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Books 2017: 86-108


86-93. KJ Charles, An Unseen Attraction, An Unnatural Vice, The Magpie Lord, A Case of Possession, Flight of Magpies, Jackdaw, A Queer Trade, Rag and Bone. Ebooks, various dates.

Solid, fun historical romances (and historical fantasies) involving men who love men.


94. Karis Walsh, You Make Me Tremble. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

Romance involving women who love women, the aftermath of an earthquake, and an animal sanctuary.


95. Kathleen Knowles, Taking Sides. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

Romance involving Indiana's recent discriminatory law, a woman who is still in the closet to her mother, and the liberal political activist/campaign consultant (a woman called Trevor) with whom she falls in love.


96. Gun Brooke, Thorns of the Past. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

Better than Brooke's SFnal efforts. A romantic thriller involving an ex-cop and an accountant.


97. Erin McKenzie, Where Love Leads. Bold Strokes Books, 2017

A romance involving school counselors, single mothers, and the aftermath of homophobic bullying and assault.


98. Missouri Vaun, Crossing the Wide Forever. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

Historical romance involving women who love women, cross-dressing, and the American prairie.


99. Blythe Rippon, Benched. Ylva, 2017.

Romance involving a lawyer and a Supreme Court Justice. Complicated by the fact that neither of these people are any good at talking honestly (or listening) to each other.


100. Lauren Wright Douglas, The Always Anonymous Beast. Bella Books, 2010, first published 1987.

Interesting noir sort-of mystery involving blackmail and lesbians.


101. Margaret Killjoy, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion. Tor.com Publishing, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Locus.


102. Ian McDonald, Luna: Wolf Moon. Gollancz, 2017.

Sequel to Luna: New Moon. Read for review for Strange Horizons.


103. K.S. Merbeth, Raid. Orbit, 2017.

Read for review for Locus.


104. Kat Howard, An Unkindness of Magicians. Saga Press, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Really excellent.


105. Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison, The Ghost Line. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Weird.


106. Vivian Shaw, Strange Practice. Orbit, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Amazingly good. Read this.


107. April Daniels, Sovereign. Diversion Books, 2017.

Sequel to Dreadnought. Read for review for Tor.com. Really good.


108. Curtis Craddock, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors. Tor, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Tor.com. Really good.
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Books 2017: 75-85


75. Laura Lam, Shattered Minds. Tor, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Really sodding good.


76. Nancy Kress, Tomorrow's Kin. Tor, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Good, I guess.


77. Catherynne M. Valente, The Refrigerator Monologues. Saga Press, 2017. Illustrated by Annie Wu.

Read for review for Locus. I wish I'd liked it better.


78. Cat Sparks, Lotus Blue. Talos, 2017.

Read for review for Patreon. Enjoyable.


79. Malka Older, Infomocracy. Tor.com, 2016.

Read for column. Really solid debut.


80-82. M.C.A. Hogarth, Amulet Rampant, Only the Open, and In Extremis. Ebooks. 20-?-2017.

I need to figure out how to talk about these books. Continues the series begun in Even the Wingless and Some Things Transcend. Is really interested in issues of consent, mental health, power, trauma, consequences, and change, but told through the lens of space elves, space dragons, and space furries. With space opera psychic powers.


83-84. K.J. Charles, A Fashionable Indulgence and A Seditious Affair. Ebooks. Loveswept, 2015-2016.

I picked these up on the recommendation of Foz Meadows. They're historical (regency) romance featuring men who love men, and A Seditious Affair, at least, is an absolutely stunning examination of a respectful relationship between people who are opposites in almost every way.


nonfiction


85. Edward J. Watts, Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher. Oxford University Press, 2017.

I want to talk about this at greater length at some point, but for now: it's a fascinating biography and worth reading.
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Books 2017: 65-74


65. A. Merc Rustad, So You Want to be a Robot. Lethe Press, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Short stories. Not usually my thing, but pretty okay.


66. Nicky Drayden, The Prey of Gods. HarperCollins, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Chaotic but good.


67. Tanya Huff, A Peace Divided. DAW/Titan Books, 2017.

Read for column for Tor.com. Lots of fun.


68. Laura Lam, False Hearts. Tor, 2016.

Read for column for Tor.com. Really good near-future thriller.


69. Wendy N. Wagner, Oath of Dogs. Angry Robot Books, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Interesting science fiction with mystical twist.


70. Jack Campbell, The Genesis Fleet: Vanguard. Titan, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Campbell is not getting any more imaginative.


71. Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for column. Interesting novella.


nonfiction


72. bell hooks, Outlaw Culture. Routledge Classics, 2006. (Originally published 1994.)

I'd never really grasped the ways in which bell hooks is a foundational thinker for intersectional feminism before picking up this collection of essays. It is an uneven essay collection, and its referents are now nearly a quarter-century out of date, but much of what she has to say doesn't seem radical to me - in part because over those two and a half decades, they became part of the approaches to feminism that predominate among the people from whom I learned about feminist theory and praxis. (They are still radical, mind you.)

Reading this collection has made me want to read more of bell hooks' work, which is an excellent thing for any collection.


73. Linda M. Heywood, Njinga of Angola: Africa's Warrior Queen. Harvard University Press, 2017.

I want to write more about this biography of a 17th-century African queen who just did not quit and seems to have been immensely astute as a war-leader, as a diplomatic, and as a politician overall (except possibly in arranging the inheritance of her kingdom, but one cannot blame someone for not keeping things in order after they're dead). But in brief, it is a fascinating examination of a woman who the Portuguese colonisers saw as a "devil queen," and of her context.


74. Nancy Marie Brown, Ivory Vikings. St. Martin's Griffin, 2016. (Originally published 2015.)

Brown uses the Lewis chessmen, famous pieces found on the island of Lewis in Scotland in the early 19th century, as a lens through which to examine the late medieval Scandinavian world, its trade connections, and its culture. Brown is interested in the origins of the Lewis chessmen, and sets forth the arguments for where they might have been made, although it is clear her sympathies lie with the theory which ascribes them to Iceland in the late 12th or very early 13th century. (Brown makes a persuasive stab at ascribing them to the hand of an individual ivory-carver, a women named as Margaret the Adroit in the Saga of Bishop Pall - not a saga that has been translated into English.)

Brown is a careful historian, nuanced in her treatment of the evidence, and cautiously qualifying any sweeping claims. But she is also an imaginative historian, and an evocative one. Her knowledge of the Scandinavian world and the Icelandic sagas shines through, and her ability to write both clearly and entertainingly about matters of which yr. humble correspondent knows very little is a rare gift among historians. This is fun history. I approve of it.
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Books 2017: 56-64


56-57. E.E. Knight, Winter Duty (Roc, 2009), and March in Country (Roc, 2011).

I have followed Knight's Vampire Earth books for a while, though it's been a little while since I read any. I don't know how long I've had these two on my shelf, though I suspect I bought them together.

The attraction of Knight's Vampire Earth novels are the thought put into the military logistics, for me, and the fact that Knight's female military officers are competent and incompetent in ways pretty much exactly like the men. It has a grim war-slog atmosphere, and these installments are pretty like what has gone before.

Unfortunately, I'd either forgotten or not noticed at the time Knight's tendency to portray transmisogyny uncritically. "Tranny" will never not be jarringly unpleasant, and this attitude crops up in both books here.


58. Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. Saga, 2017. ARC courtesy of editor.

Read for review for Patreon. Excellent novel, truly great.


59. Timothy Zahn, Pawn. Tor, 2017. eARC courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Deeply meh.


60. Dianna Gunn, Keeper of the Dawn. Book Smugglers Publishing, 2017. eARC courtesy of publisher.

Read for column. Meh.


61. T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses. Red Wombat Tea Company, 2015.

Read for column. SO MUCH FUN.


62. T. Kingfisher, Summer in Orcus. Red Wombat Tea Company, 2016.

Read for column. Also SO MUCH FUN.


63. Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner, Star Crossed. Ebook, 2017. eARC courtesy of the authors.

F/F interracial romance set in the American space program of the 1960s. Disappointing pays very little attention to the operation of racism and its intersection with queer womanhood, but entertaining, if slight, romance nonetheless.


nonfiction

64. Allison Glazebrook, Madeleine M. Henry (ed.), Greek Prostitutes in the Ancient Mediterranean, 800 BCE-200 CE. (Wisconsin Studies in Classics.) Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

I intend to have more to say about this later, but meanwhile, here is a review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review to illuminate the contents of this volume.
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Books 2017: 50-55


50. Martha Wells, All Systems Red. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com.


51. Michelle Sagara, Cast in Flight. Mira, 2016.

Read for column. Really fun, as usual.


52. Gwyneth Jones, Proof of Concept. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com.


53. Seanan McGuire, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Locus.


54. Foz Meadows, A Tyranny of Queens. Angry Robot, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. REALLY GOOD.


55. Yoon Ha Lee, Raven Stratagem. Solaris, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Also REALLY GOOD.





I'm really not keeping up with the influx of new books, to be honest. Ten that I would conceivably read arrived today, on top of at least five last week. So, meep.
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Books 2017: 43-49


43. Emma Newman, Brother's Ruin. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for column. Entertaining, if a bit weird.


44. Marie Brennan, Lightning in the Blood. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. I REALLY liked it.


45. Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric and the Shaman. Subterranean Press, 2017.

Read for column. Kind of perfectly exactly what I wanted.


46. Elizabeth Moon, Cold Welcome. Orbit/Del Rey, 2017.

Read for review. Meh.


47. Aliette de Bodard, The House of Binding Thorns. Gollancz/Ace, 2017.

Read for review. THIS IS SO GOOD IT IS SO MARVELOUS READ IT READ IT NOW.


48. Robyn Bennis, The Guns Above. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. A hell of a lot of fun.


nonfiction


49. Matthew Wright, The Lost Plays of Greek Tragedy: Volume 1: Neglected Authors. Bloomsbury, London, 2016.

I will have more to say about this later - I believe I will write something about it at length for Patreon, maybe. But it is really interesting and extremely accessible, and makes me want to learn more.
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Books 2017: 37-42


37. Corey J. White, Killing Gravity. Tor.com, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Locus. A lot of fun.


38. Marie Brennan, Within the Sanctuary of Wings. Tor, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Tor.com. Great conclusion to the series.


39. Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods. Solaris, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Locus. Interesting. Gruesome. Really pretty good.


40. Cynthia Ward, The Adventure of the Incognita Countess. Aqueduct Press, 2017.

Novella. Read for column. A hell of a lot of fun, in a gothic style that reminds me of Penny Dreadful.


41. Aliette de Bodard, The Citadel of Weeping Pearls. Ebook, 2015/2017.

Novella. Read for column. Set in the same continuity as On a Red Station, Drifting. Really good.


nonfiction

42. Mark S. Thompson, Wellington's Engineers: Military Engineering in the Peninsular War 1808-1814. Pen & Sword Books, Barnsley Yorks., 2015.

An interesting topic: a mediocre execution. I will have more to say later.
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Books 2017: 35-36


35. Nnedi Okorafor, Binti: Home. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for column. Good novella.


nonfiction

36. Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Constellation Myths, with Aratus's Phaenomena. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2015. Translated by Robin Hard.

This is a peculiar entry in the Oxford World's Classics series. It is structured oddly, such that I cannot figure if it follows the schema of one of the original authors while interspersing bits of the other, or whether the translator has separated out bits according to his own schema. However, the constellation myths themselves are very interesting as playfully literary creations, and Aratus's Phaenomena includes some really fascinating weather advice.
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Books 2017: 32-34


32. Erika Lewis, Game of Shadows. Tor, 2017. Copy via publisher.

Read for review. Er. Eeep. WTF.


33. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, eds., The Djinn Falls In Love & other stories. Solaris, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Really excellent anthology.


nonfiction


34. Ibn Fadhlan, Ibn Fadhlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North. Penguin Classics, 2012. Translated with an introduction by Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone.

Ibn Fadhlan left an account of his journey from Baghdad to the court of the Bulghar khan in 921 CE. (The account of his return journey doesn't survive.) Full of precise observations and surprisingly little judgment - and a certain amount of what comes across as good-humoured honesty - this is really lovely medieval travel writing. It includes the only eye-witness description of a Viking boat funeral in the lands of the Rus.

Ibn Fadhlan's account takes up a little less than half the book. The remainder is given over to extracts from other Arabic travel writers (or compilers of geographic information) who deal with the far north or with people from the far north, such as Vikings. These are usually far less self-aware and precise than Ibn Fadhlan, but fascinating in their own right.

(I really like the Arabic literature of the medieval period, at least as much of it as I've been able to read in English translation. It'd be really cool to have a good translation of Ibn Hayyan, you know. Or ibn Rusta. Hell, Mas'udi.)
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Books 2017: 26-31


26. Thea de Salle King of Bourbon Street. Ebook, 2017.

Explicit romance. Also very funny.


27. Kij Johnson, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe. Tor.com Publishing, 2016.

Read for column. Really good.


28. Ruthanna Emrys, Winter Tide. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. Really excellent.


29. Alex Wells, Hunger Makes The Wolf. Angry Robot, 2017.

Read for review. Really good fun space planetary Western. There's a train job!


30. John Scalzi, The Collapsing Empire. Tor, 2017.

Read for fun and maybe later review. Space opera in Scalzi's trademark breezy voice. Very entertaining popcorn.


31. Joe McDermott, The Fortress At The End Of Time. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. I want that hour of my life back.
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Books 2017: 18-25


18. Kameron Hurley, The Stars Are Legion. Angry Robot, 2017.

Read for Locus and for column. A fascinatingly squishy space opera, which Hurley has been promoting as LESBIANS IN SPACE (it is). It's less of a mess than her fantasy, and a lot more fun, although Hurley does sometimes confuse brutal for interesting.


19. Jacqueline Carey, Miranda and Caliban. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. A retelling of The Tempest. Honestly, I don't see the point of a novel that spends so much time dwelling on an abusive parent-child relationship that doesn't ever allow the victim of the abuse to get away. NOT my cup of tea.


20. Lara Elena Donnelly, Amberlough. Tor, 2017.

Read for column. Fascism and amoral gay boys in love. Promising debut.


21. Ada Palmer, Seven Surrenders. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. It doesn't quite succeed in living up to the promise of the first volume, which is a shame, but together Too Like The Lightning and Seven Surrenders make a very promising debut.


22. Caitlín R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. Creepy Lovecraftian horror novella. Not exactly my jam. Also parasitic mind-controlling fungus.


23. Justine Saracen, The Sniper's Kiss. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

A romance novel involving women who love women set during WWII. A Russian-speaking American clerk in the Lend-Lease programme and a Russian soldier, later a sniper, encounter each other first during international meetings about the Lend-Lease programme. Later, the American clerk gets into trouble investigating corruption on the Russian end of the Lend-Lease problem and ends up at the front, where she disguises herself as a dead Russian sniper and partners with the live Russian sniper. Saracen has done her research: the WWII setting feels believable. The characters are reasonably well-rounded, the relationships make sense in context, and the writing is better than tolerable. As F/F romances go, it's definitely in the top 10%, particularly for historical ones.

(I always feel sad judging F/F on these particular merits. But in any given month where I look at six or eight F/F books from Netgalley and at best only half of them are even readable, they are certainly the merits.)


24. Yolanda Wallace, Divided Nation, United Hearts. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

A romance novel involving women who love women set during the American Civil War. One disguises herself as a man in order to fight for the Union, the other is trying to keep a farm running while her father and brother are fighting for the Confederacy. I finished it: it's not a particularly good novel, but it is an entertaining tropetastic mess.


nonfiction

25. Hubert Wolf, The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent Scandal. Vintage, 2015. Translated from the German by Ruth Martin.

I first heard of this book via Lady Business, where it was spoken of in very complimentary terms. I can confirm that it is extremely solid history writing, clear and thorough and immensely readable: the kind of history where you keep reading in order to find out just what happened next.

Wolf deals with a particular convent scandal, one that took place in the convent of Sant'Ambrogio in Rome and was investigated as a result of a complaint made by the German Catholic Princess Katarina von Hohenzollern to the Holy Office for the Doctrine of the Faith (the office of the Inquisition). Katarina had entered the convent as a postulant and then a novice (after two marriages and a previous unsuccessful attempt to become a nun in a different convent) and came to believe that she was being poisoned by the sisters of Sant'Ambrogio, as a result of her opposition to certain practices she believed were entirely improper.

Wolf draws on several archival sources, including the Inquisition's own files and the testimony of the witnesses and defendants in the case, to illuminate the life of the Hohenzollern princess, the convent, the other nuns, Church politics, and the case itself. False saints, poisonings, political manoeuvring in the Jesuit order, the curia, and the papacy, Solicitatio by priests in confession, sexual assault of novices, female sodomy: this is history mixed with true crime, and Wolf lays it all out in fascinating detail.

Including a good deal of detail on how the Inquisition actually investigated the charges laid before it, which is fascinating in its own right.
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Books 2017: 5-17


5. Jennifer Fulton, Passion Bay. Bold Strokes Books, 2008. Ebook.

Acquired free via Kobo. F/F romance, miscommunications, tropical islands, family secrets. Mediocre.


6. Jennifer Fulton, Dark Dreamer. Bold Strokes Books, 2006. Ebook.

Haunted house. F/F romance. Sexy twins next door, one of whom consults for the FBI because dead people talk to her. Mediocre.


7. Jennifer Fulton, Dark Valentine. Bold Strokes Books, 2007. Ebook.

FF romance. Rape victim has a one-night stand with a criminal defence lawyer. Further contact results in falling in love. But oops! Criminal defence lawyer turns out to be defending her rapist. Pretty decent, I guess.


8. Jennifer Fulton, Dark Garden. Bold Strokes Books, 2009. Ebook.

FF romance. Two descendants of feuding families, secrets, lies, manipulations. Mediocre.


9. Jennifer Fulton, More Than Paradise. Bold Strokes Books, 2007. Ebook.

FF romance. Scientist meets mercenary in Papua New Guinea. Mediocre.


10. Jennifer Fulton, Naked Heart. Bold Strokes Books, 2008. Ebook.

FF romance. Scientist meets spy. Personal betrayals insufficiently addressed. Mediocre.


11. Jennifer Fulton writing as Grace Lennox, Not Single Enough. Bold Strokes Books, 2007. Ebook.

FF romance. Woman who really wants love meets single cop. Mediocre.


12. Jennifer Fulton writing as Grace Lennox, Chance. Bold Strokes Books, 2006. Ebook.

FF romance, ish. Kind of all over the place.


13. L.J. Cohen, Derelict. Interrobang Books, 2014. Ebook, copy courtesy of the author.

Read for column. Space opera, feels YA in tone.


14. Kate Elliott, The Poisoned Blade. Little Brown, 2016.

Read for column. Second book in trilogy, REALLY GOOD, I saved it for when I needed to read it most. Excellent stuff.


15. Sarah Fine, The Imposter Queen. McElderry Books, 2016.

Read for column. Solid fantasy novel, YA.


16. Jean Johnson, First Salik War: The Terrans. Ace, 2015.

Read for column. Ridiculous space opera. Fun.


Nonfiction


17. Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander. Penguin Books, 1971. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt.

A fairly elderly (over fifty years old) translation of Arrian's account of the campaigns of Alexander. Straightforward, with interesting anecdotes.
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Books 2017: 1-4


1. Carrie Vaughn, Martians Abroad. Tor, 2017. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Meh?


2. April Daniels, Dreadnought. Diversion Books, 2017. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. This is great! I like it LOTS.


3. Erica Cameron, Assassins: Nemesis. Triton/Riptide, 2017. Copy via Netgalley.

Okay. This is the sequel to Assassins: Discord which had QUEER FEMALE TEENAGE ASSASSINS in it, running thriller plot across the US. It wasn't the tightest or most sensible of plots, but it knew what kind of queer pulp it wanted to be, all right?

Nemesis moves to a couple of secondary/briefly-mentioned characters from Discord: Blake, the intersex teenage child of a murdered FBI agent, and Daelan, a nice geek-boy teenage vigilante bodyguard from a family of bodyguard-assassins. Boundaries! Murder! Saving each others' lives and maybe the world! Happy queer folks! Deliciously entertaining plot-relevant angst!

If you ever wanted queer vigilante teenage Jason Bourne, this is the book (this is the series) for you.


4. Ellen Kushner et al, Tremontaine Season One. Serial Box 2016/Saga Press 2017. Digital access via Serial Box.

Read for review for Locus. I like it. It feels like the best sort of fanfic.
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Books 2016: 184-190


184. Max Gladstone et al, Bookburners Season 1. Serial Box, 2016.

Read for review for Locus.


185. Laura Anne Gilman, The Cold Eye. Saga, 2017. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. I have meh feelings. It is a very slow book.


186. Ellen Klages, Passing Strange. Tor.com Publishing, 2017. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Wow. This is really good.


187. Ann Aptaker, Genuine Gold. Bold Strokes Books, 2017. E-ARC via Netgalley.

A novel of lesbians and crime in 1950s New York. Entertaining, if peculiar.


188. Gun Brooke, Exodus: Escape. Bold Strokes Books, 2017. E-ARC via Netgalley.

Terrible FF science fiction romance. Readable, I guess.


189. Ali Vali, The Devil's Due. Bold Strokes Books, 2017. E-ARC via Netgalley.

A novel of crime families and lesbians, set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Entertaining, if also peculiar.


190. Cari Hunter, A Quiet Death. Bold Strokes Books, 2017. E-ARC via Netgalley.

The more of Hunter's novels I read, the more I like her work. This one is a fairly gruesome crime novel with murder and sex trafficking, but it's solid crime novel.
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Books 2016: 171-183


171. Kris Ripper, The Butch and the Beautiful. Riptide, 2016.

Forgettable lesbian romance.


172. Charles Stross, Empire Games. Tor, 2017. Copy provided by publisher.

Read for review for Locus. Tight thriller.


173-174. Ana Mardoll, Poison Kiss and Survival Rout. Indie, 2015-2016. Electronic copy of Survival Rout provided by author.

Pretty solid queer poly urban fantasy/trapped in fairyland portal fantasy novels. Read for column. Recommended, mostly.


175. Isabel Yap, Hurricane Heels. Book Smugglers Publishing, 2016. Electronic copy provided by publisher.

Really awesome mosaic novel/set of linked novellas. REALLY AWESOME. Read for column. I want a paper copy.


176. Lauren Gallagher, Stuck Landing. Riptide, 2016.

Lesbian romance. AWFUL. Plot arc is basically "viewpoint character is a biphobic ass, learns to overcome biphobia in order to give love a chance," and feels like it is written for the male gaze. I dunno, like. As a person who is attracted to women but who is not a lesbian, I kept reading because it was a trainwreck but seriously FUCK OFF.


177. Lindsay Smith and Max Gladstone, et al, The Witch Who Came In From The Cold. Serial Box, 2016. Courtesy of the publisher.

AMAZING. GO READ IT. GO READ IT NOW. Hopefully will cover it in a column in the new year.


178. Seanan McGuire, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.





Also read in draft [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], and [redacted] novels this year, which brings the yearly total up to 183. (Maybe I will even cheat and count them again next year, when I can maybe admit to their titles.)
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Books 2016: 169-170


169. Alex Bledsoe, Gather Her Round. Tor, 2017. ARC via publisher.

Read for review for Locus. Pretty damn good.


170. Greg Rucka (et alia, Dragon Age: Magekiller. Dark Horse, 2016.

A delightful graphic novel set during the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition. It is surprisingly sweet for a piece of work with so much blood and death and demons in. (Also I liked the half-unseen romance bit. LOVELY.)
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Books 2016: 156-168


156. Hillary Monahan, Snake Eyes. Abbadon Books, 2016. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for column. Damn, this is so good. Queer and funny and entertaining and great.


157. K.B. Wagers, After the Crown. Orbit Books, 2016. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Space opera, sequel to Behind the Throne. Read for review for Tor.com. Great fun.


158. M-E Girard, Girl Mans Up. HarperCollins, 2016.

This is a gorgeous YA novel of growth and self-discovery and learning that your friends are assholes and finding new friends and just, it is disturbingly close to home.


159. C.B. Lee, Not Your Sidekick. Duet/Interlude Press, 2016.

Read for column. Really fun superhero story - in an unexpected way.


160. Alex Bledsoe, Gather Her Round. Tor Books, forthcoming 2017. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Read for review for Locus and I need to get my damn arse in gear and review it. Grand murder-ballad of a book.


161. Dahlia Adler, Out on Good Behaviour. Independently published, 2016.

An excellently constructed romance between two college students - one of whom has a history of playing the field, one of whom is a virgin (and in the closet). Two young women, misunderstandings, sex. Well-written. Very fun.


163. Vanessa North, Roller Girl. Riptide Publishing, 2016.

A trans woman and former professional athletic joins a roller derby team and falls in love with the coach. Sparks fly. Misunderstandings abound. Well-written if unevenly paced. I enjoyed it.


164. Samantha Boyette, 18 Months. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Allegedly YA. F/F romance with serial killer plot? Poorly constructed, thin stuff, climax and conclusion come out of nowhere.


165. Alexa Black, Steel and Promise. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

There is a reason I do not read erotica. This is alleged to be "sci-fi erotica," F/F with a very strong BDSM slant, but due to its horrible issues around meaningful consent and power exchange, particularly at the conclusion (where STAY WITH ME OR DIE is literally the option on offer) made it read more like a horror novel to me. I was deeply, deeply disturbed: I had trouble sleeping after. Should come with warning foreword maybe.


166. Carson Taite, Without Justice. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

F/F romance with mostly forgettable characters and thriller plot involving Witness Protection and local attorneys? Fun, I guess, but not at all substantial.


167. D. Jackson Leigh, Swelter. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

F/F romance also involving a) a lawyer turned rancher who is laying low until she can testify against some Bad People, and b) a political aide looking for somewhere to lay low until the news of her scandalous affair with a politician blows over. Very fun, even if the conclusion is a little pat and convenient. Strong characterisation of minor characters.


168. A.J. Quinn, Counting to Zero. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. E-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

F/F romance and thriller plot involving the NSA and terrorism-by-hacking. Fun, but largely forgettable.
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Books 2016: 149-155


149. Heather Rose Jones, Mother of Souls. Bella Books, 2016.

Read for column. Good third book in series, solid, moving further away from anything that looks like romance towards more politics and family-saga style of things.


150. Aya de León, Uptown Thief. Dafina, 2016.

Really interesting Leverage-style feminist thriller with a great cast.


151. Gail Carriger, Romancing the Inventor. E-book, 2016.

Steampunk romance novella about two women, set in Carriger's Parasol Protectorate universe. Read for column. Fun and good.


152. Karin Kallmaker, Christabel. Ebook, originally published 1997 I think.

Really terrible fantasy lesbian romance. I mean, terrible. It makes nearly no sense at all.


153. Alexis Hall, Iron & Velvet. Riptide, 2013 (ebook).

Fun romp about a queer female private investigator in a London with werewolves and vampires and all kinds of other magic. Fast, a bit on the shallow side, and a little rough, but a hell of a lot of fun.


154. Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Certain Dark Things. Thomas Dunne, 2016.

Read for column. Really excellent vampire novel. Much recommend.


155. Gaie Sebold, Sparrow Falling. Solaris, 2016.

Read for column. Fun, fast, entertaining steampunk.
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Books 2016: 140-148


140-142. Rose Beecham, Grave Silence, Sleep of Reason, and A Place of Exile. Bold Strokes Books, 2005, 2006, 2007. Ebooks.

I read these on a recommendation from a friend, and now I'm extremely annoyed that Beecham wrote no more books in this series after A Place of Exile. They're damn good, if unconventional, mysteries set in rural Colorado near the state border with Utah, starring Jude Devine, an FBI agent undercover as a Sheriff's Detective to help monitor militia activity in the area. (I don't care if this setup is plausible or not: the stories around it are compelling.) The writing is very solid and the characterisation excellent. I recommend these books wholeheartedly.


143. Courtney Milan, Hold Me. 2016, ebook.

Contemporary romance from the author of Trade Me. Very much a comedy of errors, but a sweet one and one in which several characters are queer. (The main female character is a trans woman; the love interest is a bisexual bloke.) (Neither of them are white.) It's really well put-together, as one expects from Milan, and I enjoyed it a lot.


144. Ashley Bartlett, Cash Braddock. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook via Netgalley.

Not exactly a romance novel about a drug dealer (prescription pills) who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be something other than what she seems. Amusing and well-written, as queer female romance novels go.


145. Emma Newman, After Atlas. Roc, 2016. Review copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. It is an excellent dystopian murder mystery, and then it jumps genres at the end, and I'm still not sure what to think.


146. Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler, The Burning Light. Tor.com Publishing, 2016. Review copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. I'm not entirely sure what the point of it is? But it is well-written.


147. Rhonda Mason, Cloak of War. Titan Books, 2016. Review copy via Titan Books.

Read for column. Ridiculous but fun, and less uneven overall than The Empress Game, to which it is a sequel.


nonfiction


148. David Potter, Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint. Oxford University Press, 2015.

An excellently readable biography of sixth-century Byzantine empress Theodora, who began her life as the daughter of an actress and the bear-master of one of Byzantium's factions, became an actress herself, bore a daughter out of wedlock to a wealthy man, left (or was abandoned) by him, somehow met Justinian, nephew of the then-emperor Justin, and married him - in order to do this, the law barring actresses from marrying respectable men had to be changed.

She and Justinian had no children, but she was one of the pillars of his reign, though they tended to be on opposite sides of the major theological-political question of their day (regarding the outcome of the council of Chalcedon and whether Jesus Christ had one (divine) nature or two (human and divine)). During the crisis of the Nike riots, she is reported as convincing Justinian to stay and fight rather than fleeing, saying "Power is a splendid shroud."She predeceased him by more than a decade, but he never remarried.

Potter's biography is lucidly clear and eminently readable. He does great work in tying the (complex) sources together into a plausible narrative of Theodora's life and her personality. But I think more context for her later life (during the rest of Justinian's reign before her death) would have been very useful: as it stands, the biography feels very much weighted towards her rise, rather than her reign.
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Books 2016: 135


135. Greg Rucka, Stumptown Volume Two. Oni Press.

I forgot to include this in my last round-up. Excellent graphic novel about a Portland PI and a missing guitar. I would give at least a finger off my left hand to see Rucka's Stumptown adapted for the small screen, because that would be awesome.

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