Books read, late May

Einat Admony and Janna Gur, Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking. I leafed through this. It looks reasonably good about spice blends and techniques, especially if you’re new to cooking with Middle Eastern flavors.

Chaz Brenchley, The Bone Mask Boys, Chapters 1-3. Kindle. The beginning of a new serial, set on the same canal-laced Mars as his Crater School stories but with a very different tone and plot type, much darker and more procedural.

Oliver Bullough, Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus. I wish this had been more “history and traditions of Caucasus people” and less “how Caucasus people have been screwed over by Russians, repeatedly,” and yet one sees, in context, how the latter is important. I feel like the ethnic composition of this region is fractally interesting; the more I learn about it, the more I think, oh, but this has just scratched the surface really.

Zen Cho, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. Kindle. This was a frothy romance novella that I picked up because I like Cho’s other things, and it was great fun and allowed the titular Jade to have fun and not be punished for it.

Agatha Christie, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Kindle. I picked this up expecting it not to demand much of me, and lo, that’s what I got. I was a little surprised at how sketched in things were, how little detail–it’s a very bare bones style. Anyway, Poirot is here, Hastings is here, random startling prejudice for no plot-related reason is here–mostly fun if you are braced for that last category, over quickly, but not something I would say anyone simply must read.

Sarah Churchwell, Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby. I was grateful that Churchwell was very careful to say that the murder trial she was writing about, in parallel with writing about F. Scott Fitzgerald in this book, was not meant to be an exact copy or direct source of The Great Gatsby, that she was very very clear on not overstating her claims. At the same time I felt like it left the book a little disjointed, here are two things sort of nearish each other, and it didn’t come together wonderfully, it just sort of sat next to each other. Fine but not thrilling.

Seth Dickinson, The Tyrant Baru Cormorant. Discussed elsewhere.

Katharine Duckett, Miranda in Milan. This is the aftermath of The Tempest, Miranda’s return to a society she never knew as an adult and all the politics and magic that follow thereby. A charming novella.

Carlos Hernandez, Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe. I was so excited for this book and it did not disappoint. My favorite parallel-universe-wrangling Miami duo are back, with just as many wisecracks and tugs on the heartstrings as before. If you haven’t read Sal and Gabi Break the Universe yet, go back and start there, it’s a treat. But so is this. Universes are so much trouble!

Kathleen Jamie, Surfacing. Beautiful essays about place. I went and put everything else she’s written on my list after I read this. So satisfying.

Sim Kern, Depart, Depart! Discussed elsewhere.

Steven Koblik, Sweden’s Development from Poverty to Affluence, 1750-1970. If you don’t want what it says on the tin, don’t read this book, because it is not doing anything else. If you’re interested in the Hats vs. the Caps (if in fact you know what the heck that means), this may be a book for you. It was clearly published very shortly after the period covered, so it’s not that anything magical happened in 1970.

Don Kulick, A Death in a Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea. Kulick goes into a great deal of detail about his interactions with a village that had a unique language when he first came into contact with them. He’s very interesting about process–about literally how, as a procedure, people shift from using their own language with their friends, their families, their children, to…not. To using their larger language’s common tongue even without enforced mandates that they do so. He is much clearer than most white anthropologists about his own humanity, talking about when and how he left the village on various occasions, what he and the villagers give each other, etc. rather than positioning himself as a great objective authority. A lot to think about here.

Rose Macaulay, Noncombatants and Others. Kindle. I am astonished that she managed to get something this complex and thoughtful and non-jingoist published about the Great War in the middle of the Great War. The characters are thrashing around trying to make art and often failing and trying to cope with major social upheaval and quite often failing at that too and it’s amazing. There are a few offhanded prejudiced remarks/idioms but nothing plot-critical that I recall, so it’s more a “this is a novel written in 1916” warning than a “this author is deeply invested in this toxicity” warning–and at least to my way of thinking (your mileage, of course, will vary), it is very much worth enduring them, because the things Macaulay is invested in doing are phenomenal and not much seen elsewhere. Even now.

Susan Palwick, All Worlds Are Real. A thoughtful and big-hearted short story collection. As I would expect from Palwick.

Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe, eds., The Mythic Dream. This volume of myth retellings is a generally good read with several exceptional standouts. My favorite stories were by Arkady Martine, Carlos Hernandez, Indrapramit Das, and Amal El-Mohtar.

Jonathan Rosenberg, Dangerous Melodies: Classical Music in America from the Great War through the Cold Wars. Well, this was depressing. It’s about the politics of who can get jobs and who can get played in terms of the two World Wars and also the Cold War. It’s really useful to know this stuff but not, shall we say, an uplifting experience.

Veronica Roth, Chosen Ones. I am particularly fond of books about ramification. Okay, so you’re the chosen ones and you defeated the Dark Lord: what next? This book is entirely made of What Next. Its superheroes are struggling, and the things they discover in the process of sorting their own issues get pretty intense.

Patrick Samphire, Shadow of a Dead God. Discussed elsewhere.

William Shakespeare, Richard III. Kindle. Reread. This was specifically for a novella I’m contemplating, so it was the kind of reread that comes with eccentric note-taking.

Lynne and Michael Thomas, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 34. Kindle. Favorites from another strong issue include “High in the Clean Blue Air” by Emma T√∂rzs and “A Being Together Amongst Strangers” by Arkady Martine.

Nghi Vo, The Empress of Salt and Fortune. I particularly liked the questioning, probing structure of this fantasy novella as it unfolded, a blossom structure as understanding grew.

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