My March Reading Log

Rescue Operations: Changes of Life by L.A. Hall, sixteenth in the Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle series, includes the return of Josh Ferraby to England amidst a complex plot, involving a vast number of people, to free a woman from an abusive husband and settle her where she can have a new life. Meanwhile, all anticipate the return of friends from their long journey to the Antipodes. At this point, I don’t always immediately remember the identity of all the very large cast of characters, many of them children of characters from the original Comfortable Courtesan series, but I’m starting to get a handle on more of them. Luckily, this is a series that rewards re-reading.

Forgotten in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) is fifty-third (!) in the Eve Dallas series of science fictional mysteries set in future New York City, starting off with the discovery of present-day and long-past murders in close proximity. In recent installments, I’ve noticed Roberts seems to be subtly updating what I call the “Jetsons future” of the books. The computers are still voice-activated, but she hasn’t used android cops/domestic servants/guards in a while, and “wrist units,” which seemed to be Dick Tracy-like communication units, aren’t mentioned as much. Some characters still carry a PPC (Personal Pocket Computer), which can be used to print documents. “Links” in the books are now a lot more like smart phones, I think, than they were when the series began in 1995. Tracing all that technology throughout the series could end up being somebody’s dissertation, maybe. Also of interest, there’s another wealthy and powerful villain, contrasted unfavorably with a retired mobster who nonetheless has a code of honor. I could not help making connections with real-life real estate dynasties in New York City who engaged and are engaging in criminal practices, and am pretty sure that was on purpose. I personally feel this book and the previous one include a fair amount of Roberts venting about present-day politics, while still keeping to her usual concerns of standing up for, and protecting, those who cannot protect themselves. For the most part Robb’s cops are strongly moral and dedicated to justice, with “protect and serve” being more than lip service; that’s a future I would like to believe in.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor has been on my TBR for a while. It’s a novella in which a young Himba woman from the future version of Namibia, a mathematician and technologist, becomes the first of her people to be accepted to an interstellar university. She decides to go to the university against the wishes of her family. En-route, the ship is violently taken over by aliens, with Binti and the pilot being the only human survivors. Binti is able to communicate with the aliens through a piece of ancient technology she found in the desert and had with her on the ship; the device only initiates their interactions, however. The story revolves around issues being resolved through communication and willingness to learn about another culture.

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian is a historical male/male romance between a former highwayman and the son of a duke, loosely set in Georgian England, by which I mean the aristocrat has some fabulous high fashion outfits, but there’s not much depth to the historical detail; however, the story does interrogate the idea of aristocracy and their ill-gotten riches. Cynical Kit, famous highwayman with a tragic past, had to give up his criminal life after a life-changing injury; he’s slowly and reluctantly seduced by Percy, Lord Holland, a flamboyant duke’s heir with impressive swordsmanship who needs to steal an important item from his awful father. It was a fun romp with secondary characters doing their own things in the background, some of which will no doubt be important in the sequel. My favorite was Betty the fence and critic of Kit’s love life.

Sword Dance and Saffron Alley by A.J. Demas were recommended by a Romance blog I follow, and they are absolutely gripping. The first two in a trilogy, the plots combine mystery with the ongoing romance between ex-soldier Damiskos, still dealing with the life-altering injury that cut his career short, and freedman eunuch dancer and spy Varazda, who is navigating a romantic relationship for the first time. The setting is secondary world fantasy based on Classical period Mediterranean culture; there are elements of Athens and Persia in particular; Damiskos’ military service has echoes of Afghanistan or a similar area destabilized by ongoing conflict and ruled by warlords. Content warning: this world includes slavery and enslaved eunuchs in a country the story does not visit.

Soulstar by C.J. Polk is third in the Kingston Cycle. Former nurse, medical student, and activist Robin Thorpe has worked for years towards freeing Aeland from monarchy in order to institute democracy. When these efforts bear fruit, and captive witches are freed from punitive asylums, she is finally reunited with her spouse after a gap of twenty years. Robin comes from the Samindan culture, which is beautifully depicted in ways totally integrated into the story. None of the characters’ goals are easy, and they have many opponents of different kinds. Everything takes community effort and thinking outside the box, so the resolution is very satisfying. My only very minor complaint is that a lot happens, in quick succession, and I would have welcomed slower pacing in order to feel the progress more fully.

The Warfare of Genghis Khan by victoria_p (musesfool) is a very short crossover between Leverage and Captain America, both concerned with justice in ways I’d love to see further explored.

The Hellhound of the Rockefellers by Flourish for kateandbarrel crosses over Elementary with Sleepy Hollow. I’d only seen most of the first season of Sleepy Hollow and a couple of episodes of Elementary but I could easily follow this version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. As you might guess, it has a mystery plot with supernatural elements.

Silver and Gold by scioscribe is a very long alternate universe story in which MCU Odin gives eight-year-old Loki to Heimdall for fostering, which leads to a much happier ending. Because I’m a huge fan of Found Family, I enjoyed this quite a bit. It has several appealing original characters and some fun worldbuilding, especially relating to the Vanir and the Jotun. Heimdall of the Nine Mothers only has three left when the story begins, but I could’ve read an entire epic just about them.

the more you say the less i know (wherever you stray, i follow) by notcaycepollard is an excellent AU of both Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which factors in Sam Wilson’s back story. Sam meets Bucky while still deployed in Afghanistan with the Falcon program. They end up on the run together, with subsequent changes to the movie’s plot that I found very satisfying.

My TBR Challenge book this month was Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, which is awesome.

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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