Monday, January 26, 2015

Books I Am Reading

Here at the start of the semester, when I have no time to read or write, I am suddenly writing and reading furiously: working on several short stories and all three novels again.  It's blissful.

And reading!  So much to read.  Not just the many texts I am reading for classes -- though I am reading a great deal for class -- but also plenty for fun.  I have discovered Scribd, which if you haven't yet, turns out to be (so far) a boon to those of us who read voraciously, but live in towns with severely inadequate libraries.  For a relatively small amount a month (about the same amount Netflix charges) you can borrow an unlimited number of ebooks.

Granted, they don't have every title.  But they have a good selection.

What am I reading? (Not all of these are on Scribd, by the way.)

Miss Read 

I may have mentioned Miss Read before.  She's a comfort read.

My favorites are the Fairacre novels, which chronicle life in a small (and fictional) English village, told from the point of view of the village school teacher.  Miss Read (whose name is actually Dora Saint) wrote another series about Thrush Village, which I don't like as much.

These novels were written between 1955 and 1995. On the edge of being too conservative (British conservative) to suit my taste, but on the other hand, extremely readable and charming.

Eleanor Arnason, Hidden Folk

As long-time readers of the blog know, Eleanor Arnason is almost definitely my favorite SF writer on the planet.  This is her new book, and it's wonderful.

It's a collection of Icelandic tales -- three set in mythic times, and three in modern times -- and, as always with Arnason, almost wholly indescribable otherwise.  Except they are filled with the wry and understated humor that I have found in no other writer. (I think that may be an Icelandic influence, since I have found flashes of it in Icelandic sagas I have read.)

Having said they are indescribable, I will attempt to describe them: these are stories about realistic (not mythic) humans who encounter elves and trolls.  What happens next?  If you were a hunter and your prey suddenly spoke to you, how would you react? Especially if you were a cranky old hunter who had been living alone on your farm for quite some years. That's the kind of subject Arnason tackles.  The stories that result are wonderful.

Jo Walton, The Just City

Take all the people ever, throughout history, who have ever wanted to build Plato's Republic.  Put them on an island, back at the start of time.  Add in ten thousand ten years olds.  Now press go.  Can we build the Just City?

That's the premise to Walton's The Just City.

This book (and its two sequels) will be of most interest to those of us, like me, who grew up reading Mary Renault's books on Plato, and thus fell happily, when we hit the university, into philosophy classes that let us study Plato and classics classes that let us study Greek and Latin so that we might read Plato and Homer in the original.  But even if you didn't, you might like this book.  You don't need to be a Classic geek like me to get what's going on here, is what I am saying!

And Walton is here, as always, so wonderfully readable that I can promise you will love it even if you have never read a bit of Plato or Renault.  (But go read Plato!  What are you waiting for!)

Kij Johnson, At the Mouth of the River of Bees

This one's a collection of SF short stories.

Johnson writes a really mixed collection -- by which I mean, her stories are mostly all different from one another.  I can see some common strains, in that she writes about animals frequently.  One of my favorites by here is "The Cat That Walked A Thousand Miles," which isn't really science fiction at all.  It's about -- seriously -- a cat that walks a thousand miles, trying to find a new cat family, after the Toyko earthquake.

Another of my favorites by her, possibly one of my favorite stories ever, is "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After The Change," about what happens to the world when dogs learn to talk.

Others, though, like "The Man Who Bridged The Mist," or "Spar," which are probably her most famous stories, aren't about animals at all. ("Spar" is not at all for the faint of heart.)

This is a strong collection.  Well worth the read.

Sandra Mcdonald, Ettie Ruiz Rescues The Past 

This is a sequel to McDonald's wonderful Annie Wu Saves The Future, which I reviewed formerly on this blog.

McDonald, like Arnason, is one of my favorite writers, and I love this series.  It's aimed at middle-grade readers, so if you're one of those people who doesn't like reading YA Lit, be forewarned.  Me, I love the genre.

This one is even better than Annie Wu, which was wonderful.  I look forward to more from McDonald in this series.


Bardiac said...

Oh, the Trickster dog story sounds creative!

delagar said...

It's wonderful! It includes these very odd stories from the dogs' POV -- they seem *so* *much* like what dogs might actually tell.

delagar said...

That's another reason I love the Arnason book, BTW -- it's filled with myths, some of which she's adapting from Icelandic sources, and some of which she invents. I just love that stuff.

delagar said...

I found a link to the Johnson story!