I brought a lot of books home to read over break, then spent my time knitting, on the computer, or eating cookies standing in front of the fire. Some of them were recommendations for the boy, though.
Erin E Moulton, Chasing the Milky Way. Too many bounces at the end, a little too... I don’t know, the end just didn’t work for me. The rest is good, though.
Kelly Barnhill, Iron-Hearted Violet. Don’t look at the illustrations. In fact, if you give this book to a kid, particularly a girl, find some way to cover them. Because a book about a girl who thinks she can’t be a proper princess because she’s ugly... should not have illustrations of a beautiful girl. I could not tell the difference between the ugly princess and the beautiful one except by hair color and that the beautiful one had a horrid dress.
But you should definitely give this book to people. It has really interesting worldbuilding and the way it’s about story makes it okay that the politics are oversimple.
Julia Mary Gibson, Copper Magic. Well done, wrenching, and not quite believable. I had trouble accepting that a girl who so carefully made sure she seemed to deserve magic would carelessly Spoiler, though it did serve the plot. Likewise, making up an artifact and a belief system.
Note: A wise and knowledgeable friend has corrected me on the artifact. So this entire section is no longer relevant. I still have thoughts about it on a craft level, but that's 'do this better' not 'stop doing this'.
To unpack that last: so in Hild, one of the really interesting parts is the gemaecce system, where upon reaching womanhood, a pair of girls are bound together for most of their lives. One usually is a servant or servant-class for the other (Hild is not about the common people who have nothing to do with politics even by proximity) and it's a huge kinship thing, possibly more so than marriage. And it is completely made up.
This annoyed me a little, but then I realized that we don't know much about seventh-century Britain, and what we do know, Nicola Griffith knows quite a lot of. We do not know that gemaecce existed or what there was for kinship. But our system of kinship, with blood-family, marriage, some godparenthood, and otherwise a bunch of individuals, is also a thing, not an absence of a thing. So in a historical void, where we don't know what systems existed, it is reasonable to make one up that fits the story and the history. It's sort of like extrapolating the decorations on a ruined church. Bare stone, carved stone, paint, mosaic, glass, plaster, wood, there is something there, and we don't assume that because we don't know what it is, the church was nothing but rock.
This completely does not work for Copper Magic because you know what we know more about than seventh-century Britain? Native Americans, particularly those who are still living and active in the book. You do not get to make up an artifact and a culture surrounding it. You really don't get to make up an artifact and a culture surrounding it when the book's core is about exorcising and absolving that time you found a Native American skeleton and your grandpa wired it to a board for display. You're not filling in a void but plastering over known history and culture-- extant culture, very likely-- and that is not okay.
To recap, I have now learned about Great Lakes copperwork. I fell back on my preconceptions of What Native Americans Did rather than doing proper research, and that is a failure on my part.
Sabrina Jeffries, When the Rogue Returns, How the Scoundrel Seduces. I had no memory of the first book in this quartet... until I realized, partway through the second book, that it’s one I think of more frequently than usual, just not the way I usually think of romances. Still good, still interesting.
Diana Wynne Jones, Charmed Life. Oh, the adults in this book.
I wanted to walk in there and show them what awful people they were.
The adults in this book. Really. The adults.
I just don’t feel good after reading that.
Elizabeth Hoyt, Darling Beast. Cheered me right up.
Sharon Shinn, The Turning Season. I needed something... I don’t know, I am apparently diving into fiction like it’s my job (well, it is, but not this kind of fiction) and everything else on the stack was potentially scary. Or something. Perfectly suitable book here, ignore the science of shapeshifters (I mean, where would you put all that spare DNA?) and the end, well, that’s the end, plus the sexism of how shapeshifters are treated is kind of a thing, but I’m glad I read it.
JD Robb/Nora Roberts, Festive in Death. If you think this is seasonally appropriate, you are right. Each new book makes me want to reread all the old ones. It’s weird to realize I started something like thirty books ago, out of order. I still want to copyedit everything and add dialogue tags because whoa, Nora Roberts, I seriously got lost in those exchanges.
On the other hand, while the words ‘date rape’ were used to describe a crime, every single time, it was treated as rape. That is good.
Carol Berg, Dust and Light. If you look at my shelves, you will see that I am in fact a fan of Berg’s books. (Plus I can remember their titles and ask for them as gifts. Important, that.) Yet I managed to forget that she generally works in sets, so the end-that-is-not-endy of this book surprised and threw me. Boy do I wish it had ended otherwise. There’s a trope Berg has used before and I am full of the nopes for it in general. And I like most of the tropes Berg has used before! I am all about the tropes Berg has used before!
What’s interesting is that Lucian falls into the category of Just Wants to Be Good, which is not a fun category for a protag, much less POV. But he’s a complex and interesting character beyond that motivation, so he almost doesn’t fit the category.
Kelly Barnhill, The Mostly True Story of Jack. Another book where I wanted to sigh and take the adults aside because dude, you are a grown-up. But it wasn’t as bad as Charmed Life. It’s possible nothing could be that bad. I also don’t think the ‘mostly’ thread hung together well. And there’s iffy subtext.
Did I enjoy it, though? Oh yeah. There are a few single lines I wish I could quote to you but they’re best in context, the magic is weird and scary in exactly the way I think I would have liked as a kid-- or hated, depending on the scary-- I mean, disappearing, that’s one thing. Disappearing so hard your family forgets you forever? That’s scary.
Brenna Yovanoff, Fiendish. One of the things I like best about Yovanoff’s work is that her YA isn’t bouncy discover-secret-world YA-- there’s no hidden heritage, no conspiracies, no feeling that everything is fine and suddenly you realize you’re living in a dystopia. Her characters already know that magic exists and that there are consequences to being a magic user. I think that the resolution to this was too easy, but everything up to there was great.
Seanan McGuire, The Winter Long. The foreword to this says that she’s planned this since book one, and yes, that is apparent. Now I want to reread them all knowing that they’re not going to be urban fantasy. Eight books, totally doable, particularly since it’s winter break.
Anne Lamott, Small Victories. What I knew about Lamott going in: she is famous in a literary sort of way, she has dreadlocks, she wrote Bird by Bird and I loved that one even though oh dude the privilege of some parts of it.
I would have enjoyed this more had I read it a bit at a time with a week in between. Instead, I felt let down. There isn’t enough specificity for me-- because I’m used to blogging?-- and there wasn’t actually a throughline or even dates on the essays, which included a lot of older material. I’d rather have something more focused, but that might not be what Lamott does. Her nonfiction is soft-focus, and everyone likes the Impressionists best because the paintings are just pretty.