Autumn, 2021

2021 is almost over, and — Well, we hoped for the best. This year has certainly flown by for me– unlike that Year Which Shall Not Be Named. (Except… My granddaughter was born in That Year, so… I can’t hate it as thoroughly as I’d like.)

At any rate, here we are approaching 2022, and things are not looking to have improved much. So it’s time for another list of books which have helped me to escape and/or process the dysfunctional dystopia we seem to be living in. I seem to have favored ghosts and mythological creatures in many of these. I’m not sure I want to know why…

Borderline by Mishell Baker — I’m not usually into urban fantasy, but Millie is such an incredibly dysfunctional hero that she made me hopeful. If she could process and problem-solve her newly-seen wyrd world, with her BPD, then surely I can manage this one with my comparatively mild depression and anxiety…?

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine — Ambassador Mahit Dzmare at the beginning of her career, suspects the former ambassador was murdered… perhaps he will be able to tell her about it…? The Teixcalaanli Empire is a tangle of protocol and secrets, but Martine is a pro, threading her way through the complicated communications of their etiquette. A fascinating take on the use of language and poetry in an ancient society.

The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu– In a dystopian future Edinburgh, smart-talking and ghost-talking high school drop-out Ropa gets entangled in a creepy mystery involving stolen children. Spooky and entertaining. 

I don’t know why, but I was also captivated by a succession of Asian-oriented stories this fall. Maybe the challenge of navigating other cultures is helping me navigate my doomsday thoughts about white supremacy, climate change, and Omicron?

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo — In colonial Malaysia, a young Chinese woman is asked to become the bride of a dead man to placate his spirit. It’s a strange start to a story that gets much, much stranger as it goes on. For me, it was a fascinating (I don’t know how accurate)  introduction to Chinese mythology.

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho — another one set in Malaysia, but set in present day. Also involving ghosts, gods, and a young woman trying to navigate a spirit world she’s never experienced before. Ghostly grandmothers can be mean — and angry, vengeful gods can be dangerous. 

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley — A totally captivating sequel to The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Thaniel and Mori go to Japan and … things get really, really weird. 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo — A beautifully crafted mix of the early history of space flight, the problems of Chinese Americans when the Communists are taking over China, and the understandable angst of a teenaged Chinese American lesbian coming to terms with herself in 1950s San Francisco. 

Shogun by James Clavell — I’ve been listening to this classic during my commute. I read Tai-Pan years ago, and loved it, but when I tried to read Shogun I found it too dense and depressing. I suspect it was the love story that really held me through Tai-Pan. Now that I’m older and more sophisticated (HA), I can tolerate a story that is more about the culture clash and politics.

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