Everything I read in August.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. Published in 2013. Dragons! ROAR. Sorry, just wanted to roar right there. This book takes place in a country much like England, during a time much like the Victorian era. Lady Trent describes her beginnings as a dragon naturalist, and her first trip to study dragons in Vystrana. But she finds more to study than just dragon biology, for the dragons have mysteriously started killing people, and there are other mysteries besides. Overall, fun book. I read it for a book club, and liked it enough to eventually check out book 2. My full review is on Goodreads. 3.5/5
Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Published in 2010. Yay, folklore I’m unfamiliar with! Paama is a marvelous cook who’s married to a glutton. When some djomba notice how deftly she deals with her husband, they give her the chaos stick, and from there magic happens. Redemption in Indigo is based on Sengalese folklore. It’s told a bit simply for my tastes, but has that oral folklore feel. 3.5/5
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. Published 1998. Post-apocalypse, book 2 in a series. Wow. So much rape. I mean, far more than book 1, Parable of the Sower, which I really liked despite the darkness. Book 2 was too much for me. And the politics were frighteningly relevant. Jarret has some disturbing parallels to Trump. Here’s one of the Parables of Earthseed from this novel, for all of us to think about during election season:
Choose your leaders
with wisdom and
To be led by a coward
is to be controlled
by all that coward fears.
To be led by a fool
is to be led
by the opportunists
who control the fool.
To be led by a thief
is to offer up
your most precious treasures
to be stolen.
To be led by a liar
is to ask
to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant
is to sell yourself
and those you love
Overall, I didn’t like this one near as much as book 1, for several reasons. You can read my full review on Goodreads. 2/5
Nonfiction and Other
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling. Published in July 2016. Mainly, I enjoyed being back in that universe again. I wrote a full review right here on this blog. Check it out, but only if you’ve already read it. 3/5
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks. Published in 1994. “When we, as educators, allow our pedagogy to be radically changed by our recognition of a multicultural world, we can give students the education they desire and deserve. We can teach in ways that transform consciousness, creating a climate of free expression that is the essence of a truly liberatory liberal arts education.” An excellent discussion of teaching, that certainly got my mind revved up for the fall semester. I wrote a detailed review over on Goodreads. 4/5
Poetry and Short Story Collections
Roofwalker by Susan Power. Published in 2004. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys short stories, magical realism, and Native American history. This collection includes seven short stories and five histories. The short stories explore how Native Americans have adapted to Anglo-European America, both in the past and the present. Power tells stories about the mythic roofwalker that eats dreams, stories of love and betrayal and death, a story about a man who finds a talking saint statue in a thrift store, another about a college student that finds unexpected friendships. They’re all really lovely, sweet and sad (but not bittersweet in any way; there’s no bitterness here, it seems to me). The histories shed light on where Power as a writer comes from, and centers around Chicago, where she was raised. Mostly, she explores how her mother gave her a voice to tell stories, and how her father circled their lives and gave her a different kind of ancestry. If you haven’t read Power before, also check out The Grass Dancer and Sacred Wilderness, her two novels. They’re both so wonderful. 4/5
Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney. Published in 2015. Bone Swans collects 5 novellas/novelettes by Cooney that explore storytelling and folklore in unique and lyrical ways. My favorites were the two fairy tale retellings, and the collection is worth picking up for just those two stories alone: The Bone Swans of Amandale and How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One. In fact, the milkmaid story is my favorite Rumpelstiltskin retelling I’ve read (up until now, of course). I’ve read C.S.E. Cooney before, different stories and poems than in this collection. I was unsure whether I liked her writing or not, but this collection puts her on my read list. Her style is sort of similar to Catherynne M. Valente and Maria Dahvana Headley, so if you like those authors, you should like this. I reviewed each story on Goodreads. 4/5
Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver. Published in 2004. If I hear anyone say they don’t like poetry because it’s too inaccessible, this is the collection I will give them. These are lovely, clear and poignant nature poems. I plan on returning to this collection whenever my heart needs a little boost. Here’s the opening and title poem:
Why I Wake Early
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
Terminal by Lavie Tidhar. Published in April 2016 by Tor.com (free online). Terminals are those at the end of their lives who decide to go into space, alone in their jalopies, and travel to Mars. This short story revolves around three characters: as Mei travels, she listens to earth music; Haziq decides to leave his wife and family to venture to Mars though he is not dying; and Eliza, a nurse orbiting Earth, listens to Mei’s and Haziq’s conversations as they journey on the long trip to Mars. It’s a good short story overall. 3.5/5
Santos de Sampaguitas by Alyssa Wong. Published in 2014 by Strange Horizons (free online). Tin’s mother is a witch that serves the dead god, but when the dead god begins visiting Tin at night while she dreams, and tries to convince her to serve him as her mother does, she has a life-changing decision to make. This short story explores sisterhood, relationships, and disability, and also includes some Filipino folkloric elements. 4/5
Happy reading in the month to come!