Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) tends to float to the top of my “to be read” pile.

Nettle and Bone, her latest book, is a one-off, but of a different sort than others. It’s not the retelling of an existing fairy tale like Bryony and Roses, The Seventh Bride,or The Raven and the Reindeer. It’s not a coming-of-age story like Minor Mage or A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking. And it isn’t set in the Clockwork universe of her Paladin books.

Oh, and it’s not one of her super-creepy horror novels, although it does have the occasional creepy point.

It’s a new fairy tale, a story of a woman who discovers her pregnant sister is being abused — and decides her sister’s husband has to go. This is complicated by the fact that he’s the prince of the neighboring country and, in multiple ways, significantly more powerful than she is.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, even when it involves doing impossible things. One just needs to collect a hodgepodge of new friends, build a pet, and learn how politics work.

This book has cemented its place on my “favorite books” list.

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is a creepy as hell retelling of the “Fall of the House of Usher”. I knew it was going to get bad when there were no bodies by the end of chapter 3 because T. Kingfisher’s got a reputation for having someone dead even in her “fluffy romances” and hooooo this didn’t disappoint. Never looking at lungs the same way again. holy hell.

My brain’s just running around now yelling NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.

A must read.

Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir, illustrated by Myisha Haynes

I’m an anne-with-an-e and so it was a requirement of the universe that I’d be reading Anne of Green Gables before I escaped junior high.

Trying to read the original series has multiple hurdles that have only gotten stronger since I was a child. The series was set in rural Prince Edward Island, Canada, in a time before telephones, cars, and refrigerators. (The internet wasn’t even dreamed of.) The books were written in the early 1910s, so more than 100 years of word loss and language migration has taken place. And the story of a young white girl with red hair adopted by two older people who wanted a boy that could take over the farm isn’t exactly as easy to relate to these days as it was even when I was a teen in the 1990s.

But the story’s arc as a coming-of-age tale is certainly still relevant. People (of all ages) still need to know what a good apology looks like, why it can be hard to fit in when you’re different, that parents (and other adults) get things wrong too, and that the kid you think is a jerk might actually be more sincere than he lets on.

I’m thrilled that Anne of West Philly retells the first Anne of Green Gables story, overcoming the language barriers of the original and turning it into a graphic novel for all ages.

Some of the changes to be aware of:

  • Anne is a foster child, not a straight-up adoption as she was in the original. (These days you don’t get to just send an orphan you have legally adopted back if you don’t like them, thank God.)
  • Anne’s a Black girl with natural red hair.
  • Anne and her friends are on Instagram, they have cell phones, they are in a robotics club, they use school busses, they’re in our society.
  • The story takes place in West Philadelphia instead of a farm in Canada, which has surprisingly very little impact on the primary plot points.
  • (Spoiler) Near the end of the book we learn that not only is Gilbert not Anne’s primary love interest, she’s crushing on a girl. (The story ends before we see whether Anne wins the heart of the friend she’s interested in.)

In other words, it’s the kind of story that a kid today could understand without having to know anything about rural living, Canadian geography, or English as spoken 120 years ago. A timeless story that’s reset to a time that makes it easier to enjoy.

Definitely worth reading, and I just gifted it to a teen I know.

The Ankh-Morpork Archives volume 1 by Terry Pratchett

I just devoured this book, having never read the Discworld Diaries it’s based on. The artwork is fantastic, the details of the various guilds, people, and personalities is top-notch, and the size of the book (fairly large) makes it all the easier to enjoy the contents.

I subtracted on star for some script-like fonts especially at the beginning which were difficult to read. Yes, I should use my reading glasses, but any book large enough to take out a terrier should be easy for me to read without glasses, too.

All in all, an excellent Hogswatch gift, and I look forward to the 2nd volume.

Epidemics and Society by Frank M. Snowden

I picked up a copy of Epidemics and Society in November of 2019, having no idea it had just been published, nor any hint of what would happen in China only a few weeks later. I thought that, well, I was trying to write a pandemic in my current NaNoWriMo novel and maybe some research would help…

Epidemics and Society is the best book on understanding the intersection of medicine and history I’ve ever read. When I took history classes in high school and college, public health was treated like a thing separate from historical events. This book shatters that illusion and shows that many points of upheaval took place during or directly after an epidemic of some sort.

It starts early with explanations of our understanding of disease and moves through history, epidemic by epidemic, around the world. Each is explained in context of the politics, public health policies, epidemiology, and even economics that impacted the response to the pandemic.

Ultimately the lesson is simple: all this has happened before, and all this will happen again. The best we can do is make public health a critical priority both in times of low concern and times of epidemic.

Also, hug your healthcare workers (consensually) because they’ve been through a hell of a ride for centuries now.