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Books read, early December

Lyndsay Faye, The Gods of Gotham. Historical murder mystery that in no way lives up to its title but is interesting anyway: very very early New York policing (that is, early policing, not early NY–mid-1800s, not the Dutch), party politics, etc. I will keep on with Faye’s stuff in this vein. I like historical mysteries.

Stuart Firestein, Ignorance: How It Drives Science. A paean to the stuff we don’t know, particularly the informed and thoughtful ways of assessing what we don’t know. A brief read, good fun, amusing in spots, nothing spectacular.

Tim Flannery, Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific. Too many personal details, not enough bat zoology. More small mammals, Tim Flannery! Nobody cares what you had to drink! Bats! Rodents! Etc.!

Christopher Fowler, Full Dark House. The first in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, a mystery in two timelines (“contemporary” and WWII). Not amazing but readable, and I am looking for new mystery series, so I will probably read more.

Jessica Day George, Tuesdays at the Castle. A magical castle and its children work together to thwart evildoers. Go castle. Very much a middle-grade book.

Jan Guillou, Birth of the Kingdom. The last of the trilogy, and you’ll really want to start at the beginning. I loved this, but Swedish historical political novels are a thing I adore. This one was all set in Sweden; Arn had returned from the Crusades.

David G. Hartwell, ed., Year’s Best SF 18. Discussed elsewhere.

Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost. About Belgium and its relationship with the Congo region. Its horrible, horrible relationship. This is one of those things that I felt I should read to be better-informed about world history, but there’s a reason that that period is something of a template for evil. Adam Hochschild is very very good at writing about horrible things. I recommend him if you feel the need to read about horrible things and you want an author who will recognize the horrible and deal with it appropriately. (Also he included all sorts of stuff about the black Americans who were missionaries and lobbyists for the region, which I did not previously know and which was cool.)

John Kelly, The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People. And speaking of cheerful topics! But again: the Irish potato famine was a major thing, and I felt the need to be better informed. Kelly is really quite good about recognizing the ways in which the upper classes and absent landlords didn’t actually screw up, so that he can focus on the ways they really, really did.

Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds. I miss this kind of SF. The kind that does divergent groups of humans on different planets! I need more of that kind! This is like the SF I read tons of when I was 12, except smarter and better about a wide variety of demographics. Do want. The telepathy part is also in that category, except that I can take or leave telepathy books. But the rest is smart and good enough that the neutral of telepathy does not drag the book down to neutral. Mooooore.

Philip Reeve, Fever Crumb. If you want a YA about postapocalyptic whosits living in a giant head, this is for you. You do? I know you do. There are several people who do. Postapocalyptic whosits are very popular these days.

Ira Rutkow, James A. Garfield. What it says on the tin, with a focus on the medical stuff following the assassination. Sadly I had already read Candace Millard’s Destiny of the Republic, which has the same focus and is in every way a better book. So really, if you want to know about Garfield, go read the Millard, and if you still want to know more about Garfield after that, this Rutkow book will not help.

Sherwood Smith, Whispered Magics. Kindle. Some of the best of Sherwood’s short stories as well as a few that overweighted message with mode for me. I have always loved and always will love “Mom and Dad at the Home Front,” and there are some other really lovely things in here too. Well worth the nickel. (Note: nickel is proverbial. Actual book costs more than a nickel.)

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