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Books read, late December

Elizabeth Bear, The Chains That You Refuse. Reread. I usually have one book of short things (poems, essays, short stories) going at any given time, and this time I just needed something that would reliably not smack me in the face and would have “old friend” characters. This delivered.

Elizabeth Bear and Katherine Addison, The Cobbler’s Boy. Kindle. A murder mystery featuring crypto-Papists and a 15-year-old Christopher Marlowe. Fun times, a very fast read.

Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture. Buell is fairly satisfying about Thoreau and those who came after him, and this book is particularly good in talking about American women writers who are not as discussed as Thoreau but contributed significantly to American nature writing in their time–and are available on Gutenberg, so stay tuned.

Stephanie Burgis, Snowspelled. This is a fun and light-hearted romance-mystery-fantasy in–and here is where my buttons are thoroughly pushed–a massive snowstorm. You could hardly fit more snow in this book if you used a plow to stack it up very high and let the neighbor kids sled off it. The ending is a bit less satisfying than the rest of the book–proving things is hard–but not so much so that I’m not going to immediately seek out the other published volume in the series.

Michael J. DeLuca et al, editors, Reckoning Issue 3. Kindle. The mix of stories, poetry, and essays in this issue is excellent. The types of each vary a lot (although several stories reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki’s environmental thinking; I mean that in a good way). My favorites included Octavia Cade’s “The Feather Wall” and Osahon Ize-Iyamu’s “More Sea Than Tar.” Danika Dinsmore’s poem in the editorial slot was a lovely choice for that, and Adelia MacWilliam’s “Paddling in the Sound” also struck me particularly well.

George Eliot, Adam Bede. Kindle. The prospect of reading George Eliot on the airplane appealed to me mightily, so I just picked one more or less at random. It turns out that Adam Bede was Eliot’s first novel, and there are some places in the ending where you can see her figuring out the form or…not quite getting there. The ending does not work as well as a portrait of humans as the rest of the book, for me. But the middle has some extremely solid excellent stuff about compassion and loving others around us for who they are and not who we wish they were. While I wouldn’t start here (START WITH Middlemarch!!! You could be reading Middlemarch right now!!!), I’m very glad I read it and will probably continue to while away happy hours of travel with her oeuvre.

Emiko Jean, Empress of All Seasons. This is an interesting YA fantasy with strong worldbuilding (…sort of a theme for this fortnight…). There is an aspect of it that started to be unsatisfying to me in theme/implications halfway through the book, and then just as I was getting restless about that aspect, the ending did not go where I thought it would go and all of a sudden the theme issues were entirely resolved for me into “YAY doing its OWN THING.”

Neil Kent, The Sami Peoples of the North: A Social and Cultural History. If you want a beginning book on Sami history and culture, this looks to me like a pretty solid one. If you’ve already got the basics, you probably don’t need this book to repeat them. Unlike some histories it does extend into the present day or fairly close to it, with important yoik musicians and other figures of the last few decades discussed.

Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Warrior. I sometimes do very poorly with similar titles, and so I went most of a year without noticing that the Akata W— book people were talking about was not the one I’d already read and enjoyed (Akata Witch). Enlightened, I went and got this book. It’s a lot of fun, interesting, good worldbuilding, good characterization.

Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum, A Day of Small Beginnings. This is a multigenerational novel about the ghost of a devout Jewish woman haunting three generations of a Jewish family not her own as they move from Poland to the US and then rediscover their Polish roots. It’s a beautiful example of moving writing about religion that is not attempting to proselytize. Also it’s very singular; or at least I don’t know of other books with this general shape of plot. I’m very glad I stumbled upon it.

Sherwood Smith, ed. It Happened at the Ball. Discussed elsewhere.

Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics. Every time I get a Rebecca Solnit book, it moves to the head of the queue immediately. This one did not take many pages to make it clear why. Solnit’s ideas about environment, idealism, and practical consequences are broader, deeper, and more clearly expressed than the other writers I’ve been reading on those themes. Such a joy.

Tasha Suri, Empire of Sand. This is intense and vivid YA fantasy with strong worldbuilding and major upheaval in the plot in just the ways I like. Definitely looking forward to whatever Suri does with the sequel.

Molly Tanzer, Creatures of Want and Ruin. This is the sequel to a book that was very special to me, Creatures of Will and Temper. It’s the kind of sequel that allows for a large time gap and different characters, so the touchstones that were my own buttons to push have been replaced by a different set. I have every hope that this will be someone else’s very special book, and I’m always glad to see a series where someone is doing quite different things in each book.

Sara Teasdale, Rivers to the Sea. Kindle. This book of poems felt very young to me. A lot of them were about Old Love and New Love in the sorts of ways that people who haven’t loved anyone for more than about six months tend to write about, extremely breathless and full of broad pronouncements. Some of it was quite good of that type, and then there were the moments where the image part of the Imagist poetry broke free of the sweeping statements.

Lynne Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota, eds., Uncanny Issue 26. Kindle. I have a story in this issue, and I make a policy of not reviewing things I have work in.

Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Ayme Sotuyo, et al, Lumberjanes: Parents’ Day. A lot of stuff that has been foreshadowed or otherwise hinted at came to fruition in this volume, featuring bunches of family members and–of course–supernatural incursions into summer camp hijinks. And friendship to the max. Can’t forget the friendship to the max.

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