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Books read, early July

Matt Christopher, Ice Magic. So…we have a Little Free Library in our next door neighbors’ yard, and Tim mentioned that it had a hockey fantasy in it. That is my wheelhouse! But, he continued, it was a Matt Christopher book. Well. No harm no foul, I could just take it and put it back when I was done. Lordy. LORDY. I had forgotten how TERRIBLE Matt Christopher books are. They are proof that short books are not necessarily lean, taut prose, because there are random things like the protagonist greeting a squirrel that are completely pointless. The magic plot evaporates on the last page for no reason except that the world must be normal or something. I love hockey fantasy, but…seriously, do not read this book.

Wesley Chu, Time Salvager. Discussed elsewhere.

E.K. Johnston, The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim. LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It’s the story of a dragon slayer in modern small-town/rural Ontario. The alternate history bits are endearing and lovely. (Buddy Holly! The Red Wings logo! Non-American politician references!) The kids’ relationships with each other are so great and do not descend to love triangles and mean girls and other cliches. I cannot WAIT for the sequel SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD. (Tim wishes to add that this book post is three days late because he had difficulty puttingĀ The Story of Owen down long enough to put the links in.)

Michael Pye, The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe. You know how I often say of nonfiction that it does what it says on the tin? This does not in any way do what it says on the tin. It is about the North Atlantic and the Baltic at least as much as it is the North Sea, and it includes not one but at least five transformations of Europe. That said, as a book about interesting stuff that happened in the north of Europe, it’s golden, lovely, very much recommended. Somewhat random! But recommended.

Kazuki Sakuraba, Red Girls: The Legend of the Akakuchibas. This has won murder mystery awards in its original Japanese, but to me it is no more a murder mystery than a randomly selected novel with a romantic relationship is a genre romance. Instead it’s a personal account of young women’s culture and cultural change in (non-Tokyo) Japan. I have all sorts of thoughts about the translator’s choices, to the point where I am saving them for another post, but it’s basically Japanese magical realism about the above themes, so it’s not something you’re going to be reading and thinking, “Oh yes, another of these.”

Russell Shorto, Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City. Shorto really doesn’t understand the what happened with the English Parliament in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, and he doesn’t go into the Hansa or Beguines or several other really cool things like that. Also he starts with Amsterdam being knowably Amsterdam, so I am still missing a good source on early Frisians. (WHY WILL NO ONE GIVE ME SOLID FRISIANS WHY.) But it’s still a charming and interesting book, and he gives props to both Spinoza and Jonathan Israel, so good on him.

Dana Simpson, Unicorn on a Roll. Second volume of the series (the first was Phoebe and Her Unicorn), and I liked it better. Partly I think that Simpson has hit a stride, and partly I think it’s expectation management: telling me that something is the next Calvin and Hobbes is the best way to get me to say, “Huh, sez you!”, whereas I knew this was not, it’s its own thing, and it’s a fun and funny own thing to be. (Also my goddaughter Lillian lent me this book because she thought of me and thought I would like it. And because she is SO GROWN-UP OH WOW.)

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guns of the Dawn. Stand-alone military fantasy novel. A few class-based things made me wince, but for the most part it was worth the leisurely pacing, an enjoyable read throughout–and interesting to see what Tchaikovsky does when he’s not doing a ten-book series.

Jen Williams, The Copper Promise. This book was a very weird mix of grimdark and lighthearted fantasy romp. It was in a very epic fantasy setting, with some gods still around and others dead. It’s more of an “if you like that sort of thing” than an “everyone, everyone! Go read!”, but I still found it quite readable.

Jacqueline Winspear, Birds of a Feather. Second Maisie Dobbs mystery. Lacking the flashback structure of the first, and I think this is all to the best. Gentle 1930s British setting. I’m glad the library has a bunch of these.

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