Two Months of Books: June & July

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass: *Inarticulate squealing noise* READ IT. Read it now. Okay, so this is by one of my all-time favorite writers, though under her pen name, and I have been waiting for a new book from her for years. And it was definitely worth the wait and then some! As a caveat, I do note that it starts off slowly, building the characters and showing them gaining the skills they’ll need later for the heist, but it means I got to enjoy Romy’s voice and narration that much longer. The world is richly detailed and a joy to submerge myself into, the characters are a fascinating delight to get to know and magnificently flawed, and there’s a lining of hope trimming this magic-heist adventure fantasy. Also, it’s just a hell of a lot of fun to read. Counting down the months to the release of book two, A Conjuring of Assassins! (As a side-note, the cover art for book two was just released and it’s as gorgeous as the art on book one.)

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: The more I read this, the more I came to the realization that this book wasn’t for current-me. Teenager-me would’ve not only have devoured this book in days, but it would’ve gone down as one of my ultimate favorites that I’d carry with me well into adulthood. Adult-me is, unfortunately, too genre-savvy: I called too many of the twists, the conventions, the setups, and I was very rarely surprised, but because of the natural distance of an epic narration, I wasn’t emotionally invested enough that I didn’t care. It’s a very long book to feel ‘meh’ over. Perhaps this is a side-effect of being a writer and a student of story structure, perhaps epic fantasy of a traditional, Tolkien-esque style no longer interests me the way it once did. I would, however, recommend this to readers who love the epic fantasy structure, who adore the genre and its tropes, and want something different (because this book with it’s many female characters subverts that worn, tired “men on a quest to save the world, the only women are servants and walk-ons and maybe that princess” story that is so, so common) OR readers who are just coming to epic fantasy, and aren’t well-versed in the expectations and characterizations of the genre.

A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell: This is a fascinating re-imagining of Holmes and Watson that takes the original source material and (brilliantly) turns it on its head. In A Study in Honor, civil war has broken out in a near-future USA, and Captain Janet Watson, after losing her left arm (a problem if you’re a surgeon), has been discharged and sent, unmoored, into civilian life in Washington D.C. with a fritzy robotic arm that doesn’t fit and few prospects. One thing leads to another, and she encounters Sara Holmes, who is brilliant, baffling, and has an air of secrets and danger. I usually don’t read near-future sci-fi, preferring mine space-faring and operatic in scope, but as disturbingly possible a future as O’Dell paints, it’s also not entirely dystopic (though, erm, leans more heavily in that direction). It’s fantastic, and I look forward to reading book two (The Hound of Justice). Highly recommended.

Swift for the Sun by Karen Bovenmyer: Pirates! Swashbuckling! Romance! Adventure! Also, I find it fascinating to look at how romances differ for their marketing demographic. In a straight HEA romance, it’s usually marriage that’s the end goal. In this M/M HEA romance, it’s not just marriage. It’s also acceptance, discovering others who are like yourself, and finding a safe space to be. That’s what makes this a HEA end. Similarly to the contemporary romance a few months ago, historical romance is usually not my jam, BUT I appreciated how much diversity there is in this. It’s a pleasant change to most romances, especially historical romances that are usually viewed through a straight, white (almost always female) lens. My one minor quibble (and seriously, it’s minor) is how much the two characters who look like brothers remark on this similarity, and I quibble this only because (I want to say) most people do not have an accurate mental picture of what they themselves look like, particularly facial features and maybe hair. I can see comparing skin color just ’cause you can hold your arm up next to the other person, but not faces. It’s an observation I would’ve personally preferred be something only other characters remarked on, but this is a quibble.

A Month of Books: May

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: I absolutely loved Uprooted and I’ve been a Temeraire fan for years, and though I should’ve read this ages ago, I’d been on hold for the e-book of Spinning Silver through my library for months before I finally got my hands on it. It’s a very different read from Uprooted; they’re more like two standalones loosely connected thematically, not book one and book two. The world-building and incorporation of Russian fairy tales and folklore was exquisite, and the approach to the storytelling voice-style fits that almost oral-tradition feel. It also had so many moments where clever characters did clever things and I went, “YES! They’re doing the thing!” The one… well, quibble, I had was the use of six first person viewpoint characters. At first, when it was alternating between Miryem and Wanda, there was such a difference in their voices, it wasn’t difficult to know who was who, but as the novel continued, new PoV characters were introduced, and by the end, there were a total of six. None of these shifts are marked in any way other than a scene or chapter break (so no little helpful character names at the top, like in The Kingdom of Copper). It’s a novel that you need to take your time readingWhile it isn’t long (especially not when held up beside The Priory of the Orange Tree) skimming or reading quickly is a fast track to confusion. Pace yourself. That said, definitely worth the wait.

From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris: I attempted this one after I first got it last summer, and it didn’t click with me. Back at it again, and I finally realized why I’d struggled with it the first time: I was reading the book wrong. See, I’d walked in assuming it’d be more like a fantasy political thriller with assassinations and world-changing magic and the constant threat of brewing war. And while there are elements of that here, that isn’t what this book is. It’s a fantasy of manners. This is Pride & Prejudice with a dash of Downtown Abbey in a fantastical alternate history Rome. And, thus, the stakes are very, very different. The first time around, I couldn’t understand why there was so much focus placed on Latona and her relationships with her family, or Sempronius and his scheming and hiding, but this time, understanding what kind of book this was completely shifted my expectations and how I approached it. Like Spinning Silver, it is a more ponderous read.

Weekends Required by Sydney Landon: My coworker has been trying to convert me to this series for ages. She and I sometimes… well, it’s not buddy-reading, more like competitive see-who-can-finish-first buddy-reading for certain romance series, and this is one of her absolute go-to favorites. So I’ve given it a whirl and have found that it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t read much contemporary romance, preferring more speculative in my raunchy fiction, and with this one, I might’ve been too aware of it as a story to sit back and let it take me on an adventure. Storyteller-brain was too preoccupied with analyzing the structure and dialogue and anticipating plot twists, that I didn’t sink in very well into the experience overall and wasn’t emotionally invested (at least, not in the right way). There were also some choices that I, on a personal level (not as a writer, but as a person), disagreed with, and I often disagreed with the handling of said issues. It’s a very quick read, though. In future, I think I’ll stick to my paranormal romances with vampires and werewolves or my fantasy romances with a side-order of swashbuckling adventure.


Not so many books this month. I’m beta-reading a friend’s awesome novel, and I may have binge-watched all four seasons of Lucifer, which kinda ate my reading-time. Which just means…more books next month!