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My roommate is gone for the weekend, which means that I'm considering the luxurious, decadent possibilities of ordering take-out and mopping the kitchen floor.

Sharon Shinn, Summers at Castle Auburn (2001) -- As an aristocratic-but-illegitimate daughter of a prominent family, Coriel spends every summer at Castle Auburn, where her father's family hopes to rear her into a marriagable political asset. Coriel herself fully intends to be a wise woman, like her crusty and undemonstrative grandmother, but as she gets older, she has to contend with multiplying allegiances to the castle-folk, including her self-abnegating half-sister and the enslaved, elfin race that serves the people of the castle.

I inhaled this novel a couple of weeks ago, when I was staying at my parents' house and watching my sister play Final Fantasy XV. It's light and romantic and feminist, and it hit the spot in every possible way. Also, the novel manages to pull off an impressive switcheroo regarding the person with whom Corie finds herself in love.

I was surprised, going back into my reading logs, to discover that I had read two previous novels form the same author: The Shape-Changer's Wife in 2006 and Mystic and Rider in 2012. I did not enjoy those books a great deal, which bums me out -- I so enjoyed Summers at Castle Auburn that normally I'd try to seek out the author's other works, but it's clear that I'm not necessarily going to enjoy other books by Shinn.

Naomi Novik, Black Powder War (2006) -- Laurence and Temeraire make their way from Macao to Danzig. Meanwhile, Temeraire's nemesis Lien makes a strategic alliance with Napoleon.

I'm a little bit bemused by Black Powder War. I bought the first three books as a set, and I was relatively unmoved by the first two entries in the series. (In contrast to Uprooted, which I fucking loved.) So I was prepared to read Black Powder War due to its easy accessibility and then merrily abandon the series. However -- I kind of liked Black Powder War? It has great pacing, and Laurence's flaws (his stiff-necked sense of propriety and political conservatism) intersect with the events of the plot in sometimes exquisite ways. I dunno, man. I was ready to be done with this series! But it keeps pulling me back in!

Eileen Cook, Unraveling Isobel (2012) -- Grumpy about her mother's re-marriage to the drippy Dick and her re-location to Dick's creepy and slightly derelict mansion, Isobel tries to deal with her hot new stepbrother and some ghosts.

I really thought Cook's The Almost Truth was great. Unraveling Isobel is less-great, due to the heavy-handed signalling of its villains, but I am once again impressed by the author's willingness to go to very dark places in her YA fiction. In another sort of novel, all of the weirdness that Isobel encounters would have some sort of innocuous and family-affirming explanation revealed at the end, but in this novel, nope, turns out that her stepfather is 100-percent a murderer!

(This novel might have been a lot creepier and more effective if a) the "oh snap, that person was a ghost all along!" character wasn't so obviously a ghost from her first appearance and b) Isobel's murderous stepfather had some positive red-herring interactions with her, as opposed to Being The Worst All The Time So Obviously He's Evil.)


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