What I’m reading: A YA, a Middle Grade, and a Short Story Collection
At the end of every semester, Jim holds a party at his house. In addition to the fun of eating fancy cheeses while making terrible writer jokes and admiring Jim’s enormous white cat, there is always a pile of books for the taking. So this past week or so I’ve been making my way through my new hoard, and also revisiting a beloved favorite.
I spent my Mother’s Day devouring The Mark of the Dragonfly, a middle-grade fantasy by Jaleigh Johnson. Dragonfly is well-written and engaging, and looks like a sure fire hit to me. Piper, an impoverished young woman with a gift for mechanics, finds a strange, River Tam-esque girl, Anna, who is lost far from home. Piper and Anna’s journey, while often following familiar lines and turns, does throw in a decent twist or two before reaching a satisfying finish. While the book didn’t absolutely blow me away, it was an enjoyable way to spend my day. I do think any young girl who likes fantasy will take a shine to Dragonfly.
On all those other days that I don’t have off, I try to sneak in a short story here and there. Right now The Best of Connie Willis is fulfilling all my short prose needs. And as good as Willis’s stories are (and they are good, she’s a SFWA Grand Master with a stack of Hugos and Nebulas longer than my arm), my favorite thing about this collection is the revealing commentary Willis provides after each selection. It’s just fun to learn the story behind the story.
Finally, I recently revisited A Wizard of Earthsea. This is a book I come back to over and over again. I try to study it critically, but I get spellbound every time, for Wizard carries a deep and powerful resonance within its simple story, and a tender understanding and exploration of what it means to be human. And the prose. The prose absolutely slays. I honestly believe Ursula Le Guin is the best stylist of her generation, in genre or out. A Wizard of Earthsea is perfectly written. It’s flawless. It is a perfect book.