Books read, December 2014

December was light on non-research reading, but I did get a few things in:

Stranger, Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith. This novel is famous for being the “gay YA” book, but it’s easy for that to overshadow the fact that it is also a story. One set in a post-apocalyptic California, generations after something mutated half the wildlife and knocked humanity on its butt, technologically speaking. I appreciate the fact that this is not a Mad Max crapsack post-apocalypse: it isn’t cozy, limited resources are an everpresent fact of people’s lives, and there’s a lot of tension between the Changed and the Normals . . . but the town of Las Anclas is generally cooperative and functional, in ways that seem realistic. The story itself danced on the edge of having too many pov characters for my taste — every time a narrative shifts perspective, I get kicked partway out and have to re-engage; hello, George R.R. Martin — but ultimately things dovetailed well enough to keep me hooked. The sequel will be out soon; I’ll post when that happens.

Rogue Spy, Joanna Bourne. Fifth in the series of Napoleonic spy romances I started inhaling last March. The timeline of these books turns out to be more convoluted than I realized: I’m pretty sure the bullet wound Hawker’s recovering from in this book is the one Justine put in him partway through The Black Hawk is the one Annique dug out of him in The Spymaster’s Lady. Since The Black Hawk itself went back and forth in time, the impact of this story is slightly defused; there’s a pretty awful revelation in that book which sets up the main conflict for this one, but the “present moment” timeline there takes place after this novel, so you know things work out just fine for the hero. Which you would pretty much guess anyway, since it’s a romance novel and they tend not to end on a sad note . . . but guessing and knowing are still different things.

Anyway, this book is still enjoyable. Bourne puts a twist on her usual formula by having her hero and heroine technically be on the same side of the Britain/France divide — but under such conditions as to make both of their loyalties rather complicated. And there’s still the underlying virtue of this series, which is that it’s about people who respect and admire each other’s competence at espionage as part of their True Love, and makes True Love the key to solving external problems, rather than treating those problems as a side dish to the main (romantic) course.

Mortal Clay, Stone Heart: And Other Stories of Black and White , Eugie Foster. Another short story collection, this one based around the conceit of stories which involve black-and-white things (e.g. skunks, black swans and white swans, etc). I had bounced off one of these when Podcastle ran it, but it turned out to work better for me on the page. Enjoyable overall, though nothing in here really got me in the gut.

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