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Books read, late December

Daniel Abraham, An Autumn War. Reread. Third in its series and for heaven’s sake don’t start here, this is all ramification all the time. Wow is this the difference between a good book and a nice book. Abraham lets his characters screw up massively with world-altering repercussions, and I am 100% here for it.

Jeanne E. Abrams, A View from Abroad: The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe. This is one of those nonfiction books that was interesting but left me wanting a slightly different book than the author wanted to write, namely a history of the early diplomatic corps of the US. Somebody go write this for me. This is a little bit of that and a lot of Adamses, which is fair because that’s what it says on the tin.

Molly Brodak, A Little Middle of the Night. Personal poetry with a shifting set of angles on illness and disability, loved it, absolutely recommend.

Stephanie Burt, We Are Mermaids. I wanted this poetry collection because of the title poem, and it did not disappoint. Trans issues, mythology, mythologizing one’s own issues, good stuff, hard-hitting stuff.

Caris Avendano Cruz, Marikit and the Ocean of Stars. A romp through Filipina legends and mythology and growing up. It feels a little younger than most of the middle-grade books with this title pattern, but not babyish or anything, and the legends are well-handled.

Don Duncan and dave ring, eds., Opulent Syntax: Irish Speculative Fiction. A slim volume, none of which was really outstandingly my sort of thing, but I want more of this sort of exercise, more angles on different voices in sff; it only stands to reason that they won’t all hit me the same way.

George Eliot, Romola. Kindle. Well, this is it: now I’ve read all of George Eliot’s novels. I’m very glad I have. Romola was not my favorite but was still very much worth a read. It’s set further back in history from where the author was writing it than most of her books–late 15th century Florence–and you can sort of see the shape of some of the ideas she was working with that would eventually become Middlemarch.

Sonja Fritzsche, Science Fiction Literature in East Germany. Kindle. A friend sent me this because he’s colleagues with the author, and it was fascinating to watch her trace the different science fictional literary movements in a tradition almost but not completely disjoint from mine–she has a lot of the same touchstones in western SF to ground the discourse in what I do know. (There was, for example, a moment where she cited Darko Suvin, and I said, “Okay but the thing about Darko Suvin–” only to find that in the next paragraph she was basically giving the same points as I’d been saying. Yes. Good.)

Carrie Jenkins and Carla Nappi, Uninvited: Talking Back to Plato. Mostly responding to Plato’s dialogs with feminist poetry, sometimes other things as well–a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of Earth orbit, a bit of a lot of things. I found this more intellectually interesting as an exercise than emotionally affecting as poetry, but I think that’s just because it wasn’t quite my kind of poetry rather than that it was badly done in any way.

Catherine Kerrison, Jefferson’s Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America. Kerrison did an impressive amount of research around Patsy and Polly Jefferson and Harriet Hemings, including attempting to trace Harriet’s life after she left Monticello and looking for people who might have been her, with a lot of attention to education and status for varied women in this era. Unlike many people who might be drawn to this topic, she doesn’t seem to have been pulled into the black hole that is Thomas Jefferson’s charm–she never actually writes “what a jerk,” but its presence is pretty strong, and appropriate in context.

L.R. Lam, Dragonfall. Discussed elsewhere.

Peter Linebaugh, The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century. Lots of analysis of who was hanged and why (by profession, by gender, all sorts of variables), with further attention to ideas of criminality, class, and society around it. Extremely interesting.

Dipika Mukherjee, Dialect of Distant Harbors. Poetry around themes of immigration and distance, beautiful stuff.

Alex Roland, Underwater Warfare in the Age of Sail. All sorts of technical stuff about mines and diving bells and cool stuff you might want to know if you’re that kind of nerd.

Drew Sarkis, Schemes of the Wayfarer. Discussed elsewhere.

Chris Scott, with Sarah Zorn, Homage: Recipes and Stories from an Amish Soul Food Kitchen. This was a really interesting read not because I wanted to make these recipes (I don’t) or because the author was such a stunning prose stylist (he isn’t) but because his entire way of thinking about food was interesting and made me think about it differently too.

Margery Sharp, The Innocents. Kindle. The story of a sixty-something woman who ends up caring for a developmentally delayed toddler during WWII. There are a few uses of language/concepts that are not contemporary (the r-word once, other casual slurs from well-meaning people around the child’s intellect and mutism but honestly not nearly so many as I would have expected, and also the child is said not to be autistic with a complete misunderstanding of what that would mean), but in general this is a very affirming story of a young person and an old person who manage to be their best selves together, and it’s really not a shape of story I see much.

Sun Yung Shin, The Wet Hex. Poems with a witchy theme and an immigrant theme. Not one of the volumes that resonated most with me, but worth reading.

Daniel Arthur Smith, Oceans: The Anthology. Kindle. This was a place where previous favorite authors shone: the stories I liked best were from Ken Liu and Caroline Yoachim. Lots of watery ideas, always room for more water, yay.

Nathan Tavares, Fractured Infinity. A multiplicity of other universes, with other versions of oneself and one’s partner, combined with a machine that tells the future foretelling extremely tough choices. A gay love story, a story of possibilities.

Martha Wells, The Witch King. Discussed elsewhere.

Ovidia Yu, The Mushroom Tree Mystery. The latest in this series of historical mysteries set in Singapore. This one takes us up to the very end of the Second World War, with all the chaos and change of that. I love that Yu is burning plot this way. I love that she’s not saving anything for the proverbial swim back.

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