Monday, May 20, 2019

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat, by Brooke Bolander

Uncanny Magazine, July 2018

Three beautiful raptor sisters live in a lovely wood near excellent hunting grounds, and are happy and content. Then a very foolish prince rides into their woods, and is so oblivious to the fact that he's being stalked by the youngest sister, even after she eats his horse, that they conclude it must be a trick. The villagers must be fed up, and have sent out poisoned bait.

They need to find out what else the humans may be planning. They need to investigate. One of them needs to go to where the human pack leaders nest...

The youngest raptor sister offers herself to the prince as a replacement steed, and his ego is sufficiently large, and his wits sufficiently lacking, that he takes it as his due rather than a cause for concern.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Go, by Kazuki Kaneshiro (author), Takami Nieda (translator), Brian Nishii (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2018, (original publication January 2000)

Sugihara is a student in a Japanese high school, but he's not Japanese. Born, raised, and educated in Japan, he is still Korean, a citizen of South Korea, and legally a resident alien. This places some legal restrictions on him; it also makes him a target of bullying and prejudice.

He has had to become a fighter, while keeping his eyes on the prize of passing the entrance exams for a Japanese university. When he meets and falls in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai, they bond over classical music and foreign films.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

Tom Doherty Associates, January 2018

This is a grim story, but in its own way a beautiful one. Now, those who know me know I don't do grim. At all. Except on the rare occasions that I do.

You may know the story of the Radium Girls. In the early part of the 20th century, young women were employed painting glowing numbers on watch faces, using radium paint. Yes, radium. Yes, it's radioactive, enough to be really dangerous, especially if you work with it constantly or accidentally ingest it.

Who would be so careless as to ingest it, you ask? Well, see, the women weren't told it was dangerous; they were told it was perfectly safe. And of course the best way to get a good point on your paintbrush to paint those fine, exact numbers, was to put it briefly in your mouth every so often.

They all got very sick and there was a big lawsuit, and they died. There are books about the Radium Girls

This is an alternate history, in which after the employment of young women painting radium onto watch faces ends in that lawsuit, the company didn't give up.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Court Magician, by Sarah Pinsker

Lightspeed Magazine, January 2018

A young boy surviving on the streets becomes interested in mastering the tricks of street magicians and performers, and in the process catches the eye of watchers from the regent's palace. As he is groomed, initially from a distance, to be the potential next Court Magician, he repeatedly demonstrates his determination to learn more and more, and to master real magic, not just "tricks."

It's only as he is finally taken into the palace that he starts to learn there will be a cost. Is it worth it? How long will he be willing to pay that price?

It's an interesting look at power, ambition, compassion, and choices.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington, by Phenderson Djèlí Clark

Fireside Quarterly, February 2018

George Washington, hero of the Revolution, our first President and one of our greatest, a major reason we became a democratic republic rather than a monarchy because he refused to become king, was also a slaveowner.

Like many of his time, he lost teeth over the course of his adult life, and being a wealthy man, he was able to have dentures. The replacement teeth in those dentures were not, as I was taught as a child, wooden teeth, but real human teeth from the mouths of slaves.

This is a story of the lives of the slaves whose teeth those were--in an alternate history where magic, including sorcerers, witches, and demons are real.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, by Aliz E. Harrow

Apex Magazine, February 2018

Librarians have a solemn duty to connect people with the books they need.

It may be an even more serious and solemn duty than you may have suspected, if the librarian is one of the sisterhood of witch-librarians.

In this case, a witch-librarian is confronted with a teenage boy, a boy in the foster system, who really, truly, sincerely needs escape. She guides him to a number of portal fantasies and other fantasy adventures, and they give him some salve for his spirit--but it's not enough.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Matter of Latitude, by Isobel Blackthorn

Creativia, December 2018

Paula Cray was an English tourist agent who went on vacation herself, to Lanzarote, an island in the Canary Islands. There she met Celestino Diaz, an artist and an anti-corruption activist, and fell in love. Now they are married, and have a daughter about to turn three years old. Paula's parents have moved to Lanzarote, too, to be near their only child and only grandchild. Gloria's birthday party is being held at the home of Paula's parents, Bill and Angela.

But there's a major storm bearing down on the island, and Celestino has a commission to deliver, first. Paula is annoyed that he'll be late, but is well aware that they do need the money he'll be paid.

The storm hits, even worse than anticipated, and Celestino never arrives.

We see, in alternating chapters, we see Celestino's struggle to survive after a truck intentionally t-bones his car--to survive while hiding the fact that he has survived, and to get to safety--and Paula's growing worry, and search for her missing husband.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Levin-Gad (Tales of the Five #1), by Diane Duane

Ebooks Direct, August 2018

Heresiss s'Hearn, the first man in a thousand years to channel fire, had thought that the successful end of the war, Freelorn safely on his throne as King of Arlen, and the two of them married to each other and their three other spouses, would mean peace, progress, and happily-ever-after.

Silly Herewiss.

Instead, the world is trying to settle back into its old, familiar ways, and Herewiss has an urgent, indeed deadly problem to confront. That problem has him in the city of Darthis, alone, in a tavern called the Stuck Pig, where the bouncer has noticed something odd and disturbing about him, and is wondering if she needs to toss him out immediately, before disaster strikes.

Friday, May 10, 2019

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew, by Annejet van der Zijl (author), Michele Hutchison (translator), Teri Schnaubelt (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2018

Allene Tew was born in 1872 to the less successful branch of the Tew family, who had a major role in the founding and growth of Jamestown, NY. She was a slightly wild child, and a real beauty, and at eighteen she impulsively married a young man she met at a local dance. That young man was Tod Hostetter, wealthy scion of a Pittsburgh family dealing in a patent medicine that was, in fact, mostly alcohol. She made herself into a successful Pittsburgh hostess, but the marriage fell apart due largely to Tod's gambling and general irresponsibility, and when he died twelve years later, she left Pittsburgh for New York City and never really looked back.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Burial Mound (DI Tremayne #7), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, April 2019

An archaeological team working on a burial mound near Stonehenge finds two bodies. Unfortunately, only one of them is several thousand years old and a deceased stone age chieftain. The other is much more recent, only dead a decade or so, and after some effort is identified as Richard Grantley, brother of Clive Grantley, Mayor of Salisbury.

Clive Grantley is a reserved, dignified, upright man, respected by all. His brother was a charming risk-taker, gambler, possibly swindler, possibly undercover operative. A user, especially of women. Richard's womanizing helped to wreck Clive's marriage.

It seems impossible to see Clive Grantley as a killer, yet he clearly had a motive--the only apparent motive, as Tremayne and Yarwood struggle to learn anything else about the elusive Richard. And Clive is clearly keeping secrets.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People & Dogs, by Caroline Knapp (author), Hilary Swank (narrator)

Audible Inc., October 2012 (original publication 1998

Caroline Knapp was a writer and columnist who wrote a best-selling memoir about her struggle with alcoholism--Drinking: A Love Story. This is a different but related story. After losing her father to cancer, her mother to cancer, and quitting drinking in the space of eighteen months, Knapp had some large holes in her life, and needed something to refocus her life.

She got a dog, a ten-week-old mixed breed shelter dog she named Lucille.

Knapp had grown up with dogs in the home, but had never been the responsible dog owner. She and Lucille both had a lot to learn, and a lot to teach each other.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won't Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It by Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, Sinikka Elliott

Oxford University Press, January 2019

This isn't a book about cooking. It's a book about how what we say, think, do, preach, and spend public money around food, health, and family puts more and more pressure on families, especially on mothers.

The book is a result of a research project, following multiple families of various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. It looks at how they eat, why they make their choices, and how they try to balance time, money, health, conflict in the family over food choices.

Everyone parent wants their children to be healthy, and wants to feed them in a healthy way. It's not that simple even for well-off families, though, and for the economically struggling, it gets even more complicated. Food isn't just nutrition. It's also culture, family tradition, personal memories and feelings, and a way that people assert identity. None of this is easy on the families deciding what are the best choices.