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Review: Shades of Milk and Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal (2010)

One of Mary Robinette Kowal‘s stories – The Lady Astronaut of Mars – was nominated for and won a Hugo Award this year. I liked the story and so I went ahead to check out more of her work. She is mostly known for her Glamourist Histories series which shares its general setting with Jane Austen‘s novels with magic (=glamour) added in.

Shades of Milk and Honey

Jane Austen‘s work is very popular and many writers have written Austen-themed or inspired novels. Some are great, many are “just” mediocre fan fiction. So what would Shades of Milk and Honey be like? The free kindle sample didn’t convince me that I would like the novel, so I put buying it off. (The e-book price is kind of high for this novel.) A positive review on another blog had me looking for a used copy. A couple of days ago I came across a reasonably priced copy and bought it. It arrived on Saturday, I finished it Sunday night. That’s fast (for me, anyway).

So, what’s the book about?

In the world Shades of Milk and Honey, proper ladies show their accomplishment just like in a Jane Austen novel with the difference that they have the additional option of using glamour/magic for decorating their homes and to be accomplished in. All this accomplishment aims at a single goal: Procure a desirable husband for marriage so as to be provided for and to be happy.

Shades of Milk of Honey shares many features of its set up with Pride and Prejudice. It’s just a little chopped down. Jane Ellsworth, the book’s heroine, has only one sister, but her parents very much resemble Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. Their situation is very similar to that of the Bennett girls: Their father’s estate is entailed away from them and they have to marry to provide for themselves. Jane and her sister Melody don’t get along so well. Jane is 28 years old, very plain, but very accomplished and expects herself to end as an old spinster because she is so unattractive. Her sister is ten years her junior, lacks talent and is very handsome. There’s a lot of sister rivalry going on in the novel as each sister envies the other for her looks (Jane envies Melody) or for her talents (Melody envies Jane).

So we have magic, sisterly rivalry, girls looking for The Future Husband and Bennett-like parents. What about eligible suitors? Possibly to get a better effect from the “sisterly rivalry”, both girls favor the same gentleman, Mr. Dunkirk. He’s not the only eligible man, of course. There’s a naval Captain, too, who seems to be molded on Mr. Wickham from Pride and Prejudice and the extremely talented Glamourist Mr. Vincent might also be eligible. So that’s the set up.

Most developments in the plot were to be expected from the setup. There were a few surprises, but generally there’s nothing spectacular happening. Still, the book was a fun and somewhat romantic read and I couldn’t stop reading after I had started it. The characters were fun and I was curious which sister would get Mr. Dunkirk. Would he love Jane despite her plain looks? I even read at night in bed, which is something I usually don’t do anymore. (Too tired.)

Now I don’t know whether to get the next books in the series as real books or as e-books. What will I do?

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Some tor.com stories from 2013

Ellen Datlow was one of the Nominees for Best Editor (Short Form) of the 2014 Hugo Awards.  The Hugo voter packet provides samples of work the nominated editors did in 2013. In the case of Ellen Datlow the packet contains 12 full pieces of short fiction that she edited. When I tried to decide whether or not to vote in the editor (short form) category, I read three of these stories and collected my thoughts on them. I am a slow reader, so ultimately I did not have enough time to read all the included stories.

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Review: The Years of Rice and Salt – Kim Stanley Robinson (2002)

The Years of Rice and Salt kim Stanley Robinson

The Years of Rice and Salt is an alternate history novel.  It’s “What if…?” assumption is “What if all of Europe had been wiped out by a plague around about 1400?”. It’s at the same time a very intriguing and impossible “What if…?” to answer. Imagine earth without “Western civilization”. Where would it stand today, culturally and in terms of scientific and sociological progress? Kim Stanley Robinson (KSR) did an amazing job in trying to answer these questions and in writing this novel. Of course we will never know whether his extrapolation of possibilities comes  close to an actual alternate history of the earth without Europeans. But it’s still a great read.

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Hugo Awards (Back from Holidays!)

While I was traveling, this year’s Hugo Awards were awarded at Loncon3. I wasn’t there, but I read all about it. I am mostly happy with how voting fell out and with who won in each category. (At least the categories I care about.) So let’s look at those categories.

Best Novel: Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

No surprise in this category. I was not only hoping but fully expecting Ann Leckie to win this category. And she did! What I wasn’t expecting was the poor performance of Wheel of Time. I was expecting it to come in second, but it only made 4th place with Neptune’s Brood coming in second and Parasite taking 3rd place. Larry Correia finished last. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him, because he had it coming for him.

Interesting: Mira Grant‘s Parasite only made the ballot because Neil Gaiman did not accept the nomination of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Didn’t make the ballot because of collective voting efforts: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes and A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar.

I’ve already tried to read the Samatar for the Campbell category and will not go back to it, but both the Gaiman and the Beukes sound interesting, especially the Beukes which has time travel, and do I love time travel? Yes I do!

Best Novella: “Equoid” by Charles Stross

Not my choice for first place, but this is not a surprising outcome. Charles Stross has a huge fan base and this year’s Worldcon was in the UK, which probably brought in lots of British voters. My favorite, Six Guns Snow White, came in second, Wakulla Springs took 3rd place and the sad puppies brought up the rear.

Didn’t make the ballot because of collective voting efforts: How Green this Land, How Blue this Sea by Mira Grant and Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes.

Note: Mira Grant/ Seanan McGuire seems to have a small but very dedicated fan base, as several of her pieces appear on various extended nominations lists.

Best Novelette: “The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal

My favorite won :-). Second place goes to The truth of fact, The truth of Feeling, third place to The Waiting Stars and fourth place to The Exchange Officers.

Interesting: This is the only category where No Award beats one of the nominees. No Award receives 377 more votes than Opera Vita Aeterna by Vox Day. I was nor surprised to see this. This really was the worst piece on the ballot by a wide margin. Also, I believe some people voted this story below No Award because of who wrote it. Which I can understand, now that I had a look at Vox Day‘s blog…

Didn’t make the ballot because of collective voting efforts: The Litigation Master and the Monkey King by Ken Liu and Forbid the Sea by Seanan McGuire (dedicated fans, indeed!).

Best Short Story: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu

Well, I liked all the nominated stories in this category and looking back I must say that John Chu‘s story gave me a stronger long-lasting impression than Sofia Samatar‘s story did, which I placed first on my ballot. So maybe John Chu‘s story actually is the better story. It doesn’t matter. I would have been happy with any winner in this category.

Note: Nobody was kept off the ballot here. Good :-) .

JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER: Sofia Samatar

Well, I expected her to win. A lot of people love her novel and it almost made the ballot for Best Novel. I am sad that Benjanun Sriduangkaew ended up last. But I guess, it is hard to compete with novelists as a writer of short fiction.

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Blogging Break for three weeks!

I am off on a vacation for the next three weeks, hopefully reading lots of great books. Expect me to be back in the last week of August. I am really curious as to how the votes for the Hugos will fall out this year. This year was the first time ever that I voted on the Hugos and (not that surprisingly, but still) this makes me much more interested in the results than ever before.

I might chime in to answer comments (if any appear) depending on the availability of Internet.

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Short Story Review: Ursula Vernon – Toad Words (2014)

I always liked reading short fiction, but after my three-month-effort to read as many Hugo nominated works as possible I have formed the resolution to read even more of it. I am planning to especially focus on short fiction published in 2014, so that I might have read a lot of it when the time for nominating for next year’s Hugo comes. To find as many raisins as possible, I will of course listen to recommendations by other bloggers and commenters on blogs.

The Story Toad Words was recommended by Cat in the comments of this post. I read it and I liked it.

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Looking Back: My first three months of blogging

I have now been blogging for three months. So far, it’s been fun. In the past three months I have almost exclusively concentrated on reviewing this year’s Hugo nominees. That’s a very niche-type of topic and I would not have expected a lot of people to read my blog. As it is, a lot more people dropped by than I ever expected. (Thank you!) The blog even has some followers. (Wow! Thank you, again!)

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