Media Consumption 2015 Part 1: Books and Audiobooks
Notable books and audiobooks read in 2015
Comment if you want further thoughts on any of these. Some general descriptions of settings and characters, but no spoilers.
Fiona Buckley, To Shield The Queen (Ursula Blanchard #1)
Historical mystery set in QEI's reign. Better (written, researched) than I expected it to be. Has a very interesting female protagonist. Narrated by Nadia May.
Anne Charnock, A Calculated Life
Narrated by Susan Duerden. I'm not sure she'd be good for other books because she has an annoyingly precise voice, but it worked for this novel. Won Philip K. Dick Award. Really compelling, and it's the kind of book where it's best to start with no spoilers or preconceptions.
Tina Connolly, Ironskin (Ironskin #1)
I bought this because it was advertised as a Jane Eyre knockoff and I was curious what they would do with it. It is only vaguely a knockoff. It was much better than I expected. There were themes about taking back your power, gaining power from abuse that's happened to you, appearing normal vs not, trusting your instincts, the meaning of family, secrets. The universe has fae who are fighting humans - it sounds like they're fighting for good reasons, and maybe that will come out later - and dwarves.
Anne Curzan / Great Courses, The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins
An introductory course in linguistics. Very well organized. The title implies that it's about etymologies of specific words and that's not really what it's about.
Jasper Fforde, The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3)
Competently narrated by Emily Grey. Extremely high "clever idea to text" ratio, and it makes me laugh fairly often. Set in "BookWorld," in which stands the Great Library (containing all books ever written, and all books ever attempted but not finished — the well of lost plots), and in which the organization Text Grand Central manages software that allows books to be written and read. Anyone who has worked in publishing or writing is likely to enjoy it.
William Gibson, Burning Chrome
Short stories. Gibson does great atmosphere and crummy romantic relationships. I especially liked "Johnny Mnemonic", "The Belonging Kind," and "Hinterlands".
John McWhorter / Great Courses, Language A to Z
24 or so 15-minute mini lectures on a wide variety of topics and about a wide variety of languages. He is an entertainer and I really liked it. Funniest bit, discussing "ain't": Would it really be the same if the song were called "You Aren't Anything But a Hound Dog"?
Maggie Stiefvater, the Raven Cycle
I really love this series and the narrator, but it's hard to put into words why.
Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist
Well narrated by Peter Jay Fernandez. Alternate history of elevators in an unnamed NYC. Among elevator inspectors, there are competing theories -- pragmatist, the ones who inspect elevators by looking at the parts, and intuitionist, the ones who inspect elevators by riding in them and sensing how they are working. A young black woman -- one of only two black elevator inspectors -- is an intuitionist. An elevator she inspected and passed undergoes an impossible failure. So she has to go on the run and solve the mystery.
Clarissa Dickson Wright, Clarissa's England
Narrated by the author, of Two Fat Ladies (a British cooking show) fame. Her narration is more stilted than her speech so unless you really love her voice you might want to read this rather than listen. It's as if you had Clarissa sitting in the car with you as you drove around England, stopping at various places that she thought were interesting. She goes county by county. She likes farmer's markets, old-fashioned English towns, cathedrals, and manor houses. She is also interested in the traditional economic activities of the towns she discusses. She tells both historical stories and personal stories about the towns, manor houses, or their inhabitants. She also loves various kinds of hunting and shooting, and is very bitter that some of her favorite kinds of hunting have been banned; she was an active opponent of the ban. Although I am not anti-hunting per se, I got kind of sick of her yammering on about it.
P.N. Elrod, The Vampire Files (12-book series)
He's a vampire. His buddy is a British actor-turned-detective. They live during the Depression and fight crime. There are twelve books and he and his buddy get deeper and deeper into the crime syndicate, while he starts having difficulties resulting from being a vampire. Eventually he even meets some other vampires. The "vampire rules" of this world are somewhat interesting.
N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Broken Earth #1), The Awakened Kingdom (Inheritance Trilogy #3.5), The Killing Moon & The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood #1-2)
Go read all her stuff right now.
Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince
YA science fiction set in a future Brazil. I don't usually like YA, but this was excellent.
Rosemary Kirstein, The Steerswoman series (The Steerswoman, The Outskirter's Secret, The Lost Steersman, The Language of Power)
Took me a while to get into the first book, but then I began really loving the main characters for their similarities and differences, the way they were described, the way the steerswoman's thought processes are described, the ways interactions between characters who don't know each other are described, the idea of the Archives, the way the map of the area gets drawn as you read, and finally the fact that there are almost no sexual relationships or romances centered (and those that occur are necessary to the plot without being the plot.
Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1)
A first novel that won the Hugo, Nebula, Arthur C Clarke, and BSFA award. Great worldbuilding. Fascinating gender stuff (the main character does not understand gender). Great chewy stuff about identity.
Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (translated by Bill Johnston)
I've loved this book since I was a kid, because it was one of the few books I read that had really alien aliens. The major characters in this story are a possibly sentient ocean and an entire scientific discipline. There are a couple of astronauts, but they seem mostly to be entities to have things happen to. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/jun/15/first-direct-translation-solaris
Melissa Scott, The Kindly Ones
Space opera with complex world-building, with some same-sex relationships, published in 1987, before a lot of books had same-sex relationships
Nicky Sulway, Rupetta
I found this book hard to get into at first, because the timeline keeps jumping back and forth, but it was worth it. Beautiful poetic language.