Reading Round Up

It's been too long since I posted a review round-up. I've been reading a lot, so I'll post the highlights. I've been reading a bit of everything (fantasy, contemporary romance, nonfiction, fairy tale retellings, sci-fi...)

For fantasy: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whelan Turner, Champion of the Rose & Bones of the Fair by Andrea Host, Sarah J Maas's entire backlist. And, sidestepping into urban fantasy, Ilona Andrews' Hidden Legacy trilogy.

Megan Whelan Turner writes books where you can really linger over ever sentence, where re-reading and close reading are richly rewarded. Which is why it pays to start with the first book in the series, The Thief. The two Host books are stand-alones but set in the same world--beautifully written fantasy romances with excellent worldbuilding and good LGBT representation (homosexual marriages are the norm in this world). 

The Sarah J Maas books are interesting. I read both of her series, the Court of Thorns and Roses books and then the Throne of Glass books. They both play a similar trick, which I now intensely admire but served as a barrier to entry for me as a reader: the first book in each series more or less plays a trope completely straight. So with the Court of Thorns and Roses books, a human girl is kidnapped by a handsome fae prince who falls madly in love with her and lavishes her with wealth and adoration. In the Throne of Glass books, a young assassin is released from prison to serve an Evil King, but she finds herself drawn to his charming and good-hearted heir. 

But then subsequent books in the series turn the initial set-up upside down. Every critique I might have made (for instance: the fae prince of the Court of Thorns and Roses books is possessive and overprotective; he cages the heroine as much as he cares for her) ends up being part of the story, which turns and advances in new and surprising directions.   

It's a very epic series, everything turned up to eleven, full of high drama and intensity and big emotions and hard choices. It's also smart and engaging, never resting on its laurels, with heroines who earn their swagger and heroes who admire them for it. 

A little bit of contemporary romance--The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, two books that showed up on a lot of 'best of the year' lists when they were published, for good reason.

Going Nowhere Fast by Kati Wilde had some great banter and good chemistry, even if the plot doesn't stand up to intense scrutiny. I've also indulged in some sports romance--the Brooklyn Bruisers books by Sarina Bowen are really satisfying because the characters are legitimately wrapped up in their work, the minutae of training and conditioning, and the characters behave like mature adults. Ditto Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang, about a doctor and a pro hockey player at the end of his career--a funny sexy romance between two people whose 'meet cute' is complicated by the fact that the heroine has a problem with the sports whose players stand a strong risk of getting concussed and developing lasting brain damage. 

I re-read Robin McKinley's Beauty and the Beast retellings, Rose Daughter & Beauty, because the book I'm working on has shades of Beauty and the Beast.

I enjoyed a bit of historical goodness--The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian is male/male historical romance with great chemistry and humor, a little like Tessa Dare, and A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas--I absolutely adore her Lady Sherlock books. 

Some nonfiction: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin is gripping as a historical account of Lincoln's presidency, with some frightening similarities to the present political situation, and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is the book that gave rise to the movie. The book isn't structured as a gripping narrative and doesn't feel like a story, with a plot that twists and turns. But as a piece of American history, it's riveting and important. 

And a bit of sci-fi, too: All Systems Red by Martha Wells is a novella about a murderbot that would rather watch TV than do its job. I can't wait for the sequel. The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin is probably the definition of 'hard sci-fi'--it's an alternate history, set in China and rooted in the cultural revolution, about physicists in a country hostile to science and a peculiar video game called The Three Body Problem. It's hard to explain much more without spoilers and it had more math & physics than I, personally, could ever find enjoyable... but it was also incredibly memorable and I've found myself recommending it to others fairly often.