Recent Reading: January (and some February)

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.

Some poetry: 

  • 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.


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9 Responses to Recent Reading: January (and some February)

  1. BookerTalk says:

    It’s so easy to get tempted in the library even when you have stacks of books at home….

  2. Rohan Maitzen says:

    That is a lot of reading! Werewolves, huh? You do make the book sound fun.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      It’s the kind of book I have to be in the right mood for, and I caught it at just the right time. Would that be a new romance frontier for you? (The sex scenes are pretty graphic but the gore is mostly not).

      • Rohan Maitzen says:

        It definitely would be, and I’m not sure I’m really up for the experiment, despite my belated but total conversion to the Buffyverse (including its werewolves). The threshold for the suspension of disbelief may be higher for me on the page than on screen – for instance, I’m about half way through Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, which looks perfect for me (Oxford + vampire romance!) but it just isn’t clicking. (Of course, that may be the book’s fault and not the premise itself.)

  3. Sunita says:

    A good month indeed! I really have to get to Murderbot. I’ve been keeping it aside for a time when I need just that type of reading experience, and then I forget I have them. I loved the first one when I read it, but I think I need to go back and read it again before moving on.

  4. I think I need to reread the full Murderbot series before I can make a call about how I feel about Exit Strategy. The main thing I’m sure of is that I’m excited for more Murderbot, and so so glad that Martha Wells is writing more about it.

  5. KeiraSoleore says:

    I need to try some Mary Oliver. I had made a mental note when I saw that she passed away and outpouring of reminisces about people’s experiences with her poetry. Now seeing her on your list is just the impetus I need.

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