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Reading recap: July

July was an excellent reading month for me in numbers and mostly in content too. But I pretty much went outside my reading list.

First I finished reading Those Below by Daniel Polansky, a book which I’d started reading already in May, but had put aside for more pressing books. It’s the second and last book in his Empty Throne duology, and I’m not entirely sure why I read it, since I didn’t much like the first book. This wasn’t any better. Like with the first, the episodic chapters seemed pointless. They had little or no character development and only two of the four main characters advanced the plot in any meaningful way; the other two were mere witnesses with ends to match. The culmination of the story felt equally pointless, war and annihilation for the sake of themselves with no hope or redemption for anyone. As a commentary on war it works; as a work of fiction it's a let-down. However, the last two chapters rose a little above the rest, so it wasn’t a complete disappointment.

Those Below by Daniel Polansky

Next up was Dragon Unbound by Katie MacAllister. It was a short and sweet read that would have been less interesting, if it hadn’t been book number four in her Dragon Falls series and about fifteenth book overall in her ongoing saga of dragons. I liked the characters and I liked that most of the old gang made an appearance, but the book should’ve been a tad longer to be properly good.

Dragon Unbound by Katie MacAllister

As a contrast, Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger was a more developed love story even though it was similarly short and part of her wider world with returning characters. As a Victorian steampunk-paranormal-lesbian romance it had a lot to live up to, but it managed it admirably. My only complaint is that it was told from one point of view only, leaving the other party of the romance less developed.

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger

Then I went into a Suzanne Enoch binge outside my list. She’s my favourite Regency romance author, but in recent years her books have lost their charm. Scandalous Highlanders, a series of four books, seemed better than what she’s written lately, so I gave it a chance and ended up reading all four books back to back. They weren’t all of them perfect, but for a summer reading they were fine. The first book, The Devil Wears Kilt, was set in London. The Regency world came to its element, but the Highlander aspect was played down. Rogue with a Brogue combined a bit of both, but it wasn’t as good as the first, even though the stakes were higher in the end. Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid was set in Highlands and the setting worked well. It also saw the heroine’s journey from a London society woman back to a Highland lass. The last book, Some Like it Scot had the best premise and hero, but it took too long to reach a rather abrupt ending. Still, I think I liked it the best of the four.

I wrapped up the month with the best book I’ve read in a while. After Atlas by Emma Newman is part of her Planetfall series, but can be read independently. It’s a sci-fi detective story and a cyber dystopia and all this works perfectly together. The hero is your average detective: middle-aged, solitary and burdened with a past he doesn’t like to share, and the narrative reflects the trope. The murder he’s called to solve is both interesting and personal to him, raising the stakes. The world where large corporations own both countries and individuals is carefully built and believable, and the AIs controlling everything is a believable plot device. And the ending is simply elegant and perfect.

After Atlas by Emma Newman

All in all, Im happy with my reading month. And the next one is already on its way to being even better. Stay tuned.


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