John W. Baldwin, Paris, 1200. This is a very convenient title that will help me to find this book for reference on the shelf. It does just what it says on the tin: talks about Paris and what was going on there in 1200 or thereabouts, what guilds were there, what taxes, what nobles, what clergy. Extremely useful reference for a fantasy writer who wanted to not just do quasi-Medieval whosits that were copies of copies of copies.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer. I was really interested in what Coates would do with his first novel, and I was not disappointed. I think he’s much stronger as a writer of historical fiction than as a fabulist, but the fantastical element of this novel was handled with a light touch anyway, the strongest focus being on the characterization and setting.
Paul Cornell, The Lights Go Out in Lychford. Most recent Lychford novella, and as you can expect from the title, big changes in Lychford. The small modern British village relationships continue to be beautifully done and absolutely meaningful to the fantastical element.
S.B. Divya, Contingency Plans for the Apocalypse and Other Possible Situations. I had read a bunch of these stories already, but I was glad to have permanent copies of them, and glad to encounter the new stories in this volume. Divya is the kind of SF I’m always wishing I had more of.
Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God. This was incredible, searing, amazing. It’s an apocalyptic story of environmental disruption and family and pregnancy and dystopic response, here in Minnesota. The author and the main character are both Anishinaabe, and it matters deeply to the story. This is one of the best apocalyptic novels I’ve ever read, and if you like that sub-genre of SF, you entirely may have missed it, because I did not see it discussed as SF at all when it was published a few years ago, I only saw it discussed as Native fiction/Minnesota fiction. Go find the cool stuff structural bias may be hiding from you, namely this.
Lisa Goldstein, Ivory Apples. This is another in the sub-genre I’ve noticed lately, books about relatives of famous fictional authors. I’m bemused by this sub-genre, I still blame the fate of Christopher Robin Milne for it but also I think it is just less interesting to be related to us than other writers want to think. (“Oh my God it’s so cool your aunt is a writer,” someone will probably say to a niece of mine at some point, and they will be like, “Yeah!” and then we will go on with our lives, because…welp.) Anyway Goldstein at the very least leans into her premise. The family in question doesn’t just suffer a little, they fall apart completely, there is major trauma, there is more than one bit of magic and more than one adult making bad choices for children, and generally it is all a disaster that is only slightly mitigated by the magic of artistic creation. So she’s got a better handle on it than the rest of them I guess.
Barbara Hambly, Lady of Perdition. The latest Benjamin January mystery, and when I looked at the cover copy I howled, “oh nooooo don’t go to the Republic of Texas,” but they went to the Republic of Texas anyway, because characters in books hardly ever do what you tell them to even when you’re writing them, much less when they’ve already been written and published by someone else. Still: don’t start here, this is very much a late entry in this series, but a reasonably satisfying one. (Noooo! Don’t go to the Republic of Texas!)
Diana Henry, Plenty. Cookbook focused on simple things, I flipped through it from the library, found it reasonable but a lot of what she advises is stuff I already know how to do, so–if you don’t, probably a reasonable choice. (I may be picking up more library cookbooks with roughly this result. I don’t expect a lot more, but if I look at one or two recipes and say, oh hey, I could do something like that but completely different, that’s really all I want out of a cookbook from the library.)
Isabel Ibañez, Woven in Moonlight. This is Bolivian-inspired fantasy by a Bolivian-American author, and it is charming and lovely, and the weaving element in the title is literal. That was all I needed to want to read this book immediately, and I wasn’t disappointed, but you may want to know that there’s also a dispute about whose revolution has the moral right and awwww yes I am so very there.
Tove Jansson, Fair Play and The Woman Who Borrowed Memories. The first: a novella in a series of vignettes about two women artists, amazing, amazing. They are very Finnish, but they travel, they make art, they argue but not upsettingly so, I love them so much, I love this entire thing. And the second: a collection of short stories that periodically made me gasp out loud and pound the desk with my fist. I love her so much.
Nicholas Jubber, Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories of Europe. A ramble about the continent and also England, exploring the commonalities of theme and story in six different European epics, with digressions into various thoughts he’d had along the way, charming and fun especially if you like thinking about epics, which yes, I definitely do.
Janet Kagan, The Collected Kagan. Kindle. I’m afraid I was disappointed in this one. I really love Mirabile and Hellspark and was hoping for more of the same here, but I found most of these stories gimmicky and flat. A few of them were quite good, but nothing up to the level of those two volumes, alas, and there were random things collected that…really could have been left uncollected. (Her introduction to James Schmitz’s work, for example, was not such a piece of stand-alone literary criticism that it needed to be reprinted in this context. Sometimes completism can go too far.)
Lydia Millet, The Shimmers in the Night. I continue to be amazed at how much Millet has committed to attempting to replicate the virtues and flaws of a Madeleine L’Engle book in a contemporary version–in this case there are serious Wind in the Door resonances as well as the more general L’Engliness. It was a fun fast read once you accept that the kids’ slang resembles no kids’ slang ever and some of the plot makes no sense, and I do want to know where the series is going–especially because the end of this series is a much harder structural pattern to follow.
Ralph O’Connor, Icelandic Histories and Romances. This is, of course, romances in the older sense, not in the sense of people falling in love. O’Connor has a bunch of theory about these genres and then translates a bunch of them, and they’re weird, though not as weird as the legendary sagas. Probably more a volume for completists than for casual medieval tale readers.
Daniel José Older, The Book of Lost Saints. A ghost story about family and the Cuban Revolution and what came after, forgiveness and love and…so very much family. So very much, and this is my jam and I think those of you who like the family element in my fiction will love this.
Malka Older, …And Other Disasters. An interesting very short set of short speculative stories, in some ways very much a departure from her novels.
Mary Oliver, Felicity. Love and nature poetry, rather breathless, not where I would start with her work but I was perfectly glad to read it.
Maria Tatar, Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and Off With Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood. I really like how Tatar is happy to talk about children as people with agency, and particularly how children’s interpretations of story and adult intention of story are not always the same thing. Yes good, more of this.