My July Reading Log

Fiction:
Abandoned in Death by J. D. Robb is the fifty-fourth in that series, wow, and there are currently two more scheduled to follow. These are comfortingly repetitive despite being about sometimes truly gruesome serial murders, because the killer is always caught and jailed in the end. I also find it interesting to watch the near-future worldbuilding shift and change as it gets closer to present-day. In Romance, the plot is Happily Ever After; in Mystery, the plot is Justice is Served. This series began publication in July 1995 and is set in the mid-twenty-first century; time creeps very slowly forward from book to book, so as it now stands, I think the history of this alternate future needs to shift and is shifting, very gently, from book to book. Robb (Nora Roberts) early on has the “Urban Wars” or “Urbans” as a landmark event in that world’s history that seems to have resulted in mass destruction of neighborhoods, and induced societal changes such as the creation of paid professional motherhood, android servants and beat cops, and sex workers becoming Licensed Companions. Offworld resorts and prisons have both been frequently referenced but only shown once, if I recall. Early in the series, I thought of the worldbuilding as a Jetsons future. But it’s been quite a while since androids have shown up; I think it’s become clear to the author that they don’t really work with the timeline. Likewise, this current installment flashes back to the 1990s, but at no point are The Urbans mentioned as a cause of any difficulty in obtaining records, as has been an issue in past books. I am wondering when The Urbans are supposed to have happened. When did this reality split off from ours? I am overthinking this because I’m using my speculative fiction brain. Anyway. I enjoyed my trip back into this world and am glad it continues to make me think.

Prisoner of Midnight by Barbara Hambly is eighth and most current of the James and Lydia Asher series about vampire hunters and their uneasy vampire ally, Don Simon Ysidro. I was excited to find it’s set in 1917, with James on leave from serving as a spy at the front and Lydia recently returned from the front herself. I definitely need to find volume seven soon, as it’s set in the beginning of World War One. After a desperate call from Simon, who’s being held captive, Lydia and daughter Miranda end up on a luxury ship to America, trapped with a killer and hunted by German submarines. Hambly emphasizes the differences between first and third class passengers. A millionaire American capitalist, his thug/private detectives, and union labor struggles form a background. Meanwhile, back in Europe, James must negotiate with Paris vampires to help Lydia solve the mystery. Content warning for child deaths. There are assorted anti-Romany/anti-Semite/anti-Muslim/anti-Catholic/anti-Protestant period typical sentiments among the passengers, including a little anti-black racism on the side; a powder keg in a confined space. But justice is ultimately served.

Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly is fifth in the same series, set in 1913. I continue to read these out of order! This volume, like number eight, also includes a wealthy American capitalist with his own bully-boys, though he’s secondary to vampire villains, one the Master of London, Dr. Lionel Grippen. Grippen is on the trail of another vampire who fled the Balkans when war broke out. Grippen forces Lydia’s help by kidnapping James and Lydia’s small daughter Miranda, along with her nursery maid. Meanwhile, Lydia has been dragooned into chaperoning her niece’s comeout, which unsurprisingly leads to uncovering some vampiric connections. This one had a cinematic feel to me, especially the dramatic ending sequence in Scotland.

My July TBR Challenge book is Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.

Two different library books were DNF this month. One of them was a bit darker than what I was in the mood for; the other just bored me within the first chapter because the point of view character had no hint of vulnerability.

Fanfiction:
One of my favorite fanfiction writers, whom I did not know personally but whom friends did, passed away in June. Since then, I’ve been revisiting A.J. Hall’s wide-ranging, witty, beautifully-written work. I particularly recommend The Queen of Gondal, an epic “quasi-historical AU of the BBC Sherlock series set (more or less) in three fantasy kingdoms devised by the Bronte children.” There’s also a bit of Pride and Prejudice, and Cabin Pressure, and Life on Mars mixed in there, to pleasing effect. You do not need to be familiar with any of the source material to enjoy the stories.

Angel in the Architecture by bluflamingo is an AU story set after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Canon did not show us what Hawkeye was doing when S.H.I.E.L.D. fell; in this story, he’s being held captive in a foreign country until he’s rescued by The Winter Soldier, who’s recently escaped the destruction of the crashed helicarriers. Clint is injured and Bucky is recovering bits of his memory as they flee together and form a bond. For two deadly assassins, they’re surprisingly sweet together, and I would read a lot more about them. They should totally take a road trip.

Ordinary Love by audreyii_fic, also an AU, starts with the idea that MCU Thor and Loki are banished to Midgard together; Thor becomes best buddies with Darcy and Loki forms a relationship with Jane. The epic story started as a series of humorous drabbles but then acquired a rather good plot, using Hydra as the antagonist instead of Loki, with similar results to the first Thor movie. There are some fun original characters and appearances by Hawkeye, Coulson, Erik Selvig, and Iron Man, among others from the Thor universe. This was a lot of fun.

There will come soft rains by Silence89 crosses over Leverage with The Laundry Files books by Charles Stross. You don’t need to have read the Stross books for this story; it’s almost better if you haven’t, I suspect. Eliot Spencer was badly injured helping to fend off an interdimensional invasion of Earth which he literally cannot speak about; Hardison and Parker are determined to save his life. This story gave me serious old school hurt-comfort vibes while also having an excellent plot and a some emotional rollercoaster moments. Content warning for hospital ICU, difficult medical decisions, and fear of loss. The story has a happy ending, it just gets rough for a while.

From the Top by garamonder spins off from the end of Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, crossing over into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Peter B. Parker gets dragged off course on his way home and ends up having to defeat another version of Kingpin with the help of his younger counterpart Peter, Ned Leeds, and Tony Stark. The author did a beautiful job fleshing out Peter B. Parker’s emotional life and continuity, including the character growth he’s just experienced. It’s essence of Spiderman as he sticks to his principles. Also, it was a cracking good adventure story.

Hotel Heart by Laughsalot3412 is a Leverage AU set in a universe where psychic powers are a Thing, and because of those powers, terrible things have happened to Parker at the hands of a shady government agency and to Eliot Spencer at the hands of evil empath Damien Moreau. Alec Hardison has helped Parker to recover somewhat, but Eliot was on his own until Eliot is sent to kill them. Eliot ends up in their orbit, drawn in despite himself; angst and healing and victory over Moreau ensue. I love that because of life experience, telekinetic Parker often understands how to help baseline human Eliot better than empath Hardison.

Two Colors, White and Gold by Carelica for frostbitebakery is a surprisingly cozy snowy post-apocalyptic Bucky Barnes/Steve Rogers story set in an alternative universe where an apocalypse happened while Hydra still had Bucky in cryofreeze. He awakens and heads from Siberia to the Altai. He finds an animal friend and starts to make a home for himself without knowing what’s happened to the world or what’s going on elsewhere. Luckily, Steve is looking for him. The dog wolf does not die. The story has a happy ending.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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