I chose The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab at random from a pile of recent books; I was reading the first few pages to see what I wanted to read next, and with this book, I never stopped until the end. I usually don’t like stories that jump back and forth in time, but this story was an exception; each jump forwards or backwards illuminated some aspect of what I had just read, and somehow propelled the narrative forward. I would call it a literary fantasy, by “literary” meaning that the fantasy seems to be in conversation with ideas about art and what art means in and for our lives. Let’s see if I can describe this without spoiling the experience. The title character lives in eighteenth century France when she makes a devil’s bargain and ends up essentially immortal. The flipside is that her immortality, as you might expect stemming from such a bargain, has serious drawbacks. By 2014, she has learned to deal with the drawbacks while continuing to appreciate her life. But, being human, she longs for something more. The 2014 timeline is all about using her wits to struggle against her constraints and improve her unending life. The ending leaves her in a better place. Also, there is a bookshop with a cat in it, which is always a bonus.
Masquerade in Lodi by Lois McMaster Bujold is another Penric and Desdemona novella, this one taking place earlier in the chronology. I do hope these are available in print someday; currently, I am reading them electronically. As usual, I enjoyed the worldbuilding and characters and just general settling into the hands of an author who really knows what she’s doing and how to take care of her readers. It was, ultimately, a very sweet story with some messages about family in several different forms.
Good Practices: Early Years – A Prequel (Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle Book 11) by L.A. Hall is all about Hector! I really enjoyed it.
Omega Required by Dessa Lux is an Alpha/Omega werewolf romance featuring found family, and I was impressed by the amount of interesting gender-related worldbuilding wrapped around the main story, and the complexity of both main characters.
Murder in July by Barbara Hambly is the fifteenth Benjamin January mystery. This one, though set in New Orleans, is interspersed with flashbacks to Ben’s time in Paris during the Three Glorious Days, which as you would guess turn out to be relevant to the New Orleans murder. There is not a lot of Rose in this one, as she is mostly busy being very pregnant, but we do get to see Ben with Ayasha in the Paris flashbacks, and there’s a fair amount of Olympe, as well as Hannibal and Shaw. I am wondering if Daniel Ben-Gideon will show up in New Orleans at some point, as he’s a big part of the Paris events, or if Ben’s time in Paris will feature in any more books.
I correctly guessed the murderer, but that did not stop me from enjoying the twists and turns, and I doubted my conclusion a couple of times along the way. As usual, I really enjoyed the historical worldbuilding, as I knew very little about Paris in this time period.
The Family Tooth: A Memoir in Essays is by Ellis Avery, a college friend of mine, who died in February of last year . This is the first time I’ve read it; it’s about her mother’s death, her own diagnosis with severe Reiter’s Syndrome (reactive arthritis), the TNF medications she took for it, her rare cancer probably caused by those medications, and the difficult dietary modifications that helped her function without the arthritis drugs. The cancer came back, after the period this book covers, and it was very odd and difficult to read these essays with that knowledge. It was also impressive how she turned these huge life experiences, and a host of smaller events, into coherent and beautiful literature. It felt very honest and intimate.
I had put off reading this for a long time, even before she died, but once I began, it felt like the right choice. I’ll be reading her last novel in January, and I’m glad to have experienced this one first.