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I haven’t done a reading post in yonks, so this are several weeks (months?) of reading.

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth. This is a kind of fictional biography over Dortchen Wild, and as far as I can tell the research is solid. She was Wilhelm Grimm’s wife (of the Brothers Grimm fame), and though they married when they were both well in their thirties, they had been courting for more than a decade. Dortchen was one of the main contributors of fairy tales for the brothers, and she was a neighbour and family friend. Their marriage was, by all accounts very happy, so why did they marry so late? Dortchen’s father didn’t like Wilhelm, but he had been dead for a decade when the marriage took place. They were poor, but Dortchen’s five sisters all got married. Forsyth uses the theory that the very high percentage of abusive parents indicate that the Grimm brothers had been abused, and runs with it. After all, it was not the brothers who told the tell, so wouldn’t it be more likely it was one of the storytellers who had suffered the abuse.

The result if both lovely and heartbreakingly horrible. Dortchen is twelve when the book begins, the next youngest of seven siblings. Their father is an apothecary and rather prosperous, but the Napoleonic wars gradually makes him poorer, and with that the father’s abuse of his daughters, especially Dortchen, escalates. Forsyth is never explicit, but the slow breaking of Dortchen’s spirit, and her father’s growing obsession with her, which eventually turns sexual, makes this book a hard read. But it’s also beautifully written, with the fairy tales Dortchen and other women tells, interwoven in the story. Often as a commentary to what happens with them- especially the story Deerskin. And the love story between Dortchen and Wilhelm is lovely, though not always easy. I confess to have been a bit teary-eyed on more than one occasion while reading.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. I decided against rereading American Gods, but still wanted to revisit this particular book-universe. Anansi Boys is pretty lightweight compared to American Gods, more funny than serious. I find it very entertaining. Mr. Nancy is one of the gods featured in American Gods, an African trickster god. This book begins with his death, something his son Fat Charlie finds deeply embarrassing. Fat Charlie finds just about everything embarrassing, but his father most of all. He is also a very normal man, without an ounce of supernaturally, as one might expect the son a god to have. Then he finds out he has a brother, Spider, he knows nothing about. On a whim he summons him, and suddenly his life is overflowing with magic. A bit too much, and the Fat Charlie do something rather stupid to get rid of his brother, and finds himself into deep trouble. Not as much trouble as Spider does, though.

My Sister’s Grave by T. R. Ragan. Competent crime novel about a female police officer who’s sister has disappeared several years earlier. A man has been convicted, but she thinks he is innocent, if not a very pleasant person. Now the sister’s body is found, and despite massive resistance from the police who originally investigated the disappearance, the police officer manage to get a retrial. It got a bit over the top at the end, but on the whole I found it well-written, with some rather touching descriptions of grief and how trauma affects people.

The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician and The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. I liked the magical concept in this trilogy. The world is a magic version of our world, set in the late 19th century. A magician goes through a purely theoretical education before deciding with materia their magic will be bonded to. Once bonded, you can never use another material. After this, the newly made magician is apprenticed to learn the practical side of magic. There is a number of materials, like metal, glass, paper, and even rubber, and the magic performed are always linked to this material. A glass magician, for example, can use mirrors to see other places, or even to transport themselves. And a paper magician do a lot of origami. There is also a bonding that is completely illegal, that of bonding to flesh and blood, which means killing people.

The heroine of this story, despite being one of the best in her class, finds she is allotted to become a paper magician. It’s considered a weak material, and she is not pleased at all. However, she quickly warms up to the magician she is apprenticed to, and when his heart is stolen she embarks on a dangerous journey to save him.

I would have liked the trilogy a lot, if I had only warmed up to the heroine. But I didn’t. She is beautiful. She is extremely clever. She remembers everything at once. She figures out a very important aspect of magic by the end of the first book, no one else had despite having magic around since forever. She constantly ignore known dangers and sound advice and recklessly heeds into situation without ever giving it second thoughts.. In short, she is probably the most Mary Sue-ish character I have found in ages, and I found her very annoying.

The Roses of May by Dot Hutchison. The second in a trilogy. I read the first one, The Butterfly Garden earlier this year. I thought this one was better, as it didn’t focus as much on rape, (still there, though) and had a slightly more plausible plot. In this book the same FBI-team as the previous book, is looking for a serial killer who once a year, in May, kills a young woman in a church and place flowers around her- different flowers every time. Hutchison writes well, but what I liked wasn’t the actual mystery, but the story of Priya. She is the younger sister of one of the May-killer’s victims, and i found the descriptions of how she coped, and her relationship with her mother, very moving. As the novel progress she bonds with some of the victims in the previous book, and it’s here the real strength of the novel lay. Though it acknowledge the deep traumas these girls has gone through- and also that some never copes, the message is truly that even when damage, healing are possible. Both this book, and the previous one, also depicts female friendship as something strong and supportive, which I appreciate.

The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring. Aude grows up a wealthy young woman in a industrial fantasy world. Her curiosity and habit of asking why takes her to a place where she is abducted to a fairy world; the World Below, and Grass King’s palace. It’s a sumptuous place, but also empty, apart from her abductees, almost devoid of water. Eventually she learns that the disappearance of the Grass King’s concubine was what set this odd state of things going, and that she is blamed for it.

In a way it’s set up as a mystery novel. We have Aude’s story as prisoner in the palace where she slowly puts information together, then there is her husband who desperately seeks for her, learning other things, and also the shape-shifting ferret twins, whose memories provides a picture of life in the Grass King’s palace before the catastrophe. I read it in almost one go as I was so curious of what would happen next.

The world building is excellent. Industrial fantasy worlds are quite rare, unless they focus on steampunk, which this one does not. It also delves into mythology, theology and class, in a very interesting way. And it manages, which I think is quite difficult, to make the fairie’s otherness truly odd and following a logic which makes no sense to humans. A lot of Aude’s problems as a captive is her difficulties in understanding fairy culture- and they don’t understand her’s. The language is beautiful too; this book was a joy to read! I’m unsure if it’s the first of a series or not. It works very well as a stand-alone, but there are clearly a lot more to this universe, and I would love to see more of it!

Goddess, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summer. When I was a child, long before I knew who Marilyn Monroe was, I was absolutely fascinated by the photos in a book my parents had. They all depicted this beautiful lady, who even if she smiled had sad eyes. I used to make up stories about the pictures. The book was Norman Mailer’s biography over Marilyn Monroe, and I actually read it in my teens when I had seen a few Monroe-movies. But I don’t remember much of it, more than the bare bones, so I thought it would be interesting to read another biography.

And, well, I wish I hadn’t. I love reading biographies, but I never read gossip mags, and somehow this book felt more like the latter. She clearly had a dreadfully sad life in many aspects, and the book only made me feel desperately sorry for her, and rather sad as well.
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