Currently Reading: August 2016

My long dry spell of mildly disappointing books seems to be coming to an end at last. I continue to try to whittle down my to-read list (only to add five books every time I browse a bookstore, which, considering I work in a bookstore, is kind of an issue). The current number is 179. It’s slow progress.

Three relatively recent releases make up my list of recommended reading for last month, one of which is a sequel I debated over including and decided to shout out anyway.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi – for a lot of reasons, not least the fact that I tend to enjoy it less as a rule, as well as a certain amount of unfortunate association with obnoxious gatekeeping male nerds. Lately I’ve made a few forays in that direction, however, including Ann Leckie and a few others. This book was kind of a random pick that I chose because one of my friends was raving about it online one night and almost the next day I saw it on display.

I’m glad I did. The plot of this book, such as it is, isn’t terribly significant – it is very much about the journey, and even more about the relationships between the people on the journey. An odd, misfit crew on a long journey through space, Chambers makes convincing, likable characters who also diverge in interesting ways, creating some genuinely alien species and a universe that feels full of wonder.

The Trespasser by Tana French. I have consistently really enjoyed Tana French’s mysteries, and feel like she only continues to improve since (the acclaimed but relatively disappointing to me) In the Woods. The Trespasser is no exception. The narrator is Antoinette Conway, who the faithful Dublin Murder Squad reader will remember from The Secret Place (but this book stands alone just fine).

Wary, brash, sometimes evasive, on the verge of leaving the squad because of harassment from her fellow detectives, Antoinette takes on what she thinks is one last case – a simple domestic quarrel gone sour. It quickly gets more complicated than that, and like French’s other books twists on itself more than once in unexpected directions, while also providing deep and satisfying character development and lively, engaging prose.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. The sequel to the Hugo Award winning The Fifth Season, which I adored (as I have loved all of Jemisin’s work), I should note that The Obelisk Gate did feel like a step down from the first book – but from Jemisin that still leaves an exceptional read. The Obelisk Gate brings in the daughter of the first book’s Essun, reveals more about the history of the world itself, and sets the stage for what is sure to be an earth-shattering (ha, ha) conclusion to the series.

Two other books I also enjoyed, but that didn’t quite meet my mark for singling out here: Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone, the fifth in the loosely connected Craft Sequence and direct sequel to Three Parts Dead, and Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, a ferocious and lovely poem exploring the ways that microaggressions steal the voices of black people in the United States.

At the moment I seem to have fallen back down the Lovecraft hole, almost finished with In the Mountains of Madness, a slightly uneven biography/study of Lovecraft’s influence, and planning to next read the collection of criticism The Age of Lovecraft. Other planned reads include Planetfall by Emma Newman and assorted nonfiction, though I fully expect my plans to be derailed when I spot something new and shiny I just can’t resist.

Until next month.

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