Reading Roundup for 2016 and Some Highlights!

I basically spent the last two month of 2016 in a semi-comatose state, inhaling the fluffiest fluff possible to sooth my raging anxiety and depression. *gestures at the general state of the world* Fell off all my social media, barely left the house for anything except work…yeah, it was bad.

But I now have a bunch of books and other media to talk about!

TV stuff first!

My BFF got me into Supergirl. I had seen a couple of episodes and not been terribly impressed–the acting is…not great (it’s a CW comic book show, duh) but the characters are actually adorable when taken in context, and that counts for a lot with me. *squees at how adorable Winn is* *pinches Kara’s cheeks* And I love how much time is devoted to the sister relationship between Kara and Alex.

I watched the entire first season on DVD, but it was too late to really get into season two, since I had missed like, all the new episodes. I’ll probably binge it when it hits DVD on Netflix. I much prefer to consume my visual media that way anyway, since I tend to check out of shows after a few weeks when I try to watch them on a week to week basis.

Then I had to start watching the Flash, because Supergirl got me jonesing for more adorkanerds, and basically the entire cast of Flash is adorkanerds. I’m about halfway through the first season–I got stuck in an ebook loop and forgot to finish the second disc and the first one got buried under a mountain of crap on my desk so I forgot to send it back.

Oops. Oh, well, on to the books!

New stuff first. I have been a really big fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Dealing With Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, Talking to Dragons) since I was a kid, and I recently saw a recommendation for her Cecelia and Kate novels.

In Sorcery & Cecelia, the two cousins have been inseparable since girlhood. But in 1817, Kate goes to London to make her debut into English society, leaving Cecelia behind to fight boredom in her small country town. While visiting the Royal College of Wizards, Kate stumbles on a plot to destroy a beloved sorcerer—and only Cecelia can help her save him.

They are super good despite being told in a series of letters, which is possibly my least favorite literary device ever. Regency romances with a magical twist are one of my favorite things, as I have recently discovered. I devoured the first one, Sorcery and Cecelia and then the next week the second, The Grand Tour. I’m saving The Mislaid Magician for a day when I need something suitably Fluff.

Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is also pretty good, even if she’s a bit mean to her characters.

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.

I finished the first two books, and the third is on my shopping list. Probably gonna hit up the used book stores for this series from now on though. (I really do feel like eight dollars is too much for an ebook when it’s part of a really long series like this. Hey, publishers, I really do spend more freely on ebooks when they’re five bucks or less. I’m saying this as a person who has spent a truly ridiculous amount of money on ebooks this last six months or so, I’m just saying.)

Speaking of inexpensive books, I loved Harper Lee’s Tyack and Frayne series. They’re novella length, and even though I’m not a huge fan of the insta-love trope, the subsequent installments dealt with the development of the relationship so well I stopped caring about that.

Gideon Frayne has spent his whole working life as a policeman in the village of Dark on Bodmin Moor. It’s not life in the fast lane, but he takes it very seriously, and his first missing-child case is eating him alive. When his own boss sends in a psychic to help with the case, he’s gutted – he’s a level-headed copper who doesn’t believe in such things, and he can’t help but think that the arrival of clairvoyant Lee Tyack is a comment on his failure to find the little girl.

There is a good balance between the relationship and the mysteries, with the two becoming more intertwined as the series progresses, and Harper Fox has a way with language, and with making the setting come to life. I’ve read a few of her other books, but this series is the best so far.

Another really good series is Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s Novels of Astrieant. It’s a historical mystery/fantasy/mystery–quite a genre mix there. The first one is Point of Hopes.

Nicolas Rathe is a pointsman, a dedicated watchman in the great city of Astreiant. During the annual trade fair, with a city filled with travelers and merchants, someone is stealing children. The populace is getting angry and frightened and convinced that a foreigner must be to blame. Rathe calls on the aid of both an out-of-work soldier, the handsome Philip Eslingen, and the necromancer Istre b’Estorr. The art of astrology is a very real power in the kingdom and plays as much a role in politics as greed and intrigue. Rathe finds himself struggling to find the children before a major astrological event brings about catastrophe.

These are long books, with ultra-detailed narratives–which doesn’t bother me, I actually like that. The worldbuilding is spot on, medieval Venetian-inspired with a matriarchal society, the magic very skillfully woven in.

Melissa Scott also cowrites another series of historical fantasy mysteries with Amy Griswold, this one Victorian, starting with Death by Silver.

His practice newly established, metaphysician Ned Mathey can’t afford to turn away any clients. But the latest Londoner to seek Ned’s magical aid gives him pause: Mr Edgar Nevett, an arrogant banker, is the father of the bully who made Ned’s life hell at boarding school. Nevertheless, Ned accepts the commission to ensure the Nevett family silver bears no ancient or modern curses, and then prepares to banish the Nevett family to unpleasant memory again. Until Edgar Nevett is killed by an enchanted silver candlestick—one of the pieces Ned declared magically harmless.

Calling on his old school friend Julian Lynes—private detective and another victim of the younger Nevett—Ned races to solve the murder, clear the stain on his professional reputation, and lay to rest the ghosts of his past.

It’s got the same long, ultra-detailed style–again, not complaining. The magic is really cool and sort of scientific-ish, with complicated written spells and detailed rules about what works properly.

One more series that I really liked was Alexis Hall’s Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator.

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

It’s basically the standard urban fantasy setup–vampires, faeries, werewolves, mages–except the cast is like, 90% lesbians. Kate Kane is half fae, and her magic is really neat and creepy, and the first book was just hilarious with her snarky sense of humor. I really hope the third book comes out eventually…

I think that’s it for my recent reads (or rather, the things I’ve read since my last roundup, anyway, you know, way back in *mumble mumble*). Probably my favorite series (aside from Tyack and Frayne) I’ve read this year is K.J. Charles’ Society of Gentlemen. The covers are, frankly, hideous, and that put me off trying them for a long time despite enjoying the author’s previous series pretty well. But the writing is so good–the historical detail is phenomenal, giving a real sense of the setting that was sorely lacking in some of the Regency series I’ve read–politics, fashion, slang. Despite being fairly short books, they create a detailed world and well-fleshed out characters. Since this is a problem for me and my multiples-of-hundred-thousand-words-long manuscripts, I’ve reread these books several times to try to get a sense of how she accomplishes this. Hopefully it’ll rub off on my future attempts. (Not that I’m going to attempt to cut down AFWT at all. I’m going to write that exactly how I want, and how I want is ridiculously long, apparently. lol)