My November Reading Log

Fiction:
The Lady And The Tiger by copperbadge is original fiction in the Shivadh universe, also published under author name Sam Starbuck; it features a romance between Lady Alanna Daskaz and the Duke of Shivadlakia, Gerald ben Eitan, known as Jerry. When the duke of nearby Galia dies, Alanna and Jerry, close friends since childhood, travel there as an official delegation. Alanna investigates the succession, looking for an unknown heir, while Jerry reveals unexpected competence in her support, including fending off suitors. Their romance is subtle at first, but soon feels like an inevitability. They’re really fun together!

The Twelve Points of Caleb Canto by copperbadge is original fiction in the Shivadh universe, also published under author name Sam Starbuck. Askazer-Shivadlakia is a fictional country on the French Riviera ruled by an elected king and known for its liberal politics. This novel is about their first entry into Eurovision and Shivadh music teacher Caleb Canto’s relationship with UK singer Buck Havard. Caleb, a trans man, is autistic and is not fond of performing, but a song he’d written and sold is chosen by a Eurovision singer, who later doesn’t show for the competition, propelling Caleb into an adventure that ultimately changes his life for the better. Caleb is generally reserved but speaks his mind, a trait that at first puts him at odds with the flamboyant rock star Buck, but soon appeals to Buck, who finds it difficult to trust others. They find joy in working together on music, and slowly begin to consider a future together, after the contest ends. This is the fourth novel in the Shivadh universe, and it’s helpful to have read the previous stories in order to fully enjoy the large cast of secondary characters.

The Royals And The Ramblers by copperbadge includes a lesbian romance, but also there is a pregnancy/surrogacy plot and an adoption plot along with lots of new characters, most of them Eddie Rambler’s family. Since I was reading this for the characters, I was not fussed about the many plots happening and enjoyed spending time in this world.

The Blue, Beautiful World by Karen Lord follows The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game but this time takes place almost entirely on Earth, which is unaware that civilizations on other planets have been watching and others interfering to their own advantage; colonialism and post-colonialism are themes throughout these three books. I love sociological science fiction, and Lord’s is marked by expansive worldbuilding that seems far-flung and random at first, with multiple points of view, but gradually coalesces into a fuller picture of a galaxy that includes a range of extrasensory powers and seemingly impossible methods of travel. But Earth, too, has its uniqueness, beyond our current imaginings and even those of the alien beings hoping to shepherd its people into a global government that can help Earth meet its neighbors as equals rather than as a colony. Familiar characters from the earlier books reappear, some in different guises; hope and thoughtful explorations of human interactions remain the same.

Spear by Nicola Griffith was my November TBR Challenge book.

Nonfiction:
Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind by Josh Karp was interesting and also depressing. Welles wanted to make a movie without studio interference, which had harmed some of his previous work to the detriment of his reputation; he made this one over a period of years as he could obtain money and resources, with the assistance of some extremely loyal crewmembers, filming in the early 1970s and continuing to work on it until his death in 1985. I learned he could be an immensely charming person, and though brilliant, seemed to be totally incompetent at handling money. Sometimes it was great to read about this intensely meta project: the plot centered on an aging film director’s opus and the found footage of others filming his final screening party, shot with different types of film in a way that seems normal now but I don’t think was at the time. Sometimes the narrative was confusing and tedious when going into the legal disputes among Welles’ heirs and his various funding sources, which included the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law, that sent the movie into limbo for decades. It didn’t premiere until 2018, by which point almost all of the participants had died. The final cut is currently available on Netflix; I have not watched it. I ended the book feeling a sad sense of lost potential.

Fanfiction:
Almost No One Makes It Out by atrata is an AU positing that Tony Stark did not have money and joined the army, where he worked as a mechanic. Still a genius, and still captured by terrorists in the Middle East, the outcome of his invention of the Iron Man suit is very different, though Nick Fury does ultimately show up. In this version, Rhodey’s life is virtually the same, only he doesn’t meet Tony until much later; Pepper, unsurprisingly, works in Army logistics and is both supportive of and frustrated by Tony, who once in the army is willing to go to great lengths to get out. The Iron Man suit is almost incidental to the story more about being able to pursue your passions.

a girl wild and unwished for by raven (singlecrow) is another M.A.S.H. story, a historical set in 1957 about Hawkeye participating in a trial of lithium carbonate via canonical character psychiatrist Sidney Freedman, and events of the Cold War relating to establishing emergency hospitals in small towns against the event of nuclear holocaust. The story also features a lovely friendship with Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. I think this story would be enjoyable even if you’d never seen the source material.

Doc Harley by starknjarvis features a post-Joker-breakup Harley Quinn, who’s making a life with girlfriend Pamela Isley, formerly Poison Ivy. An accidental encounter with Nightwing leads to a friendship with Dick Grayson and, eventually, the rest of the Bat family; though she doesn’t have her medical license back, Harley turns out to be very helpful to a group of people with a lot of trauma and a severe lack of therapy. The tone was sweet and humorous.

Beggars Would Ride by Pargoletta is an Old Guard story set in post-Civil War New York City, focusing on immortal Booker/Sebastien le Livre, still mourning his mortal family, as he encounters early photography and spirit photography. Meanwhile, his close bonds with the other immortals and his landlady and her daughter poignantly show both what he’s lost and what he still can have. It’s a story about grief and love and hope, and I loved it.

Are You Out There, Can You Hear This? by lannamichaels is a Vorkosiverse AU in which Duv Galeni was a DJ of Komarran music, and Emperor Gregor became a fan of Komarran music through listening, while maintaining his anonymity. Part Two of this series explores the online bulletin boards for Komarran music in a very realistic and broad-ranging way, and gave me a profound nostalgia for the topical bulletin boards and mailing lists of the 1990s, which I suspect the writer might share.

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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