I started several other books, and have arguably reduced my to-be-read-pile by a few because I threw books out of it. I don't know. I might give some of the books I gave up on quickly another chance; one was "this is a gay romance and right now I really want to read a book with some girls in it and not ALL BOYS ALL THE TIME". But I was pretty grimly disappointed with the start of some others.
Anyway, I feel like I was being exceptionally judgy about book during this time, so Brood of Bones probably deserves bonus points just for making it past the "meh" barrier and getting me to read it to the end.
This is the first of the Enchantress series, which is currently five books. I don't know if Marling plans to release more, but it looks like all of his writings to date have been in this setting (though not this series), and with overlapping characters.
I didn't like it as well as the other two books I've read by Marling, which is a pity because Brood of Bones is the first and the free one. Ironically, the one weak spot in Dark Lord's Wedding -- the climax -- was my favorite part of Brood of Bones. The story leading up to the climax dragged on too much for my tastes, with the protagonist either unsure what to do or pursuing options that I could tell weren't going to work. But the climax was very satisfying and proceeded well from everything established in the story so far.
One thing I particularly enjoyed about this book -- the protagonist is determined to Do the Right Thing, and to help people even at personal cost. While Hiresha has a number of flaws and in some ways is hard to like as a person, her strong moral compass is admirable. And I liked that she had various flaws that made sense in the context of her society. A lot of characters in fantasy have attitudes very similar to contemporary American ones regardless of how different their culture is, and I appreciated the effort put in to make Hiresha a part of her world.
Overall, I will give this one a 7, and will probably pick up the second book in the series at some point, given that I like Marling's recent work.
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky's, A Girl Corrupted by the Internet Is the Summoned Hero!? is written in the style of a Japanese "light novel". This is not a subgenre I'm familiar with; to me, it read like a dialogue-heavy, description-light novella.
Magic Banquet is a middle-grade fantasy novel. One of the reasons I picked it up was for the table of contents, which is a menu. I suspected the menu might prove metaphorical, but no, the items on the menu do correspond to actual dishes served at each section of the book. The various courses of the banquet all have dangers and adventures associated with them, as the characters are transported from one locale to the next to enjoy or potentially get killed by their meal.
The mini-puzzles and adventures of each part add up beautifully to the overall arc of the book, and the different members of the cast are great fun to watch (especially the dark lord, whom one never knows quite what to make of). I'll give an 8 (mainly for the slow start), but definitely recommend.
I read Dark Lord's Wedding during my trip to Seattle. I had a great time with this right from the start. There was one jarring note for me: Magic Banquet, which immediately precedes it in the setting, is a middle-grade novel. Dark Lord's Wedding is an adult novel in tone and themes, but has much the same straightforward and charming writing style, so it kind of took me by surprise.
As it turns out, Wedding is the fifth novel in a different series that happens to be in the same setting, with some of the same characters. It works fine as a standalone, although there are various references to the previous books.
The story does revolve around the engagement and marriage of two of the protagonists, but it's not a romance. The plot is mostly fantasy-adventure in tone, with some politics and alliance-building.
I am ambivalent on the trope of the "not-all-bad bad guy", which is definitely the category that the Dark Lord and his bride fall into. Hiresha, the Lady of Gems and prospective bride, is clearly well-intentioned but still commits atrocities in the course of the book. Tethiel, the Dark Lord, is a more ambiguous character. I am not quite sure how Marling managed to sell me on these characters, but I definitely rooted for them despite their flaws. Tethiel in particular has a unique charm founded on his extraordinary outlook. I laughed aloud many of his deadpan remarks throughout the book.
One of the many things that's well-done about the book is the use of different magic systems, with just enough explanation of how they worked to make them intelligible to the reader, and not so much as to make them less magical or awe-inspiring. The protagonists are both tremendously powerful in their own right, far more so than the vast majority of the people around them, and it shows in the way they interact with others, this uncrossable gulf of power. They feel too large for ordinary morality, which is the sort of thing that often grates on me but worked well here.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was the climactic scene, which kind of felt like it came out of nowhere and was there mainly to add more drama and conflict to the narrative. Still, I had a good time overall and plan to check out the earlier books in the series. I give this an 8 too.
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is in Bujold's Vorkosigan setting. The Vorkosigan books are mostly action-adventure sf, but some of the books don't fit in the "action" category. A Civil Campaign, for example, is a romantic comedy bordering on farce. This newest novel is mainly a romance, but it's much less drama-filled than the typical romance. The central protagonists are solidly middle-aged and, more importantly, mature. The reader never seriously fears that they will make stupid choices based on flawed analysis. They are afflicted with some doubts and indecision, but they doubt sensible things and dither over reasonable options. Even when the outcome was uncertain, I never thought, "oh, this is going to end in disaster if they make the wrong choice." They're smart people. There are good reasons for both paths. They'd be okay.
I really enjoyed reading this novel, especially now, when I'm in the middle of writing The Sun Etherium. TSE's main romance also proceeds fairly smoothly, and the main challenges the characters face aren't life-or-death either. So it was nice to see Bujold making it work. GJ&TRQ isn't her strongest work, certainly, but it's solid and fun and I loved seeing a middle-aged couple get to be the romantic leads.*
There were some elements that didn't work as well for me. It felt like Bujold was ret-conning in Jole's importance in the lives of Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan over the last 14 or so books. I don't remember Jole being mentioned before, actually, and am kind of wondering if he was (as an extremely minor character). On the one hand, the last 14 books were about Miles and I can quite easily see him being completely oblivious to his parents' private lives. On the other, it did not really feel like Bujold had always intended Jole to have been part of their lives. I'm happy enough to have him in the backstory, I'd just be happier if there'd been prior hints about his presence there.
Anyway, this is a solid 8 and I am happy to keep recommending and reading Bujold's work.
* I tried doing this in The Moon Etherium -- the protagonists are both over 50 -- but since the characters in TME are unaging, they don't come across as middle-aged as strongly.
New release sale for The Moon Etherium ends today! Last chance to buy it for $2.99! The $2.99 sale on A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements also ends today.
For those who've already bought it: thank you! ♥
I'm also gonna beg for reviews now, because having some reviews up is enormously helpful in selling a book. Readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown author if there are some reviews on the book, and a lot of promotion opportunities are only available once a book hits a certain number of Amazon reviews.
A prince of the Sun Etherium, Mirohirokon has everything: immortality, invulnerability, and the aetheric power to be anything he desires, to satisfy almost any desire. But the one thing aether cannot give him is his father's freedom. For a chance to win that, he will risk everything.
Sick of the petty, twisted politics of the Moon Etherium, Ardent quit it for a simpler life. Yet when Miro seeks her aid to rescue his father, she realizes that far more is at stake than one man's life. Duty-bound, she returns.
But to save their world, must they sacrifice their love?
My previous books, A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements are also discounted to $2.99 in honor of the new release.
Lastly, special thanks to my tireless typesetter alinsa. ♥
Most of the Some Things Transcend takes place with the protagonists trapped on a small spacecraft in enemy territory. Both sides of the conflict, the Alliance and the Chatcaava, are technologically sophisticated, spacefaring cultures (they've both got, for instance, FTL, highly advanced medicine, and short-range teleporters). There are a few combats that take place as boarding actions, because the aim is to capture rather than destroy. Most of the combat is hand-to-hand, because the ships have tight corridors and little room to get range. The setting and action work well to provide urgency and momentum to the story, and to motivate the characters.
I occasionally had trouble suspending disbelief, however. For instance: the most effective weapons used in these conflicts are the Chatcaavan's natural claws, and swords. Neither side appears to have armor, or any more sophisticated hand-to-hand weapon. This just didn't seem to fit with the rest of the tech on display. The not-working-for-me was compounded by one of the characters being deathly ill but in a way that didn't impede him from using the handful of days they had to prepare between boarding actions to practice and teach hand-to-hand combat. I ended up spending too much time thinking about how various elements were convenient for the purposes of the emotional arc of the story, which made it less immersive.
This aside, I enjoyed the emotional arc, the character development, and particularly the way the relationships between different characters unfolded. The relationships are all nonstandard: there's an asexual romance between Jahir and his longtime partner Vasiht'h, which gets tested in various interesting ways, and a complicated M/M relationship between Jahir and Lisinthir, which is sweet and romantic despite them both being (a) committed to other people and (b) having only semi-compatible BDSM interests (that they discover and talk about but do not consummate in this book). So it's a kind of polyamorous story, in that the characters have multiple interests and don't expect sexual or romantic fidelity from their partners. I had a lot of fun with that. Vasiht'h and Jahir are both psychologists, and their training resonates through their conversations. They feel very real and solidly-grounded. The characters are delightfully complex and multi-faceted. Overall, I'll give this one an 8.
Even the Wingless for several years but never read it, because I lean towards genteel, fluffy fantasies and this is a story full of sexual violence and torture.
But recently, I've been in the mood for something dark and intimate, and with the third book in the series just out, I figured I would finally give it a try.
Somewhat to my surprise, I loved the book.
It does have some weaknesses: it's a book about diplomacy between two interstellar nations, the Alliance and the Empire, and the complexity of politics on that massive scale is glossed over. The backdrop of nations feels more like a painted image than a living thing that twists, turns, and wreaks havoc behind the scenes. Further, there were points where I wanted the characters to succeed by brilliance and instead the results felt more like chance.
This aside, the story has a lot to recommend it. Lisinthir is delightful, especially in the first half of the book, where his wit, courage, and insight all shine. Watching the Slave Queen evolve over the course of the narrative is remarkable, and the way the two characters rely on each other's strengths is wonderful. I especially liked that the Slave Queen's ability to simply endure, which looks like helplessness, was in its own way a power.
I'd expected to have my suspension of disbelief tested by the set-up: The Alliance and the Empire are described as "allies", but the Empire openly enslaves, tortures, and rapes Alliance citizens at their court. Yet it hangs together well: they are not "allies" in any usual sense of the word" rather, the Alliance is attempting detente. The Alliance doesn't want to start a war unless they have to, and they're not sure they'll win if they do. So they are tolerating things that, say, the modern USA wouldn't tolerate. (And of course, even the USA has put up with some pretty flagrant crap: the Iran hostage crisis comes to mind.) The Empire is technologically sophisticated yet their court spurns the use of any weapon that's not innate; this makes sense in the context of their culture and the entire heirarchy on which it's based. It's not obvious how they became an advanced society while retaining a horrific feudal culture that seems more likely to stifle innovation, but there are hints that suggest possibilities. It worked.
The book's core strength, its true glory, lies in the portrayal of the relationships between the main characters and the complexity of their emotions. The story navigates a whole range of emotional states: fear, pain, horror, pleasure, love, hatred, anger, hope, despair, and more. These are powerfully, at times overwhelmingly, depicted. The transformations of all the characters -- and everyone is strikingly transformed before the end -- are difficult and plausibly conveyed. It is an intimate, personal story.
The book is full of depictions of rape, sexual violence, misogyny (oh the MISOGYNY), dominance contests, humiliation, etc. None of this is written for titillation: it is not a remotely erotic novel. Nor is there any sense of authorial approval or even liking for it: none of this is okay. None of this is remotely okay. There is a certain fascination with the power exchange involved, with the emotional response of characters to all this horror. That gets a fair amount of loving detail. Most of the abuse itself is dealt with in few words and not explicitly described.
I found the work as a whole compelling and engaging, the kind of story that devastates in the best way, and that uplifts by the end. I rate it a 9.
I have many feelings about this series. MANY FEELS. Of the three books, I liked the second, Prince's Gambit best. The first, Captive Prince, I found absolutely harrowing. The second was much less harrowing: there was still violence but it was less intimate: conflict rather than abuse. The difference between being under the constant threat of death and the constant threat of torture. IN THEORY, I should be more worried about death, but in practice I find the prospect of torture worse. Sometimes I wonder if that's a side effect of depression. When you're used to fantasizing about death as an escape, it doesn't seem nearly as terrifying as having to endure horrors much worse than the life that left you suicidal. Anyway, maybe it's just me, but I found the first book engaging but traumatic. The second book was a fantastic exploration of the characters, still with lots of conflict and tension, but also lots of "protagonists being brilliant and talented in order to improve their position".
Kings Rising opens with several chapters that I found even more harrowing than the first book, because now instead of horrible things happening to characters I didn't care about, these were inflicted on ones I loved. I found it powerful but, to my surprise, not unpleasant. Books that do horrible things usually make me want to stop reading, but here I just wanted to see what would happen next, whether it was awful or not. And I wanted explanations: a reason for some of the extreme emotional abuse being dished out. So that impressed me, that throughout reading it I never wanted to put it down. (I did, because I had to work, but I didn't WANT to.)
Kings Rising displays an emotional intimacy of considerable range: not just love and lust, but the kind of deep cruelty and pain that only happens when someone loves a person who mistreats them, whether by accident or design. There are many highs and lows, and I rode them often with glee. Even the lows; I think that's because this is a romance and I was depending on a happily-ever-after, rather than being abandoned in a pit of misery. This was also well-done and engaging.
Some of the characters in the book are brilliant planners, and there's a sense of wonder, the I-didn't-see-that-coming-but-I-should'
The climax in particular felt overwrought rather than brilliant. One of those where the characters are in way more trouble than it looks like they can possibly get out of, and then they manage it, and on the one hand you're glad, but on the other you're like "that rescue wasn't very plausible or brilliant". This is my problem with the common 'up the stakes' advice writers get: the more trouble protagonists are in, the more likely it is that the solution will throw me out of the story by seeming too unlikely.
But my biggest fault with the book is it ends like a page after the climax. I HATE THAT. If you're one of those people who likes Hollywood endings, where the credits roll 30 seconds after the protagonists win, then you will be fine with this. I am not fine with this. I don't want to get kicked out of bed right after the climax: I want some post-coital cuddling. SHEESH. This one actually annoys me much more than the lack of brilliance in the climax, because I know how tough it is to balance a challenge for your characters. But how hard is it to write some pages of your characters dealing with other loose ends, or living happily together, or SOMETHING after the big resolution? I'm not asking to be blown away by cleverness here, I just want to have some denouement.
I am going to stop nitpicking here, because the truth is that my complaints are based in significant measure on my expectations. I expected a 9 or even a 9.5 from Kings Rising, and I only got an 8. And the disappointment will make me review it like a 7, and it deserves better than that. This is an emotionally powerful book with many brilliant moments and flashes of genius. It is a flawed diamond, to be sure, but still a diamond, and still recommended.
This one, I planned. When I realized that I wasn't going to have Further Arrangements ready to publish until February, I decided to launch it the same day as Kings Rising. There was no good reason for this, except that it meant I could spend today reading Kings Rising instead of obsessing over my book sales. Which mostly worked, in fact. I finished Kings Rising earlier today, and longer review to come, but the short version is: good book, had some issues with it, glad I read it, very engrossing. I haven't read any of the others in this post yet, because seriously I do not read that fast any more.
The sequel to Unbound, which I reviewed a few days ago. There was lots and lots of upheaval in the setting by the end of the last book, and I am super-excited to see how things shake out in this one. Also, I am impressed by the way Hines wrapped up the major plot threads in Unbound, but left so much in flux as far as the world went. Nice trick! This also came out today.
The latest Vorkosigan book! The ARC came out last year, and the e-book went on sale in January, but the hardcover launched today. This is a new Cordelia novel, and I know nothing else about it, but I like almost everything Bujold's written, so pretty sure I will enjoy this too.
haikujaguar opened pre-orders for this book yesterday, and it will be out next Monday. Featuring some of my favorites of Micah's characters! I've already got my copy on order.
This has the coolest table of contents I've ever seen. Go on, just look at the preview and you can see it. :9
And special mention to ursulav: her The Raven and the Reindeer isn't out or up for preorder yet, but it's to be released in "early February", so soooooooon.
... I actually think there were more, but I can't remember what. @_@
EDIT: Oh hey I remembered one of them!
This is a "light novel", which is a form popular in Japan and I don't know how it differs from a novella. Anyway, it's by the author of the fanfic "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality", and I'm quite curious to see how he does with orig fic.
* Did I mention Further Arrangements is out today? I probably mentioned it. A few times.
Three novellas set in the world of A Rational Arrangement
His Angel: Lord Justin Comfrey is not in the habit of molesting the help. But when his host assigns an angelic young man to attend to Comfrey's every need, that resolve is sorely tested.
Inconceivable: When Wisteria has trouble conceiving a child with her husband, Nikola Striker, it only makes sense to them to ask their secret husband for help. But to Justin, the question is not so simple.
A Regular Hero: Callie strikes sparks with the handsome warcat Anthser, but she's a competitive racer and he serves the Blessed Lord Nikola. She wants more from her life than to be the second most important person in his. Must one of them give up their life's dream to be the other's mate?
In honor of the release, both A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements are on sale for $2.99! Buy them now! Sale ends February 15.
I do not presently plan to serialize Further Arrangements, so if you'd like to read more in this setting after the serial of A Rational Arrangement is complete, here's your chance!
Special thanks to alinsa, who lovingly typeset the book for me, and did the typography for the cover.
Further Arrangements will also be available in print form in the next week or so. Cover price to be determined. It should be less than A Rational Arrangement, because Further Arrangements is much shorter than the first book.
If you do not wish to buy, or cannot afford it, that's fine. If you like A Rational Arrangement, please spread the word! Recommendations to friends, retweets and reblogs of the story installments, reviews on Amazon or on your own blog, etc., are all much appreciated.
For those who read the collection: reviews on Amazon are especially helpful! Not only do they increase the book's visibility on Amazon, but when the book accumulates enough of them, various book review sites will let me submit it for Yet More Reviews. (It's a virtuous cycle!)
As with the first book, I found this one improved as it approached the climax, with several clever uses of the magic available to the protagonists. The characters are a little overwhelmed by the plot in this book: it's a big world-and-history-spanning epic, with lots of ramifactions that reverbate through the narrative.I do like the way the series started as a "secret magic" setting, and is evolving into "secret exploded, everybody knows" instead.
Isaac has been ground down by the events of the last two books, but still gets some delightfully geeky moments. The polyamory angle is handled well, with maturity and commitment on the part of the participants, and obvious imperfections that they deal with. There were some weaknesses in the book, but overall I enjoyed it and am looking forward to the series' conclusion, coming out in February! (I will note that the book has a solid conclusion:it resolves the central conflict decisively. No cliffhangers!) I'll give it an 8.5.
It is delightful. Witty, sensible, beautifully illustrated, and entertaining even as it educates. It is not a how-to book. It is much, much better than any how-to book. I have been following Micah's work online for many years, and The Three Jaguars -- in the combined essay and webcomic forms -- is my favorite of all her works. No one writes about business like Micah does, with laugh-out-loud punchlines, adorable illustrations, fantastic expressions, and an abundance of both wisdom and sympathy. The beauty of this book is that you will pick up knowledge without even realizing you're learning. Not just the explicit lessons on business and creativity, but the craftsmanship on display: the amazing expressiveness of the characters, the composition of scenes, the dialogue and plot choices, the gorgeous inking -- there's SO MUCH to enjoy. And learn from!
And unlike all those tedious how-to books, you will actually WANT to read this one. Because it's FUN!
I love The Three Jaguars enough that I took the time to illustrate my testimonial:
( Cut for large image! )
Bard posted about the book launch over on sythyry. I put together that launch post, so I stuck a recommendation in the middle of it, and I've reviewed Mating Flight: a Non-Romance of Dragons and World in My Claws: Mating Flight Concluded over on Amazon, too.
But I love this series so much that I am going to blather on about it MOAR here. I am even going to say different things!
One of the things I adore about Mating Flight is that, amidst the fantastical backdrop of alien worlds and extraordinarily powerful dragons, Bard depicts wonderfully realistic relationships. I wrote about polyamory in A Rational Arrangement as wish-fulfillment. Obviously, I believe that's a totally valid choice for a story, and I did my best to make the triad in RA plausible and believable. But it's an optimistic and idealized take on the subject. In Mating Flight, Bard depicts a a race of dragons for whom a certain amount of sexual promiscuity if biologically advantageous: dragon eggs must be fertilized multiple times, ideally by multiple different male dragons. Draconic society has chosed to satisfy this biological drive by arranging "mating flights", during which three affianced newly-sexually-mature female dragons and their six affianced newly-sexually-mature male dragons go off together (a) have lots of sex and (b) compete to see which dragoness gets to marry which drake. At the end of the mating-flight there are only going to be three married drakes: sexual promiscuity past that initial period is strictly taboo.
Jyothky, the narrator of both novels, has a mating flight that goes wrong in too many ways to list here, all of which make for a wonderful book. But one of the themes in the novel is "how do you deal with the conflict between individual needs and societal taboos?" and the way the characters grapple with this question is marvelous. Because it's not just a matter of "these taboos are stupid and we're going to do something else and it will be perfect". OK, the taboos may be stupid, but there are still reasons for them and the existing society works well for many dragons. The characters can't just shrug them off, and when they do let their own needs take precedence, it's a struggle to accept the consequences not just of society, but in the resulting complexities of their new relationships. They try to make a new path that works for them, but it's not perfect and it does not solve everything. And I love how real, how genuine it is.
Another great thing -- this story has a large cast: nine dragons of the titular mating flight, plus assorted others. In another book, I'd've had a hard time keeping track of who was who among all the different names. But the characters in Mating Flight are so well-drawn and distinct, with unique voices and personalities, that it was easy to remember exactly who they were and how they related to other characters. Someday, I hope to write characters so well.
I did fan art for this story quite a long time ago, so I'm going to close with that. The small dark dragon in the background on the left is Jyothky, the narrator. The foreground dragon on the right is one of her fiances, Csirnis.
PS: Did I mention book one is just $0.99? Go on, try it. It's wonderful!
Amazon ~ Kobo ~ Nook ~ iBooks
In other book news, it is also available in print! You can buy it from Amazon or from Createspace. The print edition is $19.95. It is going to just stay $19.95, because the economics of print-on-demand make it impossible for me to offer a meaningful discount on that price, and $19.95 is plenty expensive enough.
It has been SO LONG since I did a book review. I got far enough behind on writing them that I stopped reading books. Also, I feel guilty for asking for nonfic recommendations, and checking out a bunch of nonfic books, and then not finishing any of them and reading fantasy romance instead.
ANYWAY. I am gonna do some short reviews at least.
Herb Witch & Herb Wife by Elizabeth McCoy
These read more like one long book than two separate books: I bought Herb Wife as soon as I finished the first. The split into two books isn't wholly arbitrary and the end of the first book does signal a shift in focus. But neither volume is meant to stand alone.
I enjoyed the books more as fantasy-slice-of-life than anything else. The setting is well-developed and interesting, and the characters are plausible and nuanced. The magic of the setting -- alchemy and herb-witchery -- is low-key by fantasy standards; it's almost believable as a form of chemistry instead of being magical. The central plot is technically a romance: it's mainly about the relationship between the two protagonists. Still, it reminded me more of Bard Bloom's irromances: it is more about making a relationship work when you're stuck with it than about finding a soulmate or getting swept up by a grand passion. There's also some mystery and adventure elements. Overall, I liked it: I'll give it a 7.5.
The Chocolatier's Wife by Cindy Lynn Speer
This is a rare example of a book that bard_bloom gave a positive review to and which sounded like something I'd enjoy. (Bard's reviews tend not to be very positive, and some of the few endorsements have been books that sounded WAY depressing). So I picked it up, and was not disappointed. It's a lively, quick romance/mystery, with a charming archaic voice that sounds almost fairy tale-like at times. The characters are engaging and likeable; the author has "flashbacks" to letters exchanged before they met, which I found especially sweet. A few times the narrative struck me as a bit off, like the characters might express a feeling which doesn't make a lot of sense and seems to be stuck in purely in an unnecessary effort to add drama or tension. But overall the story is enchanting and I had a lovely time with it. A solid 8.
Sweet Disorder is a Regency romance I picked up by recommendation of Courtney Milan; I think it was on sale at the time. I didn't get around to reading it for some weeks, but when I did, I went through it in a day. I enjoyed the book a good deal. There's a great deal going on in the background with minor characters that the protagonists don't catch until much later. The male protagonist is lame from a war injury: it's a comparatively minor disability, but in this time period particularly it's significant, and the author treats it sensibly. I liked the characters: they made me laugh frequently, and they had a pleasant rapport. The sex scenes were much more interesting than the usual ones, and included an aborted attempt that was strikingly novel. One of the book's themes is "being seen for who you are"; all of the characters (minor and major alike), tended to see what they expected in the others, rather than what was really there. Interestingly, I found this extended to my own perception of the male protagonist, whom I saw at first as "what I expect from a male protagonist with these traits" instead of what he was actually like and doing. It was deftly done. Other cool things: it's a "poor woman matched with earl's son" book, but instead of the woman getting drawn into the man's gilded life, she brings him into her own world. It's a Regency novel that offers a glimpse into the everyday life of people who actually have to work for a living, and doesn't portray that as either idyllic or nightmarish.
I didn't love it enough for a 9, and I'm not sure why. Maybe because the characters' sexuality felt too disconnected from their setting, or because the background characters, while they had interesting subplots, didn't engage me as people. Still, it's a solid 8, and definitely recommended.
Specific genres of interest, in order of preference:
* Popular science
* Other nonfiction of the "more readable than dense" sort
* Fantasy & sf (preferably small stories in pleasant settings; ie, not dystopian or grim)
* Romance (gay, straight, poly, I don't much care. I have read tons of this lately and probably won't read any new recs right away, but I'm always looking.)