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Books read, late September

John Joseph Adams, ed., Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies. This is an anthology full of familiar names doing a wide variety of far-flung space adventure. I particularly appreciated stories from Vylar Kaftan, Yoon Ha Lee, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor (writing as A. Merc Rustad), and Caroline Yoachim.

Melissa Albert, The Night Country. The sequel to The Hazel Wood, this deals with the fallout from that book in a way that is extremely well-suited to its YA fantasy structure.

Claire Beams, The Illness Lesson. Major content warnings for sexual abuse and medical abuse here. If you hate Bronson Alcott–and Lord knows I do–here is a book by someone else who hates Bronson Alcott and wants to tell a 19th century story of personal discovery and liberation from Transcendentalist bozo dudes. Some quite upsetting sections, but generally beautifully written.

Stephanie Burgis, Frostgilded. Kindle. This is a short treat, labeled a coda to the previous novellas and very dependent on knowing the characters from them–but very rewarding if you do.

S.B. Divya, Machinehood. Discussed elsewhere.

Maria Dahvana Headley, trans. Beowulf. This is a rollicking translation, steeped in Saxon braggadocio. Fun alliteration, interesting angle. Depending on how emotionally intimate you feel with the Geats, Danes, and Angles, you might not want this to be your only Beowulf–but it increased, rather than decreasing, my enthusiasm for more.

Jordan Ifueko, Raybearer. YA fantasy with global inspirations centering on Africa, lots of fun, beautifully written, highly recommended.

Naomi Mitchison, The Delicate Fire. The introduction to my copy claims that this is Mitchison’s farewell to the Classical Greek world. I can believe it. It’s like a mosaic novel except that the pieces don’t all join to one thing. It’s like a mosaic workshop, in novel form. One of the things Mitchison is seriously thinking about is slavery, and another is sexual violence, so time your reading of it carefully if you’re interested.

Megan E. O’Keefe, Chaos Vector. Another example of a sequel that depends heavily on the first volume, but they’re in print so you’re all good. This one had fewer AIs (less AI?) through most of the book, and those were my favorite part of the first one, but it was still fun.

Susan Oosthuizen, The Emergence of the English. A tiny monograph about ethnoformation and what we know from archaeological evidence in an age when genetic testing can rule out certain kinds and timings of vast population difference. Pretty cool.

Ann Patchett, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage and What Now?. Two nonfiction volumes, essays by the author, very personal but only sporadically deep. Sometimes fun to read, sometimes just awful–the former volume, for example, has an essay about end-of-life care for her grandmother and another about end-of-life care for her dog, so, uh. Tread cautiously.

Claudia Rankine, Just Us: An American Conversation. Mixed media: photos, illustrations, poetry, essays. Really compelling and sometimes beautifully-footnoted personal thoughts about race in America.

Valerie Valdes, Prime Deceptions. Another sequel that is full of ramifications. This one I think has a cover that is slightly more accurate for the sometimes-dark tone–it’s a funny book, don’t get me wrong, but not a perky one, and I worried about the previous cover giving the impression of sunshine and roses when it’s more blasters and (self-)recrimination. But with Spanish-inflected wisecracking along the way! And a supportive team…that has to be supportive because they get into some pretty deep shit….

Francesca Wade, Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars. This is about five women writers who lived in the same square in the interwar period–Dorothy Sayers and Virginia Woolf and HD and two scholars I didn’t know much about before, Jane Harrison and Eileen Power. You get some Hope Mirrlees as a bonus, and my main complaint about this book was that I’m still not sure why Wade didn’t make it six and give Mirrlees her own section, instead of wrapping her in with living with Jane Harrison. But still, it’s just the sort of history packed with artistic and intellectual connections that I love to see.

Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, and Anne-Marie Rogers, Lumberjanes: Birthday Smarty. This…okay, I’m going to be honest: this is not my favorite style, of the artists doing Lumberjanes, and the plot felt pretty paint-by-numbers. It was still fun–Lumberjanes are always fun–but I don’t think it will be one of their notable best volumes.

Annie Whitehead, Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom. If you notice a pattern lately, why yes, I am reading a lot about pre-Conquest England. This is not one of the catchier volumes but is still very good for what it’s doing.

Troy L. Wiggins, DaVaun Sanders, and B. Sherise Moore, eds. Fiyah Issue 15. Kindle. For me the stand-out story in this issue was Vincent Tirado’s “Your Name Is Oblivia,” but it was another solid issue, well worth reading.

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