The Bright Ages – Matthew Gabriele & David M. Perry

This is an interesting overview of the history of Medieval Europe, with the idea that we need to stop referring to it as the Dark Ages. The authors’ main point is that popular history tends to treat the medieval period as a fall from the glory that was the Roman Empire, but it’s better to think of it as an evolution – nothing really ended.

It’s funny – I didn’t notice this until I was reading a few other reviews of the book, but there are no foot notes included. So this is a book aimed for the general reader. I do think it’s a good overview – they cover much of European history, as well as the Islamic influences that you really can’t ignore when talking about this period. My one lone quibble – they really beat you over the head with the phrase “The Bright Ages”. I mean, yes, you’re trying to make a point, but I think you covered it pretty well when you set up the Introduction.

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Powers – Ursula K. Le Guin

Leave it to Le Guin to write a young adult book that’s a really moving story of slavery and freedom.

This book is the story of Gavir, a slave in one of the households in the city of Etra, part of a confederation of cities that constantly seem to be at war with each other, always shifting alliances. In many ways, Gavir is very lucky – his sister is with him, and he’s being educated by the current teacher (also a slave) to educate both the children of the house, and the other slaves. It seems like a happy life, where slavery is almost an afterthought.

Of course, it’s not an afterthought. Life goes on, and childhood idylls end. After an unspeakable tragedy, Gavir ends up going on a journey, and finds himself, and a new view of the world, along the way.

I actually find it hard to say more about this book – half of the experience is being in the story, and seeing Gavir grow as he encounters new places, ideas, or people. It’s an amazing book, which considering the author, should come as no surprise.

Unsouled – Will Wight

Interesting book. It’s set in a vaguely Eastern cultured world, where people use magic called madra. Lindon is born without any specific ability to shape madra, meaning he’s unsouled – more or less useless to his family. But he’s determined to make something of himself, and through sheer force of will sets out on what looks like it’s going to be a very interesting journey.

It’s a bit of slow start, but all of sudden, it’s very clear that there are Things Going On far beyond the scope of what Lindon has ever been prepared to deal with. With as much set up as was done, the end of the book opens up whole new worlds of possibilities. I can definitely see why I see this book mentioned so often online. I got the first three books in the series for free, so I have more to explore!

Paladin of Souls – Lois McMaster Bujold

This is a reread, which I don’t normally write up, but these two books (this is the follow up to The Curse of Chalion), are just so incredibly good, I want to make sure I mention them again.

Ista is a minor character in The Curse of Chalion, the dowager royina, mother to the two children that Cazaril mentors through that book. In Curse, we find out about the terrible burden that Ista has been carrying, a burden that made everyone else think she was mad.

After the events of Curse, Ista is theoretically free, but what does that mean? She’s been defined as a widow for so long that she’s not sure who she really is anymore. When her mother passes away, she seizes the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage, not really knowing what she will find as she travels. What she finds is that the god given abilities she thought had been taken from her because of her mistakes are not gone, and they are needed more than ever.

I love that Ista is middle aged, and is the hero of this story. I love that she is fairly broken. I love that she finds her way, and finds new happiness, past the age where you’d normally expect her to be the hero of her own story. And, as always with the books set in this world, I love the gods of this world, and how they interact with people. I truly can’t say enough good things about the books Bujold has set in this world.

2022 Books Read

  1. The Prince of Secrets – A.J. Lancaster
  2. Fated Blades – Ilona Andrews
  3. The Princess Fugitive – Melanie Cellier
  4. Pretense – Tara Grayce
  5. Into the Labyrinth – John Bierce
  6. The Kitchen Diaries II – Nigel Slater
  7. The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness
  8. Mind Over Magic – Lindsay Buroker
  9. The Glamourist – Luanne G. Smith
  10. Stolen Midsummer Bride – Tara Grayce
  11. The Court of Mortals – AJ Lancaster
  12. The King of Faerie – AJ Lancaster
  13. The Kitchen Diaries III – Nigel Slater
  14. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson
  15. The Menopause Manifesto – Jennifer Gunther
  16. The Legendary Inge – Kate Stradling
  17. The Obsidian Chimera – Marie Andreas
  18. Jewel of the Endless Erg – John Bierce
  19. A Traitor in Skyhold – John Bierce
  20. Botanical Shakespeare – Gerit Quealy
  21. The Lost City of Ithos – John Bierce
  22. The Siege of Skyhold – John Bierce
  23. Legends and Lattes – Travis Baldree
  24. Dreams Made Flesh – Anne Bishop
  25. The Left-Handed Booksellers of London – Garth Nix
  26. The Night Country – Melissa Albert
  27. The Source – Martin Doyle
  28. Beneath the Sugar Sky – Seanan McGuire
  29. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain – Nghi Vo
  30. Masquerade in Lodi – Lois McMaster Bujold
  31. Cook, Eat, Repeat – Nigella Lawson
  32. Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson
  33. The Curse of Chalion – Lois McMaster Bujold
  34. White Hot – Ilona Andrews
  35. The New Paris – Lindsay Tramuta
  36. Song of the Forever Rains – E. J. Mellow
  37. Empire of Gold – S. A. Chakraborty
  38. Garden Revolution – Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher
  39. Cast in Courtlight – Michelle Sagara
  40. Elfhame – Anthea Sharpe
  41. A Gilded Cage – Auburn Tempest
  42. About a Dragon – G. A. Aiken
  43. Daughter of the Moon Goddess – Sue Lynn Tan
  44. Half a Soul – Olivia Atwater
  45. Piranesi – Susanna Clarke
  46. The Assassins of Thasalon – Lois McMaster Bujold
  47. A Deadly Education – Naomi Novik
  48. The Forest Unseen – David George Haskell
  49. In an Absent Dream – Seanan McGuire
  50. A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking – T. Kingfisher
  51. The Kinsmen Universe – Ilona Andrews
  52. Grey Sister – Mark Lawrence
  53. Shield Band – Tara Grayce
  54. Ink Witch – Lindsey Sparks
  55. Wildfire – Ilona Andrews
  56. Diamond Fire – Ilona Andrews
  57. Sapphire Flames – Ilona Andrews
  58. Emerald Blaze – Ilona Andrews
  59. Death’s Detective – Charlotte E. English
  60. The Rogue and the Peasant – Amberley Martin
  61. Ruby Fever – Ilona Andrews
  62. Tea and Sympathetic Magic – Tansy Rayner Roberts
  63. Sweep of the Blade – Ilona Andrews
  64. The Theft of Sunlight – Intisar Khanani
  65. Cast in Moonlight – Michelle Sagara
  66. Sisters of Saint Nicola of the Almost Perpetual Motion vs the Lurch – Garth Nix
  67. Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon – Lisa Goldstein
  68. Redemption in Indigo – Karen Lord
  69. Vision in Silver – Anne Bishop
  70. Gideon the Ninth – Tamsyn Muir
  71. Once Upon a Curse
  72. The Hermit of Eyton Forest – Ellis Peters
  73. Striking Mars – Cidney Swanson
  74. Knot of Shadows – Lois McMaster Bujold
  75. The Hanging Tree – Ben Aaronovitch
  76. The October Man – Ben Aaronovitch
  77. Lies Sleeping – Ben Aaronovitch
  78. False Value – Ben Aaronovitch
  79. Songs of the Dying Earth – edited George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
  80. The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison
  81. Keturah and Lord Death – Martine Leavitt
  82. Peril – Tara Grayce
  83. Disenchanted – Brianna Sugalski
  84. Come Tumbling Down – Seanan McGuire
  85. Sweep of the Heart – Ilona Andrews
  86. Briarheart – Mercedes Lackey
  87. Komarr – Lois McMaster Bujold
  88. The Girl with No Face – M. H. Boroson


Books Not Finished

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu

I’d heard good things about this book, and it’s certainly been well-lauded. But I was just not feeling it. Once I decided to stop reading it, I went and checked out reviews, and it does seem to be a book that either changed your life, or you just can’t understand what all the hype is about.

I’m definitely in the why? camp. I stuck it out for six chapters, and at that point, I still really can’t tell you exactly what’s supposed to be going on, or why I should care. I kept this on my Kindle for a while before I finally decided I should just bow to the inevitable and check it back in. There’s no way I’m finishing it – there’s nothing hooking me in enough to keep reading.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee

I must be getting old. I’d heard good things about this book, and a friend of mine whose book interests generally line up to mine loved it, so when it came up in Kindle Unlimited, I just went ahead and downloaded it.

I didn’t last the first chapter. I immediately found the main character to be completely, and utterly obnoxious. I’m ok with a nice rogue, but this was just too much for me. Like I said, I think I’m getting old.

The City Beneath the Hidden Stars – Sonya Kudei

I requested this book through the EarlyReviewers program because I thought it sounded really cool – a modern story tying back to the mythological roots of its setting. Unfortunately, I’ve been sitting at the end of chapter one for two weeks now, and I just can’t bring myself to read on, so I’m going to do my review, but not give any stars, because I simply couldn’t finish it.

I lost track of how many characters were introduced between the multi-part prologue and the first chapter. I’m not sure who I was actually supposed to be rooting for, and as much as I hate not completing something I feel like I agreed to, I just couldn’t find a reason to do it. This definitely needed an edit (or two) before it was published.

The Firebird – Susanna Kearsley

I found the first book in this series charming, but the second one wasn’t grabbing me. Too many elements – time travel, physic connections, two people trying to figure out their psychic connections. And we’re going to throw in a trip to Russia in here somewhere. I’m not giving up completely – I’ll keep it around, but I’m definitely not grabbed enough to finish it this year.

Fortuna – Kristyn Merbeth

I liked the world building – humans have spread out to a new star system, and colonized several planets there. Our main characters are a family that live in a ship doing business between them. Mom (the captain) was smart and had a baby in each major world, giving her an in on all of them. Except with baby #2, Scorpia, who had the misfortune of being born early, in space, which means she’s a citizen of nowhere.

Turns out, Mom’s a bitch and playing a long game that involves withholding information from her own children. We see the story through the eyes of the two oldest – Corvus and Scorpia. Scorpia is constantly trying to prove herself, based on what we can tell is bad information.

So I’m about 45% into the book, and Scorpia is about to commit colossal fuck up number 2, and I just can’t any more. I think Corvus might end up saving the day, because he seems to be the only good person in the family, but I’m just done caring.

Heart Seeker – Juliana Haygert

I often nope out of free books pretty quickly – I can usually tell if the writing style is going to drive me crazy with a page or two. I lasted a little longer into this one, until the main character’s mother showed up, and things just got whiny. Too bad, the set up before that had been pretty good.

Seveneves- Neal Stephenson

I really wanted to be able to get further into this book – it starts in the present day, but then goes to a far flung future, where humans long ago left Earth and have evolved into several new races. I suspect I’ll enjoy that part. But I can’t get through the beginning. It’s too close to present day (it’s just old enough that it’s not perfect – social media is still mainly Facebook), but it’s close enough that I can’t do the post-apocalyptic bit right now. I’ll put it away. I might be able to come back to it when it’s aged a bit more.

The Girl with No Face – M. H. Boroson

Xian Li-Lin is a Daoist priestess in 19th century San Francisco. After the events of the first book of this series, Li-Lin has left her father’s temple after he disowned her, but she still tends to the dead. Which is why she’s brought the body of a young girl who was killed by a plant growing out of her.

I really enjoy these books – it’s nice to see a non-Western mythological background explored, and having it set in such an interesting period of San Francisco’s history is an added bonus. I really don’t know how accurate these stories are to the traditions they draw from, but they definitely make for great story telling.

I’m interesting to see where this goes next – Li-Lin’s relationship with her father definitely has room to grow, and there are several side characters I’m interested to know more about.

Komarr – Lois McMaster Bujold

I’ve got the BF reading the early Cordelia and Miles books, which made me realize I’ve been hoarding a few of the other books in the series in my TBR pile (a habit I really need to shake).     So I picked one up, and enjoyed the heck out of it, as I always do.

Miles is older now, forced out of the military due to injuries (I mean, he did actually die).     So the emperor has made him one of his auditors, a small group answerable only to Gregor himself.    Miles is the youngest, and this book is his first big job.     He and another auditor are sent to Komarr, the planet next to the only wormhole with access to Barrayar (the empire’s home planet).     Vorthys, the other auditor, has a niece there, who’s married to one of the administrators of the terraforming project.    Since this series was written jumping around in Mile’s life, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that this is our introduction to Ekatrin, Mile’s wife, and she is every bit as awesome as you know she should be to end up marrying Miles.

This is a pretty good political story – Komarr has a very uneasy relationship with Barrayar, and the case that’s brought the two auditors there ends up being very interesting indeed, with a couple great twists at the end.    I love Bujold’s work!

Briarheart – Mercedes Lackey

This is a sweet take on Sleeping Beauty. Miriam is the king’s stepdaughter, the only child of the King’s Champion, who tragically died in battle. After this, his widow marries the king. (Don’t worry- it’s not an evil step parent situation – the king is very fond of Miriam, and treats her like his own daughter.) So when the king and queen have their own child, Miriam is just as besotted with little princess Aurora as everyone else.

The kingdom is well familiar with planning christenings and other important events for their royal family. It’s very important to invite all the local Dark Fae so they have no excuse to curse anyone. Aurora’s christening is going along swimmingly until a Dark Fae woman no one recognizes shows up, and attempts to curse the little princess. Until Miriam stands in the way, and manages to kill the Dark Fae woman.

Turns out Miriam’s father may have had Fae blood, and she’s got some touch of Fae magic. So she decides to train to be her sister’s protector. This story takes place entirely while Aurora is still a baby, so it’s really about Miriam, and growing up, and learning to make good decisions. I really enjoyed it.

Sweep of the Heart – Ilona Andrews

I don’t often pay full price for ebooks, but when this one first came up available for preorder, I jumped on it. This is one of my favorite series going at the moment.

Dina and Sean agree to hold what amounts to the royal version of the Bachelor at their inn, after Sean’s mentor Wilmos is kidnapped. The Sovereign will allow them to use the one gate that leads to where Wilmos was taken, so they really have no choice.

Turns out, this Sovereign is their permanent guest Caldenia’s nephew, the son of the brother she killed, that turned her into an exile. I was so happy to get more of Caldenia’s backstory.

I also really enjoyed watching Dina and Sean’s relationship evolving – they’re both very powerful in their own ways, ways which could implode a relationship, but they’re making it work.

And the end!

All in all, this was another very enjoyable book – I’m just sorry I have to wait for more!

Come Tumbling Down – Seanan McGuire

This outing in the Wayward Children stories sees an ending of sorts to the story of Jack and Jill – the twins who had found their way to the Moors. Jack had had to sacrifice Jill to get them back to the Moors, but all was not lost, because Jack’s mentor on the Moors can restore life. So when Jack returns to the school, in Jill’s body, her friends journey back with her to save the Moors from Jill.

I enjoyed this story, but I’ll admit, I didn’t necessarily need to see more of what happens to the twins – their story is so macabre that I don’t want to know there’s what seems to be a definite end to it. I do hope the author brings us some more stories of the other students we haven’t covered yet in the books I have not read yet.