Free, that is, to read Other Peoples’ Novels! Something I have been avoiding fairly strenuously, if not completely, for the past several months.
The day I finished Tasmakat, which is to say, roughly a week ago, I went right for Ilona Andrews, Sapphire Flames. This was a re-read, but I didn’t remember it well, and I wanted to go on with the other two books that have been released in this series, AND, very important, Ilona Andrews’ works well for me to break a reading slump.
It turns out that not reading fiction because I’m working on a book of my own is a lot like not reading fiction because I can’t quite muster the enthusiasm to actually open something and read past the first page. In other words, a deliberate reading slump is a lot like an involuntary reading slump, at least for me. Therefore, Ilona Andrews. Very engaging books, especially this series.
After that, I’m going back to the second book in the Tally Master series by JM Ney-Grimm, because I stopped near the beginning for absolutely no fault in the story and feel bad about that.
But, after this, the TBR pile is so high and tottery, even just looking at the top ten or so books on it, I’m really having trouble. Therefore:
What Should I Read Next? A Poll
1) Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard. The real story is, the miller’s daughter with her long golden hair wants to catch a lord, a prince, a rich man’s son, so she goes to the money-lender and borrows for a ring and a necklace and decks herself out for the festival. And she’s beautiful enough, so the lord, the prince, the rich man’s son notices her, and dances with her, and tumbles her in a quiet hayloft when the dancing is over, and afterwards he goes home and marries the rich woman his family has picked out for him. The the miller’s despoiled daughter tells everyone that the money-lender’s in league with the devil and the village runs him out or maybe even stones him, so at least she gets to keep the jewels for a dowry, and the blacksmith marries her before that firstborn child comes along a little early.
Because that’s really what the story’s about: getting out of paying your debts.
This cynical, bitter tone is pushing me away. However, so many of you raved about this so much that if you vote for it now, I won’t be surprised.
2) Unselected Journals of Emma M Lion by Beth Brower
I’ve arrived in London without incident.
There are few triumphs in my recent life, but I count this as one. My existence of the last three years has been nothing but incident.
My train billowed its way into St. Pancras Station five minutes early. Auspicious, as I am fairly certain such a thing has never before happened in the history of the British railway system. A less than enthusiastic porter helped me with my two trunks, my case, and my hat box. He took note of thefrayed edges on my morning coat, made a sound of disapproval, and began to silently convey his displeasure at helping me. I did give him a half-penny. Rather generous, considering my financial state. Strangely, it was the hat box that caused the greatest sneer, despite it actually carrying a hat. For over a year it carried something a modicum less pleasant: the monkey’s head Maxwell sent me.
Some of you were talking about this series in comments here recently, and this light-hearted tone is drawing me in.
3) The Maker’s Mask by Ankaret Wells
The first frosts of the year had just broken when Tzenni Boccamera arrived at the Spire of Shainault. There was a shabby trade town outside the gates; it looked as if it had only survived the winter without falling down because the frost stiffened the buildings enough to keep them vertical.
Tzennni’s grel made splattering noises of distaste with both sets of nostrils and tried to scrape its saddle-bags off against the wall of a particularly tumbledown shack. The shack had a porch made of wine-colored curtains, giving the impression that it had rammed into the back of a bedstead and stuck. The burgundy cloth still held its stiff folds and repelled the mud, as only Maker-tech could.
A somewhat confusing beginning. Is this SF or fantasy? I suspect it’s both, one of the books right at the edge between the two. There’s a short prologue, which is quite good. That starts this way: “Some say we fell out of the sky, and some that we were made of mud, and some that we are all part of God. And this is how they’re all true.” Then two more paragraphs, which as I say are quite good, and I think this is a good, effective prologue — better than the first paragraphs of the actual story. Then there’s another very short prologue which doesn’t work as well for me because of the extremely high number of unfamiliar names. Nine or so in two paragraphs. Then the opening above.
Nevertheless, the comments about the characters some of you made for an earlier post — an engineer, yay! And a sarcastic bodyguard, also yay! — plus the good first prologue all make me want to go on with this. But right away? Not sure I’d put this at the top.
4) Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen
The empty wicker birdcage beside her began to rattle impatiently. Zoey gave it a sharp look as if to say they were almost there. It stopped.
She glanced at the cabdriver to see if he had noticed. The old fig-shaped man was watching her in the rearview mirror, his silver eyebrows raised. Several seconds passed, and he continued to stair, which she found disconcerting because she felt his eyes should really be on the long bridge over the water. But he seemed to be waiting for her to respond.
Not as immediately engaging as many of Sarah Addison Allan’s works.
5) Magic and the Shinigami Detective by Honor Raconteur
Emulating a breathing statue, I kept my eyes at half-mast, my body still. I’d learned over the time in this dank, bat-infested cave that stillness was best. She didn’t question stillness. She sometimes forgot her victims were even there.
Well, victim, now. That other poor man had died this morning, leaving me as the lone survivor. She’d captured six of us in the beginning, all from different worlds, as we’d barely been able to communicate with each other, even with the potions and language spells she heaped upon us. We’d lost the first man within a week, his body too different, his spirit too easily crushed.
Back when Amazon had “also bought” as a thing, a lot of books by Honor Raconteur — one assumes that’s a pseudonym — used to turn up in that slot under all my books. Obviously once I noticed that, I picked up a couple. This was one. I’ve actually read the full prologue, of which this is a part. While I’m not crazy about either the situation or the writing style, the situation improves immensely in a few pages as the protagonist escapes. This is a prologue, and in chapter one some time has passed and the protagonist has made a place for herself in this world.
6) A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher
There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.
I let out an undignified yelp and backed up a step, then another, until I ran into the bakery door. We keep the door open most of the time because the big ovens get swelteringly hot otherwise, but it was four in the morning and nothing was warmed up yet.
Baking, Ursula Vernon, I mean, I’ve kind of wanted to read this for a while. Despite the dead girl in the first sentence, this story is apparently going to feature a light, breezy style. It would probably be fast to read and, of course, it’s probably pretty good because it’s Ursula Vernon.
7) Honey and Pepper by AJ Demas
Nikias had a fresh batch of octopus fritters ready when the three bells rang out from the harbour. He turned them out of the pan onto a dish, drizzled them with sauce, and slid the dish onto the front counter of the snack stand, pleased with his timing.
It wasn’t good business sense, making a fresh batch of their most expensive item at three bells, which was long before quitting time for the dock hands who would come pouring up the Shipyard Road on their way home from the harbour and make up most of the snack stand’s customers. Widow Pyke, the owner of the snack stand and Nikias’s boss, wouldn’t have approved of it if she had known, but he was minding the stand by himself that afternoon, during the slow period. And three bells was the hour when, often, the law clerk emerged from the door of the house beside Pyke’s Snacks and, if he wasn’t in a hurry, stopped at the counter and ordered something. Usually octopus fritters.
Demas writes these charming, rather light, alternate-Classical-Greek-ish stories. This looks inviting. I like it.
8) Ravenwood by Nathan Lowell
Somewhere up in the canopy, a jaybird greeted the dawn loudly and with the vigor usually reserved for mating or feeding. Tanyth sighed and turned over in her bedroll. The cushion of last year’s pine needles provided a comfortable enough mattress and she didn’t really want to crawl out, but her brain betrayed her body by insisting that time dripped through her fingers while nothing useful happened.
A slow, calm opening. Actually, thinking of Nathan Lowell makes me want to go back and re-read The Wizard’s Butler. I might do that instead of, or before, reading something else new to me.
9) Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell
Tennalhin Halkana arrived at the party fashionably late, which might have meant something if he’d been invited in the first place. Tennal often set out to make trouble, it was true, but this evening he was genuinely here for a drink and a good time.
That was a lie. He also wanted an architect, and this party would be full of architects.
Working against this book: I don’t already own it and it’s $15 or so for the Kindle ebook. That’s a major strike against this title since I have a zillion other things to read sitting right here. On the other hand, I really liked Maxwell’s first book in this duology, and that third sentence is just delightful. Have any of you already read this? What did you think?
10) Your suggestion here.
You know how it is when you’ve just read something great and you’re dying to force it into other people’s hands and make them read it too? This is a great time to try that. If you’ve got something like that in mind, drop it in the comments! I may wind up just flipping coins for all the above, including any other title any of you happen to rave about.