Books I’ve Read in 2011

(Here we go again with the new year, keeping track of what I read. This is an important exercise, I think, as it also, to a degree, captures my thoughts and concerns about life. Which isn’t to say I can’t read fluffy stuff–I can and do–but hopefully it’s balanced out by reads of substance.)

Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane, John Amato and David Neiwert. (This book, published a year ago, is frighteningly prescient. It shows how what was once a fringe ideology has become the mainstream, and how the entire country has suffered because of it. There’s an entire chapter devoted to Fox News which puts the lie to the canard, “The other side does it too.” No, they don’t.)

The Mage in Black, Jaye Wells. (I don’t agree with the central premise of this series–vampires are born, not made, and can interbreed with other “dark races”–for obvious reasons; immortal beings, by definition, have to be sterile, or nearly so, or they’ll overpopulate the planet! Sort of like immortal, ever-dividing cancer cells, heh heh. At any rate, if you can suspend your disbelief that far, this isn’t a bad story.)

Mercy Blade, Faith Hunter.  (There’s some seriously good worldbuilding in this series; the author recognizes that since vampires/werewolves, et cetera, are virtually immortal, their conflicts can go decades and centuries into the past. The New Orleans setting is also very good.)

Silver Borne, Patricia Briggs. (Another good installment of one of my favorite urban fantasy heroines, Mercy Thompson.)

Train Wreck: the End of the Conservative Revolution, Bill Press. (Unfortunately, this train has not yet gone off the rails. But this writer gives a good argument for never letting Republicans near Washington. After all, as he states so eloquently, if you think government is the problem, you sure as hell can’t run it.)

Conservatives Without Conscience, John W. Dean. (This is one of the scariest books I’ve ever read, as it absolutely nails the conservative authoritarian mindset. Dean describes them as being “enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral.” Sound familiar? That’s nearly all the Teatwits and most Republicans I’ve ever seen.)

Blood Wyne, Yasmine Galenorn. (The continuing saga of three half-Fae sisters in the Otherworld series, this one concentrates on Menolly, the vampire. An odd name, that, though the author says she didn’t gakk it from Anne McCaffrey. At any rate, the worldbuilding and characterization in these books are very good, and something explosive happens in this book that sets up the next book quite nicely. I can’t wait.)

Afterlight, Elle Jasper. (Before I bought this book, I read a review suggesting it was just meh, and I agree. Maybe it’s because I definitely lean more towards the urban fantasy side of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance divide–I want stories that concentrate on the worldbuilding and mythology, not whether Guy Gets Girl. This book is more romance, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, even if it’s not my cup of Earl Grey. What’s bad about this book is its total mediocrity: the characters are flat, the romance unbelievable, the mythology bad, and what worldbuilding there is–not much–is poorly thought out and explained. I didn’t quite throw this book against the wall, but I’m certainly not keeping it.)

Changes, Jim Butcher. (Good heavens. The latest entry in the Dresden Files is a classic example of what some writers advocate: Torture Your Character. In this book, Harry Dresden gets tortured in spades. He loses everything: his job, his office, his car, his cat, his dog, his apartment, his freedom [he makes a very bad but necessary bargain], his former lover, his daughter, and–in a slam-bang climax–possibly his life. I say “possibly” because the series is to go on, and in this world even death isn’t necessarily the end. But man, what a wide-eyed, sweat-soaked, knuckle-clenching ride.)

Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women, Rebecca Traister. (The 2008 election, seen through the lens of Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Sarah Palin. I don’t know if the author intended to, but she makes a convincing case if Hillary had gotten rid of her idiotic adviser, Mark Penn, and listened to her own instincts, she’d have won. In which case, everyone at Fox News would be wearing iron jockstraps to protect themselves from her daily Presidential castrations.)

Darkship Thieves, Sarah J. Hoyt. (I’m very ambivalent about this book. Read the in-depth review here at my LiveJournal.)

Blackout, Rob Thurman. (An exploration of what it means to be human, through the eyes of Cal Leandros, half human and half alien genocidal killer. The only objection I have to this terrific series is that Ms. Thurman killed off one of the greatest villains I’ve ever read, the Auphe, several books ago, and she’s been quasi-resurrecting them ever since.)

Iron Crowned, Richelle Mead. (This book a flat-out letdown, since the heroine gets pregnant and doesn’t terminate the pregnancy–due to a lame emotional assertion that she “wants it”–thus flying in the face of a prophecy that is at the core of the plot: her son will conquer the human race. So, let’s throw away seven billion people just because she has to keep this kid. Come on.)

A Brush of Darkness, Allison Pang. (This book is actually more paranormal romance than urban fantasy, which is unusual for me–I’m generally not interested in plots that just focus on the hero and heroine getting together. But this story doesn’t have the typical happily-ever-after ending, and also has one of the great sidekicks in fantasy, a miniature, foul-mouthed, leg-humping unicorn named Phineas. That makes it different enough to keep.)

Bushwhacked: Life In George W. Bush’s America, Molly Ivins. (I hadn’t read any of Molly Ivins’ books before, and now I realize we lost a treasure when she died. She documents the most incompetent person ever to hold the office of the Presidency, and makes a convincing case for Bush being the worst President ever. A very bittersweet read.)

Dark Descendant, Jenna Black. (In which the heroine, Nikki Glass–great name!–finds out she’s a descendant of the goddess Artemis, and there’s a whole hidden world of godly descendants she has to deal with. What’s interesting about Nikki is that she isn’t really a badass, not in the tradition of the usual urban fantasy protagonist. Not yet. But she’s clearly on her way to being one. That journey will prove fascinating, I think.)

Uncertain Allies, Mark Del Franco. (Someone wrote in another review of this book that Connor Grey isn’t a typical kick-ass urban fantasy hero, which is true. In this book, Connor is told he isn’t a warrior. That’s what makes him interesting.)

Shady Lady, Ann Aguirre. (Corine Solomon begins to discover and explore her witch powers and takes control of her life. Unfortunately, the author undercuts this with an unrealistic and out-of-character ending.)

The Grimrose Path, Rob Thurman. (The second volume in the Trickster series, the first of which boasted one of the best twists I’ve ever seen. This book deals with the fallout from the first, specifically the tricksters forced to live as human and losing their supernatural powers. These books are slower and more reflective than the author’s other series, the Cal Leandros books. Not bad, just different.)

Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik. (This is the “Horatio Hornblower with dragons” series. It is delightful, mainly because of Temeraire, the main character. However, I think the series has suffered moving Temeraire and his rider, William Laurence, away from England and the fascinating ins and outs of a live-dragon aviator corps, although that was an inevitable result of the plot.)

Magic Slays, Ilona Andrews. (This is a world where magic abruptly returns, with horrifying consequences–the main character mentions “5000 planes falling out of the sky” almost as a throwaway line. That would be a world-altering catastrophe if there ever was one. The main character, Kate, and her lion shapeshifter lover, Curran, are finally together. I wish the author would explore the changes magic wrought on the world in greater detail–it seems to me there wouldn’t be very much civilization remaining at all.)

Tangled Threads, Jennifer Estep. (This series, about assassin Gin Blanco, just keeps getting better. I love the fact that she accepts who she is–she kills people for a living, or used to, and still offs those she thinks deserves to be offed–and doesn’t go through any angst about it.)

Bill of Wrongs: The Executive Branch’s Assault on America’s Fundamental Rights, Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose. (This is Ivins’ last book–her writing partner Dubose had to finish it after she died. It relates in detail the horror the Patriot Act wrought on this country, all in the name of the dubious assertion of keeping us “safe.”)

Infernal Affairs, Jes Battis. (The further adventures of Tess Corday, Occult Special Investigator. Among other things, she discovers–sort of–who her father is: hint, he’s not a nice guy. Also, in a bit of a cliffhanger ending, she quits her job.)

Deadline, Mira Grant. (The further adventures of Shawn Mason, Zombie Killer. In the first book, Feed, Shawn’s sister Georgia died, in the most heart-wrenching first-person death scene I have ever read. This second installment ups the stakes in Grant’s world considerably. Georgia is even still present, albeit as a ghostly presence in Shawn’s mind. Or maybe not–see the jaw-dropping coda and sneak preview of the final book, Blackout.)

Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns n’Roses, Stephen Davis. (This is a sad story. At one time, Guns n’Roses was the biggest, baddest, best band in the world. Then, due entirely to one mentally ill, megalomaniac, misogynist, sociopathic asshole named Axl Rose, it all came to an end. Needless to say, after finishing the book I didn’t like him very much.)

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