Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma

Division Bells by Iona Datt Sharma

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In addition to sharp and beautiful prose, this reads like all-original-character West Wing fanfic, only British, in a supremely good way. Delightful from beginning to end. Every character was wonderfully recognizable and felt like an old friend, in that fanfic way that’s so very comforting and lovely. The blooming of Jules and Ari’s relationship alongside the unfurling of Ari’s grief and Jules’s confidence is utterly satisfying. Come here for quiet tension and soft landings, not high drama.

I don’t know how Amazon knew to recommend this to me, because it’s not what I usually read, so I can only assume it’s somehow tagged similarly to my latest read, Winter’s Orbit, a scifi political thriller romance stuffed with fanfic trope goodness. Keep up the good algorithms, I guess, with a side of shut up and take my money.



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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I can’t believe I almost didn’t read this. I nearly missed out on this absolute treasure of a novel. This is my best impulse buy of quarantine, hands down.

Stuffed with fanfic trope goodness, this tight sci-fi political thriller romance gives you every fun and satisfying thing you want from all of those genres, while also tackling some serious issues of marginalization and recovery from intimate-partner abuse with sensitivity and strength. I got exactly what I came to this book for: compelling characters, an exciting story, some depth, some BAMFs, some cinnamon rolls, and a happy ending.

What a balm after the dumpster fire of 2020!



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Codename Villanelle (Killing Eve, #1) by Luke Jennings

Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is a solid book, a fast-paced, no bullshit spy thriller, as promised. But I have ludicrously high standards, and this one is falling short. If I didn’t love the show, I wouldn’t have liked this book at all. The characters are much more fully psychologically realized in the show, and much more complex. The relationships between the characters in the show (Villanelle and Konstantin; Eve and Nico; Eve and Bill; Villanelle and Eve) are much more compelling and act as complicating factors for the plot and the characters’ emotional landscapes. The book is somewhat flat in comparison. The prose wavers around from clumsy (especially some of the dialogue), to clinical (very effective for the genre), to competent, to the occasional artful turn of phrase.

It is nice to read a quick spy thriller. I got this one on sale for a dollar or two on Kindle, but I’m not going to buy any more of these. If I get the urge to read any more of the series while waiting for the next season of the show, I’ll get them from the library.



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On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I started 2020 with Aliette de Bodard’s collection Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight, so it seemed fitting to end the year with one of her Xuya universe novellas.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Against the backdrop of a war that is dividing an Empire, a family on Prosper Station is struggling to keep its own cracks from showing.

I love the complicated relationships in de Bodard’s work, and they are especially powerful in On a Red Station, Drifting. The Pride and Prejudice levels of misunderstanding and friction between Linh and Quyen put the opera in this space opera, which packs a real punch in a small package. But instead of romance as resolution, we get respect. We get two proud and stubborn women who choose to die on their hills (metaphorically speaking) in ways that serve and protect their family while honoring their own private griefs, ambitions, and ideals. While their futures remain uncertain, these women are certain of themselves and their ability to face whatever life throws their way.

What a fantastic way to end a terrible year. May I enter 2021 with half that much resolve.

Read on: December 30, 2020

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The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Riveting. Moved so smoothly from scene to scene, between past to present, I was carried along and desperate for the next tidbit, even when it was awful. And this story is full of mostly awful things, a woman’s sad and angry remembrances of her life up to this point, the week of her father’s death. Cutting through all the disappointment and the rapidly unraveling sibling bonds is her hope for the return of a dark creature that might carry her away from a continued life of heartache, loneliness, and missed chances. The book pitch sounded to me like this was a “something lurking in the dark” story, so I expected a shivering and stalking sort of gothic haunting, but instead I found melancholy longing twisted up with barely suppressed rage. This story lures you in with soft sorrow and beautiful language and then twists all the sharp objects you didn’t realize were being pushed between your ribs. I loved it.

Read on: December 29, 2020

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