Hello again, fellow readers! Welcome back to Rebecca Reads a Thing and Tells You To Read It, Too! It’s been a fun adventure the last few months and I haven’t been able to read quite as much as I might otherwise have liked, but here’s a selection of books I think you should add to your list.
First off, there is Oil and Dust: The Elemental Artist by Jami Fairleigh. I want to call this one out especially, as Jami is a good friend of mine and I had the chance to read the ARC of Oil and Dust before it hit the market. I have since purchased a copy, but want to lay my prejudice out right up front. I’ve known Jami for almost a year now, we met last NaNoWriMo when she attended the write-ins I was hosting on behalf of the Neverending Bookshop, and we just keep doing events together! Not only is she an incredibly pleasant human being, she is also a great writer, and it shows in this debut novel. Oil and Dust is a post-apocalypse story wherein the world (well, the American continent at least) has somewhat recovered into a society of loosely interconnected small towns. Our main character, Matthew Sugiyama, is an Artist, which, in this reality, means he can bend physics to his will with the stroke of his paintbrush. Freshly graduated from the Abbey where he was trained, he sets off into the world to figure out who his family is and find answers to the questions that have plagued him his whole life.
Fairleigh does a fantastic job in this novel with worldbuilding and description. She definitely has an artist’s eye and sensibility when it comes to scene-setting, and she makes the act of painting exciting and intriguing. The artistic bent of the magic system is unique, and very well executed. I get testy if magic systems aren’t fully fleshed out and internally consistent, but Fairleigh does a masterful job of creating and utilizing the art=magic equation. Matthew is a sympathetic character, and though he at times is as self-centered as any 19 year old young man would be, it only adds to the realistic portrait she paints. My only qualm with the protagonist is that he at times seems too aware of his own emotions and analyzes his mental state and motivations better than most therapists. I personally like a bit more of that left up to the reader. Regardless, the struggle and adventure Matthew and his compatriots embark upon is delightful, a true page-turner that left me asking what on alternaEarth was going to happen next. Definitely worth the read!
Now, on to the other books I’ve read recently…
- Domesticating Dragons by Dan Koboldt was a hilarious novel where Jurassic Park meets West World. Definitely a popcorn read, but very enjoyable.
- The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark was a fantastic novella in an alternate history New Orleans with a steampunk flair. Read this. Right now.
- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir was a different read for me. Felt like Dune meets Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Super far flung post-apocalyptic sci-fi with a predominant necromantic society. It was weird, but awesome. At one point I told my husband it mostly just had the fun bits of Necromancy in it and his response was, “What the **** are the fun bits?!”
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was the best darn middle-aged gay romance story I’ve ever read. I know there is a lot of discussion out there around how the author handled commenting on their inspiration for the story, but, regardless, it’s a gosh darn good book. I have no right to comment on the trauma of the folks who have the problem with book, but I will say that the situations which are fictionalized in the story were happening all over the world at various times, and not just in one place and time. Yes, Klune’s imagination was sparked off of a particularly horrid example of these institutions, but he was also informed by many, many more situations.
- I picked up Banned by the BBC! by Arnold M.D. Levine as research for the new direction my radio play is taking, and was pleasantly surprised by how delightful this book is. I’m usually not one for memoirs, but Levine has a hilarious way with words that had me laughing out loud multiple times. This book takes a look at Levine’s experiences as a land-based pirate radio operator in 1970s London, and how Radio Concord was formed, functioned, and finally, dissipated, through the eyes of the people that loved and nurtured its illegal endeavors. It is clever, and witty, and eye-opening into a sub-culture of London that I was only peripherally aware of prior to reading. Definitely worth the time!
- Blackwing War by K.B. Spangler is a sequel to Stoneskin the only two books Spangler has published that are outside their “Girl and her Fed” storyverse. And not gonna lie, I would read anything by Spangler, it’s always delightful, and I loved Blackwing War as much as all the rest of her writing!
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvie Moreno-Garcia is a supernatural romp with Mayan Gods through 1920s Mexico. The lens into Mayan mythology was fantastic, but I did find it a little slow. Could have used more agency on the part of the protagonist, but I still think it’s worth it.
- Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor was great, I always love Okorafor’s work, but this was not her strongest story. Good, enjoyable, but she’s also done better. Start with Binti if you haven’t read her work yet.
- The Ruthless Ladies Guide to Wizardry and Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner are Waggoner’s first two books. They are hilarious, and are in the same vein as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. A fantastically tongue-in-cheek fantasy world that pokes at our culture’s beliefs and actions through the lens of trolls and magic. I can’t wait for the next!
- Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes came to me by way of Ada Technical Books’ Feminist Science Fiction Book Subscription, which has been sending me amazing books all year. So worth the cost. But back to Chilling Effect. This is an absolutely hilarious romp in space, put me in mind a lot of Firefly/Serenity, if the captain was a Latinx woman who accidentally ends up with a ship full of psychic cats. Yeah. That. It’s a beaut.
But that’s all for now! Go get these books, give them a read, and let me know what you think!