My February Reading Log

The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin is the second of her historical romance mysteries set in Tang Dynasty China. The heroine Mingyu, a highly trained courtesan, discovers one of her highest-ranking clients spectacularly dead and must work with big, rough-hewn Constable Kaifeng to solve the mystery and maintain her reputation. She always has to walk a very narrow path socially, and in addition was accused of murder by him in the previous novel, so their relationship is somewhat fraught (he briefly questioned her using painful methods we in the modern day would call torture). Meanwhile, Kaifeng has a political enemy who wants him out of his job. The mystery is not the primary focus, and though I enjoyed the romance as these two guarded people open up to each other, just the historical detail alone makes these books worth reading; Lin is terrific about telling you a lot about the period in an unobtrusive, integral way.

Drinking Gourd by Barbara Hambly is the fourteenth Benjamin January mystery, which starts off with a minstrel show. Unable to find orchestral work in New Orleans, Ben and Hannibal are touring with a circus, but soon have to hurry to Vicksburg, Mississippi, with Ben posing as Hannibal’s enslaved valet. This installment is mostly about the Underground Railroad and the complexities of how it might have operated, but of course there is also a murder, and negotiating the conservative society of Vicksburg, and avoiding a familiar face from the past, and of course serious peril for both Ben and Hannibal. Also, I am now stuck on the song referenced in the title.

Sharp End: The Fighting Man in World War II by John Ellis is a 1980 book; I have the 1990 edition, which features some additional information at the end. If you are researching the life of an infantryman in the WWII Allied Armies (the English-speaking ones), this is a terrific resource. The author uses both statistics and frequent quotes from soldiers and occasionally journalists to illuminate the range of dangers and quotidian suffering of being on the front lines, including chapters about morale and the difficulties of obtaining rest or relaxation. I haven’t read a huge amount about WWII yet, but what I have read has been mostly on this level; I find individual stories and in-depth examinations more fascinating and enlightening than discussions of big-picture strategy. Now I want to read more about WWII, but I have a substantial WWI TBR as well, and WWI remains my primary interest for now.

English Sexualities, 1700-1800 by Tim Hitchcock concisely summarizes a whole range of research into the sex lives of people during this period as well as theories about how changes occurred. The book discusses major primary sources and their value, and provides a most excellent bibliography.

the bones of this land by Kat Heatherington is a poetry chapbook. I found the poems very accessible to me with their themes of loss and grief and nostalgia. This was the first time I’d read poetry on my phone, but I plan to do it again, so I can have mindful moments while I’m out in the world.

Slow and Splendored by alby_mangroves and eyres is a melancholy but sweet post-Avengers: Endgame Captain America story with themes of aging and love and doing what you can do. Also Buster the cat. I didn’t think I needed this story, but apparently I did. It has a happy ending, if you’re worried, a happier one than I had expected. Recommended.

an irrevocable condition by layersofsilence is about Bucky Barnes caretaking himself a family in his Romanian apartment building. Soothing and sweet.

Save Me by Brumeier, a Gothic AU of Stargate: Atlantis in which novelist Rodney McKay, who’s had writer’s block for ten years, inherits a mansion stuffed to the gills with Stuff. John Sheppard is the ex-Air Force, mysterious caretaker. It was a lot of fun.

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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