard to choose just ten out of the 88 I read and listened this year.

1, Lois McMaster Bujold: Barrayar
I didn’t do much rereading or relistening this year but Bujold is one of my favorite authors and Barrayar is one of my favorite books from her.

2, Jim C. Hines: Red Hood’s Revenge
I have trouble choosing between the four Princess books but in the end I chose the third one, which focuses on Talia’s, Sleeping Beauty’s, tragic past.

3, A. Lee Martinez: Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain
I thought this book was hysterically funny.

4, Martha Miller: the Retirement Plan
I bought this on recommendation by Audible and was very pleasantly surprised.

5, Kerry Greenwood: Murder in Montparnasse
I throughly enjoyed all of Greenwood’s mysteries and listened a lot of them this year.

6, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Skirmishes
The newest book in the Diving universe.

7, K. A. Stewart: A Shot in the Dark
This was surprisingly intense blend of horror and urban fantasy.

8, Rowena Cory Daniells: King Breaker
This is the last book in a series which I greatly enjoyed.

9, Terry Pratchett: The Fifth Elephant
Duke Vimes as a diplomat!

10, Seanan McGuire: Chimes at Midnight
Another favorite author! Chimes at Midnight isn’t quite as gut wrenching as the two previous books but I don’t think it could have been.

The final book in the Company science fiction series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: print
Page count: 501
Publisher: TOR

This is the book where the series has been leading. I would recommend starting with the first book “In the Garden of Iden” rather than this one, if you haven’t read Baker before.

The book has multiple points-of-view. The main part is devoted to the Botanist Mendoza and her companions. These passages have a lot of wry humor and observations of domestic life. Unfortunately, I still find their situation more than a little creepy.

During the first half of the book we also follow a small girl who lives under a hill with Quean Barbie and her Uncles, and the stupids who live just to serve the others. The girl, who is initially called just Baby, finds a man who used to be a slave to the big people. But the man turns out to be alive, just hurt very badly. He’s Literature specialist Lewis who disappeared a long time ago.

We also follow Joseph who is busy freeing the old Enforcers and a couple of powerful Section heads, immortals who are poised to take over when the Silence starts. A couple of them want to destroy humans and one wants to protect humans. All of these powers have been building their powerbases and now, we finally see what will happen in 2355.

I felt the ending was somewhat too easy. Then again, we’ve been given so many hints and speculation about the Silence that I don’t know if anything would have been fully satisfying. It was certainly different from most SF (and fantasy) endings and Baker does weave all of the various plot threads together. Perhaps I was somewhat disappointed with just how cowering and ineffectual the human “master minds” are compared to the cyborgs they created. Of course, it was no surprise, because Baker has shown it plenty of times. Also, the more I see Alec, the less I like him and he has really taken over the series by now. But I thoroughly enjoyed the familiar immortals and their melodramatic ways, as usual.

I had lots of fun with this challenge in 2013 so I’ll sign up again:

As bloggers we are all on timetables to read books, get reviews posted, host giveaways, etc.
But we also travel around to other blogs and see books we would just like to read because of their recommendation or the cover or title catches our interest. The Meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” adds more books to my Wish List and To-Be-Read pile every week.

As followers you get our recommendations, win books from us, pick up books at the library or buy them at a store.
But our lives are so busy these books sometimes sit in our To-Be-Read piles for months or even years.
This is the 4th year I am hosting this challenge to
encourage you to read some of those books.
12 books in 12 months JUST FOR FUN!!!!!!!!!!

There will be months designated as catch up months in case you get behind.

You are not required to review these books.
They are to be read JUST FOR FUN.

Crossovers to other challenges are not encouraged as these books are to be read Just For Fun without thought to reviews or other challenges. But challenges just as Read-A-Latte or 150+ Reading Challenge are permitted crossovers as you are counting the total of books you are reading throughout the year as JFF books should be included in those totals. The other exception is a Where Are You Reading or location challenge because again you are keeping track of the total of books you read but categorizing them by setting.

Books read:

1, C. S. Friedman: Black Sun Rising

2, Arthur Byron Cover: Night of the Living Rerun
3, Peter Clines: Ex-Communication
4, Edgar Rice Burroughs: the Gods of Mars
5, Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
6, Nick Drake: Nefertiti: the Book of the Dead
7, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Thuvia, Maid of Mars
8, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Chessmen of Mars
9, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Master Mind of Mars
10, Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Fighting Man of Mars
11, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Swords of Mars
12, Steven Brust: Hawk

The third book in the cozy mystery series set in Melbourne.

Publication year: 2006
Format: Audio
Narrator: Louise Siversen
Running Time: 9 hrs
Corinna Chapman is a former accountant and now she’s a baker and owns the Earthly Delights bakery. Life is good: she has a lovely lover, Daniel, lots of friends, and business is good. But then two things disturb her peace: her mother is coming to town and wants to see her, and a couple of her friends have apparently been poisoned.

Corinna’s parents are hippies who live in a commune outside Melbourne. They were quite neglectful parents and barely noticed when Corinna’s grandmother took her away when she was just five years old. Not surprisingly, Corinna resents her parents and don’t want anything to do with them. However, her father, called Sunlight, has gone missing and her mother, Starshine, is frantic and demands that Corinna should find her father. Reluctantly, Corinna agrees. Fortunately, Daniel is a private detective. Corinna is forced to confront her feelings towards her parents and her past. Starshine is quite a manipulative woman and she seems to loath Corinna’s weight.

Greenwood also addresses our Western culture’s obsession with weight. It turns out that Kayle and Gossamer have not been poisoned, after all, but that they have taken herbal tea which should work as a weight-loss product. While trying to find out who is selling the tea, Corinna stumbles upon a fanatical cult who is trying to convince people that God himself hates fat people. The cult also sells its services as a weight-loss program.

Helping Corinna are the usual cast which include her apprentice the ex-junkie Jason, her best friend the witch, and assorted cats. I really enjoyed this book, just as much as the previous ones. It’s full of interesting characters and references to pop culture.

J. G. Ballard: The Drowned World
The first book in a science fiction trilogy

Publication year: 1962
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Renvall
Page count: 176
Finnish Publisher: Jalava

Robert Kerans is a biologist in a science station in the remains of a city which has been almost submerged because the world’s temperature has risen catastrophically and in consequence, the water level has risen. The whole world is a similar state: only very few areas are still habitable around the North and South Poles. Kerans is part of a team whose mission is to the map the city, which we learn later is London. The other team members are a group of soldiers, lead by Colonel Riggs, and Doctor Bodkin. London also has one other inhabitant: Beatrice Dahl who has refused to leave her (father’s) apartment and spends her days reading old magazines and sunning herself.

Kerans’ work means that he has to spend a lot of time alone, but he has come to realize that he doesn’t mind it. In fact, he now prefers solitude and has trouble getting along with anyone else. He also spends a lot of time sleeping and not doing much of anything. He and Bodkins theorize that the changing environment is awakening long dormant instincts and memories from the human unconsciousness or racial memory, or perhaps from the womb. Unfortunately, this makes Kerans a pretty passive character.

When Riggs gets orders that the team has to get back to the Arctic Circle, Beatrice refuses to leave and Kerans starts to wonder, if he should stay, too. However, in order to live in the city where the temperature is only going to rise still, they would need petroleum and food.

The first half of the story is almost dreamlike. Ballard describes the sunken city and its inhabitants who are starting to see strange dream and become quite lethargic. There isn’t real conflict until the half-way point of the book and to me, it felt forced.

I would have liked to see how the larger society has changed. Ballard tells us this but doesn’t really show and it doesn’t affect the interactions of the characters. He tells us that, for example, most of humanity has died and the survivors have moved to the Arctic Circle. Clearly, there are still countries with their own military services because they are mentioned at the start of the story but we also told that otherwise, the people live clearly different societies.

Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed by this book but maybe I had different expectations.

My newest review: The Tesla Conspiracy by Michael D. Finley.

A conspiracy around Tesla’s inventions.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten New To Me Authors in 2013.

When I look at the list of new-to-me authors I’ve read this year (easy, because I participated in the New Authors challenge three writers stand out:
1, Jim C. Hines
I read Hines’ blog so he’s not totally unknown to me but this year I noticed his Princess series in Audible. I listened the first book (”The Stepsister Scheme”), loved it, and bought the rest as audio books as well. I enjoyed the whole series a lot and most likely I’ll read his new series next year.

2, Lee A. Martinez
I really enjoyed his super villain/space opera farce ”Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain”. I’ve listened to two others of his books. They’ve been good but not as hilarious as Mollusk.

3, Martha Miller
”The Retirement Plan” had a very interesting premise: two old ladies are having trouble making ends meet with their small pensions… so they start to kill people for money. It was great and I plan to read more from her next year.

Luckily I found other authors, too, whom I’m likely to continue to read:

4, Steven Harper
”The Doomsday Vault” is the first book in a steampunk series but he’s written quite a lot of other stuff, too.

5, Patrick Weeks
I throughly enjoyed ”The Palace Job” and I hope he’ll continue to write more.

6, Aliette de Bodard
”Servant of the Underworld” starts an Aztec trilogy and I’m likely to get the omnibus edition next year.

7, Donna Leon
Her first mystery set in Venice was intriguing.

8, Michael J. Martinez
I was wholly unprepared for how much I would enjoyed ”The Daedalus Incident”.

9, Phil and Kaja Foglio
I’ve been reading the Girl Genius for years but in comic book form. However, ”Agatha H and the Airship City” was the first book I’ve read from them.

10, Yvonne Navarro
I read from her a Buffy book and I think she did a great job of portraying the familiar characters.

The seventh book in the series.

Publication year: 2006
Format: print
Page count: 356
Publisher: TOR

“The Machine’s Child” continues from the cliffhanger at the end of the fifth book, “The Life of the World To Come”. At the end of that book something happened, which I didn’t know about and which I don’t want to spoil for any potential reader.

At the end of “The Life of the World To Come” Mendoza, the immortal cyborg botanist who was the main character in the first and the third book, was sent into a hellish place for rogue cyborgs where they are tortured forever. That place is situated in 300 000 BC. But Mendoza’s lover Alec and his companions have a time machine and they are tracking Mendoza to her jail. They manage to save her and the majority of the book is dedicated to Alec and Mendoza trying to heal each other and jaunting through time and Alec arguing with his companions. I really (mostly) liked the dynamic between Alec and his companions and the short vignettes of Alec and Mendoza in different times.

Unfortunately, the book also has a lot of things which I didn’t care for. Mendoza was hurt badly. In fact, so badly that Alec’s Artificial Intelligence (named Captain Morgan) has to rebuild her body. And he rebuild it as a fourteen year old girl. Mendoza has also lost her memory. Alec convinces himself (and his companions) that it’s best that Mendoza doesn’t remember her past. So he lies to her about her near past. But then he starts to lie more and more, about himself and about their shared past. I found this to be pretty icky. I started to hope that Mendoza would get her memory back and Alec would be held accountable for his lies. The longer this situation continued, the more uncomfortable I felt with it.

Also, I started the book liking Alec’s companions quite a lot (more than Alec) but then one of them makes a suggestion which was, well, beyond icky. And also I’m a bit puzzled as to why Alec is so enamored with Mendoza. One of his companions spent quite a lot of time with Mendoza so he could have fallen in love with her, but the other two have spent only a little time with her, so their almost instant adoration is a bit strange. Also, it was established in the fifth book that Alec (and his companions) have an almost magical ability to persuade others to do what he wants. So… is Mendoza’s love nothing more than reaction to that ability? Ick!

We also get to see some other immortals preparing for the year 2355 when the ominous Silence falls. Joseph is repairing his “father” and since he was the one who recruited Mendoza from the clutches of the Spanish inquisition, he thinks of himself as her father. So, Joseph is also trying to find Mendoza. Unfortunately, he blames Alec for ruining Mendoza’s life so he’s also trying to pay back to Alec. Both are trying to bring down the big bad, Dr. Zeus Incorporated.

Overall this felt like a yet another book whose main reason for existing is to prepare for the final conflict which should happen in the next book. And it ends with a cliffhanger!

My newest review: Gilded: The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper.

This turned out to be a second book in the series and unfortunately, I think I might have missed some information about the heroine so it felt a bit confusing. The heroine is both an abused orphan *and* a rich heiress?? On the other hand, I really liked the setting and that the plot moved very quickly rather than dragging certain points *cough*romance*cough* over several books.

My newest review: Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like all of the short stories but I did find a couple of interesting new-to-me authors.

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