I've read two really good books recently, and I wanted to tell people about both of them. (It's a good problem to have, I swear.) Then, I realized that both books take place in San Francisco, and figured I'd go with that. So:
BREATH OF EARTH by Beth Cato takes place in 1906 San Francisco on an alternate Earth where people draw magic from the earth and use it to power airships, where the United States and Japan are in a powerful alliance and a great many mystical creatures are real, and where the heroine is possibly the only woman magic-user of her type.
HEROINE COMPLEX by Sarah Kuhn takes place in a modern San Francisco where several years ago, a demonic invasion gave some people superpowers, and follows the loyal sidekick of the city's heroine Aveda Jupiter as they deal with demonic attacks (some of which involve cupcakes and karaoke bars) and a bevy of all kinds of personal issues.
Yes, these are very different books, but they're both awesome.
I don't want to give away much about the plots themselves, but both books hit on two things that I was very glad to see, and that made the stories better for me. First, they're both incredibly diverse, which only makes sense, considering where they take place. Ms. Cato clearly did her research for BREATH, and the sheer variety of people who make up SF really shows, even in the ugliness directed toward some people which is unfortunately historically accurate. The mixture of humanity is definitely present in HEROINE as well, in both the main cast and the minor characters, and it's clear that this is not a story that could happen if these people were anyone else.
Both books also feature some really damn good romances. I noticed this in particular because I've recently realized that this is a weak area of mine. >_< But while both authors handle the romances in very different ways (necessary considering the characters involved), both romances are full of heart and passion, yet free of melodrama, and they feel very genuine. The fact that both books got me interested and invested in what easily could have been Yet Another M/F Romance says a lot to me, and I'm going to study what both authors did to learn how to do this better.
The only problems I had with these books are some story structure issues. BREATH brings in so many different plotlines and, in the end, only settles the immediate one. So much is left hanging that I was genuinely surprised it ended when it did. The author's note refers to this being the first of a series, so I'm sure the next book will address what was left hanging, but "Wait, what?" is not the best way to feel about an ending. As for HEROINE, the cast does a good deal of guessing about what's happening and drawing conclusions that turn out to be right. While they were wrong about a few significant things, including a multi-part plot twist that caught everyone (including me) completely by surprise, I felt like they were right a little too often.
However, none of those issues got in the way of my enjoyment of either title. I sped through both of these books, always eager to find out what happened next, and I'd recommend them both to just about anyone. Also, they both have sequels coming out this year!
Next week: editing in an enormous character change.