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The lovely Lisa and Laura posted a challenge on their often hilarious blog (which if you haven’t yet visited, you definitely should) — post something online about a book you’ve read and loved. That seemed like the sort of throwdown I could get into, since I do it every now and then anyway, so I decided to take it a step up and list two I loved. These won’t be recent reads, because I’ve been saving my money for Christmas presents and whatnot: I’m going for books I’ve read in the last decade or so that really stayed with me.

Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. And pretty much every other book in that series. Serious, detailed world-building, serious, detailed historical research, and serious, detailed sex. Carey’s heroine, Phedre no Dealaunay, is a servant of Naamah, otherwise known as a prostitute anywhere else in the world but in her beloved Terre de Ange, where the profession is sacred.  She is also about the only person in the country in a position to save it when treason and ambition threaten to overthrow the new queen. Carey’s lyrical prose and intelligent, complex plot are only outshone by her amazing characterization –and yes, the detailed sex scenes. I learned a lot about writing those from reading this book.

Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh. It’s hard to know where to start describing this: not least because any summary invariably involves a major spoiler; so much of the book hinges on it that there’s no way around mentioning it. So I’m going to be ridiculously vague and say that this book is set around 200 years in the future, when humans have ventured out into space and come up with, invariably, a system of trade and a few wars. Cyteen takes place in a sector opposing Earth, where growing humans in labs and building them to be whatever you need is considered acceptable. There’s so much experimental psych and sociology in here I felt like I’d taken a college course by the time I finished the book, which wouldn’t necessarily sound like much fun — but believe me, it is. Cherryh weaves politics, psychology, betrayal, love and morality together flawlessly, her characters are all utterly believable, and her world-building is second to none. Combine that with a muscular, fast-moving plot and well, you get many happy hours of reading.

So there’s that. If you haven’t read them, do so: and spread some book lurve around today!