My Month in Reading, December 2019

Sunglasses and The Invisible Library

In the first week of December, we went to Hawaii for a week.

I was so tired on the plane that I mostly watched movies and TV shows, but I had plenty of downtime during the week to sit outside on a balcony and read.

I also finished a Laini Taylor novella collection while visiting my family for Christmas.

I didn’t read anything too heavy this month, and it was a nice way to wrap up the year.

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More Than Wordsmiths: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside cover detail

Golems from Jewish folklore have always fascinated me, with their heads full of instructions written on a life-giving scroll. A golem is both the creation myth in miniature and a way to codify magic, a sort of early computer programming where the processors are clay giants. It’s strangely comforting to imagine that human beings could control the world in such a fashion, while also terrifying to imagine the many ways it could go wrong.

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The Silliest Quest: Kill the Farm Boy

Kill the Farm Boy is a silly book that sends up and undermines some well-worn clichés of the fantasy genre’s hero narrative. It asks questions like “What does it mean to be the Chosen One?” and “Who deserves to be a protagonist?” and then unloads goat poop on them. This succeeds with varying results.

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A Bloody, Surreal and Hilarious Trip: The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char by Scott HawkinsThe Library at Mount Char

Published: June 16th 2015
Publisher: Crown
Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror
Format: Audiobook
Length: 16 hrs and 47 mins

The Library at Mount Char is a fantastic book, but it’s almost impossible to summarize. Part of the problem is that a lot of the book hangs on misdirection. The main character knows a lot of things that she isn’t telling us, so we have to work with what little the author provides.

This means that to summarize the book past the first few chapters is to spoil some really great surprises. On the other hand, some of the bat-shit weirdness that occurs in later chapters is what made me truly, madly, deeply love this completely insane novel. It’s a bit of a quandary, because I want to recommend this book to everyone I know.

It doesn’t help that the book’s cover looks like the sort of thing you might find on a remaindered thriller in the bargain bin. The design doesn’t really grab you by the face and insist that you start reading the book RIGHT THIS INSTANT.

The basic summary is as follows: Carolyn and her adopted brothers and sisters are apprentice librarians in a massive, strange Library full of books that include all the knowledge in the world. When they were young, all of their parents died suddenly and a mysterious man they call “Father” adopted them. Father is viciously cruel, incredibly dangerous and infinitely powerful… but he’s gone missing and now none of them can get back into the Library. When they discover what actually happened to Father, it may change the fate of the entire universe as we know it.

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An Unwelcome Quest: The Book That Reviews Itself

An Unwelcome Quest is the third book in the Magic 2.0 series. The first two weren’t perfect by any means, but they were at least funny and light on their feet whereas this one quickly wears out its welcome. It’s a huge shame, because this series was exactly what I was looking for when I wanted to have a few laughs during my commute. One definite bright side is that Luke Daniels continues to bring his A-game as narrator. Also, I occasionally enjoyed the last quarter or so after gritting my teeth and slogging through the fairly dire middle.

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Wayward Volume One: Pretty But Empty

The art in Wayward Volume One is probably the best part of an otherwise cliché book. The backgrounds are gritty and realistic in a way that feels completely grounded, and the character art is bright and stylized. Unfortunately, all that beautiful art is in service of story about yet another teenager discovering hidden magical powers and using them to fight monsters.

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Rat Queens: Everything’s Coming Up Tentacles

Rat Queens is a modern spin on classic fantasy tropes that plays within those boundaries while also subverting clichés, and does so with a light touch. It has a great premise: a group of rowdy adventurers in a fantasy world fight, fuck, and generally incite civic destruction. The twist is that they’re all women, and they are surrounded by other adventuring parties with similar mixes of race and gender.

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Red Sonja: Plagued by Chainmail Bikinis and Other Clichés

Red Sonja, Volume 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani Published: February 19, 2014 Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Swords-and-Sorcery Format: Digital Length: 184 pages I don’t have much experience with Conan the Barbarian or Red Sonja; my dad had a pretty sizable comic book collection when I was a …

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Perdido Street Station: Words Upon Words, Worlds Within Worlds

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville Published: July 29, 2003 Publisher: Del Rey Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Weird Format: Paperback Length: 640 pages After reading Perdido Street Station, I can’t decide what China Miéville loves more: feverish world-building or the sheer impenetrability of his prose, and I say that as someone who (occasionally) enjoyed the book. …

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Vicious: One Weird Trick to Becoming a Super-Villain

Vicious by V.E. Schwab Published: September 24, 2013 Publisher: Tor Books Genre(s): Fantasy, Superheroes Format: Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 55 mins V.E. Schwab’s Vicious had a lot to recommend it: an eye-catching cover, rave reviews from authors I trust, and a premise that promises to toy with superhero and villain tropes in interesting ways. …

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Memory Comes in Waves: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Published: June 18th 2013 Publisher: William Morrow Books Genre(s): Fantasy Format: eBook Length: 178 pages Neil Gaiman’s most recent novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is a study in contrasts. It’s his first book written “for adults” in many years, but the main character is a seven-year-old boy and the writing style …

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Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Published: October 12, 2010 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy Format: eBook Length: 352 pages In Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Sam LaCroix is a college drop-out with a dead-end job at a burger joint. He just coasts along, hanging out with his friends/coworkers Ramon, Brooke and Frank, never quite satisfied with his …

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Published: September 27th 2011 Publisher: Walker Books Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror Format: Hardcover Length: 215 pages A Monster Calls is a young adult book with a deceptively simple plot – a thirteen year-old boy wakes up in the middle of the night and discovers a monster in his back yard – that reveals an …

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