It’s so nice having a “to be read” pile to choose from. I feel like I haven’t had that for ages. Not in physical form anyway; and you can’t see a TBR pile on a Kindle.
Becoming Mrs Lewis, by Patti Callahan
I started reading Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan, the story of Joy Davidman and CS Lewis on 30 June and finished it on 1 July. It’s totally marvellous and unputdownable. Luminous prose. Thanks to Kat Coffin for the recommendation. All Inklings fans should read it. It really made it clear how long their friendship was prior to their courtship, and how many difficulties there were in the way. I really warmed to Joy Davidman and now I really want to read her poetry. It also brings home how hard it was to be an independent woman in those days; it was very likely that you’d be regarded as a helpmeet, or forced into that role. The book suggests that CS Lewis was not like that, and valued Joy for her writing and intellect. He was more modern than his friends in that respect. It’s also clear that Joy and Jack truly loved each other.
The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden
Beautifully written. I loved all the bits about the various spirits of hearth, home, wood, field, and river. A must-read for anyone interested in Slavic Paganism. The slow and heartbreaking fading of the spirits of the land is very well written. It also explains why in some places, you can really feel the land spirits, and in other places, they seem to be sleeping.
A bit of a slow start to the book, but once it got going I found it immensely interesting and engaging. The slow start might be helpful to readers who have never heard of domovoi and bannik and rusalka but for readers who know about Russian folklore, it wasn’t really needed. (For those who are not familiar, there’s a helpful glossary at the back of the book.)
The characters were well drawn and their motivations plausible. I loved the character of Vasya and can’t wait to read more about her. I felt sorry for Anna, and hated Konstantin. The author did a great job making Kyril distasteful. The whole betrothal chapter was like an 11th century Me Too moment.
Buy this book, read it, and treasure it.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Last call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
It has magic and cocktails and an awesome Canadian trans man and a great heroine of Chinese ancestry and occult shenanigans. Highly recommended. Also, a great and unexpected ending. I did not see that coming. It also has cocktail recipes and history (some of it relating to the backstory of the magic of cocktails) interspersed through the text. I particularly liked the scene where the trans guy is revealed. And the creative use of language. If you like urban fantasy, secret societies, and drinking, you’ll love this book.
Take us to your chief, by Drew Hayden Taylor
Bob got me this for my birthday. The perfect combination: Indigenous science fiction short stories. Hilarious, poignant, and brilliant. Some classic sci-fi tropes but in Indigenous contexts, so I never quite knew how the story was going to turn out. Some stories were set in Curve Lake First Nation, where the author lives; others were set elsewhere. There’s a Haudenosaunee story, which definitely had an unexpected ending. This was such a good read, and I’ll definitely enjoy reading it more than once.
The Book of Lost Tales, by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
I had always resisted reading this because I had read The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and The Hobbit multiple times and I thought this would just be a different version of The Silmarillion. But then I read John Garth’s book Tolkien and the Great War: the threshold of Middle Earth and realized that this was the earliest version of Tolkien’s legendarium. It contains much that he later decided was inconsistent with his vision, like Tinfang Warble, the Valar having children, the character Eriol or Aelfwine, the Cottage of Lost Play, and other fascinating things. It’s not just an archaeological dig of the previously published texts; rather it’s like suddenly discovering an earlier, non-euhemerized version of the Eddas. Definitely a must-read for people interested in the development of stories.
And I just got The Girl in the Tower, the next volume in the trilogy by Katherine Arden.