Unwelcome Bodies, by Jennifer Pelland (Apex Books)
SF short story collection -- and the best collection I've read. The stories are all engaging and compelling, but they also leave you thinking -- each SF story has a theme that matches up very well with our own world and culture. The 'unwelcome bodies' theme is explored in various ways -- cybernetics, deformities, fear of mortality, enforced appearances. The stories aren't horror, though most look at the rotten things we do to each other and the horrible ways we treat each other. Each one is very different, and each one becomes your new favourite. And the last story ends with a positive note, in which the character will not give in, will not give up -- so the book leaves you feeling optimistic. If you like SF, like short stories, or just like challenging, thought-provoking fiction, read this book. I promptly went and bought Pelland's new novel, and it's next on my to-read list.
Hushed, by Kelley York (Entangled Publishing)
Contemporary gay YA novel. I'd been hearing good things about this book, so I picked it up -- and, wow. Archer is one of the most screwed up protagonists I've ever met, yet I could like and understand him and was cheering for him right though to the last page. Archer, a college freshman, is Vivian's best friend. He's always there for her. He loves her to the point of self destruction. And he picks up the pieces for her, again and again. Then she goes off with yet another loser, another abuser, another worthless guy, while he sits, ignored, waiting for her to need him again. Until Evan draws Archer out of his shell and shows him what it is to live and love. Archer finds happiness with Evan, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the fact that Evan points out, quite clearly, that the things Archer has done to help and protect Vivian -- including murder -- have made him a monster. Archer wants to find peace, to find happiness with Evan. But that means no longer being at Vivian's beck and call. And Vivian doesn't like not being able to take Archer for granted. It's an ugly yet beautiful story, uncompromising and honest, but tender and compassionate. I'll definitely read any other books this author publishes, and I'll be looking for more books from Entangled. Small presses are really impressing me.
Men of Bronze, by Scott Oden (Medallion Books)
This is a historical novel set in Egypt just prior to Alexander the Great, when the Persians are trying to invade Egypt, and Greeks living in Egypt get caught up in -- or try to play -- both sides. On the plus side, it's very well written; I'd read it again just to study the author's style and turn of phrase. It's also well researched (as far as I can tell) and the historical setting is very interesting. On the not so plus side, it's a cast of dozens of POV characters; it's fight after battle after fight after battle, with a lot of espionage, intrigue, and betrayal in between. And it's definitely a Manly book: there's only one female character, who exists mainly to let the Manliest of the Manly men fall in love and be redeemed. OVerall, not quite my style, but there's a lot to admire in this book.