My May and June Reading Log


Torches: Acquaintance Old and New (Clorinda Cathcart’s Circle Book 8) by L. A. Hall went down like a series of bonbons; as usual, the “Circle” installments are intended for those who’ve already read the main Comfortable Courtesan series.

Unjust Cause (Alex Connor Series Book 2) by Tate Hallaway, while raising some intriguing moral questions about having an intelligent creature as a familiar, was easily digestible as well, and suited to my present somewhat scattered state of mind. The mystery seemed secondary to character exploration and some additional worldbuilding, which was fine with me.

Network Effect: A Murderbot Novel (The Murderbot Diaries Book 5) by Martha Wells was delightful and delicious, and I plan to read it again. So, so good.

Made Things by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a fantasy novella featuring all sorts of homunculi in one of the coolest bits of worldbuilding I’ve seen in a while. I really got a feel for how this world reached out farther than the plot, and enjoyed the characterizations, too. I had been expecting, from the opening sequence with a ragged orphan thief, a much simpler and less interesting story, so bonus for this being way better than the usual run of fantasy world class struggles!

I re-read The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff. Set in the early 1990s in Portland, Oregon, it’s about a twelve year old girl, Allegra Shapiro, who’s a finalist in a contest for young violinists, and how the things she does and learns that summer feed into her performance. Both her parents are string players, and her brother is a cartoonist. She learns from her teacher, obviously, and from playing the designated Mozart concerto, but also from her mother’s talented singer friend, and from learning about her great-grandmother, who died in the Holocaust. There’s a subplot with a semi-homeless man who dances at outdoor concerts and is searching for a song he can no longer remember, a quest with which Allegra attempts to help. I was also intrigued to note cultural changes from the early 1990s to now; the characters have no cell phones, for example, and no at-home internet. The book is very in the moment and slice of life, and it was what I needed, I think. I have never been to Portland, but the book made me feel a bit like I had been, and it made me long to see live concerts again. Though not outdoor summer concerts where people are eating picnics and drinking wine and wandering off when they feel like it, I am too much of a nerd for that.

I also reread Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh, and have moved onto the second book. I can no longer remember how far I got into this series as it was coming out, but probably not more than four or five volumes? I think maybe the last one I read was checked out of the library in hardcover. Anyway, the series is now on volume twenty-one. Cherryh turns out to be great for pandemic reading. You’re deeply immersed in the third person point of view of a single human dealing with a planet full of non-humans, in their language, using their social mores. Events have thrown him out of his routine and separated him from his own people, and he doesn’t know what’s happening, or who to trust. Unless you remember from a previous reading, as I vaguely did, you don’t find out the reason for all the Things Happening until after three hundred pages.

I continued my C.J. Cherryh Foreigner series re-read with Invader, and am now almost done with Inheritor. That’s the last of the paperbacks I own. Invader deals with all the human and atevi political maneuverings that ensue when the human starship returns to the planet, two hundred years after its departure. Multiple factions among the atevi and the humans are jockeying for advantage, and Bren Cameron has to decide where his loyalties lie, and his feelings, and of course he is conflicted about all of it to some degree, but really his sympathies lie with the atevi among whom he lives, the sole human. So much of this book was resonating with me, particularly the “human heritage” party’s tactics. Inheritor picks up about six months after two humans have arrived from the ship, one assigned to Bren and the atevi, and one to the human community on the island of Mospheira. Bren is finding it harder to understand Jason Graham, who spent his entire life up to this point on a starship, than it is to understand the atevi, and their relationship remains uneasy, a whole new kind of First Contact. And Bren makes a new connection with Jago, one of his ateva security guards. Overall, my favorite character is Tabini-aiji’s grandmother Ilisidi, who is crafty and cranky and flirty, rides like a centaur, and surrounds herself with “her young men” (security guards) who obey her every command.


Rachel Maddow: A Biography by Lisa Rogak felt like a very long magazine profile to me, not that that’s a bad thing. It was informative about the progress of Maddow’s career, but I felt it lacked depth, perhaps the consequence of being about a young, still living subject. I read it in small bits on my phone, which may have affected my opinion of it. I was most interested in the parts about the early stages of MSNBC and how it developed.

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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