I will skip the laments about not blogging more regularly and get to the book talk. It has been a pretty good reading year so far! I feel I should be reading less from the library and more from my TBR, but it was ever thus.
- Rae Armantrout, Itself These poems were pretty baffling, but I enjoyed the experience of bafflement. If you read a bit about Armantrout and the Language poets you might see why.
- Billy Ray Belcourt, This Wound is a World Part of my goal of reading more Indigenous writers this year. These poems insist on embodiment in the face of erasure, on desire as resistence to alienation.
- Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings I read this after Oliver’s death, which made me realize how important she was to many of my friends. I liked her deep attention to the natural world and thought she mostly avoided sentimentality while writing about themes that risk it, but I’m not a new devotee.
Fantasy and Science Fiction:
- Katherine Arden, The Bear and the Nightingale I enjoyed this first in a fantasy trilogy that draws on medieval Russian history and folklore. It starts slowly (before the heroine is born!), which I found frustrating at first, but I came to appreciate the deep, rich world-building that enabled. The fantasy elements emerge so gradually that I bought into them completely.
- Martha Wells, Exit Strategy The last Murderbot novella. I didn’t love it as much as some of the earlier ones, because I like M/Murderbot encountering new characters and this focuses on wrapping up plot lines. But the ending was strong, as Murderbot continues to figure out who it is and wants to be (not human, and who can blame it!).
Melange des genres 😉
- Charlie Adhara, The Wolf at the Door Male/male romantic suspense with werewolves! Lots of people recommended this, and though I don’t care much for paranormal, werewolves are the paranormal beings I like best. Here a werewolf is paired with a new (human) agent in the FBI offshoot tasked with dealing with werewolf crimes, who doesn’t yet know much about wolves–and what he does know may not be accurate. Will they overcome their perfectly reasonable mutual mistrust to forge a working and romantic partnership? Well of course, this being the kind of book it is! And I very much enjoyed watching them work things out and learn to communicate. I also appreciated that Adhara directly addressed the prejudice and injustice involved when policing “the other,” a community the police don’t understand or identify. I thought she did that well without falling into the trap of making werewolves symbols of real-life minority groups–it seemed more like she is extending what she’s observed in real life into her imagined world (which is also our world, with all its flaws, plus werewolves). Too often romances–or any pop culture–with police or military heroes don’t address these problems. This was the most pure fun I had reading in the last few weeks, and kept me company in the worst days of a nasty cold. There’s a second book out, and a third coming in April, and I will most definitely be reading them.
- Jane Harper, Force of Nature I didn’t love this as much as Harper’s debut, The Dry, but it kept me turning pages. She’s very good at evoking the menace of her wilderness settings.
- Margaret Millar, Vanish in an Instant I read this review, thought it sounded good, and found the ebook was cheap. Done! I was intrigued by the noirish tone in a small-town, domestic setting, without some larger underlying corruption. There’s more inexpensive Millar out there, and I plan to try some.
- Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (audiobook read by Robin Miles) As the subtitle suggests, George and Martha Washington don’t come out of this story well: they did their best to recapture Judge, and also schemed to evade a Philadelphia law that would have freed the enslaved people they brought from Mount Vernon after a six months’ residence in the city. There’s a lot about the Washingtons, who left far more documentary evidence than Judge. And there’s inevitably much speculation about what Judge “would have” or “must have” known/thought/felt. But Dunbar also draws on a couple of interviews Judge did with abolitionist newspapers late in her life. What emerges is a rich portrait of the world of free and enslaved Black people between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Dunbar makes Judge the center of this story, not her owners, and we fully understand her desire to be free.