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So I _have_ been reading this year. I just haven't actually written about it here so far...

Book 1: Legends of the Samurai, by Hiroaki Sato. Historical accounts and stories of samurai; interesting reading for context.

Book 2,3: Black Dogs: The House of Diamond, and The Mountain of Iron, by Ursula Vernon. Exciting coming-of-age fantasy, with very welcome characters.

Book 4: The Seventh Bride, by T. Kingfisher. Reread, still quite enjoyed.

Book 5: Horimiya, vol 2, by Hero. Next volume in very touching manga series.

Book 6: Firstlife, by Gena Showalter. Eh. I'm not the target audience for an explicitely religious teen dystopia, but this didn't really seem to work on any count.

Book 7: Games Wizards Play, by Diane Duane. Contrast to the above -- strongly moral in a way that works both in the story and considered for 'real life,' teen romance that didn't feel forced or pandering, evocative writing, and a world that is both improving and improvable.


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So here's my top picks from books published in 2015, as promised (and in chronological order, since I don't want to try and sort them.)

Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu. A great sweeping fantasy epic, and fairly original (to me at least) in setting and character.
Bryony and Roses, by T. Kingfisher. A reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, with practical sensibilities that make me love everyone in it.
The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin. A very powerful fantasy about oppression and injustice, and rising up against the world.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson. Another powerful fantasy about remaking yourself to fight against the world, and what it takes to do this.
Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott. Another great original world, and I especially enjoy the generational aspects of the setting.

In short fiction (which I don't read as much of), I would recommend:

Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant. A creepy, creepy mermaid story.
The Builders, by Daniel Polansky. A Western drama, with talking animals.

In books that were great and deserved reading but are part of a series that you need to be caught up on:
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie. The one SF on this list; probably means I need to find more good SF authors.
Red Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire. A great pay-off novel, but you probably need to have read at least four of the previous eight for this to hit you as hard as it did for me. (They're all great, and it's really worth it...)

And finally, honorable mentions for people who have slightly different tastes than I do.
Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor. This was great, but also alternated between superhero origin story and magical realism, neither of which quite landed for me.
Dreams of Shreds and Tatters, by Amanda Downum. Great characters, engaging drama, and a bit too much Lovecraftian horror for me.

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Book 125: Silver on the Road, by Laura Anne Gilman. A coming-of-age story for a young woman in the American West, with magic and literal deals with the devil. Lots of fun, although I'd really enjoy a second story now that she's a bit more confident in herself.

Book 126: Flux, by Ferrett Steinmetz. A fun story about magic and obsession, although I did spend most of it wanting to shout at the main character about how he just needed to get out of there. Lots of pop-culture fun, and really engaging.

Book 127: Sword of Honor, by David Kirk. An interesting continuation of the story of Musashi Miyamoto, mostly about his confusion and attempts to form a coherant feeling of self and honor. (Or, why a heritatry warrior class is a bad idea.)

Book 128: The Dark Wife, by Sarah Diemer. The myth of Persephone as a lesbian romance. A bit shaky in places, but still a fun exploration of that idea.

Book 129: The Perfect Weapon, by Delilah Dawson. A Star Wars tie-in novella. Fun as a short story, and it was really kind of cool to recognize the character in the new movie, too.

Book 130: Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink. Meh. I was disappointed by this book in the way that I've been kind of disappointed in the latest season of the podcast -- my head-canon for Night Vale is as a place that is mostly a small desert town with the occasional pervasive weirdness, and they keep leaning more towards it being a very unearthly strange town with occasional pockets of recognizability.


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Book 120: Mystic, by Jason Denzel. This ended up being pretty good, even though we didn't ever find out much more about the world -- the story was so closely focused on the girl's journey, and she was going to the Mystics and retreating from the rest of civilization, so not too much new revealed by the end. I'll be interested to see where it goes from here.

Book 121: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. A thrilling adventure tale of justice and revenge. Very good, also very long in the unabridged version I was reading. Was worth it, though!

Book 122: Black Wolves, by Kate Elliott. This was great! Coming after her Crossroads trilogy, this continues to explore the idea of civilizations actually growing and changing in epic fantasy, and goes a lot more into the lives of the women who are 'behind the scenes' in so much of history. Unfortunately, I have to wait for the next volume to be published now...

Book 123: The Builders, by Daniel Polansky. Gun-slinging Western novella, of one last ride for revenge. It's also about small animals with six-shooters. This is a fun thing to read on a slow afternoon.

Book 124: Solar Express, by L. E. Modesitt Jr. Meh. This didn't work for me. Modesitt's writing is always a slow build, but it never got anywhere in this book, especially because the characters were only observers to larger events they couldn't influence. Ninty percent of the book was the two of them in their respective rooms, watching things happen on screens. Also, the world was close enough to ours that the philosophy felt more preachy than usual, especially coming from people who couldn't put any of it into practice. There are seeds of a good story here, but this wasn't it.

Also, apologies for anyone who was wondering where I'd gone for the month of November. Nothing fun like NaNoWriMo, just busy with work and such. I have also been doing another project over on Tumblr, where I'm making custom Magic cards for each book as I finish them. If you want to see what I'm up to there, you can find me at: http://parsleysagerosemarytimemachine.tumblr.com/


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I've just started reading Jason Denzel's Mystic; I'm only at chapter six, so these are just first impressions.

I do kind of wonder at the larger social structure of the world. We know that there are peasants/commoners, and a ruling set of nobility. Commoners don't own the land they work, and have no expectation of freedom of movement; beyond that, they are subject to what appears to be arbitrary rule by the resident nobility - a noble child's whim is backed by force of arms, and there is no suggestion that laws would restrain this, only reversal by her father's decision. No real discussion of taxation that I recall, or what other duties a village might owe to their controlling nobles, but they seem essentially owned by the nobility, and prosper by benign neglect. (There's also the threat of exile and 'Unclaimed' status to keep them in line.)

Interestingly, though, in addition to the Mystics (magic users given even greater social rank, but of which I know nothing yet) there is also apparently a class of Merchant-Scholars given a separate status between nobility and commoners. I also haven't seen anything of them yet, but the name and position itself is suggestive... Historically (as I understand it, anyway; not exactly a scholar here), a merchantile class doesn't come together and gain respect without at least some rule of law and power devolving from noble control. Otherwise, confiscitary taxes and distrust of strangers (especially strangers who want your money) tend to make trade of goods a fairly dubious proposition for someone who doesn't already have the protection of nobility, either by being noble themselves, or acting as an agent for one. Does this mean that there are Free Cities out there that control themselves and that Pomella just comes from a more rural, restricted background? Or does the 'Scholar' portion of their title suggest that they are more a secular order outside of the normal society, akin to nuns or monks, and their status comes from their apartness from the usual social structure? Would that mean they turned to merchantalism as a way to exercise power apart from the politics of the nobility? Or were they established by the Mystics as an indirect lever on society beyond the rare few trained in the magical arts? I'll have to wait and see when any turn up.
(Also, whose face is on the currency? Knowing who gets to mint money would say a good bit about how power is distributed in society...)

And finally, of course, Pomella has just met the other candidates, and they are all the expected nobility. I can't help but be reminded of N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and wonder if Pomella was really chosen because of her hinted abilities, or if the new High Mystic simply wants a spoiler to use in an internal power struggle. Okay, I don't think it's going to get quite that dark, but the idea still amuses me.

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Book 112: Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie. This is an amazing conclusion to the trilogy, and despite the slightly abrupt nature of the 'solution' to their problems, it's great seeing the conclusions to everyone's stories. Although, I certainly wouldn't turn down a novella set ten years later as they deal with their new problems... *grins*

Book 113: The Art of Haiku, by Stephen Addiss. Very interesting and informative book about haiku and related Japanese poetry. Read for a project for class, but lots of other good information in here too.

Book 114: Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell. This was fun -- I wish more authors would do similar transformative works of their own stuff. Also, I did enjoy how real the friendships felt, and how some of them lasted and some fell apart; it certainly seemed like a very reasonable reaction to the hinted-at past the characters had together.

Book 115: City of Blades, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book, and it was great! If you enjoyed the first book (City of Stairs), this doesn't disappoint, despite being about almost entirely new characters. Lots of concern for the politics of war and occupation, and a great struggle against problems that seem later than any one person can handle.

Book 116: Horimiya, vol 1, by HERO. Light romance manga, because I've been enjoying that lately. Two high-school students discovering hidden sides that they don't show to their classmates, and bonding over that. Also, I'm happy to see that there are apparently several more volumes coming for this.

Book 117: Kiss Him, Not Me, vol 1, by Junko. Romantic satire, about a young girl who suddenly becomes attractive to a harem of boys, when all she really wants to see is them embarking on a school-aged gay romance. Also probably some commentary on the shallowness of the boys who are suddenly falling over her once she loses some weight (and her glasses, oddly enough). Amusing enough that I'll definitely check out the next one at least.

Book 118: Golden Time, vol 1, by Yuyuko Takemiya. This didn't quite do it for me; I was hoping for more of the broken love triangle, and the story really wants to focus on the tragic amnesia of the main character.

Book 119: Shadows of Self, by Brandon Sanderson. I'm vaguely disappointed that this is the book in this group that I'm the least excited by; I think it's because it's competent adventure, but I just want a bit more, and I know Sanderson _can_ write that, but he just hasn't here. Maybe something that acknowledges the problem of vigilante allomantic justice, which gets kind of glossed over here. (Well, apart from a brief newspaper clipping complaining of damages from mistings bounding through the city... I wonder, does whatever insurance concerns the city has apply to the offenders for relief from claims? Especially when one is such a prominant Lord...) Also, the hook at the end seems to be more Cosmere stuff, and I'm still pretty cool towards that; I wish he'd just write that book, rather than just keep hinting at things.

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Book 103: Serpentine, by Cindy Pon. Read this after hearing the author at DragonCon; really worth it as an interesting Teen novel. Chinese girl discovers that she's a serpent-demon. I'd like to see a sequel to this, just to see where she goes with it.

Book 104: Unholy War, by David Hair. Good continuation of the series; he made it very easy to get back into the story, and it's really starting to all come together now.

Book 105: Updraft, by Fran Wilde. This was really interesting -- lonely and atmospheric, and you could feel the struggle to survive in the sky that would lead to such a troubled society.

Book 106: The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher. Very much a popcorn read -- don't think too much about it, and just enjoy the airships.

Book 107: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, by Kai Ashante Wilson. I kind of want to reread this again, now that I know how things end up, because there's really a lot of interesting things going on in this.

Book 108: The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson. Reread in preparation for the new novel.

Book 109: Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. For all the SF, this is very much a political fantasy, and I'm quite looking forward to seeing how the third volume wraps this all up.

Book 110: Seven Forges, by James Moore. This was interesting, but also bog-standard fantasy; not sure what else to say about it.

Book 111: Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. Still a very strange book, but I want to read the others set in this city.

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Book 97: Lifeboats, by Diane Duane. An interstitial Young Wizards novella; I still absolutely love this series.

Book 98: Dreams of the Golden Age, by Carrie Vaughn. Interesting followup to her superhero story; not too much to say about this one.

Book 99: The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson. This is great, and everyone should read it. It's a dystopic fantasy, about a young woman fighting against the empire that engulfed her home, and trying to subvert it from the inside.

Book 100: The Parafaith War, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Meh. It's not actually bad, and Modesitt is always readable... It's just very much the same thing he does in most of his books.

Book 101: Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. This was really good, and not anywhere as dark as it seems to make itself out to be -- I'd compare it to Patricia Wrede and Mary Robinette Kowal for Victorian wit and charm.

Book 102: Love at Fourteen, vol 4, by Fuka Mizutani. A manga series that I'm happily collecting as soon as it comes out; really light and charming and wonderful.

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Book 90: Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor. This was really different and amazing; alien first contact in Lago, Nigeria.

Book 91: End of All Things, by John Scalzi. Next part of Scalzi's series; not very deep, but interesting and a quick read. (Also, his aliens sounds exactly like his sarcastic human protagonists, which is odd in a novel that juxtaposes their viewpoints.)

Book 92: Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott. Great start to a new teen series; adventure, intrigue, and a driven young lady. Not dystopian, too, which is good for something different.

Book 93: Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire. It's great seeing things start to fall out from the new revelations; the series keeps being amazing.

Book 94: Gunnerkrigg Court, vol 5, by Thomas Siddell. Graphic novel collection of this amazing webcomic. Kat and Paz are so cute together in this one!

Book 95, 96: Murder of Crows, and Pack of Lies, by Annie Bellet. Picked up the next two volumes of this series to read at DragonCon, and enjoyed them quite a bit.

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Book 85: The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin. This is an amazing start to a new trilogy, and really powerfully written, full of anger and social opression. It really made me care about the characters, and while it wrapped up nicely, it also left me very excited to see what will happen next.

Book 86: Streaming Dawn, by Steve Bein. A short, ninja-filled novella. It kind of makes me want to reread the last book, to see how this fits into it.

Book 87: Crooked, by Austin Grossman. Nixon vs. Lovecraftian horrors. This was quite interesting, and really had a feel of paranoia and self-doubt that made it feel very like Nixon's voice. I'd be interested to see the opinion of someone who actually lived through this era, though, because despite the unsympathetic portrayal, it still whitewashes a number of his offenses as being in the service of fighting extra-dimensional horrors.

Book 88: Sword Art Online: Girls' Ops, vol 1; by Reki Kawahara. This was fun -- I enjoyed it more than the original SAO too, I think because all the characters are playing the game not because they are trapped there, but because they are actually having fun with it.

Book 89: Thunderer, by Felix Gilman. Reread this and still quite enjoyed it. Was having fun teasing out themes of freedom and hidden flaws as I was reading it.

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