Renee Ahdieh, The Rose and the Dagger. This is the sequel to a 1001 Nights retelling, and while the first book (The Wrath and the Dawn) was vivid and fun to read, I like this better because it’s a more interesting question to me: what next? What did they do when the known story reaches its borders? The writing is just as vivid, and favorite characters return to develop complexity. You could maybe just start with this one, but I think getting the emotional backstory from the first volume is better. This is a definitive ending, in case you’re worried about series that go on indefinitely. (There’s also a free-on-Kindle bonus story, The Crown and the Arrow. -ed This is not a good way to find out if you like this series, it’s only good if you already know you like it and want bonus content. -M)
C.J. Cherryh, Visitor. Annnnd speaking of series that go on indefinitely. This is volume 17, and she’s showing no signs of stopping. The plot threads that started 10+ books ago are being picked up. You already know if you like this series, and look! here’s another! that’s about more than Bren’s apartment! My main complaint in this book was too many hoomans. I do not read this series for the hoomans. Too many hoomans, not enough Jago-ji, but I have hopes for future volumes. And the hoomans were surprisingly interesting for hoomans, it’s just that I can read about them anywhere.
Eric H. Cline, 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed. Now that I know more nonfiction writers, I’m aware that they don’t often get to choose their title. This one is hideously ill-suited for the book, which should actually be called something like What Do We Know About the Sea People Anyway: Several Centuries of the Southeast Mediterranean. But it was aces at doing that.
Christopher Hodson, The Acadian Diaspora: An Eighteenth-Century History. This, on the other hand, does what it says on the tin. If you’re really interested in the Acadians, I wouldn’t recommend starting here, but it does talk extensively about the diaspora and is worth including in a larger-than-one-volume Acadian history collection for that reason. (What would I recommend starting with? Probably Farrager’s A Great and Noble Scheme.)
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City. This is a fascinating book, and I’ve had several stories that are not about Hurricane Katrina directly (that’s not mine to tell, I don’t think) leap out at me since reading it. Very little will be surprising if you’ve paid attention to the news (and possibly watched Treme), but having it all marshaled into one place is very useful. Seeing it all laid out like that, what happened, who did what, what do we know. A really diverse set of viewpoints went into Horne’s research for this book. Recommended if your blood pressure can stand it.
Guy Gavriel Kay, Children of Earth and Sky. Kay tends to mostly write books that are set in thinly veiled versions of our own history, in various locations. This one is in the same universe as The Lions of Al-Rassan (one of my favorites of his books) and the Sarantium duology, much later in time. It’s basically the Balkan coast and Venice, in fantasy form. The fantasy conceit is somewhat more present than in some other works of this type that he’s done. I don’t think this is his masterwork, but if you enjoy this sort of thing from Kay–and I do–it’s definitely worth the time.
Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. I came into this volume having read the title story and one other story in it. Those two were my least favorite out of the whole volume–and I wanted the collection on the strength of them. “State Change” was an utterly fresh premise, for example, and there were many stories that had depth of research that’s often either not attempted or not visible in short fiction. I read every story. Very much recommended.
Michael A. McDonnell, Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America. This book performs the kind of recentering that resets your brain, akin to being taught when Rome fell and then having the epiphany that the Byzantines considered themselves Romans for centuries thereafter. If your point of view on Native American/First Nations/Indian people is centered on the east coast of the US and Canada, then the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries look like a steady decline, caused by invasion and disease. McDonnell centers his thinking on Michilimackinac, what is now Mackinaw City, the center of a powerful meta-kin network and series of alliances that was in some ways highly successful in this period. Fascinating stuff.
Thomas Michael Power, The Economic Role of Metal Mining in Minnesota: Past, Present, and Future. Really really what it says on the tin. I was hoping there was more “past” involved. Nope. This is an environmental and economic assessment of these industries in Minnesota’s north–interesting, though not useful for the story I was hoping it would be useful for.
Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement. A solid biography of an important and little-sung figure in the Civil Rights Movement and adjacent social movements. If you’ve ever wondered who did the caregiving in that era of fighting for racial justice, read this book–it gets quite specific in spots about what unheralded labor was necessary for the famous events to go off as well as they did. Baker was a firebrand. Awesome stuff.
Tsuruta Kenji, Wandering Island Volume 1. This is a manga whose main appeal is its setting: not any of Japan’s cities, but the outer small islands. The speculative conceit is moderately interesting. If you’re thoroughly habituated to ubiquitous bikini pictures, bath pictures, panty shots, etc. in this genre/set of genres, the fact that it’s utterly idiotic to have a pilot flying around in a bikini top (IT GETS COLD UP THERE) may not bother you (nor is that the only stupid excuse for scantily clad heroine). The plot did not advance very quickly, and I’m going to stop at just this one volume.
Django Wexler, The Mad Apprentice and The Palace of Glass. Second two books in a middle-grade series. (The first of which is The Forbidden Library. -ed) Much darker than books for that age often are, with cruelty and death foregrounded in the fantasy–foregrounded but not triumphant. I found both of these fast and smoothly written, and I think you could start with either if you were doing the fairly typical grade school kid thing of grabbing whatever was in front of you that looked cool regardless of series placement.
Dorothy Dora Whipple, Chi-mewinzha: Ojibwe Stories from Leech Lake. This book is laid out with the Ojibwe text on one page and the English translation on the facing page. It’s thoroughly illustrated, so between those two factors it ends up being quite a quick read (unless you’re an expert in Ojibwe or other Algonquian family languages and are doing complicated comparisons with the translation. Some are “traditional” stories, a lot are family stories, personal stories. It’s well-done and interesting, and if you’re trying to do research on another culture you shouldn’t stop at one book anyway, so it doesn’t matter that this can’t be the one. And if this is your culture, you can tell me, but it looks from here like Whipple did a really great job of providing this as a resource for both insiders and outsiders.