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Reading time: shaking off the bookmarks edition

Hey friends, guess what time it is? If you guessed READING TIME then you win the prize! The prize is: the realisation of your innate self-worth, independent of your things, your body, your relationships and your labels. You, just you, are inherently worthy and wonderful. Now back to books!

Obsidian and Blood by Aliette de Bodard

Obsidian and Blood is the three-book omnibus of Aliette de Bodard’s Acatl novels. Acatl, the High Priest of the Dead in Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec empire, is up to his lobes in murder, politics and intrigue, none of which really appeal to his tastes, but which he will have to learn to manage if he wants to survive and find out who.or what is the murderer. I loved this book! I will describe it as one book, even though it contains a complete trilogy (Servant of the UnderworldHarbinger of the Storm, and Master of the House of Darts). The setting was unlike anything I’ve read before: the Aztec mythos is fairly underexplored in Western fiction, and so I loved it. de Bodard doesn’t rely on novelty or exoticism to carry the books, however. Acatl is a likeable but flawed character, with his own issues and complexities to wrestle with while he investigates the murders that are wreaking havoc on his professional and private lives. Generally unwilling in his role, Acatl is a character who matures over the course of each book, responding to his experiences with believable doubt, fear, and finally insight, and allowing them to shape his growth. While gods, spirits and awesome monsters inhabit the world of these books, the humans remain central, and their hangups, ambitions, loves and personalities guide the story. So: exotic monsters, a cool and underexplored mythos, a historic setting, juicy murder mysteries, and a compelling, likeable, and imperfect main character. What more do you want? It was fresh, exciting, fun, and a really enjoyable read. Rock on. Get it at the link above, from Angry Robot books (DRM-free ebooks, dudes!) Also: if you buy this omnibus, you get a few short stories as well. These are totally worth it. By the time I got to the end of the trilogy, I was hungry for more Acatl and really pleased to have some short stories to help me transition back to normal life.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

As one of those books I always meant to read (along with The Phantom Tollbooth), I am pleased to report that A Wrinkle in Time is as enjoyable for an adult reader as it is for kids. Our main characters, fourteen-year-old Meg Murray and her five-year-old brother Charles are a bit out of kilter with the rest of the world, and grieving for a missing father. Through their eerie new acquaintances, Mrs Which, Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit, they learn their father may still be alive and began a trans-dimensional voyage to potentially find their father and save the universe from a mysterious dominating force. A lot has already been written about this book, because it resonates with lots of people and is high on the list of “favourite books when I was a kid” and “favourite books ever” and “most influential books in my life” lists . The underlying message of individual strength in the face of the pressure to conform is one I think a lot of people can relate to and find reassuring. The book is fun, clever, and enjoyable, and I don’t mind admitting I got a bit teary at the end. If you’re a grown-up and have always thought about reading it, I encourage you to try it: it’s short and a lot of fun.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Like all myths and legends, The Odyssey leaves a few things hanging. Margaret Atwood (whom I think we can all agree is amazing and should be issued a lifetime subscription to the tiara-and-scotch-of-the-month-club) takes up those hanging threads and reweaves another tale: the parallel tale of Penelope, the pushed-aside and barely remembered wife of Odysseus. From Penelope’s point of view, the Odyssey is a very different journey, and the people—the heroes as well as the families, because no hero is an island—are very different to the ideals that legend paints. The Penelopiad is a novella, and I was impressed with how much Atwood fit into such a brief read. It was very satisfying, clever, interesting, and exciting. I really enjoyed it and I think you will, too.

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