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Oct. 3rd, 2015 @ 11:25 pm books, September
I might have forgotten one. I can't tell.

Julia London, The Perfect Homecoming. About what I expected it to be, which was not great but not terrible. Too much, “I am totally not autistic! I just suck at people!” which I will buy because the character really, really doesn’t see the rules she’s been raised by. I will buy it but roll my eyes at it.

Cherie Priest, I Am Princess X. This just kept moving. No time to rest for anyone. It was kind of exhausting to read, but enjoyable.

Douglas Rees, Vampire High. A reread because it turns out that is about the level of realbook I want, plus I reorganized my shelves and found it. Not spectacular, but I didn’t expect it to be, and it’s satisfying.

Ilona Andrews, Magic Shifts. Angela is going back to read the first book and compare. Since I read it in chunks, and while other things were going on, I ended up with a weirdly dissociated experience of the book. I kept forgetting that I’d read it, or that I had finished it, or that the things in the book actually happened in the book rather than being yet more fanfic. What that boils down to is that it feels like an almost perfunctory book, like it has to happen to escalate things to a later book.
I would have loved more neighbor shenanigans and Mahon being Mahon and failing, honestly.

Daniel Jose Older, Shadowshaper. If I say this book is all surface, it sounds like more of a complaint than it is, and I do not want to do that. This book is very clear about what it is doing and why; it comes out and says so rather than backgrounding it. A little jarring for me, but I’m also used to the background being background I’m completely familiar with, see also white privilege, and thus smoother going down.
Anyway! The book is all surface in a way that makes me understand layers and subtext.
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Sep. 4th, 2015 @ 06:11 pm books, August
Wow I did not read much that wasn't Avengers fic.

Frank Warren, The World of Postsecret. Exactly what you’d expect.

Anne Perry, The Cater Street Hangman, Callender Square. I’ve had Perry recommended to me a couple times, and a historical spousal detective team is right up my alley.
These were published in 1979 and 1980.
So... not so much.
They’re a bit didactic, with quite a lot of monologuing about how very different things were Back Then-- did you know poor people existed then? Well, our heroine pretty much did not. The first two were kind of a slog, not least because the style of the time seems to have been to discover who did it, then end the book immediately.
I’m reading one from 2013, and we’ll see if I’m willing to backtrack. Signs point to no, so far.

Nora Roberts, The Liar. The numbers are too big, the town too cute, the characters too unaware that they are in a book. Even if they don’t expect the surprise twist ending, Roberts should know that her readers do.

Anne Perry, Midnight at Marble Arch. Yup, done with Perry. I need denouement! And less heavy-handedness!

Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost. I have been disappointed in Allen’s books because I liked Garden Spells so much, and this one gets back to the strange people with strange powers. I’m glad-- I like her writing and it relies on the world being right.

Andi Teran, Ana of California. Too wedded to its origins as Anne of Green Gables, and also waffly on the subject of what is unforgiveable and what is not. A character who is supposed to be sympathetic hates another because he got drunk and outed her to his friends... and she spreads a rumor that the Latina from Los Angeles, apparently the only Latina in the school, is in a gang and has connections. Because that’s completely harmless. Even if the titular Ana weren’t an orphan entirely due to gang violence.
Basically, either go for the full Anne treatment and make it cute and sweet, or do the opposite and actually engage with the setting and such. In between, no.
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Aug. 6th, 2015 @ 09:15 pm books, blood
1) Gave blood. Triple platelets. Notable mostly because the phlebotomist doing the stick knew it was iffy, so he kept an eye on it and pulled it before we got too far in. Moved over to another machine, had a completely uneventful donation. Plus, with the rewards program I'm going to get a set of pans.

2) Books. Very short here.

Jennifer Crusie, Welcome to Temptation. Rereads continue. Nom.

Diana Wynne Jones, Unexpected Magic. I have heard before that if you read a lot of Jones you see that there is a looooot of dysfunction in her adults. Hooboy yes. When I mentioned this at Alpha, people said, “That is the point of Diana Wynne Jones,” but... look, I get to come to my conclusions in my own time.

Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory. My biggest problem with this book is that the great first line is a lie. Why wouldn’t we like what she has to tell us? We bought this book. It’s what happened, and there’s nothing groundbreaking or culture-shattering about the events. And, I guess, a little silliness in places, but I’m willing to classify this one as, “A lot of fun and I like it, but craftwise not one of her best,” vs some that are, “Wow, this is probably brilliant, and I am never going to read it or anything in its series again.”

Jennifer Crusie, Faking It. Reread, and this time I actually understood the crowded explanation of everything.

Mark Kurlansky, Salt. Decent book for occasional reading while the boy cooked. Didn’t get as in-depth as I’d like, and the organization wasn’t the way I’d expect it, but in chunks, perfectly good.

Wow, did I really not read much else? Well, all the Avengers fic in the world. I have a problem.

3) So much Avengers fic. Someone posted a link somewhere and then I was devouring everything good. Some iffy. Not much bad, because I am working from a well-curated list.

4) Oh, also, Alpha. That happened. Ask for more details. Good as usual.
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Jul. 1st, 2015 @ 11:02 pm blood and books
Did I mention that they changed the blood donation timing? Because now I can go fortnightly. This is useful for me gaining points (likely to spend on a set of pots and pans rather than anything particularly chainsaw-shaped) and also for getting me out of the house in the summer.

So I went! A trio of students observed through the process; I am an excellent teaching specimen because I know the drill, I know what wrong things feel like, and as long as I'm warm, most things don't go wrong. Plus, and this is an important plus, they changed the thermostat settings after years of begging from the staff.

I was actually warm without the blankets. Possibly... I might have gotten uncomfortably warm, given time.

Anyway, two hours later, I'd done a triple platelet, drunk a pint of milk, eaten a double handful of string cheese, and had a coffee hot chocolate, then I took my overheated self to a science booster club meeting.

And now books.

Rachel Hartman, Seraphina. A reread. Still good, still interesting. I am in favor of saints.

Shadow Scale. The reason for the reread. And this one... okay, I am not the biggest fan of books that are mostly about traveling, but this wasn’t entirely. Plus it had a really good resolution to the love triangle, which was already a nonstandard love triangle.

Melinda Salisbury, The Sin-Eater’s Daughter. You know how you were at fourteen, or how others were? How it was to be in the one true youthgroup or the atheist driven to the word because of that youthgroup? How clear and easy and obvious the truth was?
Yeah, that’s this book. I kept wanting to grab the main characters and make them see reason, or at least a reasonable theory of mind. Blech.

Jennifer Crusie, Eileen Dreyer, Anne Stuart, The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. Reread. Because I went into the story expecting ridiculous lightness and already knowing that everyone’s obsessed with Europe, I was not displeased. I do kind of want to see how many pages of the book were devoted to a single libido spell. Might have been a sixth.

Juliet Marillier, Shadowfell, Raven’s Flight, The Caller. I’m putting these all together because that’s how I read them. While I roll my eyes at Marillier’s fascination with the British Isles and dialect, and huff a fair amount at her need to have an evil woman behind the seemingly evil king-- he gets to be evil because he married poorly and is easily led, but she’s just a woman who likes blood and power and orders toddlers whipped, I mean seriously-- it’s a good trilogy.

Joe Abercrombie, Half a King. Yup, it’s a guy book. I’m not sure if it Bechdels, but I’d be surprised-- I suppose I could check easily enough, since there are only two or three scenes... wait, it totally does, because at some point the merchant captain must give her slave an order or something. So there are scenes where more than one woman is present.
I generally saw the twists coming, and I liked that the entire plot was driven out of fear of a woman-- not for, but of. Doing womanly things, but doing them much more competently than anyone else. I'm thinking of picking up the sequel.

Ilona Andrews, Burn for Me. Now I really, really want more urban fantasy, but I reread everything recently enough that I don’t want to go through it all again. A reread, and like the Crusie et al, my low expectations in terms of the romantic lead’s actual romantic leadiness rather than hello Mr Stalker meant I was pleasantly surprised when he wasn’t completely rapey all the time.

Ysabeau Wilce, Flora Segunda, Flora’s Dare, Flora’s Fury. I knew I’d be dissatisfied with the third, as these are rereads. I expected to be more okay with it than I was. I have an extreme Thing for erasing one's memory of a person, particularly an important person. You know what would have been more interesting? Keep the memories, lose the love. Otherwise she got ripped off.

Marie Brennan, Warrior. Reread again. Angela and I agree that Eclipse is the most badass and we would like more of him.

Gemma Files, A Book of Tongues. I am not sure why this one does not hit me as ‘guy book’ the way the Abercrombie does. Maybe it’s that women are, for the most part, absent rather than ineffectual. Maybe ‘guy book’ means ‘straight guy book’. Probably the latter. Uncomfortable to read because people doing really terrible things for good reasons within systems that are probably really, really broken. And the library doesn’t have the third one.

Carrie Vaughn, Dreams of the Golden Age. I am SO GLAD this did not end the way After the Golden Age did. Could have used more family stuff, but that’s not the point.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls. Reread. This was the first of the Chalion books I read, and it left me kind of meh, mostly because I didn’t understand Ista’s backstory I think. Or the gods. Now it leaves me with a feeling of rightness.

Lisa M Bradley, The Haunted Girl. Book by a friend! And a good one. The first part is poetry, both speculative and not, and the second is short stories, all science fiction and fantasy. The last story is amazing.

Marie Brennan, Witch. Huh. This is a month of rereads. I remember really disliking parts of this, but knowing they were coming, I could see the groundwork I missed before, like an entire damned subplot. Plus, Eclipse. Most badass, would read again.

Randy Henderson, Finn Fancy Necromancy. You know, I expected this to be funnier and twistier. Instead, it seemed to rely on eighties humor, which at this point isn’t new, and generally being urban fantasy with a first-person narrator. I pinged the evil characters immediately, albeit not all of them. Plus erasing memories along with love. See above re bullshit.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Hallowed Hunt. Of the Chalion books, this is the one that doesn’t fit. It’s not Chalion or Ibra, the gods are there but not the plot, there’s all this mess about kingship and that just doesn’t... it doesn’t work for me. It’s a reread, and all I remembered was that there was a guy and a leopard and barely anything having to do with gods.

Eleanor Arnason, Big Mama Stories. Interesting. Not always for me, but interesting.

Elizabeth Hoyt, Dearest Rogue. I think we have two more sequels coming. This one... eh. Had good stuff in it, but the villain was pointlessly evil, the disability plot wasn’t followed through as much as I wanted, and the whole wasn’t satisfying.

Evan Roskos, Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Pets. Too much Whitman, not enough catharsis.

Diverse Energies, ed Buckell and Monti. Wow, the future is hella bleak. And that makes me sad, that a bunch of fiction specifically aimed at including people who aren’t included is also so depressing. “Solitude” is an outlier in the anthology, being both a very clear reprint and not really about today’s POC, but hey, I love “Solitude” and I understood it more this time around. Also not a lot of Africa in there, but you know, the perfect is the enemy of the good here.

Tamora Pierce, First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight. Rereads, the first I’ve done. Surprisingly brief, though it’s not like I should be surprised. And very... comforting, I guess? I can see what she’s doing in places, and it’s school books and there are good people. Then it’s books about sex and consent and agency, and then competence in ways that I can be competent.
I am not touched by any goddess. I am not chosen by a sinister Chamber, though I would kind of like to try that just to... I don’t know, see. But I can run things. And I can have ambitions slash delusions of running things as well as Kel. And it’s not like I thought Alanna was impossible-- I mean, that’s the whole point of Kel, that she’s possible when Alanna isn’t, but I read Alanna before I had quite internalized that I would never be bilingual, a child star, or an Olympian.
So... points to Tamora Pierce for accomplishing everything she tried to accomplish there in ways that make me feel insightful for noticing.
The first two I read in paper, with the right covers, and the second two in a four-pack ebook from the library that was poorly and inconsistently formatted, but which did include “Bone’s Day Out”. I remember hearing about that story at Alpha. It is a good story.
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Jun. 15th, 2015 @ 03:23 pm blood for the blood god
Holy wow, that was a weird finger-stick.

So I made an appointment for the morning, as I like to when I don't have work. The blood center changed the timing rules so now I can give platelets every week, up to twenty-four times in a twelve-month period, and plasma every month. I figure I can do every two weeks without too much trouble, assuming I have any iron at all. And since I'm taking a multivitamin now, whoo!

Anyway. I go in, I fill out the survey, it's time for the finger-stick... and blood is just pouring out of my ring finger. Won't go into the collection tube. Won't be stopped. The phlebotomist finally managed to work together to fill the tube-- I held gauze to clean it up, then we simultaneously pulled the gauze and put the tube in place before the blood could continue smearing the table-- and I mean wow. Blood all down my hand, blood on the table, blood going through the gauze. At one point, the phlebotomist squeezed my finger gently, like usual, and there was a spray.

My platelet count was 195. That is low enough (for me) that I ended up doing a second vial once I was on the machine, and that one gave me 296. Clearly, we hit the one part of my body that contained none of them.

Did a double platelet and a plasma. No problems. Had chocolate coffee afterward, and got a T-shirt.
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Jun. 1st, 2015 @ 07:18 pm books, May
Oh, and I gave blood on Friday. That happened.

Mary Roach, Stiff. I expected to be a bit not the target audience for this book, which I was. I could have read more cultural and historical chapters easily.

Ari Marmell, Covenant’s End. Wow, it is weird to read something so dark and so middle-grade. I’m not sure what makes it middle-grade in my head beyond the lack of sarcastic first-person narrator and the style of narration itself, maybe the cover? The style is meant to make you giggle in places, I think, and it reads young to me. But the book and the series are hella dark, which is clearly telegraphed from about the first chapter of the first book, in which everyone dies a bloody death.

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz, Fig. Girl grows up in the shadow of a severely mentally ill mother and eventually learns to be her own person. Except... this is set in the eighties, not for much of a good reason. Except Fig has an IQ of 187, which is known before she’s six years old, and never receives any special instruction or enrichment. Except Fig also has a diagnosis of OCD, also dating from when she was six, which mostly takes the form of picking scabs until they’re nearly permanent-- we’re talking months here, once resulting in cellulitis and nearly losing her foot. Except Fig never tries to be her own person; at six years old, she decided that she would heal her mother via various rituals, and she carries that through to her mother’s convenient suicide. The narrative doesn’t give us anything of Fig’s life that doesn’t relate to her mother, so I felt no tension there. The narrative felt lazy to me.
Plus, most of those ‘excepts’ are known by at least one adult in the book, and her behavior with the last is also noticed. So what do the adults do? Nothing. Not a single thing. No therapy, no meds, no follow-up appointments, except her grandmother’s somewhat draconian measures, which are presented as old-fashioned primmery rather than a response to a child’s illness.

Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory. You know what I wanted from Fig? This is it. I mean damn. There’s a manic pixie dream boy, a little annoying but still appropriate, and actual tension.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Of Noble Family. Not an altogether satisfying book, but a good one. I had been expecting a slave revolt from work-in-progress notes about the book, so I was very disoriented in parts. I think I’d have preferred a few things being more onstage emotionally, but that is not exactly Kowal’s style for these books. I expect to reread the whole batch within a reasonable timeframe.

Carniepunk. I skipped the transphobic story once I knew I’d hit it, wished I’d skipped the one after it, and eventually skipped anything that was clearly a novel tie-in set at a random county fair. Seanan McGuire’s was good, though.

Mary Jo Putney, Not Always a Saint. I know she can do better anguish than this.

Marie Brennan, Voyage of the Basilisk. After Kowal’s book, I had a lot of trouble adjusting to a fantasy world that wasn’t basically ours. Really enjoyed it, once I got over my disorientation, and holy cats, Isabella is more than a bit of a badass when necessary. Plus her second marriage made me really happy.

Argh, I did not keep good notes here.

Sebastian de Castell, Traitor’s Blade. You know how sometimes, you read a book and then run scenes in your head where everything is a little more Mary Sue and a little more Showing Them All?
Every single chapter is like that.
Every single one.
“Shit just keeps happening!” I said to Angela, bewildered. Each chapter begins with a dilemma, often a digression into backstory, an explanation of the problem, then a surprise way out of it is explained. Random assassin cult? Here’s how you fight them, and they never come back. Suicide taffy? Here’s the backstory, the sadness, et cetera. Extremely random sex priestess who shows up for two chapters, and that’s actually pretty long for a throwaway character? Well, extremely random sex priestess, and considering the amount of random in this book, that’s saying something.
Which is not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable. The writing is clever and engaging, I liked the overall dilemmas and Falcio’s angst-ridden character-- plus his badass friends Mr Cooler Than You and Mr Jock-- and hey, Sues and Showing Them All is exactly what I like sometimes. All the time. I’m not proud, people.
But it’s exhausting to read, all the bouncing. And I can’t make up fanfic because it’s already in the book.

Ysabeau Wilce, Prophecies, Libels, and Dreams. A mixed collection. I disliked the last story but liked seeing how characters I sort of recognize from the Flora books evolved, plus their relationships. Not as aggressively whimsical as Flora, either, which is useful.

Martha Wells, The Cloud Roads. I won this on Twitter ages ago and knew I’d like it a lot, so I haven’t been reading it. It’s not as dangerous a book as I expected, but it is quite good. The outsider perspective Moon has on everything weakens some of the societal worldbuilding, and I’m seldom thrilled with biological determinism, but the wide variety of races-- and I do mean races here, in that they can interbreed and produce fertile offspring, same species, yay-- was cool.
So basically, I am wary of the worldbuilding and going to read the next one.

Book I did not finish, picked up free at Wiscon: oh hon you are not a good book. I mean, you have a cool premise, but too many deaths, too much politics-- we’re five years past an apocalypse and it’s all business interests, bullshit politics, and weird rapey scenes? You killed some cool characters, I made it almost two hundred pages in and I haven’t found a plot beyond ‘everyone sucks except the ones who are naïve’ and let me tell you, ‘naïve’ is an accusation I hate.
Such a guy book. Such a guy book.

Elizabeth Wein, Black Dove, White Raven. This was a damn fine piece of writing. Good job. Historical aviation, racism, Ethiopia, dammit colonialism this is why we can’t have nice things, plus complex relationships and having different talents and skills but everyone’s valued.
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May. 15th, 2015 @ 07:49 pm failing to update
1) Gave blood twice in April. The second time went better than the first-- the stick was great, painless, the phlebotomist understood how to keep me warm, I did a triple.

2) Completely forgot/procrastinated the booklogs for March and April. And the beginning of May. So. And in the interest of not putting this off any more, you're getting the draft version.

Here they are.Collapse )
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Mar. 14th, 2015 @ 09:36 am missed pi minute
but happy Pi Day.
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Mar. 8th, 2015 @ 09:23 pm it's worth noting
Given how everyone has complained about the weather... well, everyone but me. We had lots of clear-and-cold days, which are my favorite winter days (perhaps tied with 'blizzard' but that has its own issues, really). I like sun and weather events. I kept telling people who wanted it to warm up that that wasn't available. It's February, I said, and we can have bright blue skies with sun pouring down and zero degrees, or we can have forty degrees and gray everything, mud everywhere, slush, just gray and dim and soul-crushing.

I would rather have snot-freezing cold and sun for the entirety of February, then move directly to crocuses.

And that is exactly what the weather is giving me. Good job, weather. Thank you.
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Mar. 7th, 2015 @ 09:32 pm books of February
Robin McKinley, Chalice. This is the recent McKinley I’ve liked best. It has the rambly narrator, but the rambles are interesting and generally not in the middle of conversations. It has the inexplicable ending, but it makes sense the second or third time around. It has the ending where everyone stands around and/or leaves without speaking because McKinley’s done playing with those characters-- the Overlord in this book, the surprise triple wedding in one of the Beast books (really, the family decided to come for a visit when they didn’t know where the castle was and it was even odds the castle wouldn’t be there?) but... it also has housekeeping. It feels like old McKinley.
I also noticed this time through that Marisol talks a lot about being addressed in the third person, but she never shows us that. Compare that to The Goblin Emperor which is not fair, I know, and how it handles matters of address.

Susan Wiggs, The Beekeeper’s Ball. Man, this is a drafty novel. There’s no consequence to anything, ever. I expected meh but got a complete lack of follow-through.

Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden. I skipped a couple stories I had read before-- rather, I skipped to the good parts-- and was overall impressed with the number of narrative voices. Some of the stories I read twice.

John Scalzi, Lock In. I knew it had something to do with disability, and I have heard him read from it and about it. I was not expecting him to follow through on the Scalzi Fallacy (“I totally included people of color! See, I never described the main character, so he could be anything!”) with an undescribed narrator revealed to be black/multiracial. The character has grown up in a fairly rarefied world, so it doesn’t matter as much as it might, but hey, it’s actually a black guy in the robot.
On the other hand, he does the Fallacy for queerness a bit. I don’t know. Same- and opposite-gendered couples, plus a few people who just happen never to mention pronouns.

Patricia Briggs, Shifting Shadows. Mmm, Briggs. Some repeats in here I didn’t like, and I really disliked the first story-- it was way cooler in my head and it’s rather dark, given that it has to end with centuries of madness and despair-- but my brain and Briggs’ prose get along well. I like what she does. It’s comfort reading.

Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown. A reread because the last time I read it was... not sure. Sometime. College or grad school, so it’s not formative in any way.
And wow, that is one weird book.
I was totally on board with dragon-killing practice and mending skirts-- and wow, the story is also weirdly flashbacky and rambly in places-- and it’s awesome and there’s a dragon and a hero’s welcome and then suddenly we have a weird lake and months of mage training and this entire other quest that has to happen and no one ever knows, and all the people who gave Aerin trouble are now conveniently dead or forget that they ever did so.
I mean, yes. Structural duality reflecting Aerin’s two stories, that of the sol and hero and that of the mage and immortal. Really cool thing, there, and not something I would expect to see in current YA at all.
But I don’t trust McKinley any more. I look at the duality, the reaction I gave it-- oh this is bad, wait this is awesome-- and I don’t trust her to have done it on purpose. Like the alienness of the world, where there are all sorts of random animals and plants where they need to be in the prose.
I wish I could read this book and marvel at its execution. Instead I am affectionate but don’t rely on it.

Greg van Eekhout, California Bones. Lots of good reviews, cool premise, and left me completely cold. I’m not sure why. Maybe I read the wrong reviews and had a different idea of what was going to happen? That’s probably some of it. I don’t think Eekhout’s stories and I click quite. I’ll probably read the sequel, though.

Carrie Vaughn, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Goes to Washington, Kitty Takes a Holiday. Because I have reread every other urban fantasy series on instagrab. I had forgotten a few key details of Kitty’s initial attack-- holy traumatic everything, Batman!-- and it’s interesting seeing how well-laid-out the Cormac-Kitty-Ben relationship is.

Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti, Jala’s Mask. This is another book with a heavy duality in it. The book begins with island politics, the kind of thing that can ruin a family but not a dynasty, and Jala trying to find her feet in a court that is nothing like the courts in most fantasy. Then invaders, demons, mayhem, and suddenly we’re not in the islands but in the mountains and there are gods everywhere. Really cool gods. No, really cool gods. I felt a little let down by the end because the Jala of the beginning wouldn’t want how the book ended, but that Jala was unavailable, having matured quite a bit.
And lest you think I disliked the book, oh no. I think Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti have an excellent grasp of what goes into a book intellectually. I can’t wait for them to hit my id.

(They are friends of mine, for disclosure. Friends and Alphans. I would be way more protective of them if they were only the latter, which is weird.)

Carrie Vaughn, Kitty and the Silver Bullet, Kitty and the Dead Man’s Hand, Kitty Raises Hell, Kitty Goes to War, Kitty Steals the Show, Kitty Rocks the House. I think this takes me up to Underworld, which is where I got a bit fed up with the big arc rather than standalone books-- Underworld feels way more episodic and nothing-changes than the early books, perhaps because hey, nothing changes compared to the early books. Basically, the more Roman shows up, the less I like the book overall. But when it’s not all Long Game all the time, I really enjoy them.
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