I read some really good sci-fi and some great sci-fantasy in October. Plus I grabbed another great batch of books from the library. Not that I’m going to be doing much reading in November due to NaNoWriMo. Which is a bummer because (as I mentioned in my previous post) I have way too many books on my end of year TBR.
I started the month with my re-read of The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey. Whenever I mention her as one of my early favorite sci-fi / fantasy authors, most people chime in “oh yeah, the Dragonriders books!” But, I never read those until much MUCH later, and then I stopped after the first three because I just didn’t like them as much as her other stuff. This series (really starting with the Pegasus prequels) were what got me initially hooked on her stories. Because of that, I’ve been a bit nervous to re-read The Rowan in case it didn’t hold up, but I enjoyed it as much on this re-read as I did when I first read it as a young teen. The writing and story-telling style (language, narrative structure, etc.) is definitely dated compared to modern sci. But the story and the characters and the world-building are all still just as awesome as I remembered.
Somewhere in there I also read Polaris Rising. It ended up being an interesting contrast to The Rowan because they’re both sci-fi romance with talented and tough heroines near the top of an established power structure. They are both dealing with political plots and ultimately fall in love with Alpha male heroes. The difference is they’re two totally different styles of story-telling. The Rowan starts when the main character is a baby and advances in about two major time leaps until she’s probably about the same age as the main character in Polaris Rising. These days, that kind of character development would happen in backstory reflections scattered throughout the story when and where they become relevant to the plot. The Rowan is also “quieter” in that (aside from the inciting incident) the main character is never in any real physical danger throughout the story. On the other hand, Polaris Rising takes place over a handful of days or maybe weeks and is much more action-packed with lots of escapes and combat and danger. While I liked Polaris Rising, and I cringed a bit at the old-school writing style of The Rowan, I still like The Rowan more. Even now, as I type this, I can’t quite put my finger on why.
Continuing with the sci-fi trend, I listened to Emergency Skin while on a walk. It’s a quick read (or listen). Normally, I don’t like polemics dressed as sci-fi, and could definitely be considered as one since it’s pretty heavy on the “message.” But, it’s short, and I really enjoyed the story structure and the humor. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you have Amazon Prime, because both the audio and the ebook are free with Prime.
Another short audio “read” that I really enjoyed was Wolfpack by Abby Wambach. I heard about this book on Smart Podcast Trashy Books where Sarah recommended it as an inspiring read about owning your ambition and your strength and surrounding yourself with other ambitious, strong women. So, yeah. I was in. Especially when I heard that the audiobook was about the same length as a podcast and figured out that it was available to borrow at my library. As expected, it’s great. Very inspiring. I highly recommend you check it out.
As much as I enjoyed those short reads, the book that really took me by surprise this month, the one that gave me a new favorite author (or author pair), was Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews (a husband and wife writing team). I was expecting this to be a cute paranormal romance with a witch heroine and werewolf hero. Since I like but don’t love what I think of as “standard paranormal characters,” I was expecting to enjoy this but not love it. Holy wow was I wrong. The world-building in this book! Oh my. This isn’t fantasy, people. This is sci-fantasy and it’s amazing. The reimagined backstory for what I consider to be standard paranormal creatures got a solid boost from sci-fi that made this a whole new world that I instantly fell in love with. So, yeah. New favorite. Immediately reserved the rest of the series at the library. Though, I found out that this was initially released as a serial novel, and I think it’s maybe their only indie-published series. I’m not sure what that means for their other series, but I’m excited to check them out and see if I like them as much as I like this book.
Finally, I read book two in Scalzi’s Interdependency series, The Consuming Fire. I had a really hard time getting into this book. There’s so much “telling” at the beginning. Chapters and chapters of telling. The story doesn’t really get started until almost half-way through. Then it starts to build up to an ending takes a very Godfather-esque turn that I really enjoyed. The end is great. The middle is pretty good. The beginning was super meh. Kiva is still my favorite character. I’m looking forward to seeing how the trilogy (this is a trilogy, right?) ends, but I’m not running out to pre-order book three. I’ll get it from the library. Even with Tor’s stupid library ebook delay policy.
Before I get to my “Inbox” summary for the month, here’s an update on where I’m at with that Read Harder Challenge…
Read Harder Challenge Status: I started two books (Dread Nation and The Barefoot Bandit) but didn’t manage to finish either of them before the end of the month for a variety of reasons. So… I’m now behind schedule. I need to finish six books in two months, and one of those months is NaNoWriMo. It’s cool. I can do this. Everything’s fine. I am still determined to finish the challenge this year. It’s going to happen. If you’re curious about my reading list, you can check out my Goodreads Shelf here.
A large chunk of the books in this haul were ones that I’d reserved at the start of the year because of their position on the Powell’s Staff Top Five books of 2018 lists (Educated, There There, Red Clocks, Heavy, and The Third Hotel). Check out my post on that, if you missed it and want the details on those books.
I have no reading plan or TBR for November aside from trying to finish the books I already have in-progress (Dread Nation, The Barefoot Bandit, and The Future of Humanity), plus try to finish some more books for the Read Harder Challenge (maybe The Middle Kingdom and Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay…). Oh, and I am reading Witchmark for “Camp Book Club” with my friends L. and S. But other than that, no TBR. (Who am I kidding? That’s totally a TBR.)
And that’s it for October. Now I better get back to my NaNoWriMo writing. Wishing you all a great month and lots of excellent reading!