Top ten recent TBR additions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

My TBR is a pulsating, intangible being, existing in an area spanning my to-read shelf on goodreads, my wishlists on amazon/audible, and the fuzzy mold-like stuff growing in the back of my cranium, occasionally throwing out a spore of “Hey, remember once a couple of years ago you read a review somewhere that said this author was somehow similar to (or opposite to) that other author, and you also saw this title mentioned inside the text of that other novel you read….” – you know.   It’s a large and beautiful beast, my TBR.  Pretty sure I have something like four hundred books contained in it, all things added up.

And I feel pretty good about that.   I insist on feeling good about that. I’m just really tired of stressing out or feeling weirdly ashamed of saying “Ooh, that looks cool!” at a much higher rate than I can actually read things.  And I’ve realised I probably treat my TBR differently than the people who regularly cut it down like a bonsai bramble.

As for recent additions to the list:

akeyanegganunfortunateremark 1. A key, an egg, an unfortunate remark  by Harry Connolly


After years of waging a secret war against the supernatural, Marley Jacobs put away her wooden stakes and silver bullets, then turned her back on violence. She declared Seattle, her city, a safe zone for everyone, living and undead. There would be no more preternatural murder under her watch.

But waging peace can make as many enemies as waging war, and when Marley’s nephew turns up dead in circumstances suspiciously like a vampire feeding, she must look into it. Is there a new arrival in town? Is someone trying to destroy her fragile truce? Or was her nephew murdered because he was, quite frankly, a complete tool?

As Marley investigates her nephew’s death, she discovers he had been secretly dabbling in the supernatural himself. What, exactly, had he been up to, and who had he been doing it with? More importantly, does it threaten the peace she has worked so hard to create? (Spoiler: yeah, it absolutely does.)




 2. Lois McMaster Bujold (Modern Masters of Science fiction) by Edward James

Readers have awarded Lois McMaster Bujold four Hugo Awards for Best Novel, a number matched only by Robert Heinlein. Her Vorkosigan series redefined space opera with its emotional depth and explorations of themes such as bias against the disabled, economic exploitation, and the role of women in society.

Acclaimed science fiction scholar Edward James traces Bujold’s career, showing how Bujold emerged from fanzine culture to win devoted male and female readers despite working in genres–military SF, space opera–perceived as solely by and for males.

(There is also a new Vorkosigan book coming! And I haven’t yet read Bujold’s fantasy stuff, so obviously those are also books on my TBR list. The only reason I haven’t bit into them yet is, of course, the insane amount of good, but lengthy, fantasy going around. Anyway, Bujold is fantastic, and if you’re into audiobooks, Grover Gardner made them into excellent gateway-audiobooks for me.)



cityofblades3. City of blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

The city of Voortyashtan was once the home of the goddess of death, war and destruction, but now it’s little more than a ruin.

General Turyin Mulaghesh is called out of retirement and sent to this hellish place to find a Saypuri secret agent who’s gone AWOL in the middle of a mission.

But the ghosts of past wars have followed her there, and soon she begins to wonder what happened to the souls in the afterlife when the gods were defeated by her people, the Polis. Do the dead sleep soundly in the land of death? Or do they have plans of their own?

This sequel to City of stairs was recently given a release date, which must have induced a worldwide happy sigh from everyone who wants to know what Sigrud is doing right now.  I can’t wait.




4. Return of the black death – The world’s greatest serial killer by Susan Scott & Christopher Duncan

If the twenty-first century seems an unlikely stage for the return of a 14th-century killer, the authors of Return of the Black Death argue that the plague, which vanquished half of Europe, has only lain dormant, waiting to emerge again—perhaps, in another form. At the heart of their chilling scenario is their contention that the plague was spread by direct human contact (not from rat fleas) and was, in fact, a virus perhaps similar to AIDS and Ebola. Noting the periodic occurrence of plagues throughout history, the authors predict its inevitable re-emergence sometime in the future, transformed by mass mobility and bioterrorism into an even more devastating killer.

Um, so, on Seanan McGuire’s tumblr, someone asked about recommended nonfic about plagues and other fun things. This is the one she named, so it flew straight onto my wish list. It’s pretty handy to find an author who not only writes wonderfully enjoyable books, but also, as a person, displays a lot of interests and preferences that overlap with the awed reader who stumbled across her.  I mean, uh, however one would say that without sounding like a potential crazy we are the same, nyah-hah-hah kind of stalker.  (I have picked up more recs from her this way, and have high hopes for all of them. I probably trust the Newsflesh author more than I like peanut butter.

And it’s about the black death. I’m SO into this.

(Oh, come on. You knew this would happen when you gave six year-old me the book about the ship that came to Norway in 1349….)


therace5. The race by Nina Allan

Set in a future Great Britain scarred by fracking and ecological collapse, The Race is the first full-length novel from Nina Allan, winner of the 2014 BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction (Spin, TTA Press), and the prestigious Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for Best Translated Work (Complications/The Silver Wind, Editions Tristram).

The Race opens in the coastal town of Sapphire, dominated by the illegal sport of smartdog racing: greyhounds genetically modified with human DNA. For Jenna, the latest Cup meet bears a significance far beyond the simple hunger for victory. Christy’s life is dominated by fear of her brother, a man she knows capable of monstrous acts and suspects of hiding even darker ones. Desperate to learn the truth she contacts Alex, a stranger she knows only by name. Together they must face their demons, wherever that may lead. Raised at the Croft, a secret government programme focussing on smartdogs, Maree has to undertake a journey through shipping lanes haunted by the enigmatic and dangerous Atlantic whale. What she discovers en route will change her world forever.

The story of four damaged people whose lives are inextricably linked, The Race is a novel of tender nuances, brutality, insight and great ambition, a narrative that lays bare the fears and joys of being human, and, ultimately, offers hope to us all.
“Totally assured – this is a literate, intelligent, gorgeously human and superbly strange SF novel that will continually skewer your assumptions.” – ALASTAIR REYNOLDS


viperwine6. Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

Famed beauty Venetia Stanley is so extravagantly dazzling she has inspired Ben Jonson to poetry and Van Dyck to painting, provoking adoration and emulation from the masses. Stampedes follow her arrival in town. But as she approaches middle age, the attention turns to scrutiny. Her adoring husband Sir Kenelm Digby – philosopher, alchemist and time-traveller – wishes she would age naturally, but Venetia discovers a potent and addictive elixir of youth, Viper Wine. Set on the eve of the English Civil War, and based on a true story, this brilliant novel asks a very contemporary question: what is the cost of beauty?

think I discovered this – and the Nina Allan one – from the Kitchies list of nominees.  Which perfectly illustrates how awards are nice and useful, because I had never heard of these before, and now I really, really want to get to know them better.





cinder7. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I know! Everyone else has read this already. I had – and I’m sorry – completely ignored it through the whole kerfluff, as the cover art and genre together had me swimming in prejudice.  Then someone made me actually read the blurb, and emphasized that it’s actually good, and also it was very cheap in the kindle store at that moment, so – okay. I’m going to become one of the people who read this.

Human/android tensions AND plague, right? How the heck did I let this float under my radar?



msmarvel28. Ms. Marvel, vol.2: Generation why by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Adrian Alphona

Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help!

Kamala may be fan-girling out when her favorite (okay maybe Top Five) super hero shows up, but that won’t stop her from protecting her hometown. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity for the first time – by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! Every girl wants a puppy, but this one may be too much of a handful, even for a super hero with embiggening powers. But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed, amazing new series continues as Kamala Khan proves why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Yes. I read the first of the new Ms.Marvel volumes, and I’m hooked. This is just done so well! I have almost zero in common with Kamala Khan, and yet, she’s completely relatable,  which is a lovely thing.   I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to wait for my library to stock this one, or if I’ll cave in and buy it so I can read it now now now.  I don’t really have a history as a Marvel reader, so Kamala could very well be my gateway hero, as it were.



thewaterknife9. The water knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the American Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, and California skirmish for dwindling shares of the Colorado River. Into the fray steps Angel Velasquez, detective, leg-breaker, assassin and spy. A Las Vegas water knife, Angel “cuts” water for his boss, Catherine Case, ensuring that her lush, luxurious arcology developments can bloom in the desert, so the rich can stay wet, while the poor get nothing but dust.

When rumors of a game-changing water source surface in drought-ravaged Phoenix, Angel is sent to investigate. There, he encounters Lucy Monroe, a hardened journalist with no love for Vegas and every reason to hate Angel, and Maria Villarosa, a young Texas refugee who survives by her wits and street smarts in a city that despises everything that she represents. With bodies piling up, bullets flying, and Phoenix teetering on collapse, it seems like California is making a power play to monopolize the life-giving flow of a river.

For Angel, Lucy, and Maria time is running out and their only hope for survival rests in each other’s hands. But when water is more valuable than gold, alliances shift like sand, and the only thing for certain is that someone will have to bleed if anyone hopes to drink.

I’ve been a Bacigalupi devotee since The windup girl exploded all over the genresphere some years ago. He also gave me one of my very first “Wow, I’m reading a short story collection, and I enjoy it”-experiences.



10. Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Miriam Black knows when you will die.

She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

I’m still angry that I didn’t read this while it was still available on Scribd – it went out of the catalogue just the week I had… probably intended to get around to it. Oh, it’s okay, I’m happy to buy it, because I have very high expectations of Wendig female-protagonist-badassery.  It’s also turning into a TV thing, which could be…fun?



Hey, by the way? In a couple of days I move my flesh vehicle in the direction of my first ever EasterCon, which is making me all kinds of fangirly-giggly.  Also, I’ll be in close proximity to cadbury creme eggs, which is… okay, not nearly as exciting as great authors talking about fun things, but still.   I might post some excited status updates over Easter, for my imaginary readership,  and I also have some good intentions in the direction of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, but I don’t do so well with intentions, so really I should just shut up and erase this paragraph.

The deaths of Tao, by Wesley Chu

The deaths of Tao Book Cover The deaths of Tao
Tao #2
Wesley Chu
Science fiction
Angry robot
October 29 2013

The deaths of Tao takes us back to Roen Tan, though some time has passed, which is made clear through his wife Jill and their son, Cameron.   Roen and Tao have been busy since the end of The lives of Tao - and their work has not been pleasant.  The Genjix with their Genesis project and Penetra scanners appear unstoppable, while the Prophus are losing ground every day.

Humans are in the middle of the battlefield, and most of them aren't even aware of it.  Yet.

Where the first book had a lot of setup and initial training of Roen Tan to deal with,  this sequel gets to run at full speed right away.  The story is so engaging that I still don't get bored with faces being punched and gunshots being fired.  (I put it that way because I want to reassure other readers who, like me, aren't usually drawn to books that look like pure fast-paced action; Give Tao the benefit of the doubt, there's so much charm and wit packed in here.)

Jill, now a Prophus agent in Washington, has separated from Roen Tan, who left his family and organization behind to follow what was considered to be insane conspiracy theories - until they turned out not to be.  Humans were already at risk on their own planet while the two Quasing factions struggled against each other, trying to drive human evolution and technological progress to the point where they would be able to return to their own planet.

Now, the Genjix seem to have lost interest in going home.


I have so much fun reading these books, I can barely wait to tear into The rebirths of Tao - especially after the way this one ended.  (The very title might seem like a bit of a spoiler, of course - but when we're talking about Quasing beings, it's all a guessing game until you get there.)


The lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu

The lives of Tao Book Cover The lives of Tao
Tao #1
Wesley Chu
Science fiction
Angry robot
First published Jan 1st 2013

(Brief notice from unhappy robot: I'm left-handed and my left hand is currently in battle with a wrist splint. Typing blog entries is, for the moment, not high on the list of great things to do. I'll post more frequently when it doesn't make me grimace.)

I... yeah, I bought this an embarrassingly long time ago, together with its sequel, and, you know, didn't read it before now. That's just how stuff turns out. Stupid stuff, because The lives of Tao is so much fun.  (My first association would be Flex, which I read recently - the pace and tone is something in that direction, though the genre is very much science fiction, and also it is awesome. )

You have no idea, or likely interest, in how much I think about different alien invasion and first contact scenarios. (My cohabitant knows, though. He has a special face for every time I start a sentence with "Heyy, you know what kind of alien would be cool?"  Admittedly, you could replace 'alien' in that sentence with 'plague' or 'dinosaur' and it'd still be quite true to life.)  Um.  I mention this because I've really, really wanted exactly this story to fall into my hands. I've actually said the words "I need more books about aliens guiding human evolution, right? Like, they've been here all along just waiting for us to become useful, and..."

That's The lives of Tao.   Tao is an alien lifeform who cannot live in Earth atmosphere without taking a host and thus exist as a symbiont.  (This is smoothed over and doesn't go into rock hard science detail, which, honestly, is fine. It's alien.) Once he inhabits a human, Tao can speak in-brain to that person. He's been around for a few geological eras, so he has a lot of stories to tell and stuff to teach, though, unfortunately, a lot of it has to be about combat skills, because Tao is fighting a war with an opposing faction of his own species.

Roen Tan, the accidental host, does not share Tao's clear goals. He couldn't even get himself out of a job he hated, on his own. Or lose the pizza-every-day belly.  Becoming invaded by Tao changes this, which is good - but he is now recruited to be a part of the war, which doesn't appeal to Roen at all.

This book was awesome, and I'm going to read the rest of the trilogy ASAP.  Highly recommended as a cool parasitic/symbiotic alien thriller full of warmth and laugh and, uh, a bit of Genghis Khan.  If you don't like this book, I'm guessing it's because you're even more vehemently bored by gunfight thriller waffle than I am, which is quite a feat, actually.

Discworld memory

…I also remember, very clearly, reading Night watch on the airplane, at night, returning to school from a two week trip to Spain.  I was exhausted and it was dark, but I kept my dinky seat light on and tore through that paperback.  Night watch is a special book to almost every Discworld reader I’ve ever known, but maybe that’s because I know mostly Vimes-people. (Discworld is a series with many books and many characters; Some will appeal more to the individual reader than others.  I think I belonged to Granny Weatherwax from the start, but then – then there was the city watch…)  Sam Vimes, at first a comic relief drunk cop, suddenly allowed to be real.  And, well, epic.  It blew me away back then, and on every re-read of the book since then.

I had a few years back there, in which chronic illness happened and I had a lot of what in technical terms is called shitty goddamn brainfog, and I couldn’t read. Not for real.  I think I read the first few pages of Hyperion a dozen times, trying so hard, and I’d just get a headache or fall asleep, completely unable to comprehend paragraphs.  It sucked.  But I could visit old friends,  so I re-read Harry Potter and – indeed- Discworld, a lot. Over and over again.  Sometimes I managed new material, usually YA stuff.   Still, most of my time, I was in Ankh-Morpork or in Lancre,  hanging out with Agnes Nitt and Greebo,  the librarian, lord Vetinari,  the auditors, oh, man, the auditors.

One might suggest I’d had enough, but, no. I have reclaimed my brain since then and am blissfully able to enjoy any book I want to read now, and I do.  And what I want to read is the entirety of Discworld, all over again.

Eyes leaking uncontrollably

Oh, Terry Pratchett.  I’ve never instantly burst into ugly-crying over the death of persons who, while admired, are still remote strangers.  But I’m going to spend a long time wiping the salt crystals out of my glasses  after today.  I have no words.

But this was how it started: I was 14, and I read proper books, but my newfound friends all had homes stocked with these other books, and most of them had a shelf full of these colourful paperbacks, and one day I woke up early on someone’s couch and reached for The colour of magic.

I’d like to say there were fireworks and sparkles, but I didn’t care all that much for that first book about a hapless wizard and a strange luggage. But there was something. Enough that I picked up the next book. And the next.

And suddenly these books had taught me things. Important things, basic things, about people and complexity and cruelty and, most of all, kindness.  More than I ever learned from school, parents, or, indeed, proper books.

All those times I got to experience going to the geek-store to grin widely upon discovering a new Discworld title having arrived on the shelves. (They were pre-digital times!)  I have clearer memories of that than I have of any christmas ever.

There’s no way to really end this text. I could paste that bit where Death talks about how cats make living worthwhile.  Or any other Death quote. Or something profound by Granny Weatherwax or Tiffany Aching or any of the other voices of Terry Pratchett.  I just, um, I just need to go over there and cry a bit more.

The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis

The Mechanical Book Cover The Mechanical
The alchemy wars #1
Ian Tregillis
Steampunk, fantasy
March 12 2015

Blurb from Goodreads:

My name is Jax.

That is the name granted to be by my human masters.

I am a clakker: a mechanical man, powered by alchemy. Armies of my kind have conquered the world - and made the Brasswork Throne the sole superpower.

I am a faithful servant. I am the ultimate fighting machine. I am endowed with great strength and boundless stamina.

But I am beholden to the wishes of my human masters.

I am a slave. But I shall be free.


Oh, gosh.

You know that feeling? Where reading the last page leaves you blissfully fuzzy-headed and thinking, well, "Oh, gosh"? Yeah.  I just came out on the other side of a couple of days spent with Ian Tregillis' The Mechanical,  and I'm dizzy.

In a good way.

It's hard to compete with textured and well-written alternate history.  I don't actually care one way or the other about the steampunk markers - zeppelins and impractical clothes and that stuff. They are in this book, but only as reasonable pieces of a world that contains things that are much more interesting. Like robots. And robot zeppelins.  Who made the first robots? Huygens did. Was it by the power of physics? Yes! And alchemy!

The Netherlands, then, is a natural superpower in this world - they are the masters of incredibly powerful technology, after all.   We find France and the pope as the opposing force,  though the actual France was lost a long time ago, and the king is now seated in Marseilles-in-the-West,  north of New Amsterdam.  There is no significant mention of any other nations,  but I fully expect them to appear in later books.

Because, yes, this book is a series starter.  I had somehow managed to forget that, until the end of the book was starting to get very close without leaving room for all the closure I wanted.  So, of course,  series starter.  I'm telling you, because I was undeniably cranky about not getting the end of the storyline of one of the characters I was most interested in - but it's not really the book's fault. You should always go into a series starter prepared for this kind of thing.  (And of course all this is an intensely positive review; after 471 pages, I most definitely had not had enough.)

Jax the servitor clakker is taken along with his owners across from Europe to the New World.  Free will is rather unexpectedly granted to him, but...then what?  He should make his way for New France at once, where at least the humans believe the mechanical men have souls - so of course they'll help and protect him from the Dutchmen and their clakker armies.  Right?

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who loves Blade Runner replicants or whose favourite Star Trek characters were Data or the doctor. Or anyone who thinks a twist on science history sounds fun. Who has spent time thinking about how Isaac Newton fiddled with alchemy next to all the other things he did.   Oh, any reader enthusiastic about robots. Right?   I actually had some thoughts about Asimov while reading this, though I'm almost sure he'd disapprove of the not-exactly-hard-science part of the robot construction.

So, of course, if you know you'd have the same complaint, move along.   If alchemy doesn't hinder your enjoyment of fiction, though? Add it to your reading list.

Steeped – Recipes infused with tea, by Annelies Zijderveld

Steeped - Recipes infused with tea Book Cover Steeped - Recipes infused with tea
Annelies Zijderveld
Cooking, recipes
Andrews McMeel Publishing
April 7 2015

One thing about me is that I sometimes read cookbooks. A second thing about me is that I have a highly specific compulsion regarding the purchasing of tea. I mean, I do that, a lot. So much that it is not humanly (or robotically?) possible to drink those amounts, and only barely possible to fit it all into my home.   It's just that I love the scents, and the brewing, and pretty mugs, and there is a well-known magical connection between hot beverages and books.

So I saw a cook book for recipes using tea as an ingredient, and I was all over it,  immediately.  Finally a way to give purpose to some of my tea cupboards! (They are plural!)

My first impression is - this would make a great gift for a tea enthusiast. Steeped is a beautiful book,  full of bright and inviting photos, and it opens with a reference to beloved fictional tea drinkers,  from Jane Eyre to Captain Picard.   The author is very clear on what types of tea will be employed throughout the book, and that her priority has been to use a selection that is not ridiculously hard to track down wherever you happen to be.    There are some instructional facts about each of these teas, including a brand recommendation or two, as well as a list of brewing times/temperatures, which can be really helpful.  I've brewed enough greens, blacks and tisanes to know some of these things, but I'm completely bamboozled by white teas. And oolongs.  And pu-erhs, for that matter.

The introduction part of the book is relatively short - then there are the recipes.  While I have certain dietary restrictions (no grains or gluten and as little sugar as possible), I find a lot of inspiration even in the things I'd have to modify quite a lot in order to put on my own menu.   Some of the ideas are perfect exactly as written, though.  There is most definitely chai infused yogurt in my near future. And lapsang souchong mayonnaise! Goodness, as much as I love lapsang, that usage had never occured to me.

(I have the most fun cooking when what I'm cooking is some disconcerting combination of things that even I have a hard time believing will come out tasting nice. I know green mint tea pea soup, for example, is something I'd have a hard time convincing anyone around me to try.  But that adds to the fun. And it sounds yummy.)

Oh, there are some more conventional recipes for actual drinks in here too,  like lassis, frescas, smoothies, and new spins on classic iced tea brews.  They, too, look like things that will happen to me eventually.

Overall,  this is a lovely special interest cookbook.   Get it for the tea-person in your life. Be aware that it isn't about tea, as such; there are other books out there to give you history and geography and meticulous descriptions of harvests and the treatment of leaves and so on.  This book is not for theory (tea-ory!) - it's for fun.  And food.  Obviously.

(And what did I drink while reading it? I started with a black mint tea, detoured through a tangerine rooibos, and landed on my favourite russian caravan.)



Operation Arcana, edited by John Joseph Adams

Operation Arcana Book Cover Operation Arcana
John Joseph Adams
Anthology, fantasy, military, short stories
March 3 2015

How do you make a reader suddenly very interested in anthologies? You make sure that reader gets really into a specific author, and that author is one who contributes to a lot of anthologies. Like, for example, Seanan McGuire. She, gloriously, writes stories for all the things.  And it is turning me into an anthology reader, developing an appreciation for how they can offer delicious samples of authors new and unknown to me. (I do think that's positive - even if I'm simultaneously admitting I require an established favourite to make me start reading.)

Her story is the second-to-last in Operation Arcana, an anthology of military fantasy.    After some debate, I decided to save this story, In skeleton leaves, for nearly-last, and read the stories in the order they were put in.  It was smart. Felt like dessert.  The story deals with a different kind of war, in Never-never-land.  It's dark and creeps up my spine in a tingly kind of way.

John Joseph Adams is the editor of many popular anthologies, as well as the editor/publisher of Lightspeed magazine (to which I subscribe)  and a co-host of the podcast The geek's guide to the galaxy (to which I keep failing to devote my ears, but it's not for lack of interest - just that I have a hard time deciding to listen to other stuff than audiobooks once I have the earphones on).

Because it's hard to talk about an anthology as a whole, I'll instead say some things about some of the stories.  Short stories are unavoidably hit-or-miss; some of them were great, some of them less able to hold my interest.

Myke Cole's Weapons in the Earth is a terribly bleak war prisoner story with goblins and cows, or something very like cows, and enough tangible detail and dirt that I'm suddenly quite interested in reading the author's Shadow-ops books.

Yoon Ha Lee's The graphology of hemorrhage is a little sad, but more than anything it's like an informational brochure about a beautiful handwriting/calligraphy/language-based magic system, with guidelines for use and possible side effects.  I'm interested and would like to see this system featured in longer stories.

Weston Ochse's American golem puts a vengeance-seeking golem into Afghanistan, on a mission to kill a named terrorist.  It's a fresh setting for a kind of Pinocchio-tale, that is, stories about constructed human-like things, and how human they really are. (Think all the episodes about Data or the doctor on Star Trek shows.)

Ari Marmell's Heavy sulfur offers an episode from the first world war, which was largely caused by, and fought by, occultists and demons. I like this setting a lot.  Occultism and the world wars are, obviously, a perfect fit.

Carrie Vaughn's Sealskin is pretty, and readable, though the title describes it in its entirety to anyone familiar with the relevant piece of folklore (which I am thanks to the aforementioned Seanan McGuire, actually).

Jonathan Maberry's The damned one hundred is one of the more memorable stories of this collection, which I didn't even realise until just now, typing things about it.  Like several of the other stories, it adresses the, um, desperate times that call for very desperate measures. Pretty much the core of all things epic, right?

Glen Cook's Bone eaters might be more meaningful to a reader with pre-existing familiarity with the Black Company, but it is actually good enough to make me want to read those books, so - that's a win.

I usually enjoy Linda Nagata's short stories, especially the horror-flavoured ones, and The way home is no exception. A band of soldiers have accidentally ended up in a terrible elsewhere, full of demons. There is a way home, but it's not... it's not that easy.

All in all, I had a good time with this anthology.  I came away with a couple of new author names added to my pay-attention-to list, and re-discovered how good military SFF writing can be, and that it is possibly the subgenre that provides the biggest, craziest, heaviest friendships.