Books read, late July

Cassie Alexander, Year of the Nurse: A 2020 Pandemic Memoir. Discussed elsewhere.

Andrea Barrett, Archangel. Reread. This is a bunch of short stories with loosely linked characters, historical fiction around a theme of scientific exploration of the world. Beautifully done, and they hold up very well on the second go-round.

Carolyn Fourche, In the Lateness of the World. I kept failing to connect with these poems of global exploration. We did not meet each other the way I wanted to. Perhaps another of you will.

Kathleen Jamie, Findings. Perfectly nice naturalist essays but not my favorite of her books, not where I would recommend starting with this part of her work.

Katherine Johnson, My Remarkable Journey. An autobiography from one of the outstanding “computers” from NASA’s era when that term was a person’s job description as a mathematician rather than a machine. This is labeled a memoir; it is not. It is very dates-and-places autobiography, very little internality. Both have value, but know that going in; there’s more factual material here than in Hidden Figures, but not a lot more of what was deeply personal to Dr. Johnson.

Abbie Gascho Landis, Immersion: The Science and Mystery of Freshwater Mussels. Does what it says on the tin, although it’s quite focused on mussels in North America, and particularly in the east of North America–it comes as far west as I am but really not much farther. But mussels: they’re interesting, here’s a bunch of stuff about them.

Ada Limón, Sharks in the River. This was the absolute perfect book for the day I was reading it. I kept marking poems to come back to. So many beautiful moments, start to finish. Highly recommended.

Sujata Massey, The Bombay Prince. The latest in its series, focused on the visit of the future Edward VIII to India and the protests thereof–and of course on a murder mystery unfolding around it. I think this is a series you can start in multiple places, and this is a fine enough place if you’re not attached to starting at the beginning or are having difficulty getting hold of the beginning.

James Morrow, The Cat’s Pajamas and Other Stories. Reread. Upon reread a lot of these felt shallow and self-congratulatory, and I really hope I like other things I remember liking of his better. Sigh.

Winifred Peck, Arrest the Bishop?. I didn’t find this late-1940s mystery as charming as her clerical slice-of-life, but it was still fun to read when I needed something to sort of refresh myself after one of the books below (it’ll become obvious).

DaVaun Sanders, B. Sharise Moore, et al, eds. Fiyah Issue 17. Kindle. Occasionally Fiyah has an issue of well-done stories that aren’t really my jam, and you know what, I think they should, I am not the center of their target audience. This was one of those. Glad they’re doing what they’re doing.

Anne Sebba, Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy. Oh lord, what a difficult book. Sebba is not setting herself the task of proving that Ethel Rosenberg had zero Communist sympathies (good thing, because that’s clearly untrue) or any of a number of other things some people felt they had to do in talking about her case. She simply wants to examine: what evidence was there that she committed specific crimes, especially the crimes for which she was executed, specifically that she committed those crimes and not some other member of her family such as her husband, brother, or sister-in-law. Evidence looks pretty sparse, and there is clear and specific evidence that the people who tried her knew they were using perjured testimony, and that her brother knew that he was perjuring himself and never understood why she didn’t do the same. This is a book that is incredibly sad and upsetting in a number of ways.

Amy Stewart, Lady Cop Makes Trouble and Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions. I’m catching up on this historical semi-fiction adventure series, and I continue to enjoy it. One of the things I particularly liked here is that a young person with a dream doesn’t have that dream magically realized on the first try, pivots, and manages to make other things work for a bit, while still trying to figure out what might work for her long-term. I think too often “follow your dreams” narratives are presented as binary success/failure rather than very weird tangents, and this is a weird tangent one, which is kind of great.

Carrie Vaughn, Questland. Some of Vaughn’s books are a perfect fit for me as a reader and some are well-written but just…fine, I guess, not special for me. This is one of the latter. It’s a love song to the segment of geek culture that’s now mass market, and many of the places where its commentary could have gotten deep or trenchant didn’t. Not sure why, since Vaughn certainly has that in her. Anyway, if you want animatronic dragons, this is that (literally, I am not being metaphorical), but I didn’t really feel like the plot threads came together into a greater whole.

Hywel Williams, Emperor of the West: Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire. Lots of good stuff about what was actually going on in Western Europe. If you ever feel like genre fantasy is too based on medieval Western Europe, go read up on the Carolingians and their squabbles with each other and their neighbors and find out that, lordy, does genre fantasy have a lot more to draw on. Anyway I think they’re fun, and this was fun.

Xiran Jay Zhao, Iron Widow. Discussed elsewhere.

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