Posted on Leave a comment

Books read, late April

Robert Jackson Bennett, The Tainted Cup. A fantasy murder mystery that succeeds for me in both genres. The subgenre of both is darker and nastier than most of the fantasy murder mysteries I’ve read before, I think to its success–this is not a story that would benefit from a twee tone. Its protagonist’s disabilities are handled smoothly, and the bodily variation, both natural and induced, in this setting is very much part of its appeal to me. I hope Bennett has the chance to write more of these.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Warrior’s Apprentice, The Vor Game, Borders of Infinity, Cetaganda, and Brothers in Arms. Rereads. For a project, and it’s interesting to take them from this distance, to see where the characters who have had a chance for full subplots and lives are brief hints in their first appearances. There’s a noticeable gear-shift in the middle of Brothers in Arms, a shift in what we’re doing here and why, toward more intensity, all to the good.

Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Water I Won’t Touch. Poems about healing from top surgery, poems about coming from a hardscrabble region and an abusive family, poems that reach for cool water in a polluted land. These were beautiful and harrowing, and I’m glad that my local librarians had them on a Poetry Month display for me to randomly pick up and experience.

Nino Cipri, Homesick. A collection of short stories, dark and witty and skillful. Cipri always has a different angle than anyone else has taken, and I’m glad these are all in one place to enjoy, even the ones I had already encountered elsewhere.

Aliette de Bodard, Navigational Entanglements. Discussed elsewhere.

Reginald Hill, Asking for the Moon. Reread. I was contemplating how the mystery worked at short lengths, and my recollection was that in this collection the answer was: not too well. Upon reread I felt the same, and I doubt I will want to return to it–the short form didn’t play to Hill’s strengths in reference and characterization, and these felt more like gimmicks than gems. I don’t really need to keep this one around, I have the novels in the series when I feel like returning to these characters.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Lord of Emperors. Reread. Not enough mosaics in this one per unit book about mosaicist, but still satisfying for what it is. Don’t read it first, read the other one first, it’s basically a two-volume novel. Once somebody mentioned all the women in Kay’s books wanting to sleep with his protagonists I can’t unsee it, but mostly to the point of it entertaining me rather than truly annoying me at this point.

B. Robert Kreiser, Miracles, Convulsions, and Ecclesiastical Politics in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris. Do you want Jansenists? Because this is how you get Jansenists. Or rather: this is a lot of details about Jansenists. Interesting about that but not so outstandingly written that I’d recommend seeking it out if you’re not particularly interested either in early eighteenth century Paris or in Christian sectarian in-fighting as specific topics.

Jo Miles, Dissonant State. The second in its series of interplanetary fiction with multiple species trying to do labor organizing in the face of interstellar corporate skullduggery. Each volume focuses on a different main character but there’s continuity of cast from volume to volume. There’s no reason not to read the first one, it’s in print and you’ll get better context for this one, but this is an entirely cromulent middle book in a series I’m having such fun with. Gosh I love middle books. Gosh I’m looking forward to seeing how Miles wraps this up. They are really good at letting their characters make characteristic mistakes.

Michael Ondaatje, A Year of Last Things. Poetry, some of which touches on the end of a friend’s life. I didn’t end up aligning well with much of it, but I’m not sorry I read it.

Eleanor Parker, Winters in the World: A Journey Through the Anglo-Saxon Year. This is a nice little book. I think sometimes historians are aware that they’ve written a nice little book and sometimes not, and this is definitely in the “aware” camp: Parker has brought together references from lots of poetry of this era to think and talk about the seasons and festivals of the early English year. Fun, light, short.

Julia Phillips, Bear. Discussed elsewhere.

Duane W. Roller, Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World. This is the kind of history I like least, the kind that is entirely focused on who was king and what battles they fought. Did I still read it? yes. Did I start tearing my hair and wishing for information about what kind of roofing they used on their houses, how the king’s advisors were selected, what instruments they played and who constructed them, whether they were professional specialists or amateurs who mostly made other things, etc……also yes. Still, if you want information about the Pontic kingdom of this era, here it is.

Sofia Samatar, The Practice, the Horizon, and the Chain. Class and academia and spaceship and limitation. Claustrophobic and fascinating.

Sheng Keyi, Death Fugue. This is the kind of dystopia you get written when the author has a lot to say very directly about specific things in the real world rather than general thoughts and philosophies. The aftermath of Tiananmen Square and the impact of that movement on a whole generation is clear and fascinating here–there are aspects that are classically dystopian and aspects that are very, very individual.

Jesse Q. Sutanto, The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties. From the afternotes this looks like it will be the last of its trilogy, and I think that’s just as well. Meddy has reached her honeymoon, her happily ever after visiting family in Jakarta with her new husband in tow. The criminal shenanigans that ensue are by this point more forced than successfully farcical, and if I thought it was going to keep on like this forever, I probably wouldn’t have read this one; as it stands, it’s a farewell tour with the four aunties, and I was willing to come along for the ride.

Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers. Kindle. I’m told this is the most famous one in this series, but I don’t prefer it; it focuses on people getting their comeuppance who don’t interest me as much, and basically every time Trollope tells me what I’m probably thinking, I’m not. There are still some funny bits, but if you were to ask me for a Trollope rec, this would not be it. Onward.

Kiersten White, Mister Magic. I was honestly not sure what I was getting when I picked this up at random: child stars all grown up? a children’s show that seemed to have disappeared? how many kids were on this show, anyway? Was this dark fantasy, psychological horror, what was the deal? But the writing was assured and personal enough that I kept reading. It’s not my wheelhouse–very much to the darker end–but the character relationships kept me going through the twists of trust, betrayal, magic, and warped community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *