Sorry for the huge post, but this is a wrap-up of the reading I’ve done through our Colorado winter (I can see the plants coming up, yah spring!).
Soulless, by Gail Carriger (published by Orbit), is described as "a comedy of manners set in Victorian London," and "a novel of vampires, werewolves, and parasols." One could make the case that Soulless is Paranormal Romance, Steampunk, and Urban Fantasy, all at once. Imagine Jane Austin channeling Terry Pratchet, but using non-blushing 21st century detail (a warning to those of you who can’t mix sticky romance/sex with your fantasy/steampunk). This book had me laughing into the first hours of 2010 and I’m not the only person who appreciated it. Soulless made Publisher Weekly’s Best Books of 2009 (where the top ten were dominated by male authors and controversial).
Speaking of Terry Pratchett… Making Money was entertaining, as is any DiscWorld book. I particularly admire the ability Pratchett has to make each of the novels stand alone, and still be satisfying.
I chose two novels in areas I’m becoming more circumspect: Urban Fantasy and Young Adult Urban Fantasy, particularly with female protagonists. I’m tired of the "smart, sassy heroine," because it’s an oxymoron. In my experience, sassy = stupid, every time. Because Thurman’s Trick of the Light was highly touted for having a "trick" ending, I cautiously picked it. Of course, being forewarned means I looked for hints, but I didn’t catch every twist and for that, I tip my hat to Ms. Thurman. Additionally, the main character is both sassy and smart, because she’s obviously more than she appears (not a spoiler, unless you can’t take multiple hints). Overall, a fun read.
Why am I flinching away from YA Urban Fantasy, like a vampire from a cross? Yes, I’ve been burned by Twilight. In picking Need, I was encouraged that it had no vampire retreads and the structure was interesting (the main character runs through phobia definitions). Also, Need is tightly edited and a quick read. The ending made me smile, even though there’s sparse characterization and too much angst for me (but that defines today’s YA, doesn’t it?)
I’m always impressed by Paolo Bacigalupi’s imagination, and The Windup Girl is a great example. It’s a bit dark, darker than I’m capable of writing and on the edge of what I like to read. Still, I was hooked by his future Thailand. The details felt authentic and I particularly enjoyed the wry, ironic twists in the story.
Have to gush: I loved The Drowning City, a debut novel by Amanda Downum. The quote by Jacqueline Carey mentions a "richly imagined setting," which is an understatement. The setting is lush and I’m amazed at the details the author gets across. The politics are complicated and the reader has to track six to seven different agendas, but I love that sort of plot. There are three female point-of-view characters, and here’s where I had an issue. In a few places, I didn’t know whose head I inhabited, particularly if the scene involved two females, too similar, who were both POV characters. Downum’s approach to necromancy was refreshing, as well as vital to the plot.