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Books read, early November

Barbara Bourland, Fake Like Me. A young artist’s studio burns, and the paintings that survived the fire are worth far more. Problem: they didn’t survive the fire. So she has a few months to completely remake a giant show, and also to delve into her assumptions about life and art and other artists. There were some dubious rich people assumptions–namely that a working class artist would get more attention than a rich one, pull the other one, Bourland–but it was still an interesting read and different from everything else.

Allie Brosh, Solutions and Other Problems. By the author of Hyperbole and a Half. This had some funny bits and some sad bits and some frankly deeply alarming bits; the times when Brosh is made unhappy by the world are sad but her own philosophy seems to be making her less happy also, and that’s more alarming to watch.

Emily Carroll, Through the Woods. This is another graphic novel, this one of creepy fairy tale-adjacent stories of monsters and dark places.

Roshani Chokshi, The Silvered Serpents. Second in its series, and I would start with The Gilded Wolves, because this has a lot of implication and ramification that follows from that. I raced through it and had a great time with it.

Zoraida Cordova, Wayward Witch. Another sequel, this one the third in its series. I sometimes like the shape of series where the setting and events continue to ramify but the narrative focuses on a different character each time, and this is one of those. I like this series a lot and recommend it.

Robert Darnton, Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature. Three different case studies of censorship in Western history. While I would also like a farther-reaching study of this topic, some of the ways in which censorship varies a lot with its environment and assumptions were really interesting–and the fact that Darnton got to interview actual East German censors about their work was just great.

Bathsheba Demuth, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait. Lots of large marine mammals, lots of cultural shift here. I particularly liked having this angle on world history, from a region that had a very different concept of what world there was and how to handle it than many of the dominant regions. Content warning, as you would expect, for mass slaughters.

Joy Harjo, ed., When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry. This had some really interesting poems in it, but it’s one of those anthologies that skews toward picking poems that are About This Ethnic Experience, which can give a distorted view of what marginalized groups choose to write about or are allowed to write about. So this is another of the “don’t let this be the only thing you read on this topic” category. It’s organized geographically and then temporally within each geographic section, which I enjoyed.

S.L. Huang, Burning Roses. Fairy tale crossover novella from multiple cultures, thinking about monstrousness and relationships. Delightful if you know all the source material Huang is riffing on, but I think it would still work if you only knew some of it.

Sujata Massey, The Satapur Moonstone. Early twentieth century Indian setting for this mystery, which takes some time to really get going.

Hilary McKay, Love to Everyone. This historical makes me feel like McKay is branching out in genres, which I enjoy. It’s got a WWI setting and covers quite a lot of ground. I really like how it–like other McKay–allows the child reader and the child protagonists to see through some of the social niceties adults will claim on behalf of other adults. There’s a certain set of tropes about who dies in the Great War, what specific kind of person, that…goes back to stuff that was written at the time but still is a little frustrating. But in general I enjoyed it anyway.

L.M. Montgomery, Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs. Rereads. I was always an Emily girl as a kid, more than an Anne girl. These two are fun. I would never be friends with Ilse in real life, but I enjoy her immensely on the page, and I enjoy Emily’s career focus and I enjoy the bits where she is dealing with her large and exasperating extended family. Things I do not enjoy: Teddy Kent; Dean Priest. I knew Dean Priest was creepy when I first read these, when I was younger than Emily. But rereading them now that I have two godchildren Emily’s age when a man in his 30s starts hitting on her…aaaaaaaagh go away and stay away, basically every dude character in these books who isn’t Cousin Jimmy. Maaaaaybe on a good day Mr. Carpenter. Maybe. (I’m a little alarmed by how much Mr. Carpenter is Adult Dude Ilse. But okay, onward.)

Amy Tintera, All These Monsters. Fun monster-fighting YA SF that takes on toxic relationship tropes and kicks their teeth in. Very much enjoyed this.

Megan Whelan Turner, Return of the Thief. I think this most recent volume in this series might be my favorite. It’s got a protag who isn’t the king of anything, and it’s thinking about disability and assumptions a lot. But for heaven’s sake don’t start here, it won’t make sense without at least some of the earlier books in the series.

W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. There are things I aspire to do and things I dread, and reading the collected poems of Yeats was a third category that fewer people seem to have than the previous two, which is things that I expect I will do without feeling particularly strongly about that expectation. “Yeah, that sounds like me,” rather than “ooh!” or “oh no.” Anyway, in addition to the attempts at a mythic ethnic poetry and the poems to various friends and lovers, there was an entire middle section that was substantially about being in a country wracked with plague and political upheaval while adjusting to middle-age (as a pretty bumpy road), so…yeah, poetry, punching you in the teeth between the pretty parts. This is what I wanted from it, and lo, this is what I got.

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