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Books read, late March

Katherine Addison, The Angel of the Crows. Discussed elsewhere.

Lawrence Block, The Burglar in Short Order. A little bit ago I read the Collected Janet Kagan and found some of the pieces in it to be really pointless trifles, and someone (Beth I think?) said that they were glad that everything had been included so that they could be sure that there was nothing else lurking out there that was worthwhile. Well, this is another volume where you can be absolutely sure that you have all the Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery short works, all of them, no matter how trifling. If you don’t know whether you like the Bernie Rhodenbarr stories, this is definitely, truly not where to find out; if you’re lukewarm, steer clear. This is only for people who want to be absolutely sure they have not missed any Bernie Rhodenbarr fiction of any length. (I turn out not to be in that set after all. Ah well.)

Chaz Brenchley, Mary Ellen–Craterean! Chapters 1-2. Kindle. This is the beginning of a bouncy fun new Crater School serial. I have in my Kindle the beginning of something in the same world with a different tone, so the contrast should be interesting.

Stephanie Burgis, Good Neighbors. Kindle. This is the first in a short fiction series: light, fun, mad scientist stories with I think a romance coming if the main characters can dodge the torch-wielding mob for long enough….

E. L. Chen, The Good Brother. This is a ghost story about Hungry Ghost Month and a young Chinese-Canadian bookstore clerk whose brother died. It is also about depression and suicide. I found the characterization really well done, but I was concerned with how the mental health issues were handled in this fantasy context. Specifically…I have serious issues with books where the entire fantasy content can be read as a metaphor for mental health issues, and the more so when that seems to carry the possibility for multiplying rather than assisting with real mental health issues. I’d recommend this one only with extreme caution.

Hannah Abigail Clarke, The Scapegracers. Discussed elsewhere.

Eleanor Shipley Ducket, Carolingian Portraits: A Study in the Ninth Century. This was a treasure I was startled to find, a chatty mid-century volume about kings and monks and scholars. I always want more about the ninth century–really, always–so I was delighted to find the prose lucid and readable, because I would totally have been willing to put up with a slog for what it says on the tin. Gender issues are almost completely absent, but I’ll take what I can get of the ninth century sometimes.

Sophie Goldstein and Jenn Jordan, An Embarrassment of Witches. I am not the target audience for this comic–it’s very new-adult, very focused on finding your path in life through relationship confusion and weird magic–but I enjoyed it anyway.

Julian Jarboe, Everyone On the Moon Is Essential Personnel. This is such a prickly gem. The title story in particular grabbed and held me, but the shining anger and love in the other stories, ranging all over the genre world, was worth the price of admission.

Jenny Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society. Very much what it says on the tin. Some extremely useful stuff in here, and some gaps that I would expound on for hours, but in general recommended if you’re interested in this topic.

S. A. Jones, The Fortress. Discussed elsewhere.

Kapka Kassabova, Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe. This is about Thrace, more or less; it’s about Bulgaria-Greece-Turkey, particularly Bulgaria but the borderland of all three of them, and how people live along that border. It is full of anecdote. It won’t be a particular favorite to reread, but it held my attention well enough.

Jane Kenyon, Collected Poems. I got interested in Kenyon’s work because of the poems her husband wrote grieving for her–I had no particular interest in reading more of his work, but the person he was mourning sounded worth mourning. And indeed this is so. Her poems are keenly observed, specific, often very daily/familial or very nature-focused, and I liked watching them unfold.

William Bryant Logan, Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees. I need to remember just not to read Logan’s books any more. He’s one of those people you read and find that he’s untrustworthy in the small details you already know, and then how can you trust him in the ones you don’t know? This book is about coppicing, about which he is an extreme evangelist. Along the way he makes such unacknowledged and unforced errors as attributing a slogan from disability rights activism to the Crips street gang. Not recommended in the least.

Lydia Millet, The Bodies of the Ancients. The third in her middle grade fantasy series. This follows the pattern of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet (…I know, don’t @ me) less closely than the previous two. There is no jump forward in the characters’ lives, and the plot is very differently balanced as to which characters get to be active–so in that sense I feel like Millet is coming more into her own as a children’s author. For me it didn’t quite work–it leaned into a trope that I find annoying at best–but it was a near miss, and I’m sorry she doesn’t seem to be doing a lot more with different children’s books using her own patterns.

Premee Mohamed, Beneath the Rising. This is 100% not my usual sort of thing, being cosmic horror. Premee is a friend, though, and she’s done cosmic horror really, really well–and the central relationship in this book is just impeccably done. It’s entirely a relationship-focused piece of fiction, and that relationship is funny and sweet and mean and loving and horrible and human at every turn. If you’re up for horrible creatures from outside our universe trying to remake it and us to their liking–if you’re even a little bit up for that–this is such a good one of those.

Suzanne Palmer, Driving the Deep. Discussed elsewhere.

Caroline Stevermer, The Glass Magician. Discussed elsewhere.

Breanna Teintze, Lady of Shadows. Discussed elsewhere.

Emily Tesh, Drowned Country. Discussed elsewhere.

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