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Books read, early July

Kalynn Bayron, This Wicked Fate. The second of a pair, and you really don’t want to read it as a stand-alone, as it’s very much the kind of duology where the story just dives in and keeps going as soon as the second book begins rather than trying to ease you in. Poison mythologies and family relationships, YA fantasy, very fond.

Rebecca Campbell, Arboreality. Discussed elsewhere.

Julie C. Day and Ellen Meeropol, eds., Dreams for a Broken World. This was a very mixed bag. Day and Meeropol were trying to bring two different genre sensibilities to this fundraiser anthology, and for me, at least, the genre stories were immensely more successful than the mimetic ones. (And as you all know from reading this blog, I do read mimetic fiction avidly, so it’s not just that I’m more accustomed to the speculative stories.) There was a nice reprint from Sabrina Vourvoulias in this, and Zig Zag Claybourne (“Finding Ways”) and Marie Vibbert (“Subscription Life”) had the stand-out new stories.

Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters. Kindle. Famously unfinished, but just barely: you can see the shape of the ending they are barreling towards, and I believe it’s only the very last chapter she didn’t get to complete. A Victorian novel focused on the life, particularly the loves, of one provincial doctor’s daughter. This is not my favorite nor yet my second favorite Gaskell, but I’m glad I read it all the same.

Louise Gl├╝ck, American Originality: Essays on Poetry. I was more interested in the things that actually were essays on poetry than on the introductions written for other people’s collections–but those felt more satisfying to me than the Jhumpa Lahiri versions of the same genre in last fortnight’s reading.

Roger T. Hanlon and John B. Messenger, Cephalopod Behavior. Very much a textbook rather than something structured as a smooth prose read, but I wanted to find out about cephalopod behavior for a project, and boy, did I.

Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood. Discussed elsewhere.

Fady Joudah, Tethered to Stars. This is one of those poetry collections where the astronomical theme is very loose/metaphorical, rather than mostly writing poetry about astronomy. I liked it for what it is, but do not mistake it for the other thing, because it definitely isn’t.

Christopher Kemp, Dark and Magical Places: The Neuroscience of Navigation. Kemp walks the fine line of a modern nonfiction writer telling you about himself, but in this case it’s mostly anecdotes about how completely bad his navigation skills are, how he was fascinated with this topic due to his own shortcomings rather than his own skills. I learned interesting things about which parts of the brain are doing what. Unfortunately the section at the end about getting better at navigation was all the stuff I’ve already done to compensate for having a balance disorder–it seems that this is not an entirely surmountable problem. Well. Sigh. Still good stuff to think about, though.

Dana Levin, Now Do You Know Where You Are. Short answer: no. I think these poems are probably quite good for someone who is not me, but I felt un-grounded in them, un-rooted, and not in a deliberate and systematic way. I didn’t hate them, I just…did not orient myself to them successfully.

Philip Mansel, King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV. Okay, so I’m not entirely clear why Mansel feels that someone will be interested in reading 450+ pages of Louis XIV bio and have no knowledge of what happened in France before or since, but he does seem to hold that belief, starting the book with Clovis and carrying on to the present day. Those sections are short but kind of baffling in their existence. But otherwise it’s an interesting look at not just Louis XIV himself but also the institutions surrounding him from earliest infancy.

Margery Sharp, Something Light. Wow is this title ever accurate. This is a frothy, fun, funny book from 1960 about a career woman deciding to methodically seek a “good” husband only to find that she can’t go through with it in a number of the obvious places. The ending is a little abrupt but the entire thing is entertaining. (Caveat: I remember at least one moment of casually Antisemitic language toward the end.)

Dana Simpson, Unicorn Selfies. This is the most recent Phoebe & Her Unicorn collection. You can pick it up basically anywhere–it’s a daily comic strip from the contemporary era, so while there are plot arcs, they’re all pretty bite-sized. Still fun, took me only a minute.

Lynne Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, et al, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 47. Kindle. Another very satisfying issue of this magazine. John Chu’s “If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the Informal You” was my favorite of the issue.

E. Catherine Tobler et al, The Deadlands Issue 14. Kindle. Also another good offering of this magazine, in which I felt that Iona Datt Sharma’s “Give This Letter to the Crows” was particularly fine.

Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America, and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931. Now look. Nobody made him make this book stretch to 1931. I don’t know why he did it, except that he wanted to put in a slapdash chapter about the beginning of the Great Depression. Frankly he would have been much better off if it had been 1916-1922, and no one would have stopped him; that’s clearly what he wanted to write about and was the bulk of the book. So if you decide you want to read about global geopolitics in the late-Great War/immediate post-Great War period, that’s all very well, but if you want to read about global geopolitics in the 1920s, don’t blame me if you pick this book up and are disappointed.

Hannah Whitten, For the Throne. Another completion of a duology where I do not recommend reading it without the one that comes before. Echoes but does not directly follow several fairy tales, makes its own space in the dark woods.

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