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Books Read in March, 2020

As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my March, 2020 reads.

Books Read in March, 2020

Jade City by Fonda Lee

January, 2020 Locus

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

The Magician King by Lev Grossman (r)

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game by Alan Bahr et. al. ((PDF) (RPG)

Robots vs Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger

And that was reading that I did in March of this year. This was the poorest month of reading I think I've ever had since I started these blog posts about the books I've read. While there's a good variety of books here to some extent, the poor quantity of reading is due to the fact that I've been ill for most of March, to the point where I couldn't really focus on anything, let alone reading. The books I enjoyed the most were:

Coming Up for Air by Sarah Leipciger - What can I say about this novel? It's written by a Canadian, who lives now in London, England. That's a good start. :) On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toymaker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Ottawa Valley in Canada, where a journalist, battling a terrible disease, risks everything for one last chance to live. Taking inspiration from a remarkable true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about the transcendent power of storytelling and the immeasurable impact of every human life. I haven't read a book in some time that moved me quite like this one did. This is a book about drowning, about needing to breathe yet finding you can’t, and a story of surviving and existing rather than living. It starts with the most stark image of all - a woman who drowns on the banks of the Seine. Little do they know, but so many lives will be affected by this act and this woman, and what happens next in stories told from 1899, through the 1950s and to the present day. What happened next is based on a real story, L’Inconnue de la Seine - the unknown woman of the Seine – a woman who found the need to kill herself in this manner, but who was considered so beautiful in death that the authorities created a death mask modelled on her face. Many years later it went on to become the face for the resuscitation mannequin named Resuscitation. I really can't say much more about this story without giving away a good deal of the plot and spoil it for potential readers. This is a moving and insightful novel, a story about mortality and death never being one that will read or go down easy. However, the water and drowning themes were apt and poetic, in this novel as one could literally drown in it as one reads. I'm glad I read this book near the beginning of March, and went on to read other books, but this one is a powerful novel that I highly recommend.

Robots vs Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe - This is a wonderfully conceived anthology that is not only an epic showdown between the two eponymous entities of the title, but is a showcase of some of the best voices in science fiction and fantasy, respectively. The anthology is permeated with a playful spirit even though many of the stories are quite dark in feel, which is a fitting tribute to both robots and faeries (as I prefer to spell the word). The introduction to the book, written by the editors, is penned as a letter to our future robot or faerie overlords, and each of the authors weighs in on as if they're "team robot" or "team faerie." Naturally, the difficulty with an anthology such as this is that it's going to contain stories that are very much *not* for someone, and that's certainly the case here. The stories vary widely, and I found them ranging from spectacular to "why-was-this-even-included"? While I enjoyed reading all the stories in this book, I have to admit that two stood out for me. "All the Time We've Left to Spend" by Alyssa Wong was, and is on being re-read, heart wrenching. It's also horrible, beautiful and so very, very human. The second stand-out story for me, for completely different reasons, is Catherynne M. Valente's "A Fall Counts Anywhere," which takes her trademark lush mastery of language and infuses it with the zaniest wrestling antics that you can find outside a vintage Ultimate Warrior tirade. Just superb. A third story that I really liked was Lavie Tidhar's "The Buried Giant," which is a memorable and evocative piece and the sort of fiction that I've come to expect from this author. I recommend this anthology, but it is not for everyone's taste.

Overall, I managed to read 5 novels, 1 RPG and RPG product, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in March. This brings the year total for 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 22 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 15 comics, and 1 graphic novel.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)


John Kahane

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