Books read, early April

Claire Eliza Bartlett, We Rule the Night. Discussed elsewhere.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls. Reread. It was interesting to revisit this middle-aged coming-of-age tale after it’s had more than a decade to influence the rest of the field. I still love the worldbuilding and the characters, but it was important to keep in mind how much of an influence it’s been–that it looks a little less groundbreaking in retrospect than it actually is because other people have used that soil. Such a fun book, such a good book–and I’m so glad we’ve been thinking and writing about it since.

Pamela Dean, The Dubious Hills. Reread. One of my favorite books ever, and basically I will use any excuse to reread it. The way the worldbuilding and the characterization intertwine always makes me think…and then I always get pulled into the story. Go read this book. Go read this book again.

Emilie Demant Hatt, By the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends. Discussed elsewhere.

Nicola Griffith, Hild. Reread. This is so immersive for me and so lovely and all the details and…it’s just so easy to slide into this cultural mindset. I hope that Griffith meant it that she’s writing more of St. Hilda’s story because I want that so much.

Barbara Hambly, Cold Bayou. The latest Benjamin January mystery. This is a perfectly serviceable entry in the series but not one of the standouts, and it’s a terrible place to start because it relies so much on you already knowing and caring about the characters. There’s not even a murder until halfway through the book, so if you don’t already want to spend time with these characters, go a bit further back in the series and try there. If you do–it further elaborates on some key relationships, particularly with January’s mother.

Larry Hammer, trans., Ice Melts in the Wind: The Seasonal Poems of the Kokinshu. Discussed elsewhere.

Beth Hilgartner, A Murder for Her Majesty. Reread. After so many years. My friend Ginger happened to mention this in passing, and I almost certainly lit up visibly, because I loved it as a child and did not remember the title. (My booklog only goes back to age 23 or 24 reliably. This is a source of sorrow sometimes.) There is a girl who disguises herself as a boy to run from murderers and does not do the sword fighting! No! She sings in a cathedral choir! There is Elizabethan roughhousing! There are Latin mottos iced onto cookies! There is music theory! I loved this book so much, and now I know which one it is, hurrah. Also…it is pretty anachronistic, now that I have somewhat more extensive knowledge of the Elizabethan era than I did when I was 8. So one must be braced. Still. Eeeee.

Ann Leckie, The Raven Tower. Extensive thoughts about what it’s like to be a god in a rock! Cholera or dysentery or similar disease! Despite being based on a very famous story whose parallels become very obvious as you read, this is not like anything else. I’m thrilled to see Ann doing something completely different and can’t wait to see what she does next, but in the meantime I sure enjoyed this.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems. This is very much a late-life collection, with thoughts about aging and death coming to the fore. I found it touching and valuable.

James E. Montgomery, Loss Sings. A slim chapbook about grief and translation. I would have liked for him to connect a few dots about different kinds of translation–to have some thoughts about translating for people who have or have not had a personal experience, or between those two groups–but what he had was interesting and did not outstay its welcome.

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems Volume One. I wish there was a Collected Works out, but right now I’m approximating as best I can with this. I just keep having the urge to immerse myself. I know I’m going to return to several of these poems at important life moments, and also at random, just because.

Suzanne Palmer, Finder. Discussed elsewhere.

Kate Quinn, The Alice Network. This is a female-centered spy novel that spans two world wars and an important bit thereafter. The things it’s doing and saying about spying illuminate other works in the genre by contrast. I found it interesting, exciting, worthwhile. Will definitely look for more of Quinn’s work.

Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota, eds., Uncanny Issue 27. Kindle. I had an essay in this, and I don’t review work I’m in.

Jo Walton, Lifelode. Reread. This is still one of my favorite domestic fantasies, and I love the worldbuilding that is interwoven with everything and yet not…centered in a traditionally questy fantasy novel way. I love that the shape of this book is a character shape and yet the worldbuilding is not neglected.

Fran Wilde, Riverland. Oh good heavens this book. I picked it up one Sunday afternoon and basically did not put it down until it’s gone. It has so many things I love, glass and rivers and family relationships, and it is breathtaking in its handling of incredibly difficult things happening to its young protagonists. The way that the heroine both internalizes and fights the bad things that are happening in her life is so human and so real and cuts like broken glass. Highly recommended, but with care to pick your day so that you can handle the intensity of this book.

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