Couple of brief thumbs up

I’m having one of those years where I seem to be doing nothing, while standing in bemusement and watching the time fleet past me.  How did it get to be May already?  Rose is on study leave as of this time next week, and then she’ll have a couple of weeks of exams in June and be off for the rest of academic year.  Whoever thinks of these things doesn’t spare a thought for a poor author who’s looking for some time alone to write.

I did do over 2,000 words on Under the Hill today, and though I don’t think they were very good words, still they were better than no words at all.  More to the point, they may not have been the best words, but they contained some intriguing ideas, some of which took me by surprise and made me go “ooh.  That’s cool!”

There is so much work still to be done on Under the Hill, but it’s going to be epic when it’s finished.  It’s got to be the most ambitious thing I’ve ever tried to do, and though it may take me forever, I suspect that if I can get it to be what I want it to be, I’m going to be prouder of it than of anything else.  I just wish it wasn’t still quite so much like a disassembled jigsaw.

Anyway, on the subject of thumbs up, I thought I could get into the habit of doing brief mentions of books I read and enjoyed.  That would be:

Hero by Heidi Cullinan

I’m not normally a fan of kitsune, or of stories where there’s lots of sex, particularly if there’s an element of non-con about it.  But the sheer verve and imagination of this swept me away, and I just love the fact that the OTP of this book is between a construction worker and a building.  The building is a sort of house-shifter, a sentient creature with all sorts of interesting properties and drawbacks.  And the playfulness of that idea along with the sweetness and decency of the two leads makes this a surprisingly affirming and heartwarming sort of read despite all the slightly dubious consent.  Lots of imagination, verve, originality and heart to this one.

The Darkling Thrush by Josh Lanyon

I am normally a fan of organizations whose jobs it is to regulate magic, and stories about brooding Celtic islands with ruined castles which contain an unspeakable curse.  Also of saturnine and dangerous but seductive wizards and archaeological treasure hunts for the wisdom of the past, preferably with interference from the denizens of Faerie.  So this one could have been written specially for me.  If I had to drag out a single complaint, it would be that nothing in it really surprised me.  Nothing jumped out and said “ooh, you never thought of that before!”  It gave me everything I hoped for, but it did so in the way I expected it to.

Out of the Blue by Josh Lanyon

Superbly well done WWI story about a squadron of British pilots, with one American, fighting German fighter planes over the trenches in France.  I loved the way he completely nailed the mannerisms, the way the men spoke and the things that would have obsessed them at the time.  The flying combat sequences are wonderful, and the atmosphere of claustrophobia and fear is brilliantly done.  It had one of those big, confident, predatory alpha heroes in Cowboy, the American character, and I fear I can’t like any character who can say “you’re going to be mine whether you like it or not” and enforce that with blackmail, no matter how much the other guy secretly wants it.  So I did spend much of the book wishing that our viewpoint character would show some of that backbone the other characters frequently claim he has and tell the blackmailing git where to get off.  (I don’t understand him.  Doesn’t he have any pride or self-respect?  How can you be a flying ace and war hero and not have any spine at all?)

But I know that’s because I just don’t react like a normal human being to the whole “see, I’m going to give you what you secretly really want, in such a way that you won’t have to admit, even to yourself, that you secretly want it,” thing.

I still thought it was brilliant, though.  If it hadn’t hit one of my squicks it would probably be my favourite of his novellas I’ve read to date, and even though it did, I thought it was superb.


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