What I read: November 2017

My favorites of the month were:

  • The Stone Sky
  • Patina
  • The Tiger’s Daughter
  • Jonesy

I had a bit of a reading explosion right after the wedding, but since then I’ve been sick for weeks and struggling to focus on reading at all. So we’ll see how this month shapes up.

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I got married! And other reasons I haven’t been here

I haven’t been posting, because I haven’t been doing much reading, because my time has been almost entirely preoccupied with getting ready to get married and then with actually getting married! It was a really wonderful weekend, full of so many special moments and people. The photos above are from my sister (on the left) and our photographer (on the right).

Anyway, trying to post here when I hadn’t read anything new and didn’t have anything interesting to say was stressing me out a lot, so I ended up taking a step back. But in the nine days since the wedding, I’ve read like six books so there is hope for new blogging soon! In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and enjoying lately. I’m in the middle of The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera and really liking it. It reminds me a bit, in a good way, of one of my top books of the year, The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar.

P.S. Apologies to those of you who have now been bombarded with wedding photos a bunch of times.

P.P.S. I made my bouquet and included chrysanthemums as a Harriet Vane reference because of course I did.

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The Wolf Hour by Sara Lewis Holmes

This post is part of the Wolf Hour blog tour, organized by Tanita S. Davis over at Finding Wonderland. You can check out Tanita’s interview with Sara Lewis Holmes and Charlotte’s review and interview now, and keep an eye out for the other posts during October!

Welcome, my little lambs, to the Puszcza. It’s an ancient forest, a keeper of the deepest magic, where even the darkest fairy tales are real. Here, a Girl is not supposed to be a woodcutter, or be brave enough to walk alone. Here, a Wolf is not supposed to love to read, or be curious enough to meet a human. And here, a Story is nothing like the ones you read in books, for the Witch can make the most startling tales come alive. All she needs is …
A Girl from the village,
A Wolf from the forest,
& A Woodcutter with a nice, sharp axe.

So take care, little lambs, if you step into these woods. For in the Puszcza, it is always as dark as the hour between night and dawn — the time old folk call the Wolf Hour. If you lose your way here, you will be lost forever, your Story no longer your own. You can bet your bones.

The Wolf Hour is a fascinating and odd book, although I don’t mean odd in a negative sense here. I often don’t enjoy fairy tale mashups (as opposed to fairy tale retellings, which I do often love) but Holmes has woven in some of the things I like best about fairy tales: the strange logic, the sense of foreboding, the vivid imagery. So, despite the fact that this story contains strands of several different fairy tales, it feels more like one complete in itself.

Set in a small Polish town, outside the great forest called the puszcza, The Wolf Hour is the story of Magia the woodcutter’s daughter, who longs to be her father’s apprentice and help her family survive. It is the story of three pigs. It is the story of a wolf named Martin. But it is also the story of a woman named Miss Grand, and of Magia’s family. In this book, Story is a powerful force, and one that is not entirely benign. Once you’re part of a Story, you’re in it for better or worse.

One of the things I liked about this book was how complicated the characters felt. Although fairy tales can sometimes feel simplistic, here Lewis doesn’t allow any of her characters to simply be good or bad. At first, we encounter them more as types than as people, but gradually they are shaded in and become much more complex. This included a revelation that I found personally a bit shocking and even upsetting; I wonder if a kid reader would find it more or less so. From Miss Grand to Magia herself, we see almost everyone in this book in shades of grey.

I did personally find that the pacing was a bit odd, since the story jumps ahead by several years at one point. But overall, I felt this one was very successful at recreating the feeling of a fairy tale, with fresh themes and approaches. Magia seems very alone for much of the story, without anyone to guide or mentor her. And yet, by the end the place she has found for herself feels earned and right. She and the other characters are caught in someone else’s story for a time, and they have to find their own ways out. I think this one will resonate with confident readers, especially those who are ready for some fraught plotting and moral complexity.

Book source: review copy from author

Book information: Arthur Levine Books, 2017; middle grade fantasy

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Glimpse of Augusts past

With what is now over eleven years of blogging experience, it can be easy sometimes to write posts and then never think about them again. I’m planning to semi-regularly link to old blog posts in the month they were first published and thought I might as well start now.

2010

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

The Exiles by Hilary McKay

2012

Books of a Feather (three books I had mixed feelings about)

2013

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

2014

Two middle grade books from Filipino writers

Characters in exile (two books by Andrea K Höst)

2015

Books I’d assign for Worldbuilding 202

2016

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer

Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana

Josephine Tey Reading Notes: The Daughter of Time

Josephine Tey Reading Notes: All the other ones

Josephine Tey Reading Notes: A Shilling for Candles

Favorite scifi from the last five years

Landscape and Character

“One the one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope”: why I love Galadriel

(who were you, 2016 Maureen??)

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August 2017 releases I’m excited for

A quiet month, publishing-wise, but some books I’m really, really excited to read. Especially the new William Alexander & N.K. Jemisin titles!

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

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All the books I read in July

July was the worst reading month for me so far this year, with only 13 completed books. (Although I expect November, and maybe October will also be pretty slim.) It was a busy month on a number of levels, and I have to admit that several of the books I picked up didn’t do much for me. However, I am pretty pleased with the ones I did end up finishing.

My favorites this month were:

  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami
  • Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens
  • Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee

At some point, I want to write a whole post about Tor.com’s novella line and how fascinating the different novellas are. I find that most of them I appreciate rather than loving, perhaps because for me the novella is a tough length. However, I absolutely loved Binti: Home, and thought Lightning in the Blood was a good follow up to Brennan’s first Varekai story.

My reading plans for August are a bit vague, but I’m hoping I’ll manage to either finish or set down some of the books that have been lingering on my to-read shelf. Right now, I’m just a bit into The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and cautiously liking it.

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White rabbiting my way through 2017

I am so behind on everything, especially blogging. I don’t want to write yet another post about all my blogging guilt, because it is what it is at this point. My previous schedule was getting hard to stick to even before last November, and a combination of happy personal events and horrifying political events have made reading and writing here more difficult.

My current intent is to try to have two posts a week up here, but–happy news alert!–I’m getting married in November, so we’ll see how long that intent holds up under the strain of wedding preparations. (Probably most of you have heard that news one way or another in a different venue, but anyway, yes! Here’s a photo.)

July has been a very quiet reading month for me, largely because my mom and fiance’ were both in town, but also because I’ve been in a bit of a slump. Last night I sat down and did some dedicated reading and it was pretty great!

Anyway, hopefully more here soon!

 

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