Books I’ve Read in 2010

(Note: Amazon isn’t the only online retailer out there, or even the best, judging from its recent catfight with McMillan. There are plenty of other companies to spread your wealth to. These books’ links include Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and Border’s. Do everyone a favor and buy from various places, including–especially!–your local independent bookseller.)

Notes From the Cracked Ceiling, by Anne E. Kornblut. (Chronicling the still-rampant sexism in our society.)

Hallowed Circle, by Linda Robertson. (Witches, motorcycle-riding werewolves and rock n’roll.)

Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding. (What happens when you die and wake up in someone else’s body? Find out here!)

Bone Magic, by Yasmine Galenorn. (Witches, unicorns, Faerie and a fair dollop of kinky sex.)

Deadtown, by Nancy Holzner. (Boston inhabited by magic and zombies.)

Bone Crossed, by Patricia Briggs. (The fourth book in the saga of Mercy Thompson, one of my favorite characters ever.)

Death’s Mistress, by Karen Chance. (An urban fantasy tale full of vampires and laugh-out-loud black humor.)

Blood Cross, by Faith Hunter. (Shapeshifter vs. vampires in New Orleans.)

The Truth (With Jokes), by Al Franken. (Not as funny as some of Al’s earlier books–he was outraged by the Bush administration, and let us know it.)

Flesh Circus, by Lilith Saintcrow. (A dark, angsty heroine and world. Be warned, said heroine is sometimes so self-absorbed you want to smack her.)

The Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay. (Three dimensions and the denizens thereof, including Earth’s, converge in Atlanta. Unusual for urban fantasy in that this heroine has a daughter.)

Unperfect Souls, Mark Del Franco. (Another otherworldly version of Boston, with druids, faeries, elves, and a damaged hero. I’ve heard this series called “dull” and “mediocre”; I don’t see that at all. I find the protagonist, a mature man instead of a feckless twenty-something, very refreshing.)

The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, by Allan G. Johnson.  (An essential primer for understanding the worldwide sweep of male domination, patriarchy and gender privilege. Don’t let anyone fool you, Virginia–those things do exist.)

Dude,  Where’s My Country? and Stupid White Men, Michael Moore. (More righteous, intelligent Bush-bashing. Maybe Dubya is gone, but unfortunately the damage remains.)

Roadkill, Rob Thurman. (The monster-hunting Leandros brothers hit the road.)

Turn Coat, Jim Butcher.  (The further adventures of My Favorite Wizard, Harry Dresden.)

Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, by Eric Alterman. (We’re liberals, and you should be too. Seriously, this book lays out why liberalism needs to be the dominant political philosophy in America–if we can get past the lies and smears generated by the Republicans and Fox “News.”)

Blinded By the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative, by David Brock. (After reading this, I don’t know why anyone would want to be a Republican–the ones depicted here are all ghouls. Unfortunately, they’re still around.)

The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid. (This book made me sad. It showed clearly the health care reform we should have gotten–single payer, run by non-profit insurance companies. That’s what the rest of the world has. But too many in this country worship the false gods of Capitalism and the Free Market, and our health care will still be a mess, even after so-called “reform.”)

What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, by Eric Alterman. (This demonstrates the “liberal media” is not liberal at all. It also shows how the Republicans basically stole the 2000 election. Just imagine how different our world would be if Al Gore had been president for eight years instead of George Bush.)

The Conscience of a Liberal, by Paul Krugman. (Makes a convincing argument that the New Deal, with its high taxes on the wealthy, social programs, and income equalization, led to an unprecedented time of prosperity in this country, and we should get back to it.)

The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, by Thomas Frank. (A scathing indictment of the conservative philosophy in general and the Republican Party in particular. After reading this, I don’t know why anyone would vote for a Republican of any stripe, as the party leaders are so clearly out to eviscerate government and turn this country from a democracy into a plutocracy–if they haven’t already. Call me a socialist–please!–but I feel there is a role for government; that simple human compassion demands a social safety net; and concern for the environment mandates that government regulate business, and not the other way around.)

Magic Bleeds, by Ilona Andrews. (The fourth book in the saga of Kate Daniels. Lots of changes, and she finally gets together with Curran.)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. (A post-apocalyptic reality show, with teenagers killing each other. It’s also written in first person, present tense, which was a bit hard to read over the length of a novel–I think that format is best suited to the short story. Nevertheless, it’s a story you won’t forget.)

Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris. (This last two Sookie Stackhouse books, in my opinion, have relied too much on Sookie’s wandering through what story there is being blond, pretty, and telepathic. This books has more of an actual plot.)

The Third Claw of God, by Adam-Troy Castro. (An unusual mixture of science fiction and mystery that mostly works, even though it’s not as good as his first.)

Pray for Dawn, Jocelynn Drake. (An urban fantasy where tramp stamps don’t exist–this one is dark, gritty and violent. This particular book is told from the point of view of the male protagonist, the vampire hunter Danaus.)

Inhuman Resources, Jes Battis. (A takeoff of the CSI craze–this is an “OSI”–Occult Special Investigator–novel. Interesting forensics stuff, worked out for supernatural denizens.)

Diary of a Rock N’Roll Star, Ian Hunter. (Most people have no idea who this is, but once upon a time, almost forty years ago, he sang in a little band called Mott the Hoople, and is still making music today at age 70. This book is a chronicle of Mott’s ’72 tour, written in a very stream-of-consciousness style, with some hilarious English culture shock–and a bit of misogynism [sorry Ian]. Disclaimer: I am a major fangirl. Squeee!!)

Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work is Done, Susan J. Douglas. (Sexism isn’t dead, as this book so persuasively shows–it’s just gone underground. Except during the 2008 election.)

Dream Called Time, S.L. Viehl. (The tenth book in the StarDoc series. I have mostly enjoyed the series, and the protagonist, Cherijo, is a great character. Having said that, this book comes with some caveats–an overly convoluted plot that moves so fast you can’t even breathe, and a far-too-convenient solution to the protag’s personal problems, some of which are just hand-waved away in a manner that makes absolutely no sense. Something of a disappointment, I guess.)

A  Wild Light, Marjorie M. Liu. (I love this series, which is nominally urban fantasy but which is in reality so much more. A complicated mythos and gorgeous prose makes this author an automatic buy for me.)

Frostbitten, Kelley Armstrong. (The continuing saga of Elena Michaels, the world’s only female werewolf.)

Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness, by Elaine Tyler May. (This book took a while to finish; it’s kind of a dry academic read [I picked it up at the community college library]. It’s fascinating–and telling–that there were no antiabortion laws in the early history of the United States. Abortion was legal up till the time of “quickening” [when the fetus began to move, around the fourth month]. Abortion and contraception began to be banned only over worries that good white American women weren’t producing enough babies, aka the rise of the racist “eugenics” movement. So are modern-day anti-choicers also eugenicists? You decide.)

Death Blows, DD Barant. (I finished this book, but I didn’t really like it. The worldbuilding and history are interesting–the setting is an alternate Earth with vampires, lycanthropes and golems as the dominant species instead of humans–and so is the protagonist [although I think if you’re going to give your heroine an odd name, you should also make clear how it’s pronounced]. However, this book’s plot is quite preposterous, even for an urban fantasy. If I wanted to see a silly, convoluted storyline about comic-book superheroes being murdered, I would have rented Watchmen.)

Killbox, Ann Aguirre. (The wonderful, iconoclastic Sirantha Jax rides again. This is pure space opera, written in an invigorating first person, present tense–which I’m not overly fond of, but the author pulls it off. Good character development all the way around, and it ends on a bloody CLIFFHANGER! I would strangle the author, but that would keep me from finding out what happens.)

Wait for Dusk, Jocelynn Drake. (The cover is horrid–this book has a sex scene, but it’s definitely not a romance–but let’s ignore that. What fascinates me about this book, and indeed the entire series, is the fact that Mira, the protagonist, is not a nice person. She’s a ruthless, unapologetic killer. Yet the author makes us care about and root for her. That’s some good writing.)

Elegy Beach, Steven R. Boyett. (This, at long last, is the sequel to Ariel, a post-apocalyptic fantasy published 25 years ago. Within the rules the author lays down, it’s a good book, but you know what? Even if magic did become possible, if ninety percent of the population disappeared and civilization collapsed, everybody else would just starve. This is the 1000-pound elephant in the room that post-apocalyptic writers don’t seem to acknowledge, with the possible exception of Cormac McCarthy, who I have yet to tackle.)

Feed, Mira Grant. (This book made me cry. Not many books do that nowadays, and it’s a testament to the author’s skill in worldbuilding and characterization, as well as the sheer cojones of her story. I’m not going to spoil the book, but if you read it and start crying about three-fourths of the way through, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.)

Heaven’s Spite, Lilith Saintcrow. (Saintcrow writes dark and gritty fantasy–not really urban, although Santa Luz, the protagonist’s city, is almost a character in its own right. This book, the fifth of six about Jill Kismet, also ends on a cliffhanger, although there is a sample chapter of the next book to tell you she didn’t really blow her head off.)

Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars, David Roberts. (A sad reminder that this country was built not on hard work and apple pie, but rather broken promises and genocide. It makes one wonder what would have happened if the Native Americans had some way of fighting back against the European settlers. I’ll bet the United States of America as we know it today would not exist. I also wonder if that would be such a bad thing.)

Harvest Hunting, Yasmine Galenorn. (The eighth Otherworld novel, concentrating on the shapeshifter Delilah. Not quite as kinky as the previous book in the series.)

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women From 1960 to the Present, Gail Collins. (A fifty-year history [or “herstory”] of the women’s movement. I found the chapter on civil rights especially harrowing.)

The Madness Season, C.S. Friedman. (This science-fiction odyssey is about the future conquest of Earth and what it means to be human. The author’s strengths are the alien species; there are several described here, each with a well-thought-out worldview and truly alien biology. There’s also a shape-shifting protagonist that’s not really a vampire or werewolf, but a blood-fueled combination of the two. This is a book you have to dig into, and reread a couple of times, I think, to really appreciate.)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King. (Every so often I take this book out and reread it just for the sheer pleasure of it–to savor King’s unpretentious, common-sense approach to writing and life.)

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (And What It Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt. (One mark of a good writer is that they can take the kookiest subject and make it interesting. Mr. Vanderbilt has done that here.)

Night Myst, Yasmine Galenorn. (This is one of my favorite authors, and she doesn’t disappoint. This is the first book in a new series, and the antagonists are truly badass. I look forward to the next book.)

Black Wings, Christina Henry. (This book takes advantage of what I suppose is the “next big thing” in urban fantasy–fallen angels, as opposed to vampires. Having said that, despite the hero’s having an awesome sidekick in Beezle the gargoyle, the book as a whole is kind of…meh. Also, the writer should have known that the protagonist’s finding a previously unknown father who turns out to be a sociopathic, power-mad misogynist is cliche, to say the least. There’s usually a good reason you never knew your father.)

It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments, Amanda Marcotte. (This book assumes the reader is already a feminist, and offers snarky advice to rebut the opposition and sexism you will encounter. There was a bit of an uproar when it first came out, due to the supposedly racist illustrations. I guess they are racist, but more than that, they’re just stupid: I cannot fathom why a purported feminist would agree to a blond, curvaceous, Sheena-Queen-of-the-Jungle cliche adorning her book.)

Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, and Venom, Jennifer Estep. (These three books [so far] comprise the Elemental Assassin series, and they’re very good. This author has joined my short Buy-On-Sight list. The protagonist is one of the best urban fantasy heroines I’ve ever read, for all she’s a cold, hard, ruthless assassin. She has reasons for being that way, and she has her own complicated code of honor. The supporting characters are also well drawn, and the magic system is unique and interesting. Highly recommended.)

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