Continuing the monthly summaries of what I’ve been reading and writing.
To keep my numbers consistent with what I have listed on Goodreads, I count completed magazine issues and stand-alone short stories in e-book format as “books.” I read or listened to 14 books in March: 13 in print, 1 in e-book format, and 0 in audio. They were:
1. Lightspeed Magazine #106 (March 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams. The usual fine assortment of sf and fantasy short stories and novellas. This month’s favorites for me were Maria Romasco Moore’s “Self Storage Starts with the Heart,” Ashok K. Banker’s “A Hundred Thousand Arrows,” Kat Howard’s “Those Are Pearls,” and Vandana Singh’s “Of Love and Other Monsters.”
2. The Backstagers Vol 1: Rebels Without Applause, by James Tynion IV, Rian Sygh, others. Sort of a “male Lumberjanes in a high school drama department instead of a summer camp” in set-up and tone. Wonderfully diverse cast (gay, straight, trans, white, black), very very cartoony art. The characters are wonderful, but the world-building feels a bit loose and the plot progression a bit slow; I personally would have liked a bit more sense of the underpinnings but your mileage may vary.
3. The Backstagers Vol 2, by James Tynion IV, Rian Siygh, others. This one swings a bit in the other direction, with tons of details about the world-building and a much faster moving plot, including a resolution I thought would be much further along in an on-going monthly series (and I have no idea if the book is still being published, so maybe the quick resolution was because of impending cancellation?). I really do like all of these characters, though, and their interactions make the cover price worth it.
4. Firebrandt’s Legacy (Space Pirates Legacy #1), by David Lee Summers. It is not easy to take a bunch of short stories published separately and out of order and whip them into a cohesive novel, especially if you’re trying not to lose the episodic feel of the stories themselves. Summers pulls it off excellently. There’s great future world-building, very likeable characters and several consistent believable threats to the main characters’ lives and livelihoods.
5. Sal & Gabi Break The Universe by Carlos Hernandez. I posted a full review of this earlier. Short version: near future SF with middle-grade protagonists without the usual dystopian trappings and with a very healthy sense of humor. I loved it.
6. That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptid #8) by Seanan McGuire. The third InCryptid novel featuring youngest Price sister Antimony, her boyfriend Sam, and their friends brings several plot threads to a wild conclusion. In the process we learn more about the legend of the Crossroads and Crossroads Ghosts. Fast-moving and tons of comic-book trivia snark. There’s also a back-up novella featuring oldest Price child Alexander, his girlfriend Shelby, and their Gorgon friends investigating a mass kidnapping. The novella has hints of what the next novel will likely be about, so perhaps don’t read it until after you’ve finished the main novel.
7. Hexhunter (Hexworld #4) by Jordan L. Hawk. Hawk continues to develop this alternate history, magic-is-real-and-the-cops-use-it, world full of romance and sex. Each book follows the development of a new witch-familiar pairing, and this volume brings together two long-term supporting characters who must work through much personal baggage while investigating the murder of a nun by a snake familiar. This one also advances the series over-arc about corruption and the distrust between “normal” humans and those who wield magic.
8. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. The first book I’ve managed to read this year for the 2019 To Be Read Challenge is one I should have read a long time ago given my love for Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” and novel The Haunting of Hill House. A full review appeared on this site a week ago.
9. Oroonoko, by Aphra Behn. I’m still not completely sure what to make of this novella from 1688. It’s a compelling story by an early female author not writing under a male name, and it’s very clearly anti-slavery. At the same time, it trades on the “noble savage” trope quite heavily.
10. I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. The second book this year from the 2019 To Be Read Challenge list, I posted a full review earlier this week. I wish there were an audiobook version of this narrated by the author herself; I think I’d have connected more with her voice if I could hear her voice. Still, I learned a lot about Pakistan history as well as Malala’s personal story.
11. Captain Marvel, Volume 2: Stay Fly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marcio Takara, David Lopez and others. This one’s been sitting on the graphic novel pile for a while, and I’m glad I read it a few days before seeing the Captain Marvel movie. It’s a fun read, although not quite as fun or engrossing as the first volume in this iteration of Carol Danvers’ adventures.
12. Liars, Mistruths, and Perception, by Kate Fox. I am not, as I’ve said often, a big poetry reader. Still, Kate’s short ruminations on real life speak to me. Definitely recommended.
13. Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and others. I’ve heard good things about Wilson’s Ms. Marvel since the first issue collected in this volume came out back in 2014, but as with DeConnick’s Captain Marvel run, I am only now getting around to reading the series. I really enjoyed the way Wilson set up the origin so that I didn’t have to understand, or run out and buy, a big Marvel event that I missed because I haven’t bought monthly comics issues since approximately 2010. Probably my favorite graphic novel read of the month.
14. Forget the Sleepless Shores: Stories, By Sonya Taaffe. A great collection of densely written, horror-tinged short stories. Can’t say more here because I’ll be writing a review for Strange Horizons later this month.
So fourteen books in March, which Goodreads tells me is twelve ahead of goal for the year.
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. “The Synapse Will Free Us From Ourselves” by Violet Allen, from Lightspeed Magazine #106 (March 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams.
2. “On The Shores of Ligeia” by Carolyn Ives Gilman
3. “A Temporary Embarrassment in Space-Time” by Charlie Jane Anders
4. “My Children’s Home” by Woody Dismukes
5. “Self Storage Begins With The Heart” by Maria Romasco Moore
6. “Ambitious Boys Like You” by Richard Kadrey
7. “A Hundred Thousand Arrows” by Ashok K. Banker
8. “Those Are Pearls” by Kat Howard
9. “Of Love and Other Monsters” by Vandana Singh
10. “Emergency Landing” by Seanan McGuire, on the author’s Patreon page.
11. “Bridge of Sighs” by Kaaron Warren, from Nightmare Magazine #78 (March 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams
12. “Carry On” by Seanan McGuire
13. “The Measure of a Monster” by Seanan McGuire, novella published as a free extra story in the paperback of her InCryptid novel That Ain’t Witchcraft.
14. “Tiends” by Sonya Taaffe, from her collection Forget the Sleepless Shores: Stories (Lethe Press)
15. “Chez Vous Soon” by Sonya Taaffe
16. “Little Fix of Friction” by Sonya Taaffe
17. “On the Blindside” by Sonya Taaffe
18. “Notes toward the Classification of the Lesser Moly” by Sonya Taaffe
19. “Another Coming” by Sonya Taaffe
20. “Last Drink Bird Head” by Sonya Taaffe
21. “The Boatman’s Cure” by Sonya Taaffe
22. “The Dybbuk in Love” by Sonya Taaffe
23. “Like Milkweed” by Sonya Taaffe
24. “Imperator Noster” by Sonya Taaffe
25. “The Salt House” by Sonya Taaffe
26. “And Black Unfathomable Lakes” by Sonya Taaffe
27. “The Face of the Waters” by Sonya Taaffe
28. “The Creeping Influences” by Sonya Taaffe
29. “Drink Down” by Sonya Taaffe
30. “Exorcisms” by Sonya Taaffe
31. “When Can a Broken Glass Mend?” by Sonya Taaffe
32. “On Two Streets, with Three Languages” by Sonya Taaffe
33. “The Trinitite Golem” by Sonya Taaffe
34. “All Our Sal-Bottled Hearts” by Sonya Taaffe
35. “The Depth Oracle” by Sonya Taaffe
36. “Latvian Angel” by Matthew Lansbaugh, from One Story #250 (February 14, 2019), edited by Will Allison
So that’s 36 short stories in March, leaving me still slightly behind for the year so far. (March 31th was the 90th day of 2019.)
Summary of Reading Challenges:
“To Be Read” Challenge: This month: 2 read; YTD: 2 of 14 read.
365 Short Stories Challenge: This month: 36 read; YTD: 88 of 365 read.
Graphic Novels Challenge: This month: 4 read; YTD: 14 of 52 read.
Goodreads Challenge: This month: 14 read; YTD: 43 of 125 read.
Non-Fiction Challenge: This month: 1; YTD: 3 of 24 read.
Read the Book / Watch the Movie Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 0 of 10 read/watched.
Complete the Series Challenge: This month: 0 books read; YTD: 0 of 16 read.
Series fully completed: 0 of 3 planned
Monthly Special Challenge: I may not do something like this every month, but since March was Women’s History Month, I decided to try to read primarily women authors, and I did a pretty decent job of it. Of the 14 books I read, 8 were written by women. Of the 35 stories, 9 women authors wrote the majority (32 total; Sonya Taaffe accounts for 22 of them, Seanan McGuire for 3).
April’s challenge: read titles primarily from small press publishers.