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Books read, late July

Liz Duffy Adams, Delia Sherman, Mary Robinette Kowal, Madeleine Robins, Barbara Samuels, and Sarah Smith, Whitehall. Discussed elsewhere.

Max Gladstone, Four Roads Cross. Discussed elsewhere.

Langston Hughes, The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. This one I discussed in several places throughout the week I was reading it: here, here, here, here, and here. After the first introductory post, those are by decade of poems in the book, with the 1950s and ’60s lumped together.

Carrie Jones, Flying. Discussed elsewhere.

Kelly Link, Pretty Monsters. This is the last Kelly Link collection I had to catch up on. It had some overlap with Magic for Beginners, but the overlap was in some of my favorite stories, so I suppose I’m glad they’re available to more people. Still definitely glad that I decided to pick up reading Link after years of not, and from here I’ll probably stay caught up.

Pat Schmatz, Lizard Radio. I think one thing that adults reading middle grade and YA need to remember is that everything is somebody’s first time encountering a concept. For people in my immediate social circles, Lizard Radio‘s protagonist not being transgender but not fitting the expectations her culture has of girls either will not be revolutionary. The handful of portmanteau words used by the characters in this future setting will not be shocking. But if you go over to GoodReads, you’ll find people–many of them quite young–who are struggling through these ideas for the first time. And many of them don’t care that the ending is a little loosely formed–they’re just caught up in Kivali’s story. Sometimes it’s good to remember that people who have been utterly steeped in inside-baseball genre politics for more than a decade are not the only or even the main audience for most books, and let it be what it is: a coming of age story against a dystopian backdrop, with gender politics that shouldn’t be notable but I guess we all know still are, at least for a lot of people.

Paul Schneider, Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History. This is like sitting in the bar at a convention with some guy who likes all the same books as you like, even though his own book is kind of a mess. Schneider rambles wherever he wants to–instead of writing about the Mississippi proper, which would have been enough for a book, he wanders throughout the entire Mississippi watershed and beyond. I suspect that he included the Ohio River section of the watershed in this book just so he could talk about Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War, which puts me in great sympathy with him, because I talk about Crucible of War at the drop of a hat, I terrified someone at a birthday party once talking on and on about Crucible of War. (That poor woman. She seemed nice.) And John McPhee, he loves John McPhee, I love John McPhee, hurray. So this was reasonably good fun to read, but I resent it a little, because it will fill the space where a history of the Mississippi goes, and there’s quite a lot to be said there. And also if you hadn’t read McPhee going in, I am not at all sure that Schneider is coherent about the perils of the Lower Mississippi. So really go read Anderson and McPhee and try to find me and this Paul Schneider in the bar at a convention sometime, that’s my actual recommendation. (Note: I have no indication that he would even consider attending a convention.)

Leonie Swann, Three Bags Full. This is a murder mystery from the perspective of a flock of sheep trying to figure out who killed their shepherd. To some extent it succeeds for me based on how much primate stuff the sheep never really do understand. But then again, its general lightness and sly jokes are not really entirely in keeping with how things turn out, so…it’s a mixed bag full, this book.

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