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Books read, late June

Sophie Anderson, The Castle of Tangled Magic. A sequel, one finds out late in the book, but not one for which the earlier work is at all crucial–more a related work really than a sequel, except that the time sequence between the two is very clear. There’s a strong use of Russian and Slavic myth types in this, which I generally enjoyed, but more so in her previous work. This one suffers from having a really strong emphasis on belief over…substance of belief. “Belief is stronger than magic” as a message makes my teeth ache and also makes me worry, as we have loads of people believing in all sorts of horrid things just now. Not the best time to be preaching the virtues of faith unrooted to content for my tastes.

Alex Beam, Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece. Wow was van der Rohe bad at his job. Wow. Wow. I knew this house was a disaster, but…it was really a disaster. “Masterpiece” seems a bit strong under the circumstances. Poor Dr. Farnsworth. (Yes, she was prickly and difficult. Also she was right.)

Casey Blair, A Coup of Tea. The first in a trilogy that was originally serialized, and I hate reading serials through no fault of any individual serial’s own, so I’m really glad to have it in collected book form now. Tea ceremonies, finding one’s own way in the world, magic in more abundance than anyone in that area wants.

Christoffer Carlsson, Blaze Me A Sun. Discussed elsewhere.

Franny Choi, Soft Science. These were poems with a cyborgs-and-sex focus that I understood but didn’t mostly connect to. You may well have more interest in that particular vein than I do.

Tim Clarkson, The Picts. Steered entirely clear of the woowoo that sometimes surrounds the Picts, thank heavens, and looked at documentation and (later) archaeological research about peoples of the far north of Scotland, what we know about them and how we know it. Sensible and useful.

Eric R. Eaton, Wasps: The Astonishing Diversity of a Misunderstood Insect. …honest to Pete I think this book was written by a wasp, or possibly by a council of wasps put to the task by the wasp propaganda board. The entire introduction is not just “wasps are the greatest,” it’s also “ants and bees ain’t shit.” The contents are far more like a series of brief magazine sidebars about wasps than I wanted, and also this is incredibly heavily illustrated, so…I’m keeping it in case I need it as a reference, but if you were hoping more for longform prose about wasps, I’m afraid you’ll have to keep looking. And also tell me when you find it, because that’s what I was looking for too.

Tony Hoagland, Twenty Poems That Could Save America, and Other Essays. This is one of the many library books I picked up when I searched for something completely different and the library gave me an unrelated title that looked like it was worth a go. As a result, what I got was an interesting enough read about modern and contemporary poetry, and sometimes he explained to me why some people liked some things that I 100% do not like…but also hoo boy is there gender stuff Hoagland is not caught up on yet.

Patrick Radden Keefe, Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks. Keefe is extremely good at writing investigative pieces about bad people. I’ve read two of his book-length works in that vein. This is a collection of his long magazine profiles/articles, and it’s interesting, and I’m glad I read it, and also I’m really, really glad to be done reading it. Because: ick. And it’s good that he doesn’t try to pretend that the ick is not…ick. But: bleh.

Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. Reread. The reorganization of our bookshelves brought the science section into easier view, and I started rereading some of the things I had in that section but hadn’t touched in this millennium. This is a midcentury work on the ripples Copernicus left in western thought, natural historical and otherwise. It contains quite long passages from Copernicus, which is useful for people of a certain mindset, which includes me. There are also some quite sad moments when Kuhn feels that we have progressed more thoroughly and more permanently than we actually have, as a culture, but these are worth noticing for their own context.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Translating Myself and Others. This essay collection is substantially composed of introductions Lahiri has written to other works, which…is I suppose a fair enough way to make up an essay collection, but not a particularly inspiring one for me. I really liked the essay about redoing one of her Italian books in English, but the introductions to books I haven’t read and did not intend to read feel to me like they should be interspersed with more solid pieces–even essays about those books not intended to be part of their front matter would be fine. Ah well.

Vaishnavi Patel, Kaikeyi. A feminist retelling of the Ramayana from the perspective of one of its originally-negative characters, this is engaging and interesting throughout, and as far as I can tell plays fair with its source material. I really enjoyed it. (If you’re watching Shoresy, you’ll know why I have Thoughts about what does and does not constitute fair play with source material. Ahem.) Questions of good governance of particular interest.

C.L. Polk, Even Though I Knew the End. Discussed elsewhere.

Christopher Rowe, These Prisoning Hills. This is in the same universe as some of Rowe’s other stories, which I love. I found it filled in rather than expanded what there was of that universe, which is entirely his prerogative but not what I was hoping for. Perfectly readable as an introduction to this universe and possibly even the best starting point–although it’s tonally different and lacks bicycles so that really depends on why you’re here. Mecha instead of bikes? It’s a question of preference really.

Greg van Eekhout, Voyage of the Dogs. The dogs come out of this book okay. I need to tell you that, because there is a whole heap of dog peril, and you might otherwise be worried. These are very dogly dogs, and they’re in space without their humans, and you don’t find out why for most of a book, and it’s a good thing it’s a very short book, is what I’m saying, because my nerves very nearly could not take it. (A masterpiece in MG SF pacing.)

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