Caitlin Scarano’s offerings in The Necessity of Wildfire are open-eyed and as full of grace and blood as ever. Her poetry consistently astonishes me. In this book, the heaviness and hauntedness of place is one of the most rewarding aspects, as the landscapes of Virginia and Washington assert themselves as roaring forces that accompany the speaker’s experience. Scarano’s poems are both unforgiving and tender, filled with scorching power. Some of these lines, I’m telling you.
A solid read with great advice for any creative who is trying to establish their own style and way of bringing their work to the world. Nothing earth-changing here, just a beautiful little book with lots of sense-making guidance to return you to the basics of finding yourself while/despite/in the midst of consistent creative practice.
Sarah Moss is a master of close third person perspective. In this novella that rotates between different strangers’ perspectives while on a dismal, rainy holiday in Scotland, we become so tightly entwined in the idle thoughts of our characters that it’s almost disorienting, nearly uncomfortable. I admire the way Moss understands and explores human flaws. In way of plot, there’s little, but that’s not the point. The point is: What if you could see and understand how everyone was thinking, all at once? It’s a power I’m sure I don’t want to have, but I’m confident that Moss has it.
I can’t pinpoint the exact origin of the magic by which Laura Stanfill creates her enchantment of a novel Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary. It might be the delectably detailed knowledge of a little-known instrument’s history woven into the plot. It might be the sumptuous descriptions of Old Word France village life in the 1800s. It might be the is-it-or-isn’t-it? treatment of superstition and fate. It might be the determination to create a book that is both relentlessly positive and relentlessly real about the human heart. It’s probably all of this and more. If you’re looking for something to whisk you away–something entirely free of cell phones and instead draped with bobbin lace–this is it.
No Gods, No Monsters is surprising, wild, and multifaceted. Cadwell Turnbull shows off his significant writing chops while wielding an interconnected multiplicity of plotlines in this thoughtful urban fantasy. The narration is complex–not only do we have several different time periods and character groups, but the veiled identity of our first person narrator slips in an out of the reader’s consciousness like a spell. Considering the world Turnbull has built, the disorientation feels incredibly fitting. It’s a book to tilt you out of what you thought you knew.
Donna Barba Higuera brings us a radiant YA/middle grade novel that blends folklore and visions of the American Southwest with a futuristic “arc ship” sci-fi tale in which one brave girl is the last human who remembers Earth. It’s a story that celebrates story, and a wonderful, empowering book for young people who see their imagination as their greatest gift. (Also, what a cover!)
I really enjoy Kay as a storyteller, and he’s my husband’s favorite author, so we like to bond over reading his books together. While my soulmate was happy to give this beast five enthusiastic teary-eyed stars, I had a harder time stepping over the flaws in the execution of the whole, while still deeply enjoying certain sections. One of the things that likely contributed to this (which I didn’t realize until about the middle of the book), was that this title is a “GGK Avengers” of sorts, where we see returning characters, battle references, and cultural traditions that are pulled from other Kay worlds in previous books that I haven’t read. So… I believe that this novel is meant to be a crowd-pleaser for loyal Kay fans while also being readable as a standalone. For me, it was too many characters, too many gratuitous concubines, and too chaotic of a perspective-shifting situation. That said, I absolutely loved Folco and would gladly read an entire book of his adventures. And of course, as in every Kay book, the high quality banter at court was 100% on point. I will also always be thankful for this book as it kept me company in the airport during a long, looooong delay. 🙂
We Play Ourselves is a wry, spicy critique of the pursuit of artistic fame on two different American coasts. Watching the narrator’s past and present derailing creates a metafictional experience, as we also gain pleasure from knowing the private and public details of her life, all her failures and fantasies, complicit in a facsimile of voyeurism that is just… really, really smart. Darkly funny, but also resonant. Made me want to go to L.A. without a plan.
I’ve read Tennessee Williams’ breakout masterpiece many times, and even taught it to high school students for a couple years. But it’s been a while, and I wanted to see if it was still good. If possible, I think it’s even gotten better. The fragility of hope, the way regret will always find us, the illusions we believe… it’s all here. A pillar of American Theater.
Becky Chambers brings us a beautiful, gentle little book in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The novel envisions a lovely future where human beings have figured it all out and sentient robots are living in their own natural utopia. The descriptions are gorgeous and the book provides a nurturing space for all of us who need to take a moment to remember who we are and why we’re here. It’s a fun solarpunk meditation walk, filled with humor, contemplation, and the earnest hijinks of a delightful robot named Mosscap. Also, this book will really, really make you want to have some good tea and to upgrade your bedroom linens and pillows.
Sidenote: As someone who has also read The Wild Robot, I strongly feel that Mosscap and Roz are related.