Being the fourth of my monthly reading summaries for 2018. Here’s what I read in May:
To keep my numbers consistent with what I have listed on Goodreads, I count completed magazine issues and stand-alone short stories in ebook format as “books.” I read or listened to 15 books in May: 9 in print, 2 in audio, and 4 in ebook format. They were:
1. Lightspeed Magazine #96 (May, 2018) edited by John Joseph Adams. The usual great assortment of science fiction and fantasy short stories and non-fiction. Favorites this issue were Martin Cahill’s “Godmeat,”, Kodiak Julian’s “Our Side of the Door”, Xia Jia’s “Night Journey of the Dragon Horse,” and Tobias Buckell’s “Sunset.”
2. E is for Evil edited by Rhonda Parrish. The latest in Poise and Pen Publishing’s “Alphabet anthologies” is another fun collection of stories of varying lengths built around the title theme, in this case “evil” in all its forms. The fun of this series is not knowing the story title (“A is for [fill in the blank]”) until after the story concludes. Some entries are easy to guess, some are nice surprises that make you look at the story differently after the fact. Two of my favorites in this volume were by Beth Cato and Jeanne Kramer-Smyth.
3. Scourged (Iron Druid Chronicles #9) by Kevin Hearne. The concluding volume, at least for now, in Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles is, without spoilers, a very satisfactory finish: every major plot and pretty much every sub-plot introduced in the previous 8 novels and various novellas and short stories is wrapped up without sacrificing story flow, action, or urgency. It literally has all been leading to this. If I have any complaint, it’s that Owen’s subplot feels a bit too disconnected from the rest of the book.
4. Perennial: a garden romance by Mary Anne Mohanraj. A beautiful little romantic novella featuring a cancer patient, a flower-shop owner, and poetry the author wrote during her own cancer struggle. I re-read it several times, and posted a longer review a few weeks ago.
5. Iceman Vol 2: Absolute Zero by Sina Grace and Robert Gill. I enjoyed the second volume of Grace’s run as writer on Iceman’s solo series almost as much as I enjoyed the first volume. Grace continues to show the coming out process for the occasional mess it can be – I can’t pick out just one or two moments out of the many that felt so real. As a fan of relatively-obscure super-teams, I loved the way Grace scripted, and Robert Gill illustrated, the reunion of Marvel’s 1970’s Champions team in the first half of the book.
6. Strange Weather by Joe Hill. This collection of four novellas felt sort of hit-or-miss to me. “Snapshot” (narrated on the audiobook by Wil Wheaton) and “Rain” (narrated by Kate Mulgrew) were my favorites: tightly-told stories in first person POV with high stakes that were believable despite the supernatural aspects. “Aloft” (narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris) felt about a third too long for the story Hill was trying to tell. “Loaded” (narrated by Stephen Lang) is a topical and politically charged story that feels like it should be an “all-star cast” ensemble movie.
7. The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories by Alex Shvartsman. A really wonderful collection of science fiction and fantasy stories, many of them humorous. Favorites included the title story and “The Race for Arcadia.” Posted a review earlier this week.
8. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 2: The Faust Act by Keiron Gillen, Jamie McElvie, Matt Wilson. The first volume of a graphic novel series that’s been around a while but which I’m just getting around to reading. The premise (every 90 years or so, a small handful of gods are incarnated into human form to influence world culture) feels simple enough, but within the first 25 pages the story starts to take interesting turns. And of course the volume ends with a hook (but not a cliffhanger) to get you to keep reading. McElvie’s art is expressive and dynamic.
9. Captain Marvel, Vol 1: Higher, Faster, Stronger, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez. There’s a lot of DC and Marvel stuff I’ve been meaning to read, including DeConnick’s run as writer on Captain Marvel. I suspect I started with the wrong “volume 1,” as back-of-book ads and story subplots indicate there’s an earlier DeConnick run I probably should have read first. Nonetheless I found the story accessible for someone who hasn’t picked monthly comics up in years. The story builds and has legitimately interesting twists (rather than twists present for shock’s sake alone). Lopez’s art is clean and stream-lined.
10. Red Sonja / Claw the Unconquered: The Devil’s Hand by John Layman, Andy Smith. I loved both of these characters back in the day. I only liked this story. It was decent, but I didn’t feel drawn in to either the story or captivated by the art.
11. Hercules: Still Going Strong by Dan Abnett and Luke Ross. I remember ads for Marvel’s “all-new, all-different Hercules” run, but didn’t realize it was short enough to fit into one graphic novel and basically incomplete. I like what Abnett attempted to do, turning what we know about Marvel’s Hercules upside down, and was intrigued by the new gods / old gods threat (shades of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”). I would have liked to have seen where he would have gone with the story given more than six monthly issues. And I really liked how detailed and realistic Luke Ross’s art was.
12. You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home: Wonder Stories by Alex Jeffers. A really solid collection of fantasy (or fantasy-tinged) stories featuring a cast of gay, mostly Arabic characters and hinging heavily on Middle Eastern legends and mythology. One or two of the stories have fantasy aspects that are barely even noticeable, and several of the stories are clearly inter-connected. Favorites included "Tattooed Love Boys," "Jannicke's Cat," "Farouz and His Brother" / "Haida and His Dog," and "Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy."
13. Solacers: An Iranian Oliver Twist Story by Arion Golmakani. One of my “To Be Read” 2018 challenge titles, a more detailed review will be forthcoming on the blog. Short version is that I found this an intriguing look at Iranian culture before the Shah fell couched in a very personal, and often very painful, life story.
14. Madman Walking (Janet Moodie #2) by L.F. Robertson I found the second entry in the Janet Moodie legal thriller series easily accessible even not having read the first entry. As I was sent an ARC of this to review, there will be a more detailed review coming up next week on the blog.
15. The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag. A really wonderful middle-grade graphic novel about a magical family in which the boys are shapeshifters and the girls witches, and in which very strong gender roles are enforced, resulting in a dark family secret that title character Aster must deal with. The art is expressive without being over-detailed, never quite jumping into cartoony. A world I hope the author will continue to revisit.
That’s 15 books in February, to a Year-To-Date total of 68, which Goodreads says me puts me 26 books ahead of schedule for my 100 Books Challenge. Solacers was this month’s read for the 2018 To Be Read Challenge. I read 6 graphic novels for the “one graphic novel per week” reading challenge (I’m at 23 graphic novels for the year, and as the last full week of May was week #21 of 2018 I’m now a little ahead for the year-to-date). Solacers also counted towards the Bustle Challenge. I didn’t read anything towards any of my “Complete the Series” challenges in May. All but the To Be Read Challenge were described HERE.
I have a goal of reading 365 short stories (1 per day, essentially, although it doesn’t always work out that way) each year. Here’s what I did read and where you can find them if you’re interested in reading them too (with some short notes for stories that really stood out to me). If no source is noted, the story is from the same magazine or book as the story(ies) that precede(s) it:
1. “Sunset” by Tobias Buckell, from Lightspeed #96, May 2018, edited by John Joseph Adams
2. “We Will Be All Right” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
3. “The Crystal Spheres” by David Brin
4. “A Green Moon Problem” by Jane Lindskold
5. “Godmeat” By Martin Cahill
6. “Night Journey of the Dragon Horse” by Xia Jia (translated from Chinese by Ken Liu)
7. “Our Side of the Door” by Kodiak Julian
8. “His Artist Wifee” by John Grant
9. “Great Work of Time” by John Crowley
10. “Goodnight, Sleep Tight” by Seanan McGuire, from the author’s Patreon page
11. “Snapshot” by Joe Hill, from the author’s collection Strange Weather
12. “Loaded” by Joe Hill
13. “Aloft” by Joe Hill
14. “Rain” by Joe Hill
15. “We Go Together” by Eric McMillan, from One Story #239 (March 15, 2018)
16. “Mt. Adams at Mar Vista” by Gwen E. Kirby, from One Story #240 (April 19, 2018)
17. “Sanguinary Scar” by E. Catherine Tobler, from Black Static #62 (March/April, 2018)
18. “The Golem of Deneb Seven” by Alex Shvartsman, from the author’s collection The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories
19. “A Perfect Medium for Unrequited Love” by Alex Shvartsman
20. “Burying Treasure” by Alex Shvartsman
21. “Noun of Nouns: A Mini-Epic” by Alex Shvartsman
22. “Whom He May Devour” by Alex Shvartsman
23. “Letting Go” by Alex Shvartsman
24. “The Fiddle Game” by Alex Shvartsman
25. “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Monsters” by Alex Shvartsman
26. “Islands in the Sargasso” by Alex Shvartsman
27. “Catalogue of Items in the Chess Exhibit at the Humanities Museum, Pre-Enlightenment Era” by Alex Shvartsman
28. “Fifteen Minutes” by Alex Shvartsman
29. “Masquerade Night” by Alex Shvartsman
30. “The Poet Kings and the Word Plague” by Alex Shvartsman
31. “Golf to the Death” by Alex Shvartsman
32. “Staff Meeting, As Seen By the Spam Filter” by Alex Shvartsman
33. “Invasive Species” by Alex Shvartsman
34. “One in a Million” by Alex Shvartsman
35. “Grains of Wheat” by Alex Shvartsman
36. “The Ganthu Eggs” by Alex Shvartsman
37. “The Practical Guide to Punching Nazis” by Alex Shvartsman
38. “Dante’s Unfinished Business” by Alex Shvartsman
39. “Forty-Seven Dictums of Warfare” by Alex Shvartsman
40. “How Gaia and Guardian Saved the World” by Alex Shvartsman
41. “He Who Watches” by Alex Shvartsman
42. “Recall Notice” by Alex Shvartsman
43. “Dreidel of Dread: The Very Cthulhu Chanukah” by Alex Shvartsman
44. “Die, Miles Cornbloom” by Alex Shvartsman
45. “A Man in an Angel Costume” by Alex Shvartsman
46. “Future Fragments, Six Seconds Long” by Alex Shvartsman
47. “Parametrization of Complex Weather Patterns for Two Variables” by Alex Shvartsman
48. “The Race for Arcadia” by Alex Shvartsman
49. “Departures” by Sara Batkie, from One Story #241 (May 17, 2018)
50. “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy” by Alex Jeffers, from the author’s collection You Will Meet A Stranger Far From Home
51. “The Arab’s Prayer” by Alex Jeffers
52. “Then We Went There” by Alex Jeffers
53. “Farouz and His Brother” by Alex Jeffers
54. “Turning” by Alex Jeffers
55. “Haida and His Dog” by Alex Jeffers
56. “Jannicke’s Cat” by Alex Jeffers
57. “Liam and the Wild Fairy” by Alex Jeffers
58. “Bann’s Dream of the Sea” by Alex Jeffers
59. “Tattooed Love Boys” by Alex Jeffers
So that’s 59 short stories in May, way more than one per day, bringing me Year-To-Date to 177 stories. As May 30th was the 151th day of the year, this puts me 26 stories ahead of schedule for the year so far.