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Books read, early July

Anta Baku, The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland. Reread. Upbeat serialized fairy tale fantasy with contemporary twist, now collected into one volume and readable in that format, so I did. Not my Richard III but basically still always glad to see Richard III.

Victoria Bates, Making Noise in the Modern Hospital. Kindle. An interesting survey of what has made which kind of noise in hospitals over the last hundred years, how people have tried to address that and what problems they’ve created in the process. Deals with both the objective sense of how much sound there is and the subjective sense of how bothersome it is.

Peter Dickinson, The Blue Hawk. A children’s book of speculative theology and falconry, more or less–Tron (this predates the movie of that name) has an evolving relationship with his gods is not always convenient to the other humans around him. I was not as charmed by this as some other people in the book club for which I read it, nor as I have been by other Dickinson books, but it was a quick read.

Emma Goldman, Living My Life. I put off reading this because autobiographies of people who have lived colorful lives don’t always have the best prose, but I was wrong to do so, the prose is very readable and this long volume goes quickly. And man, you can see how she was willing to piss off everybody here and say basically whatever. Love to see it, honestly. You don’t read Emma Goldman to agree with every word, you read Emma Goldman for the WOW SHE WENT THERE factor, both literally and figuratively.

Isabella Hammad, Enter Ghost. This is a novel about an Arabic translation production of Hamlet being put on in the West Bank, and about a Palestinian-British actress returning to Palestine and having massively complicated feelings about her own history, family, identity, work, and everything else. I really liked it.

Alix E. Harrow, Starling House. Discussed elsewhere.

Kat Howard, A Sleight of Shadows. The consequences of trying to save a world that doesn’t want to be saved. You’ll want the first one in this series first, but for that tag-line it really isn’t a downbeat book in the end, it’s just–more implication, more ramification, more fantasy from the generations of us who are not content with “power just is, don’t worry about where it comes from” as an answer in our magic.

Jac Jemc, Empty Theatre. I was disappointed in this. I was promised “over-the-top social satire,” and for 19th century German-speaking monarchs this was…very far under the top. Nor was the satire particularly biting, and no, I am very sure I didn’t just miss it, it was just…a rather blunt instrument. I’d also like to warn that there is a lot of what I’m sure is quite historically accurate depiction of disordered eating, but it is nevertheless depicted in great detail to not a lot of purpose. Meh. Too much Wagner, not enough Bismarck, and yes, I’m aware that could also be said of Ludwig of Bavaria’s life, but really. So much meh.

Margaret Wade Labarge, Medieval Travelers. This is very focused on the uppermost classes (not a lot of merchant travel here, not a lot of thought about economic migrants) and on the most obvious places in western Europe, so it ended up being unsurprising if you’ve done any level of thought about this topic. Not really recommended, alas.

Ian R. MacLeod, Snodgrass and Other Illusions: The Best Short Stories of Ian R. MacLeod. Kindle. Some of these short stories were absolutely gorgeous and some were not for me, and the great thing about a short story collection is that you can just stop on the ones that aren’t for you and go on to the next thing. I haven’t read any of his long form stuff in a while, might be time again.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market. This was depressing but interesting. It’s an accounting of who funded what propaganda to make the magical action of the unfettered market look like it works in ways that it doesn’t and had never been proven to do. It’s just astonishing how often economists get to make claims without backing them up. “Does it, though?” ought to be the first question every time someone says, “the market does blah de blah” and yet here we are, dammit. Naomi Oreskes is a treasure. I’m glad I know these details. Also: ughhhhh.

H. G. Parry, The Magician’s Daughter. I do like it when I can say “best yet!” about an author’s latest publication, and this is one of those. It’s an Edwardian fantasy that’s another in the sub-genre of fantasy that’s thinking about where power comes from and who pays for it, and the way it handles both familiars and family went really well for me. Excited to see what Parry does next.

Sarah Pinsker, Lost Places. An absolutely lovely collection of recent Pinsker stories, many of which I’d already read but it was nice to have them in the same place, and I had managed to miss a few all the same.

C.L. Polk, Witchmark and Stormsong. Rereads. Here’s another thing I meant by “another in the sub-genre of fantasy that’s thinking about where power comes from and who pays for it.” I really love how Cee does this. I picked up Witchmark for a book club and am just going on with the reread a bit at a time. On the second go-round I really liked what a mirror Grace is of how all of us sometimes only want to fix the parts of what’s wrong with the world that are personally inconvenient to us, how we sometimes have to grump and stumble into doing more.

James Tynion IV and Rian Syngh, The Backstagers Volume One: Rebels Without Applause, Volume Two: The Show Must Go On, and Volume Three: Encore. Comics where high school backstage crew kids at an all-boys’ high school find doors to weird stuff in their backstage areas, have theater nerd adventures together. I read these because there are teens in my life who are 100% the target audience and have birthdays coming up and yep, they’re getting them, they’re absolutely getting them as gifts.

1 thought on “Books read, early July

  1. The local reproductive health clinic is named for Emma Goldman, which I love, and my friend group refers to the entire enterprise by first name. I’m sometimes caught by surprise when I speak of it to someone who doesn’t know that habit and obviously has no idea I’m talking about a clinic, not a person.

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