Books read, early May

Gavin Chappell, translator, The Saga of the Volsungs and Other Stories. More legendary saga weirdness. So much to work with here.

Nino Cipri, Finna. This novella about evil wormhole Ikeas is…maybe not the most relaxing thing to read when you’re dealing with home improvement woes? But compelling and fun and recommended and grandmaful.

P. Djeli Clark, The Haunting of Tram Car 015. This is a fast-paced, fun novella in the same world as some of Clark’s previous work. The world is clearly delineated quickly so you can dive into the story. Beautifully done.

Zoraida Cordova, Incendiary. Toward the very beginning of this book, I said to a friend that it was mainly good for its world-building because its plot was very YA-fantasy-standard, and ten pages later something happened that entirely turned that on its head. There was a turn for the more expected toward the very end, but in general this is not doing exactly the same thing as you might expect, and also the worldbuilding is fun.

David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialist World. This is a terrible title. Epstein is not opposite to specialization in this book, he’s opposed to trying to get people to specialize exclusively or at extremely young ages. And he has a lot of data about how trying to make your two-year-old into the prodigy of your choice is not going to work particularly well, with side trips extolling the virtues of intellectual freedom on an interpersonal/emotional level. The ending sort of wandered, and I think I am not the target audience for this book, as I have long been a proponent of Letting Kids (And Also Adults) Mess Around Trying Stuff. But if you are also such a proponent and want bolstering for your arguments, here it is.

Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. This is exactly what it says on the tin, no more and no less. If you want to sort out more of what was going on in the Balkans when, this is a very straightforward version of that. If you’re looking for the quirky weird corners of history, this is not the book, but if you want a basis for putting the quirky weird corners of history into context when you find them later, this is a reasonable place to start.

Micaiah Johnson, The Space Between Worlds. Discussed elsewhere.

Janet Malcolm, Forty-One False Starts: Essays On Artists and Writers. The titular essay was particularly engaging here, but there was a lot of varied material that interested me, in the “oh, and here’s another thing” way of good essay collections.

John Pollack, The Pun Also Rises. A new acquaintance at ConFusion talked about this book, which was written by a competitive pun champion. Which is apparently a thing! And this book gives examples of how that works! But also he goes into the history of puns and their function and reception. It’s short and, well, punny. I got a copy for me and a copy for a dear friend so that we would both have this experience, like it or not.

Kate Quinn, The Serpent and the Pearl. If you thought, okay, I want some Borgias, but their actual history is not melodramatic enough, what if an historical fiction writer made them more melodramatic, this is the book for you. I kept reading it for the cook, and eventually the cook also got swept into melodrama. This is also not so much a story as the first chunk of story with a completely unresolved ending. The sequels are out, so at least you can go on with them if you like–and I know that this will sound great to some people, it would sound great to me in some moods and I read the whole thing. But the last bit went far enough over the top that I don’t know that I’ll be reading the sequel right away.

Molly Tanzer, Creatures of Charm and Hunger. Also a cliffhanger ending, but more resolved and satisfying, for me at least. This is the third in its series, and you’ll get things out of it if you’ve read the first two–there was a moment of “oh no oh no [character] run away” that came specifically because I have read the first one. But I do think it would work reasonably if you didn’t want the first ones and just started here, because each book is set in a different era with different central characters. This one brings the diabolists up to WWII.

Martha Wells, Network Effect. It’s Murderbot! In a full-length novel! It is what Murderbot in a full-length novel should be. While this is the first full-length Murderbot novel, it’s not the first Murderbot book, so go read the others and then wallow in this. Wallow.

F. C. Yee, The Iron Will of Genie Lo. This is also a sequel, a YA inspired by Journey to the West. It is so. Much. Fun. I love Genie and Yunie and all the other characters. I tore through this on a very stressful day and it was just the perfect thing, and you might need it if you ever have a stressful day too.

Jane Yolen, Curse of the Thirteenth Fey. This is the fairy backstory to Sleeping Beauty, with fairy family and fairy culture and fairy politics. You know where it’s going, but it’s still fun getting there.

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