Books read, early December

Claudie Arsenault, C. T. Callahan, B. R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver, eds. Common Bonds: A Speculative Aromantic Anthology. For me the absolute stand-out story of this anthology was Adriana C. Grigoire’s “Seams of Iron.” It played with speculative tropes in a deft way that had me captivated throughout. I enjoyed other stories, but “Seams of Iron” is one of my favorite all year.

Jane Austen, Persuasion. Kindle. My booklog does not list this book, and when I read it I had more the sense of having seen it discussed than the sense of having read it before, even back in the mists of time when I read some other Austen. In any case, it was keenly observed and very funny in parts, and everything came together very satisfyingly. As you’ve probably heard, since it’s Austen, but: yes.

Rachel Manija Brown, ed., Her Magical Pet. Kindle. I bought this to read Pamela Dean’s “Five Quests and the Oracle,” and I was not disappointed. Pamela’s family relationships and new adults finding their way never disappoint, and the theatrical setting of this one was particularly satisfying. I also found that Sara Joiner’s “Uncontrolled Variable” was a lovely nerdy piece of fun. Many of these stories are structurally romance genre stories with some speculative elements rather than speculative genre stories with some romance elements, which is neither good nor bad but something I hope helps the volume find its proper readers. (They’re all f/f romances, if that matters to you.)

Olivia Chadha, Rise of the Red Hand. Discussed elsewhere.

P. Djeli Clark, Ring Shout. This is not really my genre, since it’s pretty horror-y, but I am fascinated by the ways in which supernatural horror and psychological horror are blending in some works like this one, maybe…social horror? super-psycho-social horror? Where there are indeed monsters, and also there are humans who are (some of) the real monsters, and also monstrousness added to itself has sweeping social effects. With action scenes. Very well done.

Julia Corbett, Out of the Woods: Seeing Nature in the Everyday. This, on the other hand, is a fairly standard example of its local nature-writing genre. Basically everything it quotes is something I’ve already read and found more worthwhile than this volume. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it, but that’s not, it turns out, the highest recommendation.

Megan Crewe, Fearless Magic. Third in a trilogy, all the pieces falling together in a satisfying action-packed ending but for heaven’s sake don’t start here.

Paula Guran, ed., The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Vol. 1. I make a policy of not reviewing books I’m in, and I’m in this one. Still: I read it.

Zeyn Joukhadar, The Thirty Names of Night. A beautiful family narrative, a beautiful trans narrative, two strands of Syrian-Americans working out who they are and who they can be, with art and birds and family interwoven. I found this captivating.

Guy Gavriel Kay, The Summer Tree and The Wandering Fire. Rereads, and I’m in the middle of the third one now. There are obviously things that are not how Kay would do these books now–things that are not contemporary about them–for example, the fact that the characters start out studying the law and medicine in our world is basically irrelevant, in a way that I don’t think would be how he’d structure it now. But from the first sentence I could relax into these books and know that they were exactly the kind of high heroic fantasy they’d always been, that the suck fairy had not visited their heroism and left something nasty in its place. High drama, myths in a blender: sometimes you want that. This is how I learned to want it, and I still do.

Francois Neveux, A Brief History of the Normans: The Conquests That Changed the Face of Europe. Quite often when I read a book in search of an answer to a particular question, I end up with a bunch more questions, and that’s what happened here. Interestingly focused on the Normans rather than on one particular place they ended up, so this ranges over much of Europe.

Patrick Samphire, At the Gate and Other Stories. Kindle. And speaking of a wide range, these stories have a lot of different tones and elements, some funny and some serious, all sorts of different speculative elements. An interesting snapshot of a career at this point.

DaVaun Sanders, B. Sharise Moore, et al, eds., Fiyah Issue 16. Kindle. Joy is such a great theme for a magazine right now, right on, let’s do this. For me the stand-out was Margaret Saunders’s “Ambrosia,” but the Fiyah staff continues to publish really solid issues.

A.J. Sass, Ana on the Edge. This is a charming kids’ book about a young competitive ice skater who is negotiating that extremely gendered world while figuring out her (for now, her) own nonbinary identity. For some kids this book will be life-changing; for me as a cis adult it was still a fun evening’s read.

Janine A. Southard, ed., Silk and Steel: A Queer Speculative Adventure Anthology. Kindle. Lots of fun lovely stories in this! I basically romped through the entire volume, so glad I got it. If Her Magical Pet was weighted toward “romance story, speculative elements,” Silk and Steel is the opposite balance, “speculative story, romantic elements.” (Again f/f throughout.) Hard to pick favorites, but mine were Alison Tam’s “Margo Lai’s Guide to Dueling Unprepared,” Freya Marske’s “Elinor Jones Vs. the Ruritanian Multiverse,” Jennifer Mace’s “In the Salt Crypts of Ghiarelle,” and Aliette de Bodard’s “The Scholar of the Bamboo Flute.”

Lynne Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, et al, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 37. Kindle. Another solid issue. Favorites from this one included John Wiswell’s “The Bottomless Martyr” and Brit E. B. Hvide’s “Words We Say Instead.”

Elizabeth von Arnim, The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen. Kindle. A charmingly odd bit of entertainment–a lightly fictionalized travel narrative from the very early 20th century, when a writer with a German husband could use the phrase “blood and iron” without knowing how horrifying it would get later. Mostly she is trying to circle a small Baltic island and being wry and observational about the other humans she encounters there.

E. Lily Yu, On Fragile Waves. Discussed elsewhere.

Ovidia Yu, The Betel Nut Tree Mystery. Second in its series, more of Singapore as a Crown Colony before the Second World War, more of its determined but quiet heroine Su Lin, more of her expansive and alarming family and circle of friends. I immediately put the third one on my list when I’d finished.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *