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Books read, early December

Yves-Marie Berce, History of Peasant Revolts. This is actually not what it says on the tin, it’s a history only of the peasant revolts in France in the years leading up to the French Revolution, and actually mostly in Acquitaine, with only a few notes about other regions and their similarities and differences. I still find that interesting, but the narrower focus is definitely worth noting. Berce seemed to have the firm conviction that he would never be considered a peasant, which is not a conviction I share, so that grated in some places as well. Worth having but also worth supplanting and/or supplementing.

Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up at the Crater School, Chapter 24. Kindle. The final chapter of this serial, bringing the threads of this book together for a conclusion that happened to be quite appropriate to the season in which I’m reading it, in its own Martian way.

Stephanie Burgis, Kat, Incorrigible, and Olivia, Invisible. (The latter on Kindle.) This is a charming and magical middle grade novel and the tie-in short story about the daughter of the protagonist of the novel. There are fancy dress balls, house parties, sibling fights, and bits of magic gone completely wrong. They’re rollicking good fun, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Mary Cagle, Sleepless Domain Volume 1. This is the beginning of a comic that’s very heavily influenced by anime. It’s full of magical girls with a diverse set of powers, attending school together to better facilitate their schedule in protecting their city. This plot arc is just getting started.

Aliette de Bodard, The House of Sundering Flames. The last in a trilogy, with lots about parenthood and protection, decay and hope. Definitely don’t start here, but I’m so glad to have gotten here in the end.

Nancy Goldstone, Daughters of the Winter Queen: Four Remarkable Sisters, the Crown of Bohemia, and the Enduring Legacy of Mary, Queen of Scots. Oh seventeenth century Germany. Oh Stuart England. OH JAMES I AND VI NO. No matter what you think you know about what a jerk James I and VI was, there is always more jerk for that man to be. Always. But there were loads of interesting and (at least somewhat) competent Stuarts running around not being monarchs of England and Scotland, and this is good stuff about them. If you’ve looked at The Triumph of the Winter Queen in the Boston Museum of Fine Art, this is them. If you’ve read Neal Stephenson, this is them. Descartes shows up, Liebniz shows up, Northern Europe was very small at the time. There’s room for the Defenestration of Prague in here and still time to stop off to paint self-portraits. Good fun.

Guy Gavriel Kay, A Brightness Long Ago. Do you like Guy Kay books? This is one. I wouldn’t rank it among the most brilliant of his offerings unless you are passionately in love with Florence and possibly not then (I am not, so I can’t judge), but there are lovely moments in it, and I do, in fact, like Guy Kay books, and so look, here’s one, I read it, I’m not at all sorry. I love what he does with thinking about what it would be like to be at various moments in history, but sideways enough that he can do his own things with them.

Carmen Maria Machado, In the Dream House. This was extremely compelling and horrifying, the memoir of an abusive relationship in very short chapters, vividly written, self-aware, self-contained, alarming. I was glad to read it and glad to be done reading it.

Judith Merril, Homecalling: The Complete Solo Short SF of Judith Merril. I’d read a lot of this already, but I’m really glad to revisit it and have it all in one cover. It has all the flaws it always had but also all the virtues. I love her so much. I want to go back in time and fetch her and show her what we’ve done.

Daniel Jose Older, Dactyl Hill Squad: Freedom Fire. Second in its series of middle grade books about children of color fighting the US Civil War for the Union, using their telepathic connection to pterodactyls, in an alternate universe full of dinosaurs. Full of fun but also full of serious stuff, as Older has no intention of treating the Civil War as apolitical as well he should not.

Joy Lisi Rankin, A People’s History of Computing in the United States. Short, pithy, focuses on who used computers at various stages and how that use shaped their further development, what barriers and assumptions that use and development encountered. An interesting counterweight to more common narratives where single individuals developed vacuum tubes in, er, vacuums.

Troy L. Wiggins, DaVaun Sanders, and Brandon O’Brien, eds., Fiyah Issue 12. Kindle. Another strong and interesting issue, this one themed around Chains. My favorite story was “The Midnight Host,” by Gregory Neil Harris.

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