Books read, early April

Angeline Boulley, Firekeeper’s Daughter. This is an Anishinaabe thriller set in the Sault, and it’s so good. It’s so so so good. It’s got science and hockey and complicated family relationships, and yes I was in a fragile place when I read it, but still it made me cry in two places because I was so moved by the protagonist’s relationship with her elders (I see far too few teen/old person relationships in fiction). I loved this. Highly recommended.

C.J. Cherryh, Divergence. This is the twenty-first volume of the atevi series. Do not read it without the other twenty. It is not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, but that which it is, it is; if you want to stop off and hang out with Bren and Banichi and Cajeiri and all of them, here’s your chance. It was reasonable comfort reading for me for the day I read it.

Sam Hawke, Hollow Empire. Second in its series, and I do recommend starting with the first one here as well–significantly less of a commitment than with the Cherryh, though. This is a secondary world fantasy second book full of consequence, ramification, and expansion of scope, and also full of interesting fictional poisons and people of different ages who get to have agency instead of focusing all the agency on one age group. It also handles some disability issues beautifully.

Hermione Lee, Tom Stoppard: A Life. There is some value to having a biography that is by a friend of the author–extremely broad access, for example, and sometimes it’s nice when the biographer clearly finds the subject charming and interesting. So this is a very lot of Hermione’s Nice Friend Tom: What Cool Things He’s Done So Far. I will be shocked if we don’t get another biography of Stoppard within the next decade or two, one which acknowledges that someone, somewhere might have had any kind of negative experience of Tom Stoppard for even half a second. But in the meantime this had its interesting points–it is extremely work-focused, which is what I want out of this kind of biography.

Ken MacLeod, The Human Front. This is an alternate history novella that…doesn’t have a lot to it other than “look at my alternate history,” but MacLeod always writes fluently, and you may find his alternate history interesting.

Sara Flannery Murphy, Girl One. Discussed elsewhere.

Aimee Ogden, Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters. A novella full of genetically modified human-variants whose relationships with each other are interesting, complex, and planet-spanning.

Sonia Purnell, A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. The woman in question, Virginia Hall, was an amputee who used a prosthetic leg for the entirety of her spy work in France during the Second World War. This is very much in the line of a Thrilling True Story, but honestly I think it’s cool to find out more about the people who don’t fit the war hero mold one we’re usually presented with.

Burton Raffel, trans., Beowulf. I see why this has been a classroom classic for a bit now: he has added chapters where they do not belong, but that makes it easier to assign sections than the less-familiar line numbers. What distinguishes Raffel from the others I’ve read: he is focused on Beowulf being “good poetry” but wants that to be by mid-20th century standards rather than preserving features of good poetry of its time, like kenning and alliteration; he is very clear that the author of Beowulf was probably a Christian and is happy to use mid-20th century Christian language to convey that. So: my least favorite so far, but it has the Beowulf nature.

Veronica Schanoes, Burning Girls and Other Stories. A dark and beautiful collection that plays with fairy tales and children’s stories in ways that are distinctly adult. Highly recommended.

Christina Soontornvat, A Wish in the Dark. A Thai-inspired children’s fantasy adventure with good friend and mentor characters. I had fun with this.

Susan Stinson, Martha Moody. I bought this book because I loved Spider in a Tree, and as I was reading it, I kept thinking, “Well, I’m not really the target audience for this, but I like it anyway.” Stinson’s prose is playful and fluid, so I’m apparently interested in her take on Old West eccentric lesbian love stories as well as on things whose thumbnail description sounds a lot more like my taste.

Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Music at Long Verney. Warner has a habit of just dropping you in and going for a bit and then stopping, and I can see that this might be maddening in someone else, but in her I love it. Oh, that’s who’s in this story? right then, okay, on with the show.

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