* Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Another phenomenal book from someone who is fast becoming a favorite author. Haskell sees the tropes, waves at them, and then turns away from them into a much more interesting story.
Ultimately, it's a story of strength and transformation (sometimes literally, mostly figuratively). The characters are complex and feel real. It's pure fun, until you realize that there's deeper philosophical thoughts hiding underneath the fun.
* No Game for a Dame by M. Ruth Myers
You know those old hardboiled detective novels, which may have fun mysteries but often leave you a little squicked out at how women are portrayed in them? This book is their antidote.
Maggie Sullivan is a Private Detective in the 1930s. She's smart and quick and good at what she does. The sexism (and racism) of the era isn't ignored, but it isn't overwhelming, and Maggie makes as much use of the stereotypes surrounding her gender as she encounters difficulties because of them.
I liked this book a great deal, but I felt like the ending was a little deus ex machina. Much of the climax involves Maggie having good luck, or someone bursting in at just the right moment. I understand that it's before the era of instant communication and Maggie's options were somewhat limited, but I do wish that she'd left a little bit more of a trail of clues for her cohorts to follow, so that it felt like she had more of a hand in the ending.
* Tough Cookie by M. Ruth Myers
The second Maggie Sullivan novel is even better than the first. What I said then still applies, so I'll just quote myself:
"Maggie Sullivan is a Private Detective in the 1930s. She's smart and quick and good at what she does. The sexism (and racism) of the era isn't ignored, but it isn't overwhelming, and Maggie makes as much use of the stereotypes surrounding her gender as she encounters difficulties because of them."
* Mirror Sight by Kristen Britain
I love this series, but I only like this book. Karigan gets sent forward in time several hundred years, and the fish-out-of-water thing doesn't play as well this time as it did in earlier books-- in part because Karigan's focus this time is "I have to get home!" rather than "I have to solve the problems I'm facing" as they usually are. (Okay, technically being in the wrong time is a problem she's facing, but she faces it by whining and ignoring the rest of the problems in the world she's in.) You get told things about the future of Big Name characters, but not with a good sense of why or how Karigan could change the course of history.
* The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Holy cow, this book was amazing. And intense. And more than a little creepy at times. Myfanwy Thomas works for a secret organization that keeps supernatural forces under control in Britain. And while that part is kind of cool and there's an interesting mystery to be solved, that's only half of what the book is about-- perhaps less than half. Because Myfanwy Thomas has lost her memory. Fortunately, she had some advance warning that it was going to happen, and her former self wrote some letters to help her out. The book is a fabulous story about what shapes us and makes us who we are. Myfanwy has to figure out who did this to her before they do worse, while simultaneously trying to figure out who she is, both in the literal and in the philosophical sense.
[Note: I actually read this book a year ago, and just realized that I hadn't ever reviewed it.]
* The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross
I was recommending The Rook to a friend, and as I described the organization that Myfanwy Thomas works for, he said "Oh, like The Laundry?" I'd never read any of the Laundry series, so I didn't know how to answer that, but now I do:
No. No, not at all like the Laundry. Oh, the organization's goals are about the same, and there's a power struggle within it. But while The Rook makes you think about the mystery (and gives you all the clues you need to solve it, if you're good enough-- I wasn't, and the ending took me by surprise) and the implications of Myfanwy's memory loss, The Atrocity Archives reads more like "The Bastard Operator From Hell gets shoved into things he thinks he wants but maybe not." The BOFH part does die down after the first half (thank goodness, as the jargon did not age well), but there's still a distinct lack of depth to the Laundry in comparison.
* Nobody's Prize by Esther Friesner
Not quite as good as its prequel, but still very enjoyable.
* The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison
Throughout the series, Rachel has gotten more mature, while making more complex (and poorly-received by the general public) decisions. I've said before that the series is ultimately about morality, and it still is-- but it's also about Rachel making peace with herself and her past, and opening herself up to other people's points of view as well.