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Books read, late October

Kelly Barnhill, The Crane Husband. Discussed elsewhere.

Peter Blickle, The Revolution of 1525: The German Peasants’ War from a New Perspective. This is one of those books that starts out in the introduction clarifying that the German Peasants’ War of 1525 was not just Germans, not just peasants, started in 1524 and ended in 1526. Hee, okay. But Blickle really does a good job of going into what they said they wanted, how widespread each of the demands was, what affected that spread, how things played out after.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volumes 2 and 4. Kindle. I am still in search of a title, and EBB has failed me. These two volumes were very different, though. Volume 2 was full of deliberately archaic speech (it was very forsoothly) and had some ideas that did not wage well, like EBB trying to write a poem from the POV of an enslaved Black American woman. Her heart was probably in a pretty decent place but oh dear. Volume 4 is the one that has Sonnets from the Portuguese in it and has really started flowing in some ways. Those were ways that were completely useless to me. But still.

Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger. This is a fairly cheerful mystery of blackmail and murder, low on classism and gratuitous racist remarks compared to Christie’s average. I haven’t committed to reading all of them, in fact quite the opposite, but when I see someone reading a decent one I will probably follow suit and enjoy it reasonably well.

Rio Cortez, Golden Ax. There’s all sorts of speculative-adjacent stuff in this poetry collection, and its handling of tropes about race and land is quite good. I picked it up without knowing anything about it and I’m glad I did.

David Enrich, Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice. This is not a pleasant read, but it’s sometimes useful, I feel, to have some of the specific details of the unpleasantness rather than a vague politically icky feeling, and this is one of those times.

Elizabeth M. Hallam and Judith Everard, Capetian France 987-1328. What it says on the tin, except that it’s really the monarchs and a very few high clergy of that era. Fills a gap reasonably, will be solid grounding for other detail.

Hua Hsu, Stay True. This is a memoir of a lost friendship. Hsu is about the same age as me, and so many of the cultural touchstones of our college years were skillfully drawn…while portraying a friend group absolutely nothing like mine. Fast and heartbreaking.

Justina Ireland, Rust in the Root. The Dirty Thirties are in my opinion a desperately underused decade for historical fiction, and Ireland gives them a beautifully alternate twist that never loses sight of what the reality looked like. Definitely the first in a series, and I really want the next one.

Peter Lasko, The Kingdom of the Franks: North-West Europe Before Charlemagne. Sometimes you can tell that somebody has recently sold a collection to the used bookstore, and this was one of those times, because I got this at the same time as I did the Capetian book. It’s not as extensive or solid but was still basically fine.

L. D. Lewis and Charles Payseur, eds., We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2021. Some of my favorite stories from 2021 were in this, plus some authors I hadn’t read before. Always a good mix to aim for in an anthology of this type.

Mary McMyne, The Book of Gothel. Medieval German fantasy that carries the echoes of fairy tales without adhering to them particularly strongly. Stands alone. Lovely, so lovely.

Adrian Murdoch, The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World. Okay, so I gave the title major side-eye (last, huh? I could make some introductions, Murdoch), but I was interested in a biography of Julian the Apostate. And this was a pretty interesting one, threading the needle between the natural urge to sympathize with one’s topic and the ability to paint a nuanced portrait of a human being–particularly impressive with classical sources.

Orhan Pamuk, Nights of Plague. Historical novel that does what it says on the tin, set on a fictional Mediterranean island that was part of the Ottoman Empire at the start of the 20th century. This is a book clearly written with the experience of COVID in mind–the reactions to contagion are in no way idealized, and no one is saved through individual force of will. May be a tough read at the moment, or in fact for any foreseeable time.

Leslye Penelope, The Monsters We Defy. The Twenties have never Roared like this before. Magical heist novel, absolute romp, structured in the best traditions of con job reveals. Such fun.

Catherine Rockwood et al, eds., Reckoning: Our Beautiful Reward. Kindle. I am in this volume, and I make it a policy not to review things I’m in.

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Shards of Earth. This was a fun space opera with a bunch of different human variants as well as aliens. First in a series, and I’ll be glad to have the next one.

Emily Tesh, Some Desperate Glory. Discussed elsewhere.

Sheree Renee Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and Zelda Knight, eds., Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction. Discussed elsewhere.

Amy Wilson, Lightning Falls. A charming middle-grade fantasy about a girl who might not be a ghost after all. I needed a fun book with rainbows on the cover that day, and this delivered.

Andrea Wulf, Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of Self and The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World. Like the previous pair of Wulf books I read recently, these two pair fairly obviously. You can see where the research for one led to the interest in the next. German Romantics and their worldview and their weird complicated relationships with each other! Fun times to look at from a distance.

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