I am a person who consumes a lot of fiction, yet as things get busier in my life I've become much worse at talking about it. I also don't talk about audio fiction, which is ridiculous as I listen to it all the time. Podcasts got me through so many commutes and yet I don't talk about them much. I don't listen to as many podcasts as I once did, because I don't listen to them when I'm travelling with the baby, but I still get through a fair bit. With this in mind I plan to do monthly posts, mentioning at least some of the stories I've read/listened to.
An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
The book takes portal fantasy and makes it pragmatic and a little gritty. The novel features a world that has it's own history, multiple cultures and political stuff going on, instead of somewhere kinda waiting around for the arrival of someone from elsewhere. The viewpoint characters are women from different countries/worlds and different cultures; there are friendships and alliances going back decades and new bonds forged through trouble and danger. The difficulties of returning home is increased by physical scars and a need to be pragmatic about handling her return.
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
I've been reading early Vorkosigan saga books, heard about it for a long time, thought I'd give it a go. This is the 3rd novel and 4th book I've read, and the earliest one in the series' internal chronology (I've been relying on what books I can get from the local library). This was the darkest book I've read so far, it introduces 2 main characters (parents of the later main character). There's space, war and romance. There's some nasty stuff in the war, and it's depicted from a female viewpoint, including dangers of being a prisoner and one effect of an occupying force. It's told entirely from the point of view of Cordelia Naismith, whose planetary survey is interrupted by violence. She meets an enemy commander and while the love story follows some tropes, but it's not simple and feels emotionally convincing. Cordelia deals with awful stuff from both enemies and her own side, but she's a likable character and pretty practical. I'm not far enough through the series to decide on favourites yet. I think so far I like Cordelia than more Miles as a character, but I've preferred the Miles stories, of course I'm told there are more Miles stories. I've only read younger Miles stories, so I can see that he might grow on me as the series progresses.
Sinners, Saints, Dragons and Haints in the City Under the Still Waters by N. K. Jemisin (Podcastle 503, narrated by Laurice White)
Set during Hurricane Katrina, a poor citizen of New Orleans encounters a winged lizard and something big and supernatural full of hate. He helps his elderly neighbour in a sunken city and becomes a kind of avatar for the city. The writing and narration are great, so that the narrative voice is strong.
Zilal and the Many Folded Puzzle Ship by Charlotte Ashley (Podcastle 502)
A live reading by the author introducing a short story from her shared universe (with 2 other authors). The general concept is intriguing, a portal to another world opens off the shore of Mogadishu, and this story is about a very ingenious young woman who turns her skills to a romantic getaway in another world, and gets into trouble after encountering a renegade mother. The narration is very good, especially considering it's live.
Even the Queen by Connie Willis (Escape Pod 608, narrated by Veronica Giguere)
An older story, told from the viewpoint of a judge, whose daughter has joined an organisation/cult that the rest of the family doesn't approve of. It's clear that this is in a future where society has changed somehow, especially for women. 4 generations of women meet in a restaurant to deter or grudgingly support a wayward relative. The conversations are so wonderfully done with family taking over each other and at cross-purposes. Then when you gradually discover that the whole thing is about periods it's absolutely hilarious. Two generations of women who suffered through menstruation talk about it with people who have never experienced periods as a regular thing.