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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.
The Sleeping Life - Andrea K. Höst

Back in 2010, I was halfway through writing The Sleeping Life when I decided to embark on self-publishing my backlist, so I set it aside and distracted myself thoroughly in other worlds. I'm sure that the six-year gap led to some rather significant changes to how the book ended, but I enjoyed where I took this one.

 

I tell people, btw, that it's not a Sleeping Beauty re-telling, but then I point out to myself that someone is technically sort of awakened by a kiss... No spindles, however!

 

And, for the Touchstone fans, here's a bit of trivia that binds these two stories together:

M

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S

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back when I was originally writing Touchstone as a fiction blog, I had a scene where Mori is having a sleepover with Cass, after Cass has discovered she can "dream things real". And because what I was writing was "non-serious stuff I was throwing up on the internet", I cheerfully had Cass dream the facehuggers from Aliens showing up in her bedroom and leaping on poor Mori.

 

Because what else would a genre-savvy Earth girl dream when picturing the worst things she could inflict on a planet?

 

But when I came around to editing the blog for publication, I most definitely didn't want to get into any dubious copyright territory. This is the exact same reason why Cass summons a dragon instead of Superman, and why I don't include the actual text of Do Not Go Gentle.

 

So I cast about for something that I could use instead of facehuggers, and remembered the Kentatsuki from The Sleeping Life. And so The Sleeping Life became the book that Cass had been reading, and left in her room, the day she went for her last highschool exam. And The Sleeping Life is the book that Cass' Mum brings with her, when she finally gets to travel to Muina.

 

The publication dates don't work out, of course. ;)

Copycat Killing - Sofie Kelly

Third book in the magical cats series, hitting much of the same notes as before: female friendships, sensible heroine, cats which are a bit magical.  Fortunately no TSTL moments this time around.

 

A pleasantly relaxing read, snack food for the mind without being at all taxing.

Shadows by Robin McKinley

Shadows - Robin McKinley

"Shadows" is McKinley channelling Diana Wynne Jones, a fact which is foregrounded by the book's dedication.  The focus on family, the combination of a magical and a technological world, and the cascading chaos of the story's climax all bring Jones' work strongly to mind.

 

The thrust of the story is dystopian - while it starts out seeming to be about a problematic step-father, it segues into a focus on the society (although this relies a little on the protagonist having paid very little attention to that society and tuning out in school a great deal).

 

I started out slow with the book, but settled into it around a third of the way in, when the action picked up, and stayed up way too late reading it.  An enjoyable read (though a little overwhelming, with a great deal of teen-speak, alt-world slang, Japanese and "Old World" terms spilling over the pages).

The Water Castle - Megan Frazer Blakemore After their father's stroke, the Appledores move to the old family property - and discover a town of science, unusually smart people - and their own long history.Enjoyed portions of this a lot, although I think the flashback portions could have been omitted entirely.
A Girl of the Limberlost - Gene Stratton-Porter This starts off in pathos porn mode. Elnora, neglected by a mother in severe grieving mode, endures some humiliation at school - wrong clothes, no books, no orientation. It's very easy to get on Elnora's side and want her to succeed and to appreciate her love of nature.But while it's an enjoyable book, it's on the edge of didactic, with heaps of fervent passages on the glory of nature as an expression of God. And the wonder which is Elnora.Rarely have I seen so many virtues crammed on one girl's head - nor so many characters so ready to tell us how wonderful she is. The book becomes an illustration of being "the right kind of woman" - intelligent, hard working, learned, kind, self-abnegating - and ready to devote herself to supporting her man.There are also a lot of references to characters from a previous book, with no explanation, which is a little confusing.
Life in Outer Space - Melissa Keil A pleasant contemporary high school romance about people "on the outer" making and deepening connections. [Or 'geek love story'.]Sam's existence as a bullied movie geek (and that of his small cadre of bullied geeky friends) is transformed by the arrival of Camilla, an uber-cool girl with big connections to the music industry. Who likes science fiction and seeks out her own kind.There were a couple of things which tripped me up in the story. The school feels American. I hated the Allison plotline. If Mike is such an incredible martial artists, why aren't the bullies afraid to mistreat his friends? And particularly the use of World of Warcraft. The author mentions a "crash course" in the game in the afterword acknowledgements and I'm afraid that seriously showed in the story. Camilla, who is constantly having to move to new schools, is a lonely, isolated girl - but when she asks Sam for help "levelling her dwarf" in Warcraft, she mentions that she's playing on a new server because she's moved to Australia. Anyone who has ever spent any serious time playing MMO's will know that there's no need to swap servers with your country (unless she's a hardcore PVP-er, the ping rate isn't that big a deal), and all that isolation and disconnection and leaving people behind that she feels swapping schools? Doesn't translate to your MMO guild. If she was really a gamer her guild would be her one constant, a connection she keeps. [Plus, levelling her 'dwarf' rather than her, say, thief or paladin, etc.] Anyway, I was obviously highly distracted by the Warcraft failure, and it could easily have been dropped from the story.I didn't love this book, but I did enjoy it, and I liked the way it attempted to deconstruct some of the common tropes of the genre.
Gears and Levers 3: A Steampunk Anthology - Irene Radford I picked this up because a friend has a story in it. Interesting collection overall, though there were a couple of stories I really disliked.
Next - Simon Petrie, Robert Porteous, Martin Livings, Steve Simpson, Shauna O'Meara, Daniel   Simpson, Ian McHugh, Gillian Polack, Robert Phillips, Leife Shallcross, Craig Cormick, Chris McGrane, Catherine Whittle, Helen Stubbs, Richard L. Lagarto, Adam Browne, Kris Ashton, Davi A nice thick collection of original fiction.Usually I don't notice themes of short story collections (unless the book is suitably branded with a title like "Witches and Warlocks"). The theme for this collection is "show us what happened next" but I have to admit I wouldn't have made that connection from reading the stories.Instead I became hopelessly distracted by a coincidence of the first two stories featuring abused women, and the question of the kind of stories we tell about women. Below is a spoilerific summary of the stories in this volume, grouped by gender.Women:- Woman with violent partner saved by alt world circumstances.- Part mermaid girl morally compromises self because broken heart and patriarchal oppression.- Disdainful mirror watches ditz fairy woman morally compromise herself because broken heart.- Girl raised as spouse for tree (by nuns in oppressive patriarchy?). Is betrayed by boy then goes through with ritual but not in apparently expected way. Has no life outside cloister.- Bookish girl does not want meaningless sex with crude fauns. Finds bookish faun and develops taste for sex. Dumps him for crude fauns because he wants both books and sex not just sexsesxsex.- Archaeologist investigating fifth century British grave which is supposedly cursed finds alien mechanism and has part alien cuckoo baby.- Timid lady receives magic object (future seeing spectacles), finds them frightening, gives them back.- Ghost of imprisoned raped noblewoman does not fully understand her situation but is released by girl.- Single mother trapped in life of indentured servitude at casino because of brother's crimes takes way out arranged by brother. [She is a competent woman, but her circumstances are all engineered by someone else.]- Timid cleaner is stalked by post industrial monster and saved by faeries.- Woman receives transplanted heart and has sex with the former owner's asshole husband, then dies. Heart moves on to 'infect' another transplantee with emotions for asshole.- Downwardly mobile woman finds skeleton key which can take her places. [This story has an active female not cast in role of victim or love plot, and the story has a positive resolution but a singularly unlikeable protagonist.]Men:- Evil man makes everyone's life a misery, dies, haunts sport uniform. Another man interested by evil man's wife/widow, who was trapped in abusive relationship until saved by circumstances. [Story POV is male, but lot of focus on victim-woman.]- Ocean man avoids fish out of water fate with musical distress call.- Two men go on expedition where butterfly effect is more sympathetic magic than science- An electrician engrossed in his work fails to tear himself away when his girlfriend needs to go help her family. She dies and he has a vaguely spiritual experience which makes him want more than his job.- Paralysed cop is jacked directly into net doing investigations, runs into virtual trap.- Clan of the cave bear where all the tech advancements come via visions.- Four convicts escape Port Arthur and trek through a dangerous dreaming putting humanity aside for the sake of survival.- Ned Kelly makes his last stand during the zombie apocalypse.- Three children seek to watch the wild hunt. Two join, one boy resists and returns to tell the tale. Mistress of hunt acts as mercy giver.- Driver in search of toilet finds hell.- Automatons put miners out of a job. Miner with a broken automaton become good luck charm puts mine owners out of business.- Manic depressive guy becomes minder for phoenix healer.- Gambler tries to win gamble with leprechaun. Wins battle loses war.- Son/construct of clockmaker uses devices to escape patron by time shift. The narrative culminates in a little girl being nearly killed and having mechanical heart given to her.- Terrorists sabotage a machine which allows people to glimpse their own futures. Only primary female role is to distract a guard with her tits.- Envious poet buys fame and glory in a pill.Non-gendered:- A robot rescues and repairs another robot which is for some reason gendered female and her presence causes the first robot to remember being the killer of all, leading to another murder, another memory purge.- A poem in Dr Seuss format protesting mashups of classics and zombies.The bulk of these stories were well-written and entertaining, but I read through them noticing that stories about/from the POV of men tend to be about all sorts of things, while so many stories focused on women are about:- Trapped victims of patriarchy/abusive relationships.- Winning/losing/being messed up by a man.- Women things happen to, but who are not actively _doing_ things.This is a side-point, however - my pet bug bear. It's a readable collection, with only a couple of stories which I thought didn't work or had serious flaws.
Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend - Miranda J. Green Good basic dictionary with nice illustrations.Found myself more than a little annoyed by this description of Medb, though:"She is promiscuous, mating with at least nine mortal kings and refusing to allow any king to rule in Tara who has not first mated with her. One of her consorts is Ferghus, a hero of extreme virility, who needs seven ordinary women (or Medb) to satisfy him."The negative word 'promiscuous' is applied to Medb (because of the ritual joining of immortal land-goddess and current mortal king), but Ferghus - sexing seven women apparently in a group - is 'virile' and 'satisfied', with no negative implication.
Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 81 - Neil Clarke,  E. Lily Yu,  Jacob Clifton,  Graham Templeton,  Sarah Monette,  Elizabeth Bear,  Paul J. McAuley,  Jason Heller,  Jeremy L. C. Jones,  Daniel Abraham,  David Melvin Of the Clarkesworld issues I've read, this has so far been the strongest. [It's now about 1/3 new fiction, 1/3 reprinted fiction, and 1/3 non-fiction.]The Urashima Effect by E. Lily Yu is about the time and distance of space travel, dealing with one half of a couple "going ahead" with the second half to join later. My main response to the story was to be unclear as to why each journey could only involve a single person.This is Why We Jump by Jacob Clifton - a story about choosing to leave a particular social setting and family - and a rather icky way for that society and family to refuse to let a person go.Free-Fall by Graham Templeton - three scientists and a journalist are stranded halfway up a space elevator, and it looks like their only viable option is a risky high altitude jump. I guess you could call it a story about psychological types in stress situations. Or a story about people becoming story.Mongoose by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear - the first of the reprints, and an immediate jump from okay stories right into AWESOME. Really liked this tale of what (in Touchstone Trilogy terms) would be freelance Setari with domesticated ionoth.Dead Men Walking by Paul J. McAuley - brief, vivid and very visual story of a dying man's last words.Beyond the Tracks: The Locomotive in Science Fiction Literature by Jason Heller - as the title says.Eccentric Relatives and Raw Grief: A Conversation with Susan Palwick by Jeremy L. C. Jones - focuses on Palwick's book "Mending the Moon". Didn't sound like my kind of story.Another Word: The Techs Can Do It by Daniel Abraham - yet another trade published author weighs in on self-publishing (with the usual caveat that he has every respect for people who self-publish) and says he thinks that people doing all the "tech stuff" for their books won't be able to focus on the writing sufficiently to produce writing as good as a trade published author ["I want to read the work of great writers, and so I want there to be great writers. ... I don't think that can happen when we look at all the different things that putting a book into the world requires, shrug, and say we can have the techs do it."] At this stage, all I can do is arch an eyebrow and shrug.Editor’s Desk: Publishing Turns Like a Battleship by Neil Clarke. Also talking about self-publishing and comparing the current self-publisher's plaint about not feeling respected with the lack of respect afforded to online magazines a few years ago. Concludes with belief that the medium/publishing will matter less in a few years.
The Islands of Chaldea - Ursula Jones, Diana Wynne Jones Number One book I'm looking forward to.
The Mother Shadow (Crime, Penguin) - Melodie Johnson Howe Billed as the "West Coast answer to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin", this story revolves around Maggie Hill, a temp whose latest job brings her into the investigations of detective Claire Conrad.This is not a note-for-note copy of the Nero Wolfe books - there are plenty of resemblances, but some strong differences, most particularly in Maggie, who is here being introduced to the detective business, while we only meet Archie properly ensconced as Wolfe's man about town. Nor does Maggie have Archie's snap and patter, but she's an enjoyable heroine, with a jaded 80s Hollywood air.While we don't have Archie's zing, and Conrad doesn't quite match Wolfe's eccentric and arrogant brilliance, this is still an enjoyable and complex mystery which kept me engrossed.
Shooting Hollywood: The Diana Poole Stories - Melodie Johnson Howe Last time I moved house I offloaded the mass of mystery paperbacks I'd accumulated, keeping only my classic mysteries and a sparse handful of other books. Two of the books I kept were Melodie Johnson Howe's [b:The Mother Shadow|3372633|The Mother Shadow (Claire Conrad & Maggie Hill #1)|Melodie Johnson Howe|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1267964900s/3372633.jpg|3412101] and [b:Beauty Dies|3372632|Beauty Dies (Claire Conrad & Maggie Hill #2)|Melodie Johnson Howe|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1256077652s/3372632.jpg|3412100] - books I'd purchased because they were sold as the female answer to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.It's been some time since I read those books, but I remember fruitlessly looking for a third in the series, and wondering why it was the series I really liked always seemed to end prematurely.This is a collection of (unrelated) short stories drawing strongly on the author's knowledge of life as a Hollywood actress. Enjoyable, and in their way bleakly cynical, I'll be picking up the longer book due out later this year - and probably working the two earlier books into my reading schedule.

Man in the Brown Suit (Agatha Christie Collection)

The Man in the Brown Suit - Agatha Christie This master criminal/espionage plot is unabashedly a romance, while commenting wryly on the Perils of Pauline type of adventure. Anne is one of the most straightforwardly adventurous, practical and brave female characters you'll encounter in Christie, and it's great fun to watch where she'll end up. The romance gets a little "women want a strong man who tells them what to do", but then thankfully promptly undercuts that notion.As with many books written in the 1920s, the racial aspects are at the least uncomfortable - Africans are treated as benevolently childlike, or frighteningly Other, and are very much backdrop rather than characters of substantial presence.
Fiction River: Unnatural Worlds - Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Devon Monk, Ray Vukcevich, Esther M. Friesner, Irette Y. Patterson, Kellen Knolan, Annie Reed, Leah Cutter, Richard Bowes, Jane Yolen, David Farland First of a series of short story collections funded through Kickstarter (each is themed, and this one's theme is fantasy). Most stories good, none total duds. Almost all 'contemporary' fantasy - magic happening to and around people in a world similar to ours (and almost all in the US)."Life Between Dreams" - Devon Monk - Interdimensional 'guardian duo'. Readable."Finally Family" - Ray Vukcevich - Had a vignette feel (though it's not). I liked the feel of this one."The Grasshopper and My Aunts" - Esther M Friesner - Ccomedic mythic creatures in semi-modern day story. Amusing, but the POV character came across as an unpleasant person."True Calling" - Irette Y Patterson - Baking magic and romance. Not particularly surprising, but readable."A Taste of Joie De Vivre" - Kellen Knolan - High School bullying combined with a town which is "troubled" in the same way as the TV show "Haven". Watching bullies 'get theirs' is almost always a satisfactory emotional payoff, though I felt sorry for the dog."Here, Kitty Kitty" - Annie Reed - Urban fantasy ex-cop duo of hot elf and human - tracking down a statue for a fairy. No surprises, but nice enough dynamic."That Lost Riddle" - Dean Wesley Smith - One is this author's "Poker Boy" series, where Lady Luck, etc, etc, are anthropomorphised, and the main character is "Poker Boy", a professional gambler turned luck-oriented superhero. Made me wonder, as these kind of stories often do, why so many ancient gods are American."Shadow Side" - Kristine Kathryn Rusch - One of the strongest (but also the longest, and thus with more time to build) stories in the collection. Cop/Police Chief who has been mixed up in the supernatural in the past and is really not keen in getting mixed up in it again. But a job opportunity in a mountain tourist town obliges him to face up to that choice. Enjoyed this one the most."Sisters" - Leah Cutter - Poignant and quite powerful story about death, belief and ritual."The Witch's House" - Richard Bowes - Post-apocalyptic plus fey. Interesting."Dog Boy Remembers" - Jane Yolen - the back story of one of the characters from "Except the Queen". Powerfully written, as expected of Yolen, but I sighed for the fridging of the unnamed mother. Deliberately nameless, I would presume, but I am just weary of nameless women, their deaths the background of Real Character's lives."Barbarians" - David Farland - Standard story of showing kindless to the enemy, made a little less standard by its conclusion. Only female character is typical "better than the rest because Good".
Believing the Lie (Inspector Lynley, #17) - Elizabeth  George Elizabeth George writes of self-destructive people, conscienceless people, people out for themselves, or hapless folk caught up in inexorably awful circumstances. The main plot of this book is around standard for George, compelling as a car accident where you drive past the twisted metal and stare.The secondary plot - the private lives of Lynley, Deborah and Barbara continue apace.I still mostly dislike Lynley, who starts the book out in a sex-driven affair as a kind of bandage of coping. I loathed the Deborah story - her relationship with her almost always right logical husband who spends his time "handling" her (the emotional, illogical one) just ticks me off - as it does Deborah.Again, I mainly read this series for Barbara Havers, who never catches a break. Argh to the final chapter.