My August Reading Log

Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys is second in the Innsmouth Legacy series, set only a short time after the previous book ends. Our heroes have to travel to New York City in search of a lost relative, and there they find more complications and dangers than they’d expected. It felt more internal and reflective than the previous book, adding complexity to the worldbuilding and giving Aphra more challenges both magical and emotional.

Neighborhoods shifted and blended–as they did in San Francisco but larger, louder, more multitudinous. Alphabets and chords of scent, line of cheek and tone of skin, flavor of language: these differences marked each cluster of blocks unmistakably, showing where communities settled together to share comfort in an unfamiliar place. But each permeable pool spread rivulets into the surrounding pools, as people intermingled for food or friendship or business or simple curiosity. Without that flow, they might have grown stagnant. With it, they became a thriving wetland of shared strength. Those rivulets were the veins carrying the pulse I’d felt since I arrived.

It also felt very relevant to the times in which we live:
“Great powers surround us. If we don’t choose to shape them, they’ll shape us unopposed–we cannot let that happen again.”

A Beautiful Blue Death: The First Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch was vacation reading, and served that purpose admirably, with straightforward prose and short chapters that I could finish before falling asleep each night. For a murder mystery, it was remarkably low stress, which I believe was the reason for its initial recommendation to me. The characters are reasonable people, for the most part, and the mystery had some unexpected tangles. It was not the sort of mystery where I could figure out the solution by following the protagonist’s thought processes.

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss is the second book in The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, and it brings in vampires! Or, pardon me, humans infected with vampirism. Goss continues to reimagine the stories of female experimental subjects, this time in a road trip novel that includes the Orient Express, a carriage journey, and a circus. Also Carmilla (from the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu story) and various characters from Dracula. If you like Gothics, and transformative works, I suspect you will like this.

Favorite quote: “It is a great pleasure to meet an agent of the Subcommittee for Bibliographic Citation Format.”

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells is third in this series of novellas. Murderbot once again navigates being an escaped slave, this time by pretending to be what it has left behind, while no longer entirely successful at the pretense. Murderbot gets yet another view of human/robot relationships as well as the banal, brutal evil of corporations. When the last volume comes out, I’m going to read it all again.

Favorite quotes: If you had to take care of humans, it was better to take care of small soft ones who were nice to you and thought you were great because you kept preventing them from being murdered.

…there’s the right kind of unrealistic and the wrong kind of unrealistic.

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark is a novella rather than a novel, which I didn’t realize until I was near the end. I found that disappointing, and hope he will do a lot more with this alternate-history steampunk world in which the American Civil War ends in an uneasy truce with slaves kept down by drugged gas, and New Orleans is fiercely protecting its neutrality in the midst of all that, while Haiti is still dealing with having used powerful magic/science to destroy the French navy that attempted to re-conquer them in a sort of Cold War nuclear crisis, and sky-pirates fly out of the Caribbean, and gods and goddesses walk among or rather within some of the characters. So many fabulous worldbuilding details! Such appealing characters! So much potential plot conflict for future work!

Favorite quote: The magic of those old Afrikin gods is part of this city, ma maman used to say, buried in its bones and roots with the slaves that built it, making the ground and air and waterways sacred land. Only we forgot the names that went with that power we brought over here. Since Haiti got free, though, those gods were coming back, she’d said, across the waters, all the way from Lafrik.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 2: Cosmic Cooties by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare continues to grapple with the issues of being a super genius and also nine years old, which as you can imagine is very frustrating. And also, Lunella is manifesting a very inconvenient Inhuman power. Plus, there’s bonus Ms. Marvel! I enjoyed this, but I think the Inhuman aspects cluttered and complicated the story too much, so I kept putting it down. I have several volumes waiting after this one; we’ll see how this all turns out.

The Leftovers by hulksmashmouth is a really good and emotionally intense MCU Infinity War story, from the pov of Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s MJ. When The Snap happens, nobody knows what’s going on, but it’s all terrifying, and then MJ has to deal with her familial losses, which is very well done and realistic. Eventually, there are Avengers, and eventually, all is made right, but it’s a rollercoaster to get there. Note that this is the last in a series, though I followed it with no problem. Now I have to go back and read the first story!

Life of the Party by AggressiveWhenStartled is hilarious! Captain America is his usual self, but Bucky Barnes is a modern man, who does children’s birthday parties as The Winter Soldier. They meet, they are smitten, and they make charming fools of themselves over each other, and I loved every wacky moment of it.

in cayenne and honey, in vinegar and lime by alby_mangroves and Nonymos was a terrific story about Bucky recovering in Wakanda, from M’Baku’s point of view. I don’t want to spoil this because I really, really enjoyed the M’Baku voice and characterization, and the role he plays in Wakanda after the events of Black Panther. Also features slash, though both parties are in love with other people.

Full Metal Sasquatch by newsbypostcard for cabloom features Bucky!Captain America trying to survive being separated from Steve, who is supposed to be dead. Thanks to Natasha, part of his coping mechanism is an Instagram account. I recommend this for its humor and great dialogue.

where the dread fern grows by silentwalrus is set in an alternate universe where Sam Wilson’s family can all fly, Steve Rogers can create fire in his hand, and Bucky Barnes might be a witch. It’s Sam’s pov, and it was funny; he needs some elf wine for a wedding present, and Bucky is the guy who can provide it.

under a golden january sun by newsbypostcard is a Steve/Bucky story set in Wakanda, with a delightful role for Shuri.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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