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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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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Waters of Versailles – Kelly Robson

Waters of VersaillesWaters of Versailles by Kelly Robson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“You are a striver.”

I loved this scene. Usually I hate it when a story that’s otherwise leaning toward literary states what it’s about, but I loved this, I think because striving is the protagonist’s guiding principle, and he tries so hard to hide it. Every person in the court is striving and pretending they’re not. And by making this statement so baldly, it allowed everything else room to breathe. I wasn’t on an emotional journey with Sylvain to admit he was striving (that was pretty fucking obvious). I was along for the ride as he reached his limits, realized what all this striving was costing him and everyone else, admitted what he really wanted. All stories are about someone wanting something, and the revelation of the story was Sylvain’s suppressed desires.

Also, this is a dramedy about toilets set in a court that reached new absurdities of behavior. In short, this story is fantastic.

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Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych, #1)Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started this book in the middle of winter, read 40 pages, then left it on my nightstand for months. Once I returned to it, I very much enjoyed the read. I can always count on Valente for beautiful, stylized language and sharply-rendered characters. She also has a way of leading me on with little surprises waiting around the corners, layering in gorgeously horrible details about Leningrad during the war. I appreciated the structural motifs (the triplicate repetitions, the Russian folktale textual cues, etc), however, I couldn’t connect the thematic motifs in a way that felt satisfying. I have no doubt the threads are there, but they never coalesced as I was reading, and I ended the book feeling like I didn’t understand the point she was trying to make. Not sure if I read it at the wrong time or if I’d always feel that way about it. Rather than read this one again, or even read any eventual sequels, I’d rather read Valente’s other novels I haven’t gotten to yet.

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The Girl in the Green Silk Gown – Seanan McGuire

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads #2)The Girl in the Green Silk Gown by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved Sparrow Hill Road so much I walked into a bookshop minutes after finishing it to purchase the sequel, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, which I tore through with gusto. A more traditional novel, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown did not begin life as a series of short stories later “fixed-up” into a longer work, like its predecessor. Instead, McGuire set out to tell more of road-ghost Rose’s story in long form. I relished the twists and turns of the tale, as the cat-and-mouse pursuit from book one again stands as the narrative through-line, only darker and more dangerous. Rose’s journey took her many places (a hitcher has to keep moving), echoing the episodic structure of the previous book, and delved deep into themes of trust, identity, coming of age, the burdens of power, and choices. Familiar characters populate the highways and byways of Rose’s quest, and I was on the edge of my seat wondering if she’d defeat Bobby Cross or be destroyed in the attempt, wondering who might betray her and for what price. It’s rare that I genuinely wonder if a main character will make it to the end (it’s almost always obvious they will, no matter how harrowing the writer thinks they’re making the story), but McGuire kept me on tenterhooks and I love her for it.

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