Via [personal profile] boundbooks, instructions for finding unclaimed funds in America. Turns out Blue Cross owed me $75.

Indie Australian sf/fantasy/YA author Andrea Host is putting all her books on sale for 99 cents until January 1.

If you have read any books by Andrea Host, please discuss in comments. Also let me know if you find any unclaimed funds!
1632, by Eric Flint.

A chunk of a modern American town, including the entire local chapter of Mine Workers of America, is mysteriously transported into 1632 Germany. What those people need are red-blooded Americans with lots of guns!

This is kind of hilariously what it is. Apart from Flint being pro-union, it is exactly like every sweaty right-wing fantasy ever, complete with the lovingly described slaughter with lovingly described guns of nameless evil people whom we know are evil because we see them randomly torturing and raping the hapless, helpless villagers. The rape and torture is lovingly described, too. There are also loving descriptions of various engineering projects.

Typical excerpt:

Mike spoke through tight jaws. "I'm not actually a cop, when you get right down to it. And we haven't got time anyway to rummage around in Dan's Cherokee looking for handcuffs." He glared at the scene of rape and torture. "So to hell with reading these guys their rights. We're just going to kill them."

"Sounds good to me," snarled Darryl. "I got no problem with capital punishment. Never did."

"Me neither," growled one of the other miners. Tony Adducci, that was, a beefy man in his early forties. Like many of the miners in the area, Tony was of Italian ancestry, as his complexion and features indicated. "None whatsoever."

Gave up on this. It’s not that I never enjoy this sort of thing. But I have to really be in the mood for it. (Appropriate mood: Snark locked and loaded.)

Free on Baen. Yes. Of course this is a Baen book. There are the obvious exceptions, like Bujold, but Baen has more of a house style than Harlequin.

Stray, by Andrea Host.

An Australian teenager steps through a portal to a strange world, where she survives on her own for a while before being rescued by and taken to another world, where she becomes a lab rat for a bunch of psychic ninjas who fight alien monsters!

This sounds completely up my alley. However, this is my third try at reading it, and I have never gotten farther than 30% in, and I had to force myself to get even that far. It’s written in the form of a diary, which means there’s no dialogue and it’s entirely tell-not-show. I’ve read books like that which I’ve really enjoyed (Jo Walton is extremely good at that type of narrative), but this one never caught my interest. It’s certainly very ambitious— for instance, Cassandra does not speak the alien language, nor does she instantly learn it— but I found it dry and uninvolving.

Sorry to all who recced it so enthusiastically! I will try something else by Host, but I’m giving up on this one. That being said, everyone but me seems to love it, and it’s free on Amazon, so give it a shot.

Stray (Touchstone Book 1)
Come for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Solid, inventive, well-characterized YA science fiction. By “science fiction,” I mean “cool powers and alien invasion,” not “paper-thin dystopia in which the government’s main concern appears to be micro-managing the love triangles of teenagers.”

Madeleine, an aspiring artist, visits Sydney to paint her cousin Tyler’s portrait. Tyler is a famous cross-dressing actor, and probably my favorite character in the book despite his comparatively small part.

Her plans are stymied by an alien invasion. Starry towers rise up from the cities, and dust falls from the sky. Some people are given powers, others strange vulnerabilities, and still yet others are possessed by aliens. Stars shine from Madeleine’s skin, and she gets together with other teenagers to learn to use their powers and try to save the world.

The opening sequence, in which Madeleine tries to escape from a wrecked subway station, gets the book off to a great start. I stalled out for a while in a slow sequence in which the teenagers are interminably holed up in a hotel, but the story picks up enormously after that.

Host has a lot of respect for teenagers, and I liked the unabashedly heroic tone of the story. Rather than taking the apocalypse as an excuse for an orgy of rape and cannibalism, Host’s characters band together, form a community, explore their new relationships, take the time to make plans that make sense, and risk their lives for a cause they believe in. It’s engaging, uplifting, and, by the end, surprisingly moving.

This isn’t a flawless novel. Some events are confusing or poorly set-up, some of the dialogue is clunky, and I read the explanation of the alien invasion three times and I still don’t understand it. Too many characters are introduced in too-quick succession, and I didn’t realize that “Emily” and “Millie” were the same person with a nickname until I got to the cast of characters at the end. The sequence at the end with Gavin was really confusing, too. The book could have used one more rewrite.

However, so could at least half of the professionally edited YA novels I’ve read recently, many of which have glaring continuity errors, nonsensical motivations, ridiculous worldbuilding, unlikable characters, and, often, proofreading errors and poor formatting. In some cases, they are nothing but a string of action sequences strung together by plot holes.

And All the Stars isn’t Code Name Verity. But it’s imaginative, well-thought-out, and heartfelt. I will definitely read more of Host’s books.

Giant spoilers lurk below.

Read more... )

And All the Stars. Only $4.99!

Host self-publishes because of the glacial pace of traditional publishing, which got one of her novels stuck in review for TEN YEARS.

But there may be other reasons as well, which have nothing to do with the quality of her writing. Again, I'm not saying that she's one of the absolute best YA writers out there. But based on this, she's certainly one of the better ones. And when I say "better ones," I mean "compared to all the YA novels I've been reading that come out from major publishers," not "compared to the slush pile."

Speaking only of American publishing, which is the only publishing I know anything about, I can see why this novel would be a hard sell. It is not set in America, it involves aliens, and the tone and style are different from most YA sf I've read recently. (And there are gay characters, though in the supporting cast.) For a first-time author, those could be insurmountable obstacles.

M. C. A. Hogarth has a thought-provoking article on those issues. Maybe the audience for books about middle-aged female Hispanic space Marines is small. Maybe the audience for psychic Australian teenagers fighting aliens is small. But I'm glad that e-publishing makes it possible now for those books to find their audience.


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