Ursula K. LeGuin passed in January, and that was a very hard thing.

Fiction:
I ended up being sick over most of my winter holiday, and took refuge in The Comfortable Courtesan: Being Memoirs by Clorinda Cathcart (that has been a Lady of the Town these several years) by L. A. Hall, reading all the way through volume twelve. The series is set mostly in Regency England with a few visits to Italy, and though it is not a romance exactly, it appealed to me as a romance reader; if I had to classify it, I would probably call it a Regency soap opera. Because the author is a historian, there’s a lot of fun detail from that angle as well. The diary format makes it great for reading in small increments of time, but carries the flow throughout with relationship issues and social puzzles to be solved, so I never hesitated to slide from one volume to the next. I loved the portrayal of the various poly relationships, and also the wombatts. Also, if Clorinda is not a Hufflepuff, I will eat my badger t-shirt. (Now I want the Harry Potter AU of the Comfortable Courtesan….)

Echoes in Death (Book 44) by J.D. Robb was definitely an Eve Dallas book. I think I detected slightly more feminist rage than usual and fewer appearances of the (many, many) secondary characters. It did what I wanted it to do, which was to be more of the same, only different.

Penric’s Fox: Penric and Desdemona Book 3 by Lois McMaster Bujold was also as expected, with the addition of some adorable wildlife and a snarky young female GrayJay (that world’s police equivalent).

The Girl with the Red Balloon (The Balloonmakers) by Katherine Locke is about a modern girl accidentally sent back in time to 1988 East Berlin. Ellie Baum is Jewish, and her grandfather was magically rescued from a death camp. That same magic is now being used by a worldwide organization. I loved the ideas in the magical worldbuilding, which involved a lot of math and some blood as well as balloons; the book also explored ways the magic could all go wrong. I enjoyed and was sometimes moved by the philosophical discussions resulting from time travel, and saving who you can save, and the many versus the few. There is a romance between Ellie and Kai, who is a ridiculously attractive Romani boy from England who aids the balloon rescue efforts. I was intrigued by Mitzi, also one of the balloon rescuer group, who is native to East Berlin but estranged from her family because she is a lesbian; I wanted to see considerably more of Ellie’s and Mitzi’s growing friendship.

Strange Practice (A Dr. Greta Helsing Novel) by Vivian Shaw was terrific. It has: female protagonist, found family, people who think they are monsters, medical neep about treating vampyres and mummies and ghouls, and a cracking good plot. And Greta is a doctor who acts like a real doctor despite her fantastical patients, and that was the best thing of all.

The XY Conspiracy by Lori Selke is about a UFO investigator who makes money as a stripper. She goes on a road trip to escape what might have been a Man in Black, and along the way, we learn about many types of strip joints and reasons why Y chromosomes might have been introduced by aliens. There aren’t any other books about that. I found the whole story viscerally satisfying, in a “take that!” kind of way.

Comics:
I read Avengers: The Enemy Within (Captain Marvel Book 3) by Kelly Sue DeConnick on my tablet, as I hadn’t been able to find an affordable print copy back when I was reading the Captain Marvel series. I already knew what to expect from the story, having read everything around it, so it was more filling-in-the-gaps for me, and a test for the tablet. I loved how great the pages looked on the tablet, and how easy it was to enlarge text or art if needed. The one thing that’s a tad bothersome is the backlighting, but I experimented with making that more comfortable for myself. The best thing about finally having a tablet suitable for comics is that I can buy some things I haven’t been able to get in print, or don’t want in print, and can save physical space on my shelves.

Nonfiction:
Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American voices, and Octavia E. Butler is a mixed bag of academic essays on Butler’s work, excerpts from interviews with her, and memorial tributes. The tributes hit me the hardest; I admired her and her work greatly, and grieve the work we will never see from her.

The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 by Paul Fussell is an intense, and sometimes brutal, collection of essays on different aspects of, well, a year in WWII in Europe – what it says on the tin. It’s a quick read, and was great to pick up and pick down because the chapters/essays were so brief. Afterwards, I felt much more informed about several aspects of the war in Europe I should have learned about in high school (but didn’t), all of it with a direct, personal feel. I would highly recommend this book if you write, or plan to write, WWII-era Captain American fanfiction, but don’t want to dive into, for instance, a massive John Keegan volume.

Fanfiction:
Little Animal Lives by adeepeningdig is a Bucky Barnes Recovery story featuring the trifecta of a house that needs rehab, a therapy dog, and a kid that needs a friend. Also bonus T’challa. A very soothing story of one of my favorite sorts.

Barnes’ Top 100 Music Charts by Kimbali for owlet was a fun story about Bucky figuring out what music he now likes, and what music is good for his mood. Set in the “Infinite Coffee and Protection Detail” universe.