What I’m Reading Now

Honey and Pepper by AJ Demas

This one didn’t win any kind of vote, but I liked the octopus fritters and I decided I was in the mood for something by Demas. I wasn’t actually necessarily wanting a book that was totally angst-free, though I see why you all might have gotten that impression — just not too dark. I’ve read enough by Demas to know what this book was going to be like, and sure enough, it’s exactly what I expected — lots of charm, good writing, a sweet romance, enough depth not to be cutesy. I’m about halfway through it — I’m pouring time into Tasmakat, so even though I can read Other People’s Novels, it’s a lot slower than if I didn’t have stuff of my own to work on. But it’s great to be able to read fiction again without completely derailing my own projects!


As you could tell by reading through the comments, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik got the most votes. Also some people declared that it wasn’t for them.

Reading through the comments to that post is actually a useful snapshot of how variable reactions can be, even in a self-selected group of readers such as commenters here. This isn’t actually surprising, of course — just interesting to see in action. I’m definitely keeping this one at the top of the TBR pile and will almost certainly read it This Very Year, as opposed to letting it get lost way down in the depths of the pile where, I imagine, a good many books are currently being compressed into coal by the pressure of the stack above them.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T Kingfisher got the second-most votes, and probably the most “meh, I don’t know what all the fuss is about” comments as well. I do like the titles I’ve read by both the Kingfisher and the Vernon names, and I’ve read a fair number of her books by now, though by no means all of them. I may well pick this one up next, partly because, like Demas, I think I know what I can expect. Thanks, Pete, for your comment that the protagonist might be a bit dense. That’s something that irritates me so much that I prefer to brace myself for it.

The Unselected Journals of Emma M Lion by Beth Brower are still high on my list, and I think this just about tied with Defensive Baking for second place. If I didn’t know it was (at least) a six-book series, I’d probably start it tomorrow. As it is, maybe not, but I’d really like to!

I’m still interested in Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell, but I will be prepared for the dystopian nightmare elements in the worldbuilding. That may kick me out of the story entirely, not sure. I’m not paying $15 for it any time soon, though, I’m sure about that.

You all gave me a thumbs up for almost every title I mentioned, and of course you then went on and made many suggestions, all of which I’m picking up as samples or full books right this minute, except A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske, because I have that one already. Probably because someone here mentioned it, and thank you, Manda, for mentioning it again now. You make it sound really inviting, and it is hereby moving way up the top with the other titles I most want to get to. Also, thank you for your kind words about Tuyo and the whole series! I appreciate it!

Kriti, it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by Sanderson, and it wasn’t a Mistborn novel. I’ve never actually tried those, largely because there are seven books, which is kind of a lot, but partly because … I just haven’t, I guess? I really liked his novella The Emperor’s Soul, but I think the next thing I tried by him was Steelheart. While I liked it, how did I put this, oh, right, the extreme-ultra-mega-obviousness of Steelheart’s weaknesses took this books down several notches for me. Talk about the characters being dense, wow. I never did go on to the second book in that series, and this particular plot weakness was probably why. But I know Mistborn is very popular! I’m sure I should at least try the first book!

I didn’t order At the Feet of the Sun from Victoria Goddard’s website, which I sort of regret, but not necessarily, because by the time I get it — Dec 1 — hopefully I will be ready to send Tasmakat off to first readers and that would be a much better time to get into it. By the time this post goes live, perhaps some of you will have read it. I’m dying to know what you think.

I very much appreciate everyone’s suggestions for must-read titles, and shortly I’ll put together another post where I take a look at first paragraphs for everything you all recommended.

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19 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Now”

  1. If it makes Emma Lion more approachable, they aren’t doorstop sized novels, they’re each a bit over a hundred pages. Novellas, I think. If I were to compare with any other work, I’d say Sarah Addison Allen’s, for the apparently normal, with a few magical or odd elements.

    I’ve read a couple Sandersons – I prefer his short books. The doorstops just go on too long and use too many words to tell me a thing, then tell me again. And again. In less than three pages. But my husband really likes them, so we have them all holding down the book cases. I occasionally pick up one and try it, to see if this time I can enjoy it.

  2. I bought a (different) book by Honor Raconteur and I hate it. There are plot holes: the blizzard in the second day happens over a desert(!) (Yes, it snows in deserts sometimes, but actual blizzards are very rare.) The story is based on artificisl scarcity: a body of knowledge stored in a single copy of set of books with only 2(!) practitioners. The writing is poor, too.
    But worst of all I don’t care about the characters.

  3. I agree with Pete Mack- if it’s by Honor Raconteur, I won’t read it. Of the books you suggested, I read The Maker’s Mask by Ankaret Wells, and am now on the second in that series. The books are pretty interesting; using ‘it’ for someone who is both genders put me off a little bit- I think Ankaret learned something, and used ‘they’ in her second novel, to better effect. You can’t go wrong with the Emma Lion books. I don’t think I can read the second Maxwell book now, knowing it’s a knockoff of something else. Again, I highly recommend Laurie Marks’ Fire Logic and Earth Logic. I have them in paperback and reread them routinely- they are some of the few books that never get old.

  4. Alison, if you’re thinking of my comment about the Maxwell book sounding an awful lot like an anime, I might have been wrong. I haven’t read the book, I was going by what I could see on Amazon about it. It’s an awful lot of the same elements, if I can trust those write ups. But they might be handled differently enough. Like Arthurian stories.

    I do recommend the anime, Code Geass. It’s amazing for getting across the two characters being Good, given their various track records of betrayals and death.

    Got to say, I’ve been spotting more and more unaknowledged influence from games and animes over the last few years in professional SFF. Some would look original, except I’ve seen or heard of the games and watched the animes and they’ve all been out for years. I wouldn’t mind if somewhere, even in an about the author, there was some graceful credit given about sources of inspiration. For example, Our Hostess posted another opening not too long ago that, aside from being at best mediocre writing quality, read like a Naruto story with all the names changed.

  5. That does indeed make Emma Lion sound a lot more approachable, Elaine, thank you!

    Pete, wow, I’m not sure what would turn me off faster, poor writing or characters I dislike. Both simultaneously, I guess. I’m lowering my expectations for that author.

  6. I spent the entire day yesterday reading At the Feet of the Sun and I’m going to be honest: I was really disappointed. Two characters who used to be focused on changing the world, making it better, spend most of a crazy long novel agonizing about their relationship in a way that felt incredibly adolescent. It was extraordinarily concerned with the label on the relationship and with other people’s opinions of the label. While there was still some beautiful writing, some interesting world-building, and some story hidden in the relationship angst, I had to force myself to make it to the end. It’s not reread-able for me in the way that Hands of the Emperor was, and might be the last book I’ll buy by the author. I definitely won’t be intentionally setting time aside to read the way I did for this one. But, of course, YMMV.

  7. Sarah, I’m so sorry to hear that! As much as I loved The Hands of the Emperor, I did think the author wrote three books and condensed them into one, all with the same theme- no one recognizes Cliopher for what he is, then they do, then they go right back to not recognizing Cliopher for what he is. So I can well imagine a second book with a lot of angsting. I pre ordered it, but will likely delay my order until others have commented as well. Maybe I’ll reread the Emma Lion books- again, after The Shuddering City.

  8. The Steelheart series is probably my least favorite thing by Sanderson. Unlike most of his other books, I don’t have any inclination to reread it. His adult work is better than his YA work in general, although I do like the Skyward YA series because it’s a riff on the “girl and her dragon” trope (but it’s “girl and her sentient starfighter”).

    The first Mistborn book tells a pretty good standalone story, I don’t think you’ll need to commit to all seven.

  9. Kriti, I agree with you about Sanderson. The first book of his I read was Mistborn. I loved it, and have reread a couple times now. I highly recommend as a standalone. I tried to get into the rest of the series a few times, but found them long winded at not nearly as engaging. I did enjoy the Steelheart series, but agree it’s not his best work. The Skyward series is better imo, though I haven’t read the 3rd book yet.

    One other Sanderson book I really enjoyed was Legion. It’s very different from his other work – 3 novellas packaged together, set in our modern world. They are framed as mysteries, the twist being that the main character has some type of multiple personality psychological disorder, and uses his different personas to specialize in many different fields, with attendant complications. They are much more tightly plotted than his other work, and very interesting. If you order it, be sure to get the 3 novella packaged version, not the first one on it’d own, confusingly with the same name.

  10. Peter Maxwell and others – I agree that the Raconteur series (the Tomes one) you’re describing is awful- and the romance was as convincing as the world building. I find her very hit and miss; the Case Files is mostly good, I loved the Deepwoods trilogy, Human Familiar series was okay as a duology but tacked on a couple extra books (Remnants and Echoes) which matched the titles a bit too well. (More leftover magic nasties? Really?)

    One completely different suggestion. Caroline Stevermer is best known for the Sorcery and Cecelia epistolary novels co-authored with Patricia Wrede, and the College of Magics books (and they’re wonderful). But I discovered a recently released e-book of When The King Comes Home, which I borrowed from the library sometime after it was published in 2000 and haven’t seen a copy of since. Hail Rosmer is an apprentice artist in a sharply realized renaissance city in an alternate Europe with magic. She’s such a strong voice: blunt, focused on her art, tending to single-minded enthusiasms which she will not stop talking about. Very much a teenager of a particular time and place. Lots of details about art and artists’ studios and the life of apprentices.

    And there’s a king, and he comes home, but this isn’t Aragorn. Surplus kings turning up unexpectedly can rather complicate the political situation.

  11. I’m really sorry to hear that, Sarah. I guess I won’t necessarily dive into it the second it arrives.

  12. I absolutely LOVED At the Feet of the Sun, it was absolutely everything I wanted and more! I read the whole thing in about 30 hours because I just kept wanting to get to the next little thing and the next and the next… There were so many parts where I was like, “Is this going where I think it is? omg, is it??” and for me it was, although I guess I could imagine for some other people it might not be. If anyone is thinking of reading it but has only read Hands of the Emperor, I would strongly recommend reading Petty Treasons first. Goddard’s other connected books are more optional, but I think that one is important.

  13. Also, for the people concerned by Elaine’s comments about Ocean’s Echo sounding similar to Code Geass – I have not watched the anime, but I read the plot summary of it on Wikipedia, and that did not sound anything at all like Ocean’s Echo (unless you count “someone in the world has mind control powers” to be too much similarity). Elaine, if you see this, would you say the wikipedia plot summary for Code Geass is reasonably accurate? Are there major plot elements or themes that aren’t mentioned at all?

  14. Elise, the wiki summary doesn’t capture what I got off the Amazon blurb for Ocean’s Echo, which was my brain going: ok, they’ve got character x’s ability, character y’s ability, character z, oh, that’s there, too ….and it’s all really from the same source. That’s awfully similar to the anime we just finished watching.

    So I dunno. I will probably give the book Ocean’s Echo a try, but my TBR pile is more like a mountain so goodness knows when I might get to it.

    The next one up is going to be Christopher Paolini’s SF, which the Teen has been rhapsodic about, and that’s a rare enough response to SF for me to check out the book in question.

  15. I am 78% of the way through At the Feet of the Sun, and I have mixed feelings about it. Much of it I love; there’s some very fun stuff, lots of Hero’s Journey, lovely myth-making. Getting to know characters better (Ludvik and Rhodin in particular). I agree that it feels adolescent in many ways, but that feels realistic to me, as both main characters have significant trauma they need to work through and are just now figuring out who they are now that they’re not subsuming their personalities to save the world. I think everyone’s mileage will vary about the relationship, but I think it’s very well done; there are some wonderfully fraught scenes.

    My biggest complaint is how long it is! As with Hands of the Emperor, there is a lot of repetition. Lovely, lovely descriptions, and gradual unfolding of character through multiple iterations of similar scenes—i appreciate a lot of it, but I think it could be tightened considerably. It’s interesting to me that her Cliopher books have this kind of structure; I didn’t find the other books repetitive and long. So she’s doing it on purpose, and I can see why, but, I personally could handle having things move a little faster!

    I think you should definitely have read Petty Treasons and The Return of Fitzroy Angursell before reading this one, and for complete continuity The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul (which I enjoyed very, very much).

  16. I’m glad to see your comments about At the Feet of the Sun, Kim. I guess maybe I should read Pali’s story first! But I’m cautiously looking forward to AtFotS, given the set of responses I’ve seen so far.

  17. Seconding Elise about At the Feet of the Sun: to me it is more about Kip finally recognising that not just his work is measuring up to his lofty ideals, but he is, too. And it works in that world and mindset. I like that we get more into Islander lore as well – AND into awkward relationships because both partners have been emotionally pressed in a vize for most of their eons-long life (that’s always at the back of my mind, how much time they personally spent – apart from Ysthar Solaara seems to have had the longest time passing since the breaking of the empire). This book does a lot of stuff with the varying time flux bit for more than just Kip and the court.

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