Books read, late October

Madeline Ashby, ReV. Third in a series about robots and personhood. Does not pull punches with human sexuality and its darker sides. I wouldn’t recommend starting here, since there’s a lot of worldbuilding preceding it.

Rena Barron, Maya and the Rising Dark. This is an awesome fun book about a young girl in Chicago interacting with Orishas and coming into her own power. It’s just the sort of MG I love to read, and I can’t wait for more in this series.

Roshani Chokshi, Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes. And speaking of more in the series, Aru, Mini, and their friends are back and just as fun and awesome in the third book of this lovely MG series. My younger godchild and I gossip about our favorite characters on the family Discord. It’s great, read the whole series.

Lynn Darling, Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding. This is sort of about wayfinding, but it’s a lot about dealing with the (long-term) aftermath of loss, and also with cancer. So if you read natural history for cool details about the woods, this is very, very not that.

George Eliot, Scenes of Clerical Life. Kindle. This is three novellas, recent historical fiction when she wrote them, about people’s lives and relationships around small town churches. If you have the entirely false belief that 19th century women just wrote about love and marriage, this one has domestic violence, alcoholism, and doctrinal schism as well, come be proven wrong. She is so compassionate and clear and good.

Elisa Gabbert, The Unreality of Memory. Essays on disaster culture. I feel like timing did not serve this essayist well–some of the things she says are not at all looking prescient in the face of a pandemic–but to be fair some of them were incredibly wrong-headed before the pandemic as well. She writes nice sentences, I just have very little interest in people who are willing to repeat the utterly wrong “autistic people have no empathy” idea, among other things.

Carolyn Ives Gilman, The Ice Owl. Kindle. Alien SF politics of a young girl who has traveled a lot relativistically and is trying to figure out her relationships thereafter. Some of the gender stuff feels a little off, but possibly this is in the “we have to explore this to figure out how to do it better” camp.

Louise Glück, Averno and Faithful and Virtuous Night. Guess who got in ahead of the crowds the morning Glück won her Nobel. I described these to some friends as cerebral but not intellectual: the own internal experience of Louise Glück is examined with minute and thoughtful care, the outside world not as much a topic.

Virginia Hanlon Grohl, From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars. Yeah, this is Dave Grohl’s mom. This is Dave Grohl’s mom interviewing other musicians’ moms about their experience of parenting. It is not attempting to be hard-hitting investigative journalism, it is pleasant conversations with Ginny, and frankly it was pretty relaxing that way. (Dave Grohl’s mom calls him David. Which, when you think about it, sure, yes. Also she is still pretty protective of Kurt Cobain’s mom after all these years, which melted my heart.)

Joanne M. Harris, Honeycomb. Discussed elsewhere.

Hebi-Zou and Tsuta Suzuki, Heaven’s Design Team Volume 1. Manga about weird animal facts and evolution, with the conceit that God has outsourced their creation to a design team, with the group dynamics inherent thereto. Fun stuff, silly.

Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines. Beautiful essays on remote places. I am so glad to have so much Kathleen Jamie ahead of me to read. It’s a great comfort.

Amanda Leduc, Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space. This was more memoir than literary analysis in some ways, but both can be valuable, just know what you’re getting if you pick it up.

Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights. Essays about birds and nature. I couldn’t read H is for Hawk because of the paternal death theme, but this was really well-written, and not on that theme, so hurray, I could enjoy it.

Arkady Martine, A Desolation Called Peace. Discussed elsewhere.

N. Scott Momaday, The Death of Sitting Bear. Poems full of bears, Russia, Kiowa themes, history, generally interesting stuff.

Nina O’Leary, Native Enough. A collection of photo portraits and interview questions with a variety of Native college students talking about their experience of Native-ness.

Susan Palwick, The Necessary Beggar. Discussed elsewhere.

Marta Randall, The River South. Kindle. This sequel to Mapping Winter is not nearly as strong or thematically focused as its predecessor, but it’s still smoothly written and fun to read. May serve as Steerswoman methadone if that’s a thing you need.

Iona Datt Sharma, Division Bells. Kindle. Charming, sweet near-future administrative romance. Administrative? Legislative! More political romance, more.

Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree. A thriller in the sub-genre of Brat Farrar, with a twist visible from page one and deeply stereotyped characterization.

Kate Wilhelm, The Good Children. Reread. I won’t need to read this a third time, I fear. The sentence-level writing is smooth, as I’d expect from Wilhelm, but the characterization is shallow and weird, and the plot is predictable and offensive in its handling of mental illness. Sigh.

P. G. Wodehouse, The Intrusion of Jimmy. Kindle. I’ve gotten pretty good at detecting bad Wodehouse right out of the gate. This is one of the good ones: sending up its era’s obsession with gentleman thieves, setting up a plot where everyone ends up with the right person but not without a lot of hijinx in the middle. If you like Wodehouse at all, you’ll probably like this one. There is a New York Irishman who has a lot of phoneticized dialect, but it’s survivable.

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