Since I’m so in love with Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries, I thought I should read some of her other work, and she has a lot to choose from. The Cloud Road is the first in the Raksura series and it was very good. Her world building is impeccable. And what a world! There are hundreds of sentient species living in all types of environments but all of it is based on the Earth’s nature. The story follows Moon, a shapeshifter, who goes from a fairly typical bipedal person to a flying dragon-like creature. Moon meets another person of his species and goes with him to his home, which is failing due to a distinctly villainous enemy. All in all, I really like this book. I don’t know that I’m interested in reading more of the series as it was a bit too High Fantasy for me. However, I want to recommend this series to a bunch of people who I know will love it.
Premeditated Myrtle, by Elizabeth C. Bunce
A middle grade novel about a girl in the 1890s who wants to be a detective. Myrtle is wonderfully smart and is aided and encouraged by her governess—a well-educated mixed-race woman. When Myrtle’s neighbor is found dead in her mansion, Myrtle believes that her death wasn’t of natural causes since the woman grew prized lilies worth a fortune. This is a great mystery for kids—not too gruesome and not to scary. (So it’s good for a wimp like me.) I liked the story because Myrtle wasn’t the “kid who sees stuff adults don’t see and adults don’t believe her” character. She has a lot of adults that believe her and, while encouraging her not to investigate, they take action on the information she finds. This will be a fun series to follow.
Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston
One of last years most beloved romances, this one came highly recommended and all the praise was true. Alex is the young, ambitious, and handsome son of the President of the U.S. who is often compared to Prince Henry of the UK, which riles him up. After a major snafu, when Alex drunkenly knocks Henry into a wedding cake, the PR machines go to work to show that the two are actually friends. They actually do become friends and a whole lot more, but as each represents their country their road to love is filled with massive roadblocks. Making the most of the trope “Enemies to Lovers,” this is a heart-splitting story of two people who try to put duty before love and don’t quite succeed. The happy ending is so worth it.
The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, by Margaret Killjoy
The town of Freedom, Iowa is an anarchist socialists dream. In a somewhat post-apocalyptic near future, Danielle goes to Freedom to find clues as to why her best friend killed himself. She finds a town that supports itself, where everyone has a voice. Seems too perfect to be true. And it is. The year before the townspeople summoned a demon in the form of a deer with three antlers to kill the bully that had taken over. Now it’s after the summoners and the town is splitting into two sides: one that wants to worship the demon and one that wants to send it back to hell. Excellent world building here with a lot of interesting ideas about politics and personal responsibility played out in a tiny town atmosphere.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons
I’ve thought about reading this one for a long time. I loved the 90s movie with Kate Beckinsale. I’ve been coming across a lot of “pleasure” reads lists and this one has come up more than once. It is adorable. Flora, a recently orphaned socialite, decides to take up residence with her extended family at Cold Comfort Farm because she believes she’ll have the most to do there. Her business, as she sees it, is to “fix” people—find out what they need to be happy and then encourage them to do it. This includes sending her uncle Amos on the road as a traveling doomsday preacher and having her film director friend visit to see her handsome, movie-mad cousin. The one thing that detracts from the story (written in the early 1930s) is that it is supposed to take place twenties years later, so when the author throws in these hints about the future, it’s really jarring and took me out of the story. However, it was a sweet read, of which I need more of those these days.
Lady of Perdition, by Barbara Hambly
This is the latest in the Benjamin January mystery series. Ben heads out to the Texas frontier with his two white friends to rescue one of his free, mixed-race students that was taken to Texas to be sold as a slave. After a daring rescue, with help from a friend, Valentina, they are about to get out of Texas when Valentina begs Ben for his help. Her husband has been murdered and she is being framed for it, so Ben and his friend/white “owner” go to her ranch to investigate. It’s always fun to see Ben go to different places. Texas in 1840 is a wild place with Comanche attacks, trigger happy white men acting like they own it all, Hispanic and black cowboys—both slave and free. It’s no place for a free black man, nor a young widowed Mexican woman. As usual, Hambly does an amazing job of creating time and place and of realizing the idealistic Ben who can’t leave anybody to suffer.
Light from Other Stars, by Erika Swyler
Switching between 1986 and a future where four astronauts are on a five-year mission to another solar system to start a colony, Light from Other Stars follows Nedda—in 1986 an aspiring astronaut living near Cape Canaveral and in the future as one of the colonists. Her father is a brilliant physicist researching time (basically) and has built a machine that would allow time to slow in pockets. On the day the Space Shuttle explodes during take-off, the machine is activated with harrowing consequences that affect Nedda years later on her space mission. This is a hard one to write about without giving too much away. The story, while very scientific, is about relationships between parents and children, found family, grief, and similar personal connections. The story meanders in places and the science can be a bit much, but overall a wonderful story.
[Edit: I forgot one!]
Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede
For years this book kept popping up on lists as a beloved favorite. Now I know why. It has everything I love in a book—magic, mystery, letters, romance, independent women, and snark. It’s an epistolary between two best friends, Cecilia and Kate, who are also cousins. Kate is spending the “season” in London while Cecelia is left her father’s country estate. Known troublemakers, each discovers part of magical plot by nefarious sorcerers and, from afar, they work together to thwart it—while also falling in love. I had so much fun reading this book. I need to make it part of my permanent collection so I can reread it often.