A good month for reading, if not for the world in general.
Crystal Chan, Bird: A children’s book that I rather liked. Chan’s MG novel about friendship and family is a bit uneven and its mysteries aren’t particularly mysterious, but it’s full of big, sweeping ideas and clever little details, and I found that I really enjoyed it. I’ll be writing more about it soon.
Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, Monstress, #1-6: Whenever I begin a new series I seem to find myself complaining that there’s not enough included in the first issue for me to get into it and decide if I want to continue. Liu and Takeda’s series begins with a huge first issue, and I bought the next five as soon as I’d finished reading it. It’s a big, meaty, sweeping epic fantasy, with hints of huge, inaccessible back story, elements of the just plain weird, almost all the named characters are women, and it’s just satisfying in the ways that secondary world fantasies with chosen-one teenagers and talking cats tend to be. Takeda’s art is beautiful, and the sheer level of detail adds, again, to the sense of the depth of this world.
Jonathan Baird, Kevin Costner and Rick Ross, The Explorers Guild: There isn’t really an appropriate emotion for finding yourself reading a book apparently co-authored by Kevin Costner and enjoying it (though obviously celebrities are people too, and may have interests and talents beyond the ones they’re famous for). I’ll be reviewing this elsewhere–as you’d expect, with a 700+ page imitation imperial adventure novel that keeps asking you to compare it to Kipling (and other reviewers have obliged wholeheartedly) my feelings are many and varied; c.f. my well-documented love of solar topis.
Alice Pung, Laurinda: A school story in which a poor, Chinese-Cambodian teenager wins a scholarship to an exclusive girls’ school. Scholarship student stories are a time-honoured tradition within the school story and I’m hoping, soon, to read this against that genre–and alongside Dear Mrs. Naidu and Robin Stevens’s Wells and Wong books. Soon. For now, I liked it.
Innosanto Nagara, A is for activist: I was in London for a few days, and Erin led me
astray into Housmans on a day when something I’d expected to spend a lot of money on had turned out to be free and I was feeling reckless. Result: several books, including things from Stuart Hall’s library, and this board book, which I loved. The art is great, there are several cats, and the entry for “N” is “No”.
Joan Aiken, All But A Few, The People in the Castle: Apparently (I learn from Lizza Aiken’s acknowledgements in another Aiken collection, The Monkey’s Wedding), John Clute has created a bibliography of all of Aiken’s short stories–and there are more than five hundred of them out there in the wild. I suppose I’m glad that such a thing exists, but I’ve always read Aiken in haphazard collections, with occasional surprise repeated stories, and a larger sense that there would always be more, unlimited, Aiken to discover. The People in the Castle is a version of a “best of” anthology, so there are stories I was already familiar with; some of them showed up again in All But A Few when I read it immediately after. But most of each collection was completely new, and all of them astonishingly good. I’ve never yet succeeded in articulating what it is about Aiken that makes her work so good (though if anyone wanted someone to review The People in the Castle, hi, I’d like to) but to read “Watkyn, Comma” or “A Portable Elephant” really is to be in the presence of genius.