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Book 59: Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. Reread before her 'Carry On' comes out. Still good, and a little less annoyed at the ending this time.

Book 60: Stories of the Raksura, vol 2, by Martha Wells. This was really quite good, as I'd expected. Her short stories are always especially elegant, and I loved the little glimpses of different sides of Raksuran life. (Especially watching Moon dealing with traders who expected to take advantage of them.)

Book 61: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson. A fun graphic novel about an lawful 'evil' villain who attracts a cheerfully chaotic evil henchman, and has to deal with her excess of enthusiasm. The art style took a bit to get used to, but a few nice self-contained story with some twists and turns along the way.

Book 62: Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, vol 2, by Fujino Omori. Eh, this didn't work for me at all. It might have been a translation issue -- the writing felt very choppy, and there were some very abrupt viewpoint changes that might have been clearer in the original, but even setting that aside, the whole thing felt kind of lost. It mostly focused on a completely different set of side characters (and much less sympathetic ones) than the first volume, and the 'main character' seemed barely in it. Also, because it was a light novel, it didn't even have pretty pictures to look at when I didn't care about the story.

Books 63, 64: Throne of Glass, and Crown of Midnight, by Sarah Maas. A teen series about a girl recruited to be an assassin for a tyrant-king who conquered her country and killed her family. It came highly recommended, and I can definitely see why -- some interesting characters, and it starts out lightly before getting darker and darker as the story goes on. (Almost too lightly at first; hard to take her seriously as a prison camp survivor during the first book.) Also very monarchist -- 'if only we could overthrow this bad king so that a good king could come back, everything would be right with the world!' Worth checking out still, for people looking for teen books with adventure, romance, and political intrigue.

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(I posted this originally over on Facebook, because I really wanted to talk about it, and LJ was temporarily unavailable... *grins*)

So I've been watching Log Horizon lately.
....

(If you"re not interested in anime, this might be your cue to check out. Also, minor spoilers so I can talk about stuff.)Collapse )Anyway, if you like politics and explorations of society in your power fantasy anime, this is one that I think is really worth taking a look at.

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Book 53: Bryony and Roses, by T. Kingfisher. Another of Kingfisher's fairytale retellings (Beauty and the Beast) featuring sensible women and gardening. As always, this is excellent. There may come a time when I tire of level-headed and competent fantasy protagonists; I don't expect that to be any time soon, however.


Books 54, 55: Shadow and Bone; and Seige and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo. Teen fantasy with a heavy Russian influence. Worth checking out, and I'll need to pick up the third book and finish the trilogy at some point.


Books 56, 57: Who Fears Death; and The Book of Phoenix, by Nnedi Okorafor. African post-apocalyptic fantasy, and it's superhero rebellion prequel. Very interesting lyrical voice, and really worth checking out for something different.


Book 58: Wolf 359, by pdmac. I picked this up at JordanCon from the author; I wish I could give it a better recommendation. Survivors crashed on a "backwards" planet gave me hope for competence porn (mental comparison to Weber's "Safehold" books), but it was unsatisfying by being _too_ competent -- nothing ever went wrong, or even really inconvenienced the protagonists until the end of the book and the set-up for the sequel; it left too much time for me to critique things rather than being worried if they would work out. Also, the male protagonist (who got most of the page time) rubbed me the wrong way, which didn't help.

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Book 52: Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos. Another Hugo-related read; this is one of the other authors who withdrew their nomination. Pretty decent military SF; very much in the 'young man goes to boot camp and discovers himself in the army' mold. Ends with good setup for the series to continue, which I'd be interested in seeing where it goes. I'd also be curious to know, but the book doesn't seem at all interested in, how exactly the politics of the world works. (There's an interesting slant reading of this as a condemnation of the military for its exploitation of the underclass and how the rulers of the world use it as a tool of oppression, but I don't know that there's enough in the text to support it as intended.)


Anime: Haganai - I Don't Have Many Friends. I watched the two extant seasons of this recently, and enjoyed them. It's about a high school club of loners and misfits, created ostentiably so they can figure out how to get friends. The first season especially I'd recommend -- the second is a bit more disjointed and seemed a bit less organized; it also ends on a cliffhanger for a third season. I kind of feel like I should be rooting for Sena more than I am; Yozora is clearly the 'main girl' of the series, and I feel like her attacks on Sena have unfairly prejudiced me. (Yozora has a sharpness that I'm attracted to more than is probably good for me... :) Also, I'd enjoy seeing more time for Rika to be friends with Kodaka (the male lead); that felt rushed at the end of the second season, so I hope there'll be more later.

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Book 48: The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison. Reread for Hugo awareness; still really quite an enjoyable book.

Book 49: Justice Calling, by Annie Bellet. Read for Hugo awareness. (She's one of the authors who withdrew from the Hugo awards this year.) This seems a good introduction to her work -- it's an urban fantasy in concentrated form. I'll have to look for her others to see where she goes with the story.

Book 50: Dreams of Shreds and Tatters, by Amanda Downum. I didn't realize this was going to be Lovecraftian horror when I started reading it, but I really quite enjoyed it anyway. Broken people making their way in an actively hostile world, it still manages to be a compelling story throughout.

Book 51: When to Rob a Bank, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. A collection of blog posts from the authors of Freakonomics, this is nothing too deep, but competently and cheerfully written. Obviously written by economists, who managed to be continually surprised when their anecdotes are about people not being rational economic actors.

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Book 43: Throne of the Crescent Moon, and Engraved on the Eye; by Saladin Ahmed. Reread at JordanCon, and enjoyed once again. I had forgotten how mixed the ending was. Also discovered his short story collection, which is excellent.

Book 44: Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon. A fun YA novel about a sensible young witch; I love all of Vernon's work because of how grounded it always is.

Book 45, 46: The Bone Palace, and Kingdoms of Dust; by Amanda Downum. Finally got the final two volumes to finish the trilogy; these are great. I especially enjoy how each book has its own thematic ties that pull it all together, and the entire thing is just a joy to read. (Also, I was quite pleased to discover that she's got a new work coming this month, Dreams of Shreds and Tatters. As if I didn't already have enough new things to read... *grins*)

Book 47: Infamy, by Richard Reeves. A very accessible history of the WWII Japanese internment camps. It's worth checking out, but it's also not good for your blood pressure -- he really lays out the injustice and waste of it all.

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Book 38: The Grace of Kings, by Ken Liu. This is a great epic fantasy, with an interesting Chinese inflection. I'll be quite looking forward to future volumes in the series, although this one also does a good job wrapping itself up as a single story.


Book 39: The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu. Eh. I wasn't very taken by this -- I think because the idea of secret alien intelligences turning someone into a superspy just didn't catch for me. Maybe if it were something more like the Incrementalists, with them trying to subtly nudge society...


Book 40: Disciple of the Wind, by Steve Bein. Great book, excellent continuation of this series. Not at all a stand-alone, but the first two are highly worth reading as well.


Book 41: Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. Still find this interesting, but not great; the nerd nostalgia didn't quite hit, and also I keep wanting to critique the monolithic game system that it's all built on.


Book 42: Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant. Creepy mermaid horror novella. I had pseudo-nightmares about swimming deeper and deeper into the ocean after finishing it.

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Book 32: Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. I was kind of disappointed by this; I'd been pleased to get a chance to read the ARC of the upcoming book, but it just didn't click with me. Basic idea is that the moon has exploded, and the Earth is doomed, so the story is of the heroic last-minute efforts to build a space colony that will survive the disaster; the second half of the book is 5000 years in the future as the Earth is slowly rebuilt. Unfortunately, all of the characters felt more like flat archtypes rather than actual people, which made it hard to care or sympathise when they made disasterous mistakes. There was also a very strong plot thread of "science is better than politics" that kept being asserted both by character's beliefs as well as narrative (the only real villain of the first half is the ex-President of the US); unfortunately, this belief also causes at least half of the disasters that befall the characters. Just as science (engineering, physics, etc, all highly lauded by the narrative) is what you have to deal with to build something in space, politics is what you have to deal with to organize several hundred people -- that they resent having to think about politics says more about the character's temperment and suitability for leadership than it does about the relative merits of the activities. The second half of the book was better, as I felt the characters were better written despite their more obvious archtypicalness, because at least the narrative tried to justify that. I'm not sure he really understands how long 5000 years is in human societies; I tried to pretend it was just an odd cultural revival, a sort of reactionary glory-of-the-past aesthetic, and that's why the ancient past mattered more than, say, the last decade's popular authors and musicians. (By comparison, 3000 BC was the early Bronze age, the era of the first Pharoahs and the mythological past of China; the epic of Gilgamesh was still about a thousand years in the future. If you can think of a bit of culture that has survived from then to ubiquitous daily consideration in the present, you're doing better than I am.)

In short, I think Stephenson bit off more than he could chew in this one; it's worth looking at if you've liked his other works, but I don't think it's going to top any lists.

Books 33-36: Shadow and Betrayal, and The Price of War, by Daniel Abraham. This quartet (four books condensed into two volumes) was great -- I got a chance to read all of them while I was on vacation, which was a good decision. I'd read the first back when it originally came out, but hadn't gotten around to picking up the rest, and I'm very glad I did. This is epic fantasy mixed with family saga, following the lives of two friends (and others) through the collapse of a kingdom based on the control of god-slaves. I thought the author did a very good job of growing and aging the characters throughout, and the whole story kept me constantly wanting to see what was going to happen next. I should note that it was fairly dark; the collapse is coming, and bright spots of happiness do not relieve it, but it's also about transformation and growth throughout. If nothing else, I'd definitely recommend reading the first book, and then if you want, there's three more to continue it.

Book 37: The Gosepl of Loki, by Joanne Harris. Interesting, well-written, but it didn't quite grab me, probably because I knew enough Norse mythology to know how the story goes.

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Book 23: The Autumn Republic, by Brian McClellan. The conclusion of a gunpowder fantasy trilogy, this didn't quite come together for me as well as I'd hoped. The several plot lines mostly seemed to exist on their own, and while I still enjoyed it, it just never felt quite tight enough. It'll be interesting to see what he writes next, with this under his belt now.

Book 24: Fields of Wrath, by Mickey Zucker Reichert. I liked it, but I can't quite recommend this series as much as I would the earlier ones; maybe because the old characters are taking up so much screen time that I don't quite feel as attached to the new ones she's introduced in this trilogy?

Book 25: Pocket Apocalypse, by Seanan McGuire. Fun, not too deep, and a definite page-turner. I highly recommend all of her Incryptid books. (Also, it's interesting seeing them more out of their element.)

Book 26: Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz. This was a really good book; an interesting modern magic, and characters that kept pulling me through the story. It's really worth taking a look at.

Book 27: Pacific Fire, by Greg Van Eekhout. Good, but not quite as much fun as the first book. I think it's because they were trying to not use magic for so much of it, and the split viewpoint meant I didn't care as much about either character.

Book 28: Kokoro Connect, vol 3, by Sadanatsu Anda. This manga continues to be great fun. Also, I discovered that the manga is starting an arc that wasn't in the anime, so there's new material for here, too!

Book 29: Feet of Clay, by Terry Pratchett. Reread in memorial. Still a great book.

Book 30: Digger: Complete Omnibus, by Ursula Vernon. The complete collection of this excellent webcomic, and a bunch of extra bonus bits that really make it worth buying, even setting aside the ease of being able to spend several long afternoons rereading this.

Book 31: The Great Zoo of China, by Matthew Reilly. 'Jurassic Park' with dragons. Unfortunately, not as good a writer as Crichton; the action is numbingly continuous, there's not much character in any of the people, and the "science" is more dubious than usual. Also, China and the Chinese always seem to be painted in the worst light possible. I can't really think why anyone else should put themselves through this.

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Book 14: Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear. This was a great steampunk western; I'm so glad this lived up to all the hype I'd been hearing beforehand.

Books 15, 16: Kokoro Connect vols 1 & 2, by Sadanatsu Anda.
Books 17, 18: Ani-Imo vols 1 & 2, by Haruko Kurumatani. This has been a month for reading body-switching manga, apparently. I was enchanted by the Kokoro Connect anime, about a high-school club that starts swapping bodies, and the drama as they attempt to understand each other. The manga is essentially the same story (probably the other way around, originally, but that's how I came to it) but I'm also really enjoying the cute art style that it's drawn in. Ani-Imo isn't very similar beyond the basic premise; it's a pair of fraternal twins who switch bodies, and discover that the 'little sister' isn't quite as innocent as she seemed. It's a fun read, and the previews for vol 3 seem like the switching might expand further... we'll see how it goes.

Books 19-22: The Inheritance Trilogy, by N. K. Jemisin. This was reprinted as a collected volume, with an additional novella afterwards, so I figured it was time to purchase a copy for myself and read these. Great stories about mortals and gods alike, and something I'm very glad to come back to.

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