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Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints
Nancy Kress
The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice
Todd Henry

A surprisingly satisfying combo of two of my least favorite genres!

Shards of Honour - Lois McMaster Bujold

This book combined one of my least favorite SFF genres, space opera, with one of my least favorite genres in general, romance, and yet I found it a very compelling read. Lois McMaster Bujold is clearly a master storyteller.

If I were suggesting this book to someone, I'm not sure I'd call it a "science fiction romance," as it's often labeled, however. "Romance" brings all of its tropes with it... the chase, the misunderstanding, the angst, the happily ever after, etc. This book isn't really like that. For one thing, the would-be lovers come to respect each other and depend on one another long before they broach the topic of love or even kiss for the first time. In fact, Vorkosigan proposes marriage before they've ever had their first kiss. So it's not the type of romance you'd recommend to most romance readers. It's more of a relationship story.

The structure of the story was also interesting. I think it would've been less jarring to me if its disparate parts had been labeled as Parts:

You have the exploration and capture part, ending in: 

Cordelia's awesome and brave escape even though she has mixed feelings about leaving.

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Then you have the part where she's back with her people and then: 

captured yet again, this time by the worst of the worst, before being quickly reunited with Vorkosigan. This part would include her time as prisoner down on the planet with the rest of the prisoners, and ending in her escape from her own people's psychiatrists.

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Then you would have the third and final part, 

being when she goes to find Vorkosigan at home. This part is really more of an extended denouement.

(show spoiler)

I love how, unlike other books, we get a chance to not only imagine what live must be like when the characters go their separate ways, but to actually see it, and to see how it is every bit as miserable as they feared.

There were also great scifi ideas in this book, like the uterine replacement canisters, so that war rape victims could give the babies back to the rapists at the conclusion of the war, and the abortion would be on their heads, not the rape victims'. The canisters were designed to allow the fetus to live and be born if chosen.

I also like the nationalities (empires?) and how the different groups had their own distinct cultures and political systems.

Also... for those who are concerned about starting a long series, this book (and indeed I believe every one of her books in this "series") is a STANDALONE. So be not afraid, dear readers!

Of course it wasn't until I got to the author's afterward that I realized I still haven't read about THE Vorkosigan, which is Miles, not Aral! At some point, once I feel that my reading has been diversified enough, I'm sure to pick up a Miles Vorkosigan book.