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2011-01-01 12:00 am

Master Booklist 2010

As of January 1st, 2010.
- denotes incomplete readings.
* denotes flocked review.

1. Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (reread)
4. Branded Sanctuary by Joey W. Hill
5. Mercenary by Trista Ann Michaels
6. The Truth by Terry Pratchett
7. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
8. Darkborn by Alison Sinclair
9. Violet in Private by Alison Sinclair
10. A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
11. Transformation by Carol Berg
12. Revelation by Carol Berg (reread)
13. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (reread)
14. Crossing Over: One Woman's Exodus from Amish Life by Ruth Irene Garrett with Rick Farrant
15. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
16. The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
17. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
18. Everyday Asian by Marnie Henricksson
19. Ice Queen by Joey W. Hill
20. Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins
21. Demon Princess by Michelle Rowen
22. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
23. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
24. A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay (reread)
25. The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan
26. Rough Canvas by Joey W. Hill
27. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
28. The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat by Tal Ronnen
29. Almost Vegetarian: A Primer for Cooks Who Are Eating Vegetarian Most of the Time, Chicken & Fish Some of the Time & Altogether Well All of the Time by Diana Shaw
30. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
31. Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton
32. Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton
33. Insatiable by Meg Cabot
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2010-05-08 10:22 pm

Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card
324 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/SF

Meet Ender Wiggins, child general-slash-genius. He's going to save the world, as long as his siblings Valentine (kind Val) and Peter (sociopathic schemer) don't destroy it first.

I liked this a lot. I definitely didn't love it. Why? Well, it's very male. Other than that, I can't quite say. I do like "school stories" a lot, and Ender's training takes up a good portion of the novel. I wished for more politics, especially more of Val/Demosthenes. The Val/Peter dynamic was fascinating. By the way: don't be fooled by the child protagonist. This really is not YA.

Recommended to SF readers of both genders, because this is a worthwhile classic. I would avoid researching the author, though, as his political views tend toward the akljfksjdfhdsf side.
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2010-05-08 10:13 pm

The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett

The Fifth Elephant
by Terry Pratchett
321 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

My friend, who is a fellow ardent Pratchett fan, thrust this library book into my hands with the damning words, "Carrot and Angua." I didn't have the time to read it, but I did anyway, because those two are just that cute.

This is one stop amongst many on the Discworld tour; my fannishness started with Small Gods, which I of course highly recommend. I find it difficult to describe the novel without resorting to Discworld shorthand, but let me try... Carrot is a long-lost heir who has contrived to remain lost, a six-foot-tall dwarf, and a scarily good person. Angua is a female werewolf with--interesting--familial relations. Together they fight petty crime and treason as members of the Watch, and are all-around awesome.

That's not quite right; it makes the book sound like a thriller, which it's not, though there is a fascinating mystery element of the plot. So, um, in Discworld shorthand: Carrot/Angua in Uberwald, with a healthy dose of Vimes and politics, plus a sprinkling of Vetinari on top.

I have realized what I love so much about Terry Pratchett, to the point where he deserves a place in my personal gallery next to Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner, and George R.R. Martin: he is consistently great. (Sylvia Kelso and Alison Sinclair have the potential for greatness, with Amberlight/Riversend and Darkborn respectively, but they haven't proven consistency yet.) There are some Pratchett books that I adore, some that I love, some that I merely like... but each has enthralled me as I read them for the first time. A rare and valuable quality, consistency--few authors can I trust as I trust Pratchett to always write a worthwhile book.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
2010-05-08 10:03 pm

A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner

A Conspiracy of Kings
by Megan Whalen Turner
316 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

I've been waiting SO long for this book. I loved each succeeding volume of Turner's Attolis series more than the last, up through King of Attolia (especially the outside POV of Costis), but... KoA remains my favorite. Despite mixed reviews, I still think CoK is decent, and it nicely continues the overarching plot intent of Gen ruling the continent. I thought that intention was convincingly advanced, though the unresolved romantic thread made me sadface.

As a side note, the first chapter is a wonderful reintroduction to the world, and I didn't see Gen as particularly out-of-character anywhere in the book. He has evolved into Attolis, as he had to.

For those who don't know, this is Sophos's story about what happens after his mysterious disappearance. If you don't know what that means, stop and go read The Thief, then The Queen of Attolia, then The King of Attolia. Order is not absolutely necessary--I read QoA first--but then again, I read QoA first and was horribly confused. And this is a series worth savoring.
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2010-05-08 03:30 pm

Crossing Over, by Ruth Irene Garrett with Rick Farrant

Crossing Over: One Woman's Exodus from Amish Life
by Ruth Irene Garrett with Rick Farrant
192 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

The pedestrian prose of this semi-ghostwritten memoir with an eye-catching premise does capture Irene's voice; it's only that her voice is not particularly compelling. Thankfully, I can't say the same for her story. This was a quick and enlightening read. I've always been fascinated by the Amish--I've seen buggies go by on the road, when I drive to Lancaster--and their "bubble" of traditional life in such a modern world.
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2010-04-24 10:53 pm

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine (reread)

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
by Gail Carson Levine
293 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

Twin princesses Meryl and Addie are close opposites; timid Addie depends wholly on Meryl's bravery. When Meryl falls ill with the cursed, fatal Gray Death, cowardly Addie must find her courage in order to save her beloved sister.

After finishing Carol Berg's Revelation and feeling like I'd been hit with a sledgehammer, I had to cool down. So I turned to reread a childhood favorite. The Two Princesses of Bamarre is not my favorite of Levine's novels--Ella Enchanted remains the only one developed enough beyond folkish fairy-tale to touch me to tears--but it was sufficiently light, breezy, and satisfying. On this second read, I much admired the dragons and focused less on Addie and Meryl, who serve as wonderful childhood role models. This is a fable in truth, with obvious morals, but nonetheless offered with a light touch.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
2010-04-24 10:35 pm

Transformation & Revelation, by Carol Berg

I was saving these two until I had finished reading the trilogy, but I seem to have lost interest so...

Transformation
by Carol Berg
439 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

Seyonne is an Ezzarian slave, dead to the world after being stripped of his magical powers by a horrific rite. By chance he is sold to the arrogant Crown Prince Aleksander of the Derzhi empire, and further unlucky coincidences keep him in royal interest, though not favor. But when Seyonne sees a shocking reminder of Ezzaria in the eyes of the crown prince, he is inextricably bound to Aleksander's fate while demons and foreigners attempt to undermine the empire.

Finishing this, I immediately went on to read Revelation. It hit a lot of my personal buttons--power differential, detailed political subtleties. I can see why there's so much Aleksander/Seyonne fic! The character depth and epic setting reminds me of GRRM, but I'm glad that Berg is not so cruel to her characters (at least in this volume, one reason why I like it best).

Revelation
by Carol Berg
485 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

Seyonne returns to Ezzaria a free man, but now he must deal with the prejudices and mysteries of his own culture. He meets an unusual demon that will lead him to question everything he has ever been taught, and guide him upon a path to exile more certain--and more painful--than all his prior years of enslavement.

This middle volume was quite well-plotted with a satisfying conclusion. I had read it before from the library, and liked it enough to put the whole trilogy on my to-by list; it was long enough ago, however, and with little enough context, that I read this as if it were new to me.

And yet! And yet, I didn't feel compelled to read the final volume. The emotional blasting that Seyonne takes--especially in repeated betrayals-that-aren't-betrayals of Aleksander--was too much. Though I've skimmed Restoration enough to know that Berg resolves the tale in a politically correct fashion, I'm more satisfied with the ending of Transformation; Seyonne and Aleksander's adventure is over, the world has been saved for now, hooray. Berg's chosen path forces the reader to confront the implications of imperialism, an aim that I fully appreciate. But honestly, it could have been done with less individual torture of the characters.

Maybe, overall, I prefer Song of the Basilisk--an excellent, lesser-known Berg novel that explores similar themes but wraps up in a single volume instead of attempting to save the world forever and ever. Or maybe I can just pretend that Transformation has no sequels.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
2010-04-01 09:04 pm

A College of Magics, by Caroline Stevermer

A College of Magics
by Caroline Stevermer
468 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/YA

In alternate 1800s Europe, with the British Empire and Austria meddling in political affairs of small nations like Ruritania, Faris Nallaneen is the Duchess of snowy northern Galazon, currently ruled by her conniving-but-not-really-wicked Uncle Brinkar. He sends her to Greenlaw College (where the graduates are called witches behind their backs) to await the turning of her majority. What follows is a prototypical school-of-magic story, clearly modeled off the modern-day university rather than boarding school. Faris befriends various interesting people, Jane Brailsford in particular, and makes one significant enemy: Menary of Aravill, whose involvement I can't describe further without spoilers.

I picked this up as a light read, and finished it satisfyingly in one sitting; in that respect, and in the "neatness" of the plot, it's a classic YA novel. But this is very mature YA, in all respects save explicit romantic development; the political intrigue that I love so much in adult fantasy novels is not dumbed down. The ending is almost deus ex machina, but at that point I was too carried away emotionally to mind.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
2010-03-30 08:21 pm

Violet in Private, by Melissa Walker

Violet in Private
by Melissa Walker
210 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/YA

This is a weird book. On one hand, it did make me tear up, with earns automatic points; on the other hand, the wish-fulfillment aspect is so explicit that it detracts from the novel. Author Melissa Walker is an ex-fashion editor hailing from Chapel Hill, NC, who earned a BA in English from Vassar College--coincidentally, protagonist Violet lands an editorial internship in New York, calls Chapel Hill home, and attends Vassar. Only, y'know, she's a supermodel. The author bio jokes openly about writing what you know, but at times the book reads like the author is simply reliving her college days--we don't need to know that Lathrop House is just down the quad from Main, or about ACDC as dining hall and band.

Moreover, Violet is simply not that engaging as a protagonist--pitiable, yes, but not very interesting. Her miniscule self-esteem and romantic struggles are a tad too realistic. I especially disliked the "temporary" romantic resolution; as "true" as it may be, it only left me with a lower opinion of Violet because she is waffling and useless yet again.

Acquired from BookMooch, but I won't be keeping this in my permanent collection nor planning to read the previous books in the series.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
2010-03-29 09:13 pm

Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair

Darkborn
by Alison Sinclair
348 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

I had an inkling, from Jia's complimentary Dear Author review and from the cover blurbs--Carol Berg, Sharon Shinn, Lane Robins--that Darkborn might be my very favorite kind of book: densely political, yet romantic and idealistic. It is.

Balthasar Hearne is a Darkborn physician, born to that class of impoverished old blood so well-popularized by Austen; his wife Telmaine, of similar but non-impoverished blood, is an untrained mage. (The Darkborn, unlike the Lightborn who live in the same city for the other half of the time, prefer to ignore the existence of magic.) When a very pregnant Tercelle Amberley shows up on Balthasar's doorstep at the sunrise bell, his physician's instincts and old acquaintance lead him to take her in. She gives birth to twin boys who are Darkborn yet sighted... and so the plot begins.

Of the plot--it is difficult to follow at times, not much helped by Sinclair's tedious habit of recapping every explanation made by the characters. The narrative, told in multi-third person, fails to distinguish character voices from the author's own voice. However, these minor flaws are easily brushed aside in favor of realistic, unusual characters. Balthesar and Telmaine are parents, with Telmaine's maternal instinct a vital catalyst of the story; and in a tale with so many secrets, it's refreshing to see that people talk to resolve them instead of experiencing convenient Misunderstandings. Moreover, as far as political fantasy goes, I would rate this equal to Sylvia Kelso's Amberlight and subsequent Riversend--not the poetry of Kay, nor the epic style, but more in the extremely satisfying manner of Ellen Kushner and fantasy of manners plus magic. Bravo.