Archive for Nancy Kress

End-of-year book meme

Posted in Books, Crime, Fantasy, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2013 by Cara Marie

How many books read in 2012?

76 books. This includes novellas, so they were not all very long books. It doesn’t include comic books.

Fiction/non-fiction ratio?

I read eight non-fiction books … that’s one for every 8.5 fiction books.

In other genre distinctions, 60% of the books I read were sci-fi/fantasy (not including JD Robb, as they’re primarily crime and the SF element is usually just the setting). I read four adult fiction books that weren’t SFF or crime stories! Which is … the same number I read every year.

Male/female authors?

I read 18 books by male authors (including half-marks for cowritten books or anthologies) and 58 by female authors.

I always find it weird when people challenge themselves to read more books by female authors, because my bias is so far the other way! Clearly it is my inner misandry showing through.

Favourite book read?

Michelle Sagara wins this year, because I would be hard-pressed to choose between her YA standalone novel, Silence, and the eighth book in ‘The Chronicles of Elantra’, Cast in Peril.

Silence is a book that, when described, sounds like your typical paranormal YA, complete with antagonistic love interest. But it’s not typical at all.

I really loved that the teenaged characters in it were so sensible and kind to one another. That no-one made stupid decisions to generate tension. There’s a lot of YA that goes the other way, and it always annoys me, because that’s not what my experience of being a teenager was like. I don’t mean to say that there’s no conflict between the characters – but it’s not showy, and it rings true.

This isn’t a complete summary of why I liked the book; just one of the things that made it for me.

Cast in Peril I wrote about at the time, in contrast to one of the books covered in the next question. I went through a period of avoiding series fiction; this book serves as an example of how well fantasy series can work. How you can really dig into the world-building, and discover new things. How a book can be the opposite of standalone and still be completely satisfying.

The part of me that still wants to avoid series fiction is freaking out a little – how on earth did I end up reading an 8+ book series? There weren’t that many when I started!

Cast in Peril was also the book that made me realise me and this e-books thing was going to work out, and that I didn’t need everything I loved in hardcopy.

Least favourite?

Not sure whether to go with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken (as discussed in ‘Where (not) to end a book‘) or Tanith Lee’s Piratica III: The Family Sea. The former I probably enjoyed more for the first two-thirds, so it was a greater disappointment when I turned out to hate it. But I might say Piratica III anyway – I think I’m quite glad I didn’t read it when it first came out, when I was more invested in the characters, because I would have been hugely disappointed. (skip) I think I can see what Tanith Lee was trying to do, having Art’s marriage fail, and her ending up alone and free. But I didn’t feel that freedom in the end – it just felt bleak to me.

Oldest book read?

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Also the first book I read last year. I was quite bewildered afterwards – not about the stories, but about the Sherlock interpretation of Holmes being kind of an asshole. (I’ve never actually watched Sherlock; this is just the impression I’ve received.) Book!Holmes is not an asshole at all! He might not be that interested in people, but he’s still considerate to them.

Also, I was proud of myself because there were a couple of mysteries I figured out before they were revealed. I like to pretend that’s an achievement.


The Silvered, by Tanya Huff. Came out in November and I read it in December. I wrote a not-very-deep review at the time.

Longest book title?

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, by Nancy Kress. Long title, short book. This is such a pointless question I feel like I have to talk about the book, now. The three parts of the title refer to the three POVs the book switches between. ‘The fall’ refers to an apocalypse. I enjoyed this quite a bit at the start, but I think overall the pay-off wasn’t there. It had the sort of conclusion that could work for me in a short story, but doesn’t work for me in a longer work.

Shortest title?

Silence or Mastiff. I’ve talked about Silence already, so … Mastiff was the third and final book in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog series. It was also the least memorable of the three. Enough so that I don’t know if I really have anything to say about it. The first book was my favourite, because it was the one that was most a ‘school story’, with a supporting cast I really enjoyed. And that doesn’t really get carried through into the later books. Which make sense re: the ‘school story’ aspect, but I miss Rosto and Kora and Aniki. (You will note I remember their names, but not the names of the supporting cast in Mastiff.)

I guess Pierce was more interested in the crime novel aspect for this series, but that’s not what I read her for, and it was at the expense of the elements I really love.

How many re-reads?

Only three, which seems low. But then, I guess this is the first year I’ve had a full-time job the whole time, so I’m more inclined to read new things.

Most books read by one author this year?

I read ten JD Robb books – I guess I used these as my comfort fiction, rather than re-reading things. Her ‘In Death’ books are basically a procedural in book form. Except the main couple got together in the first couple of books so there’s no ridiculous ‘will they, won’t they?’ (This shouldn’t necessarily be a procedural trope, but it seems to be.) Also, they’re set in the future! My favourite mysteries are probably the ones that have the most to do with technology – although I think Witness in Death has been my favourite overall, and that one does not, so.

They’re standalone books, and I’ve read them completely out of order. They do benefit from being read chronologically, because of the way the characters and relationships develop over the long-term. On the other hand, there’s more than forty of them. So I think picking the ones with the most interesting-sounding mysteries is probably the best route to reading them.

Any in translation?

Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake was the only translated book I read this year.

And how many of this year’s books were from the library?

About six. For which I accrued some ridiculous fines, so I’m avoiding the library at the moment.

Dark Alchemy – edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Posted in Books with tags , , , , on June 30, 2007 by Cara Marie

Dark Alchemy wasn’t as exciting as I thought it might be. It had a good selection of authors, which is why I got it, and of course what can be wrong with a collection about wizards/witches/mages and so forth. And they were decent stories, but none of them really stunned me. Maybe I have been reading too much science fiction. Fantasy short stories just aren’t cutting it.

My favourite was Orson Scott Card’s Stone Father. I am not sure if this is entirely on the story’s own virtue, because I am a geology student and so if a story talks a lot about rocks I am pleased. I am adoring of anything with stone mages (thus Street Magic was always my favourite Tamora Pierce book). And the main character really liked rocks. Yay! And was very good at clambering up steep outcrops! I am not, which sucks for me. It is really quite amazing how fast some people can get up there. Eep.

Nancy Kress’s Stone Man I did not like so much. The main character had had a rather terrible life and complained about it a lot and was rather difficult. While it was understandable, I have little sympathy for angsty teenage boys. Also, despite having stone magic I got no sense that he actually liked rocks. The fact that it was stone magic he had didn’t really matter to the story. This is a disappointment to me. Winter’s Wife by Elizabeth Hand was much better. The title character I think actually was a rock! Like a rock who had decided to be human. A granite, actually. There were some really lovely descriptions in that one, particularly of the house Winter has built and carved out.

My least favourite story in the collection was by Kage Baker, whom I have never read before – The Ruby Incomparable. It was sort of the story of this girl’s life – the daughter of a professional dark lord and the Saint of the World – how she did great deeds, fell in love with a toymaker for no apparent reason whilst nursing him back to health, and then wondered why none of her great deeds satisfied her until she found fulfillment, and a new challenge, in having her first daughter.

It was bearable enough until it got to the falling in love part. It reminded me of Juliet Marillier’s true love type stories. Except told very tersely, and with none of the emotion and detail Juliet Marillier brings to her writing. And maybe I’m young and haven’t had my maternal instinct kick in, but I don’t like being told the only way to find satisfaction in life is to have babies. It wasn’t as if the story wasn’t reasonable enough; it was the way Kage Baker told it that bugged me.

I would far rather have heard about Svnae’s parents, her ‘living goddess’ mother who ran her husband’s household and bore him fourteen childreen and still managed to keep up correspondance with her disciples.

…that was the only story I really found objectionable. Most of them were enjoyable, if not especially inspiring. Neil Gaiman wrote one of those lovely comfortable short stories for children that he does, and Peter Beagle writes as beautifully as ever. I still find Patricia McKillip hard going. And Jane Yolen sure writes one sexy Elijah, guilty as I feel for saying that.

I suppose the collection just felt quite variable quality-wise, or at least in terms of what I like, and I haven’t come away from in enthusiastic about someone new. However, it does make me like Orson Scott Card more than ever. It was the longest story in the book and there is a bad geology pun waiting to happen here but I will resist. World, you need to produce more stories for rock-lovers, please thank you.