My March Reading Log

The Immortals: Olympus Bound by Jordanna Max Brodsky was a strange but intriguing mixture of Olympian gods with a suspense novel involving serial killings. The Olympians are fading away as they live in the modern world, gradually losing their powers, and some losing their minds as well as their memories (altered by human myth-telling). Artemis is the implacable protagonist, living in New York City and protecting women but not really managing to deal with new technologies or making new connections or keeping up her old ones; she is still feuding with Apollo about the death of Orion, for example. There is also a romance subplot for her, which was sort of a weird fit, I felt, with everything else going on; it turned out all right for the characters, as did the other two main plot threads, but I’m not sure the whole book was successful for me, as a reader. Too much going on? Not enough connection to the non-human characters? I did enjoy the worldbuilding quite a bit.

The Backup by Erica Kudisch was interesting and kind of disturbing. It was published by Riptide. I had thought going in that it would be a romance, but in fact it was not; more of a dark fantasy about rock and roll, with some sex in it, that reminded me a little of Elizabeth Hand’s work. The narrator is a recent PhD in musicology who can’t get a job, and ends up babysitting a rock star who claims he is actually Dionysus. People keep dying or losing their minds at concerts. It wasn’t my usual sort of book, but it was compelling enough that I kept reading when I’d only meant to sample. I especially enjoyed the narrator’s music geekery – it was worth reading for that alone. The best thing about Bach (and a thing Bach passed on to his sons, in a limited capacity, including Carl) is that the rules lay themselves plain in the opening measures and hold true on every musical level. They’re easy to memorize, no surprises, no unexpected transitions. The construction isn’t unsubtle—if it were, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my dissertation—but it’s cohesive, perfect, clear. It’s honest. Forthright. Bach makes a choice, and stands behind it, from the tiniest gesture to the piece as a whole, even to the entire compilation if you squint hard enough.

I finally read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. Everything I’d heard about it (not a lot of action; middle-aged domesticity and life changes; like fanfiction) made it seem right up my alley, and that turned out to be true. As a middle-aged person, I was utterly engaged by the low-key life problems of what to do with one’s life as it reaches its later stages, and choosing your own path, and asserting your selfhood.

The Best Corpse for the Job is by Charlie Cochrane, an author known for m/m historical mysteries. This one is a contemporary setting, either standalone or first in a new series, but still has the m/m element. The mystery is a bit obviously puzzle box (who had access to the building and when, etc.) but that was what I was in the mood for. It entertained me during a long, busy week, but I didn’t feel moved to seek out any sequels.

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk was a paranormal male/male romance/mystery set in the titular creepy town in New England during what seems like the late 19th century. The first-person narrator attended Arkham University, if that gives you an idea of the setting – but nobody in the town seems to think it’s creepy. The narrator is a brilliant philologist, his love interest a former Pinkerton detective; there’s also a female archaeologist who was a fun character. I was entertained, but got a little tired of the narrator’s rather active genitalia…maybe he could have had some other reaction than instant erection, once in a while?

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan has been in my TBR since it came out. It’s a YA about a town with a vampire district; the first-person narrator does not like vampires. Her opinion is challenged in several ways throughout the novel, which contains elements of commentary on the Twilight series. I liked the complexity of the protagonist’s journey as well as the details of a world that has always had vampires in the public eye.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is a novella I’d gotten free. The concept is brilliant: it’s about a boarding school for teens who went to other worlds and then came back to our world, and of course have trouble fitting in. McGuire chose a longing, bittersweet, angry tone for the story; the characters are only truly happy if, by some rare chance, they manage to get back to their fairylands of nonsense or logic or even horror. They don’t like to accept they might be trapped here forever, and some will do almost anything to go back Home. I’d love to see some commentary on this story in relation to various famous portal fantasies.

Stories of the Raksura: Volume One: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud and Stories of the Raksura: Volume Two: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below were worth waiting for. All of the stories were new to me, so it was lovely to revisit the world of the Raksura. I think my favorite of the stories was “The Falling World,” which was deliciously tense and also had Chime in it! I could have done with even more Chime than I got. “The Dead City” was also delightfully creepy.

Ms. Marvel Volume 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson was pretty damned intense and amazing cliff-hangery and agh, Volume 5 is not out until July! Agh!

Further Studies in Impossibility by metonymy places Ariadne from the movie Inception into the Harry Potter series as the daughter of Teddy Lupin. This all works amazingly well, and I loved seeing the older versions of some familiar characters.

I got sucked into Known Associates by thingswithwings, a very long Avengers (mostly Captain America) story which is full of history about LGBT culture in New York City in the 1930s-1940s, and changes in same between then and now, and how Steve Rogers deals with his self-perception and the perceptions of others. The historical portion was my favorite part; it was lovingly researched and skillfully presented. Steve has to deal with how his body and his feelings about it changed after he was given the super-sereum during WWII, then he ends up in a future world with all new rules and has to figure things out all over again. Overall, it’s a sweet story with a lot of genderbending. Also, it has a lot of Rhodey! And Sam! Note that this story is really, really long. Like, over 200,000 words.

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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