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Review copy provided by the publisher. I also have the privilege to know the author a bit socially.





We've now had several decades--all of my lifetime, in fact--with fairy tale variations, reconceptions, recreations as a major subgenre. So the question about a collection like this can sometimes be: is there anything new to say here? Is it possible to fracture a fairy tale in a way that is not in itself a predictable part of canon at this point?





Happily the answer here is not just yes, but "yes and I will even show you a little of how it's done behind the scenes." I was pleasantly surprised to reach the end of the collection and find not only notes on each story but a poem to go with each--sometimes very directly, sometimes with glancing notes on the same theme. Many of these stories are from previous decades, and Yolen takes time in the notes to talk about how she thought of them then--particularly interesting when they span a cultural shift of awareness around who gets to retell tales from whom.





I'd come upon some of these stories before in other collections of Jane's, but I'm never sorry to see "Granny Rumple" reprinted--it changed my world when I first read it, and I think it can do the same for writers and readers who encounter it for the first time now. Jane's warmth and humor permeate these tales, and breaking familiar stories like Snow White and Cinderella in more than one way in one collection gives us even more perspective on what these tales can still do.


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Review copy provided by the publisher.





This is the last in a trilogy, and it is all about consequences. Regular readers know what a sucker I am for consequences.





Years have passed since the events of Amberlough and Armistice. The world is not perfect--there are still war zones--but people have started to get through the very basics of rationing and rebuilding and into questions of who should be honored and who demonized in their recent turbulent history. For teenagers like Lillian and Jinadh's son Stephen, the war and occupation are increasingly dim and distant memories, an obsession of adults. For the adults, it's still all too close and all too real--especially when parts of the past don't stay hidden in the jungle where they previously were.





Frankly, most of these characters are exhausted. Their old coping mechanisms are imperfectly adjusted to their new circumstances, which keep shifting anyway. None of them seem to have had even five minutes to put their feet up, breathe, and look at some nice trees or a sunset or something. Their world is relentless. That makes Amnesty a completely appropriate book for right now--and also sometimes a difficult one. There's solace here, but it's circumscribed, constrained; there are ways forward, but none of them without cost. There is hope, but not for the things the characters used to hope for. And there are people trying to do better. Always, always, amidst rubble and chaos and machination, there are people trying to do better.


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Claire Eliza Bartlett, We Rule the Night. Discussed elsewhere.





Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls. Reread. It was interesting to revisit this middle-aged coming-of-age tale after it's had more than a decade to influence the rest of the field. I still love the worldbuilding and the characters, but it was important to keep in mind how much of an influence it's been--that it looks a little less groundbreaking in retrospect than it actually is because other people have used that soil. Such a fun book, such a good book--and I'm so glad we've been thinking and writing about it since.





Pamela Dean, The Dubious Hills. Reread. One of my favorite books ever, and basically I will use any excuse to reread it. The way the worldbuilding and the characterization intertwine always makes me think...and then I always get pulled into the story. Go read this book. Go read this book again.





Emilie Demant Hatt, By the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends. Discussed elsewhere.





Nicola Griffith, Hild. Reread. This is so immersive for me and so lovely and all the details and...it's just so easy to slide into this cultural mindset. I hope that Griffith meant it that she's writing more of St. Hilda's story because I want that so much.





Barbara Hambly, Cold Bayou. The latest Benjamin January mystery. This is a perfectly serviceable entry in the series but not one of the standouts, and it's a terrible place to start because it relies so much on you already knowing and caring about the characters. There's not even a murder until halfway through the book, so if you don't already want to spend time with these characters, go a bit further back in the series and try there. If you do--it further elaborates on some key relationships, particularly with January's mother.





Larry Hammer, trans., Ice Melts in the Wind: The Seasonal Poems of the Kokinshu. Discussed elsewhere.





Beth Hilgartner, A Murder for Her Majesty. Reread. After so many years. My friend Ginger happened to mention this in passing, and I almost certainly lit up visibly, because I loved it as a child and did not remember the title. (My booklog only goes back to age 23 or 24 reliably. This is a source of sorrow sometimes.) There is a girl who disguises herself as a boy to run from murderers and does not do the sword fighting! No! She sings in a cathedral choir! There is Elizabethan roughhousing! There are Latin mottos iced onto cookies! There is music theory! I loved this book so much, and now I know which one it is, hurrah. Also...it is pretty anachronistic, now that I have somewhat more extensive knowledge of the Elizabethan era than I did when I was 8. So one must be braced. Still. Eeeee.





Ann Leckie, The Raven Tower. Extensive thoughts about what it's like to be a god in a rock! Cholera or dysentery or similar disease! Despite being based on a very famous story whose parallels become very obvious as you read, this is not like anything else. I'm thrilled to see Ann doing something completely different and can't wait to see what she does next, but in the meantime I sure enjoyed this.





Ursula K. Le Guin, Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems. This is very much a late-life collection, with thoughts about aging and death coming to the fore. I found it touching and valuable.





James E. Montgomery, Loss Sings. A slim chapbook about grief and translation. I would have liked for him to connect a few dots about different kinds of translation--to have some thoughts about translating for people who have or have not had a personal experience, or between those two groups--but what he had was interesting and did not outstay its welcome.





Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems Volume One. I wish there was a Collected Works out, but right now I'm approximating as best I can with this. I just keep having the urge to immerse myself. I know I'm going to return to several of these poems at important life moments, and also at random, just because.





Suzanne Palmer, Finder. Discussed elsewhere.





Kate Quinn, The Alice Network. This is a female-centered spy novel that spans two world wars and an important bit thereafter. The things it's doing and saying about spying illuminate other works in the genre by contrast. I found it interesting, exciting, worthwhile. Will definitely look for more of Quinn's work.





Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota, eds., Uncanny Issue 27. Kindle. I had an essay in this, and I don't review work I'm in.





Jo Walton, Lifelode. Reread. This is still one of my favorite domestic fantasies, and I love the worldbuilding that is interwoven with everything and yet not...centered in a traditionally questy fantasy novel way. I love that the shape of this book is a character shape and yet the worldbuilding is not neglected.





Fran Wilde, Riverland. Oh good heavens this book. I picked it up one Sunday afternoon and basically did not put it down until it's gone. It has so many things I love, glass and rivers and family relationships, and it is breathtaking in its handling of incredibly difficult things happening to its young protagonists. The way that the heroine both internalizes and fights the bad things that are happening in her life is so human and so real and cuts like broken glass. Highly recommended, but with care to pick your day so that you can handle the intensity of this book.


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Translated by Barbara Sjoholm. Review copy obtained through a long chain too strange to get into.
This is the translation of a 1922 work by a Danish woman who traveled extensively in the Norden collecting stories. She also made some woodcuts related to the stories, which are reproduced here--one of the places where black-and-white reproduction absolutely does a great job for the material.

It matters that Demant Hatt was a woman in this field. It matters a lot. Because the people she had access to hear stories from, the stories she got to hear, were much more evenly balanced between men and women both as tellers and as characters. Compared to other compilations of Saami [both spellings are used, this is the one I favor, both are fine though] tales, this is a far more accurate representation of range.

And it's got so many great things. It's got girls with agency to spare; it's got feisty old ladies; it's got reindeer and murder and weird northern birds. It's got origin stories. It's got "we don't know anyone from OUR band who would do this but we HEARD of a girl who did this" stories. I was so excited when I heard this book existed, and it did not in any way disappoint. If you're interested in Arctic peoples, or even if you just like folklore, this is a must-have.
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This is the latest in a recurring series! For more about the series, please read the original post on Marta Randall, or subsequent posts on Dorothy Heydt, Barbara Hambly, Jane Yolen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sherwood Smith, Nisi Shawl, Pamela Dean, Gwyneth Jones , and Caroline Stevermer.





I swear I'm not going to shift to making this series all about people I'm personally friends with...but neither am I going to neglect people whose work fits the series concept just because they happen to be good company for lunch.





The size and variety of Pat's oeuvre gives lots of room for variety, and obviously some works will stand out as more favorite than others. My obscure faves are the stories in the shared Liavek worlds, handled deftly and now available in Points of Departure along with Pamela Dean's stories in the same world. The handling of wry humor, family dynamics, and worldbuilding in these stories charmed me from the first one I encountered, but they're even better as a set.





I recently reread a better-known favorite, Dealing With Dragons, which reminded me of some of the things I love about Pat's work--the wry tone, as above, perhaps obviously. But also the way that women have a wide variety of relationships with each other. The first page made me think, oh, I don't remember this very well, is it going to be one of those books where golden-haired girls who like embroidery are Bad and you have to be Not Like Them to protag? And I should have remembered that it was Pat, she was not going to do that, and sure enough there's room for a wide range of skills and interests--and for a wide range of reactions to and interactions with each other. This was ground-breaking for so many "why don't you ever see a heroine who" conversations, and it holds up so very well.





Just rereading one made me want to go back and reread the entire series. And also Sorcery and Cecelia. And also Snow White and Rose Red. It's like quicksand. But in a good way. It's like very complimentary quicksand that knows how to play the beats on a widely varied set of tropes...so percussionist quicksand...look, this is a good thing, I promise, let's get back to the dragons.


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Review copy provided by the author, who has been a friend on this here internet for many years.





This is the longest of the three volumes of translation I've read from Larry lately, but it follows roughly the same format: each poem has its translation and its original provided, with notes on context and any translation difficulties below. I find this format extremely congenial--and I had to laugh at one poem, where I was thinking, hmm, kinda clunky, and then Larry's note was about the awkwardness of the original. The joys of translation!





This is, again, the kind of book of poetry that both uses and is the source of heavily used tropes and even cliches in its genre. Cherry blossoms abound, but also particular birds, wisteria, chrysanthemums, falling leaves. The signifiers of the seasons are clearly determined--the question is what each individual poet does with them, and I really enjoyed having the examples that failed to distinguish themselves as well as the ones that succeeded, just on the grounds of context.


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Today I have a new essay published in Uncanny magazine! That Never Happened: Misplaced Skepticism and the Mechanisms of Suspension of Disbelief talks about Serena Williams, AOC, Galen, and teaching quantum mechanics.





Go, read, enjoy!


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Review copy provided by the publisher. Also the author is an online friend.

This is a debut novel of a kind of science fiction loads of my friends are constantly (no, CONSTANTLY) telling me they do not see enough. It's planets-and-aliens science fiction! It's got space stations and settlements and lots of divergence/diversity of human culture and a very big universe and spaceships that think and people disagreeing about who counts as people! Adventure! Excitement! We may know that a Jedi craves not these things, but that doesn't seem to stop the majority of my social circle.

Well, here you go, friends, here's a one of these, and it is fun and satisfying and has an ending that leaves a lot of room without being maddeningly open. This is a book, not a chunk of story approximately book-shaped. Fergus Ferguson (under various aliases) and his allies (maybe friends? They're working on that?) unravel mysteries, fight bad guys, and come up with plans so zany they just might work.

Or not, but then something else needs to, and that's okay too.

I don't want to spoil too many elements of Finder, because turning a corner and finding I was not quite where I expected to be was part of the fun of this book. I will say that there are a lot of elements that I'm used to having set up for two, three, five books later, and while there is plenty of room in this universe for interesting stories, Palmer is not hoarding her ideas. She's giving us a fireworks-filled book. Or sometimes a tennis-ball-filled book. Um. Just go read it, okay? You'll find out.
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Full disclosure: we are friends who are represented by the same agent, and I got this review copy from passing it around among our agentsibs.

However.

I am entirely sure that I would love this book anyway, even if I'd never heard of Claire Eliza Bartlett before, because it is so full of things I love. The setting is a fantasy world version of WWII-era Russia, which is something I don't see nearly enough of--and then to make things even better, Claire draws on the real history of the Night Witches to create a group of girl witches--pilots, navigators, and engineers using this setting's magic to fly missions against the enemy.

Revna is the daughter of a supposed traitor to the Union, a man whose main crime is stealing waste scraps of "living metal" to fashion prosthetic legs for Revna herself. Linné is the general's daughter, spending years hiding in a regular regiment as a boy until she gets caught, dedicated to the Union. They find themselves in very different precarious situations within their very different worldviews, that lead to the same flight training, the same missions, the same perils.

It's as good as it sounds. It's better. It's full of varied and complicated relationships with a morally compromised homeland under siege. Friendships form in all permutations in a war zone: the shallow ones, the easy ones that find their own depth, the treacherous ones, the difficult ones that almost don't happen at all. Trust, friendship, and making your way through a situation with no clear answers are the heart of this book, and I love it.
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Mary Alexandra Agner, The -Ologists. This is a beautiful chapbook of poems focused on women who do science. Favorites included "Dark Matter" and "Song of Steel," but really I'm glad to have this entire thing. It's a tiny treasure.





Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. Reread. My records show that I haven't returned to this since it was new, and I find it holds up pretty darn well. There is some reliance on coincidence in the plot, and there are some places where favorite themes are quite transparent, but I still really enjoyed the world and the worldbuilding, and of course the characters. I am a sucker for setting inspired by medieval Spain in general, actually.





K.A. Doore, The Perfect Assassin. Discussed elsewhere.





Larry Hammer, trans., One Hundred People, One Poem Each. Discussed elsewhere.





Sam Hawke, City of Lies. This was a freebie in my WFC bag, and I didn't really know anything about it or its author. It's about poison and siege and trust and families, and I really thought it was fun. You might too.





Justina Ireland and Troy L. Wiggins, eds., Fiyah Issue 9. Kindle. Another very solid issue from the Fiyah team. I felt that Jonathan Kincaid's "The Ishologu" and Nicky Drayden's "The Rat King of Spanish Harlem" both really stood out.





Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle. Reread. Another book that holds up charmingly--I'm doing a project, and it's great, basically. Sophie's level-headed adventures delight me.





Kelly Jones, Murder, Magic, and What We Wore. This is a YA Regency fantasy featuring a heroine on the verge of penury, saving herself with her undiscovered dressmaking skill. It's a particularly interesting thing to read in close conjunction with Howl's Moving Castle, although Mary Robinette Kowal's glamourist series is a closer comparison point.





Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks. A glossary of regional terms for landscape features. Delightful, probably most useful if you own a copy to refer back to or are using it for a specific project. Still delightful, though.





Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire. Discussed elsewhere.





Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings and Bandwidth. These little dips into Oliver's work are great, but I find I'm wanting to immerse more, to treat it like a cold spring lake and get my head soaked with the shock of her poetry. We'll see if I can manage that; in the meantime this is what came in at the library.





James Rebanks, The Shepherd's Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape. I loved this. Loved. Rebanks is quite thoughtful about herding sheep and also about how our systems are sometimes inadequate for rural kids in ways that are different from the ways in which they're inadequate in general. But also lots of just plain vivid experience of herding. Very useful if a person happened to want to write a novella in a sheep farming village. You know, just. Hypothetically.





Mary Rickert, The Memory Garden. Reread. While this is still a beautiful book (mostly about women's relationships and flowers) on the second read, I find that it relied a bit more heavily on its revelations than I'd realized. Still not sorry I reread it.





Vandana Singh, Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories. Some of these stories are searingly great, others merely interesting--"merely"--but a Vandana Singh collection is basically always a good life choice.





Caroline Stevermer, Magic Below Stairs. Reread. I still feel like the ending privileges the nobles too much at the expense of the main characters, but I enjoyed the details of how the young servant's work fed into the magic plot and setting quite a lot, if anything more than the first time.





G. Willow Wilson et al, Ms. Marvel: Damage Per Second and Ms. Marvel: Mecca. These are not good graphic novels to read if you want a break from the horrors of modern politics--there is, for example, an image of a hate-filled attack on a mosque--but I still absolutely love Kamala Khan and am so glad to have these, knowing that they are going to take on issues of the current day, knowing that they will do a darn good job of that.





Patricia C. Wrede, Dealing With Dragons. Reread. And for the moment this is the last of "rereads that really held up." I had a moment quite early on when I didn't remember whether it was one of those books, that sneers at people for having blonde hair or liking domestic things, and then of course it wasn't, of course that's not what Pat was doing at all. It blew the Bechdel test out of the water before the said test was even formulated, and I think that all fantasy novel heroines should have best friends willing to try fireproofing spells with them. Yay.


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This is the latest in a recurring series! For more about the series, please read the original post on Marta Randall, or subsequent posts on Dorothy Heydt, Barbara Hambly, Jane Yolen, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sherwood Smith, Nisi Shawl, Pamela Dean and Gwyneth Jones.





This is also one of the times when I should put in a disclaimer that the person I'm writing about is a personal friend. She is! She is one of the nicest people in SFF. We even have a running commentary when we're trying to be positive that instead of complaining about what some other person in the field has screwed up, we should just send Caroline a fruit basket for being Caroline. (Caroline would have gotten so many fruit baskets, but I digress.)





We would be totally willing to keep Caroline around because she's a nice person, but it turns out that she also writes thoughtful, funny books that look carefully at characters who don't show up enough in fantasy worldbuilding. She iterates on this tendency: first young women of means, in Sorcery and Cecelia (co-written with Patricia C. Wrede), then bluestockings in A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, and finally to their young servant in Magic Below Stairs. Caroline is not content with one angle on overlooked fantasy ideas but insists on scooching herself--and her eager readers--around to find another.





Her work shines in passages both introspective and funny. Her characters can be thoughtful but also impulsive, in ways that make even the quieter plots an adventure--and they are by no means all quiet plots. One of the things that I think of when I think of Caroline's fiction is balance--emotional, tonal, plot, social focus--she has a beautiful ability to juggle it all without looking like she's juggling.


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Review copy provided by the author, who is a personal friend.





Arkady Martine has a lot to say about empires. Luckily for
the reader, she's very clear on the difference between an academic monograph--that's
her alter ego's job--and a space opera. A Memory Called Empire is full of
bombs, spaceships, intrigue, poisons, and neurological devices. It is also full
of thoughts about empire and its periphery, of how systems eat people and how
those people can resist--before death, and beyond it with their influence.





It's fun. It's thoughtful and action-packed and well-balanced, and there are friendships (with more than one outcome and more than one focus!) as well as a flirtation. The main character, Mahit Dzmare, is poised at exactly the line between knowledgeable and lost that's so much fun to read as she navigates a tense and dangerous diplomatic situation that's fascinating not only to her but to me. I easily tuned out hours of airport with this book. I love its barbarians and am fascinated by its empire.


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Review copy provided by the translator, who is a friend on this here internet for many years.





This is a famous and formative collection of Japanese poetry, first compiled in the 13th century and referenced often in the centuries since. There are names in this volume that have remained famous in the time since--there's a Sei Shonagon poem in here, and one by Murasaki Shikibu, and several emperors--but also there are names that are less famous even to someone who's studied Japanese literature. Looking at how that kind of compilation can end up assorted is fascinating.





The themes here are the expected ones because this volume did a great deal to set those expectations--so when there are lots of lovers crying into their sleeves, seasonal references, meeting in dreams, it's interesting to watch them develop. The layout is similar to the previous translation volume I read from Larry, where the original and the translation are both given, and also contextual translation notes that point out where something is wordplay in the original, what significance a location had, the sort of thing that's sometimes crucial and always set apart so it doesn't nag at the poem itself. The poems are all five line formal ones, all very brief, so this is not a long read but a very rewarding one all the same.


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Review copy provided by
our mutual agent. Also we're friends.





Every system, every
society, every government, has its drawbacks. People differ on what those are
and how to address them--in the real world. In too much fantasy, this
disagreement gets flattened out into pure antagonism: this is the obvious
problem, and if you're not at least sort of aligned with me on the solution,
you are The Baddie.





The Perfect Assassin
doesn't do that. Even in a system that features, well, secret assassins. And I
enjoy that a lot.





Amastan is an historian
by day, assassin by night. He and the others of his age group have been
training for years, learning the rules that keep them in check as well as the
skills that will be the difference between life and death for them and others.
But someone else isn't following those rules. Amastan and his friends discover
not only a corpse, but one whose jaani (spirit, more or less, sort of) has not
been properly laid to rest. This unexpected danger spurs him to find out more
about the people around him, and about the past he is supposed to be studying.





Amastan is a beautifully cautious protagonist. He thinks things through, he tries his best--and he still gets himself into heaps of trouble. You will never have the "UGH THINK THINGS THROUGH" problem here, because 'Stan does think things through--and the results are beautifully, humanly messy anyway. I was nearly late for a lunch meeting when I picked up this book, and it remained fun, exciting, and especially compelling throughout--for me, substantially because its protagonist is so well-drawn. Definitely recommended.


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Elizabeth Bear, Ancestral Night. I read this space opera in draft and loved it then. I love it now. And not just for the Mantis Cop! Although: Mantis Cop. Seriously there is fun with space travel, there is fun with alien species, there is, most importantly, fun with the human brain! How do we become civilized people, what alters free will and what is a means of asserting it...there are some huge questions in this book, and also loving chosen family, and also quite a lot of vacuum along the way. Highly recommended.





Mary Beard, How Do We Look and Women and Power: A Manifesto. Both of these books are Beard's generalist side, turning her extensive knowledge of history to wider questions. They're not going to revolutionize ideas about art and gaze or about women, but they're solid works, the sort of thing that helps bolster reasonable views. She has the lovely skill--not all that common in a Classicist or Classical historian in my experience--of being able to write without assuming that Rome is the world's eternal center, which makes things 1000% more readable for me. I'd previously read her book about Pompeii but will pursue more.





H.W. Brands, Heirs of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants. This book was a bit disappointing for me. It did what it said on the tin, sort of; the epic part was lacking. But I felt that there was less of the zany context of the era than I was really hoping and more focus on these three dudes, most of whom should have been kicked sharply in the shins. There are better books about the early Republic out there.





Zen Cho, The True Queen. Light and frothy and fun. Some of the plot twists are visible from space, and yet it's experiencing the specific way that Cho writes them that provides the joy. Recognizes that pre-20th century England was the center of a global empire and not an ethnic monoculture, and used that fact as the basis for a glorious romp.





Louise Erdrich, The Birchbark House. Children's historical novel about a young Ojibwa girl. It is mostly bright and suffused with light, but there are moments where history makes the shadows in this child's life very deep indeed.





Meg Frank and Julia Rios, eds., Hope in This Timeline. This is a beautiful collection of hopeful stories from Fireside. I had read them already, but having a copy to shelve makes me very happy.





Tessa Gratton, The Strange Maid. This is the second book in a deeply weird series about Norse gods. It is the right kind of deeply weird; I am so fond and so pleased and I cannot wait to get the third one. Also it's the kind of series that doesn't just do more of the same but goes into different ideas and places and perspectives. Yay for this Valkyrie book.





Larry Hammer, These Things Called Dreams: The Poems of Ono no Komachi. Discussed elsewhere.





Kate Heartfield, Alice Payne Rides. Discussed elsewhere.





Carlos Hernandez, Sal and Gabi Break the Universe. What a lovely way to spend a snow day. I bounced around full of joy at the adventures of Sal and Gabi. Which are not always joyful adventures! There's some deep stuff going on here! But it's fun, it's funny, it's serious, it's full of parallel universes, and the protags and their families and friends are immensely charming. I loved Carlos's collection of short work for adults. This MG novel won my heart in a totally different--and very much similar--way. Highly recommended.





Kelly Jones, Are You Ready to Hatch an Unusual Chicken? This is the sequel to the previous chicken superpower book, and I love them so much, they make me so happy, I am all in on whatever Kelly Jones wants to do next, because: yay super chickens.





T. Kingfisher, Swordheart. This was funny and adventurous and very sharp about problems with our world while also taking on genre tropes. I laughed and gasped and enjoyed the heck out of this. More.





Sonya Taaffe, Forget the Sleepless Shores. These stories remind me of a certain era of Elizabeth Hand stories in their beautiful prose, but with somewhat different roots. The ones that drew on Jewish sources were my favorite, but honestly there's not a badly-written piece in here.





Natasha Trethewey, Domestic Work. Poems about everyday life, mostly not in the poet's immediate present but in her past, through photos of her family and thoughts about what that past has meant. Also some beautiful poems on the line between domestic and nature poetry. I'm very glad I read these.





Anne Ursu, The Lost Girl. A book about sisterhood, about making space for other people and finding what you want to do with your own space, about friends and stubbornness and saving each other. What a fierce book this is. Yay.


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Review copy provided by the author, who has been a friend on this here internet for...gosh. A minute.





This is a selection of 9th century Japanese poems, with translation notes and images of their author from various sources. The images are very high quality reproductions and add to the sense of what was going on with Ono no Komachi, whose life is more speculated about than firmly documented.





The poems themselves are short and evocative--mostly in one genre of love poetry or another, with room for playfulness. Larry's chosen layout does a good job of letting the reader appreciate the translated poem as a poem, just as it is, and only then transition to the translation notes, which are easy to understand even without a strong grasp of Japanese and give cultural as well as linguistic context for each poem. Where there is wordplay that's impossible to translate, that's noted--but not in the middle of the poem where it would distract from writing that is on one layer still easy to enjoy on its own terms over a millennium later and in a different language. This volume is short but rewarding.


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Review copy provided by the author's agent, who is a personal friend.

This is the sequel to another novella, Alice Payne Arrives, and really you should not read it as a stand-alone when the first one is so readily available. The relationships, the technology, the consequences, are all spelled out much more thoroughly in the first volume. This one assumes you've already gotten all that and are ready to ride on.

And it does ride on, right away, with all the things happening at once--and since this is a time travel novel, I really do mean that they are all happening at once. The future and the past are here and neither one is letting up for a minute--except that they keep shifting out from under each other.

There are a few things that strike me as somewhat off in the timelines--specifically, I feel like the late 18th century is being treated like the late 19th century when it is way more decadent and scandalous--but it's not enough to stop the full-on time travel fun. And steampunk swashbuckling. It's an alternate history! It's a time travel book! It's a steampunk adventure! Friends, it's all of that.
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Ben Barres, Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist. This is a very brief and to-the-point volume--although some of its points are kind of sideways from most people's points, which is delightful. I could attribute this to the fact that Barres wrote it very quickly when he knew he was dying. But honestly it seems like that's just how Barres was. He wanted to describe some fairly rare experiences he'd had and talk about how they extrapolate more broadly...but even more than that he wanted to give credit to junior scientists in his lab and talk about glial cells. Which I found charming and relatable.





Gwenda Bond, Girl on a Wire. Disclosure: I am not a sucker for circus stories. If anything, the opposite. I know some people find a tightrope walker main character to be an automatic yes, but I'm not in their number. However, the subtle magic and family dynamics of this book won me over fairly early. I found it to be a fun read even though balance is definitely not my forte.





Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister the Serial Killer. This is another brief fun read, although it's very dark. The perspective character is a long-suffering elder sister who feels roped into her younger sister's bad habit of killing her boyfriends. The characterization and the setting and basically the whole thing are vividly handled, but it's not something you're likely to find uplifting, if that's what you're looking for today.





Brendan Fletcher, Karl Kerschil, Becky Cloonan, Adam Archer, and Msassyk, Gotham Academy Second Semester Volume 2: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock. Frankly I'm glad they got this out of the way, because it's a part of the story they were fairly clearly angling to tell for quite some time, and it was pretty cliched. There were a few fun moments, but basically I'm glad they got it out of their systems.





N.K. Jemisin, How Long 'Til Black Future Month. Controversial opinion time: I think this is the best N.K. Jemisin book. It has emotional and tonal range, it has strong worldbuilding in tight quarters, and almost all of the stories are satisfying arcs in themselves, even when they take place in the same world as novels. The settings and themes vary widely and deftly. Unless someone absolutely hates short stories, this is such a great place to start someone on reading Jemisin's work. Or to continue, if that's where you are!





Kelly Jones, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. This is so charming. What a delight. Highly, highly recommended. My goddaughter has been talking about this book for years (which in her young life is a pretty high percentage of how long she's been on the planet!), and I finally got a copy and it is so much fun. The chickens have superpowers. None of the superpowers are being human, though--they don't talk, they don't act like humans, they act like chickens. And the human girl who is raising them has to figure out what to do and how. She is amazing and I love her and I am getting the sequel stat.





Anna Meriano, Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits. And speaking of middle-grade delight, this is the second one in a series. I would recommend reading the first one first, because there's a lot of implication and ramification here, but that's no hardship, since the first one is also delightful. A family of young Latina sisters doing baking magic! So much family! So much deliciousness! So much magic! This is exactly the sort of thing I like.





Gregory Rabassa, If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents: A Memoir. (I still do not know why he spelled discontents with a y.) He talks a bit about life as a translator and then goes into detailing his many projects and how they went, which is fairly interesting considering how much of magic realism he translated. This is very much a curmudgeon of 25 years ago, though, and I rolled my eyes a lot--at the bit where he claims there has to be a better word for a particular situation than homophobic but does not indicate the direction of his objection (YOU ARE THE TRANSLATOR SIR BETTER WORDS ARE YOUR JOB), the passage where he flags that where he says "he" you should think "he or she"...and then promptly uses "she" as the generic for copy editing because that is a girl job. Not cool, Rabassa. So really I recommend this if you're particularly interested in translation or if you're particularly interested in twentieth century writing in Spanish and Portuguese and how it got into English.





Susan Hand Shetterly, Seaweed Chronicles: A World at the Water's Edge. This is a lot more about the human use and cultivation of seaweed than I was expecting/hoping, but it's still a gentle, interesting book, and it's not so long that you can really get tired of kelp. At least I couldn't.





Erin Thompson, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present. I often describe nonfiction as doing what it says on the tin. This does considerably less than it says on the tin. It is extremely narrowly focused on collecting antiquities from Greece and Italy that were from the Greek and Roman Classical periods. There is a whole lot of interesting material about the psychology and history of collection that is immediately ruled out there. I think Thompson does a better job with this focus than she would if she was following a fairly common pattern of actually talking about this focus and then handwaving vaguely in the direction of Chinese or Mayan antiquities--much less modern "collectibles"--but it does make for a book that's somewhat less interesting for me than if it had had a broader scope.


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This is the sequel to Snowspelled, which I found utterly charming and full of snow, but I repeat myself. (I know, I know: not everyone finds snow as charming as I do.) (But! So much snow!) The seemingly natural force at work against Cassandra Harwood this time is fast-growing ivy--and it's threatening her new school for magic, the first such to educate girls.





The interpersonal conflicts keep this story humming in the
best possible way: with the characters motivated mostly by care so that the few
who are motivated by animosity sticking out as unusual. The social webs in
which all the characters exist are fascinating and believable, and their
determination to strike out on new paths is inspiring as well as fun. I'm
looking forward to the third in this series.


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