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The Fractal Prince

More confusing than the one before it. Still enjoyed it, just a really different kind of scifi novel. Great female characters. This one felt more fantastical than the last one. Picking up the next/last one next and will be sad when the series is over

Sitting Pretty

Rebekah Taussig has put together a great book about growing up as someone using a wheelchair & how she experiences the world, going from her super-supportive family to a not-very-supportive world it’s a great explication of the social model of disability

The Quantum Thief

A great scifi sort-of mystery, some of it’s confusing, there are a lot of new vocabulary words, and you’re never quite sure who to root for but by the end of it I felt like I more or less knew what was going on and wanted more. The “quantumness” means it’s a little unclear sometimes what is real and what it unreal but it turns out it mostly doesn’t matter

The Patriarch

Some of these books feel more phoned-in than others. This one intro’d a flurry of new characters only a few of whom had real roles and got confusing, with a plot that had a return to good food discussion (yay) and ancient-seeming Russian history (boo). I came out of it feeling I understood more about French/Russian relations over the last fifty years but still wasn’t sure who was related to who.

Bull’s Eye

A discard from the local tech center library. A slightly-dated but truly interesting look into the medicine goings-on as people tried to figure out wtf was this weird new-seeming disease in CT. Good to read about another disease for a change. A few kinda long chapters about individual men (and it’s nearly all men) who are finding out different things. Dragged in places but overall pretty interesting.

A Bridge of Years

Turns out I had read a bunch of book by this guy before but his name hadn’t rung a bell. This was an interesting, more classic time travel novel but surprisingly good despite that. An interesting take on the general trope, taking place in 80s PacNW and 60s NYC. Redemption for most of the characters, covers a lot of ground. A lot of complicated morality choices that people have to make during the course of this book which feels like a much longer story, in a good way.

The Once and Future Witches

Another absolute delight of a book. Such a great story of a possible (and future) history of witchcraft and the (mostly) women who wield it. This turn of the last century long-form fable is a classic tale of good vs. evil but also a lot more than that. There are a lot of fun things to discover in this book under a close read but on its own it’s a very woman-centered tale of intrigue and problem solving.

The Psychology of Time Travel

I don’t know how I missed this when it came out. Just a great book about (mostly) female time travelers which is rich and deep but not too confusing even though the timelines weave and cross one another. There are a lot of interesting female characters both good and bad. It’s a little mysterious but not totally confounding. I am sorry this book is over, would have read one 5x as long.

Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris

I found out about this book while I was watching a documentary about smells. This is a book about one man’s hunt for ambergris and the things he learns along the way. Entertaining, lots of fun pictures, lots of quirky history and more information than I had previously known about the spendy, smelly stuff. As someone who grew up not too far from old time whaling places, and whose father loved Moby Dick, I think I may have known more about ambergris to begin with since when I mentioned this book to people many people didn’t know what it was about. Just the right length, a really good read.

Ready Player Two

I gave this book a solid fifty pages but listening to a manbaby billionaire be unable to deal with his life and take it out on those around him was just unreadable.

Children of War

I was looking for a pallet cleanser after Attack Surface, but I don’t think this was it. A good book about food and the French countryside but also some really horrific violence and questionable assertions about Islam. This book has what I felt was kind of a formula. There’s a local story, a “Let’s bring in the Brigadier” story and then some food and drink and other local traditions brought in. I tend to like the stories that stay a little smaller.

Attack Surface

I love Cory’s writing & have loved his other books but I wasn’t the right audience for this. It’s a great intro to the tech behind corporate/govt surveillance & also protestors/organizing. And yet, felt didactic & hopeless. Afterwords were the best part.

This Was Our Pact

Such a great story! This one kept not going where I thought it was going to go and despite some pretty difficult circumstances, there’s a gentleness and warmth to it that fills it in. It’s an immersive slightly fantastic tale of kids and a mystery that turns into a lot of other mysteries. Talking bears! Weird bridge frogs! Stories about stars! Boys on bikes! Celestial fish! Just a joy all around.


A remarkably rich graphic novel that covers a lot of territory while at the same time being something that a young adult would enjoy. A little bit magical, a little bit life-affirming, but also full of skeletons both real and metaphorical. From the creator of Lumberjanes which should tell you all you need to know. A great story. I particularly enjoyed the Jack character who is both a witch and not-a-witch and is a character shown with more compassion than you might expect.

The Daughters of Ys

This was a re-telling of a classic Breton folktale and, like many folktales, is grim in a LOT of spots. If you like Frozen-style stories of sisters who don’t quite get along, this story from the guy who brought you Feed, should be up your alley. The illustrations by Jo Rioux were completely gorgeous. A little grim and dark for me as a story.


This was the next in the series after Ancestral Night but has almost none of the same characters which was a bit of a disappointment. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much mainly because I was managing a toothache and the lead character was also someone who grappled with chronic pain. Which is good as a plot device--seemed realistic, gave the character depth etc--but may not have been right for me at the time. Still a compelling multi-species space opera story, this one set in more of a space hospital.

A Place for Everything

I was sent this book by the publisher I believe. This was a great look at the history of alphabetical order. Not how the letters of the alphabet came to be ordered that way but more like how people started using the alphabet for ordering. A lot of fascinating stuff to learn here. At the same time, in some cases a little TOO meticulous with the research and if you’re not someone really into historical books, this may be more info than you need. Come for the facts stay for the Dewey-trashing footnote!

Ancestral Night

My fave genre, the female-captained cargo spacer with a bunch of different species interacting as they delve into a great mystery on the outskirts of the universe. Psychologically interesting without being entirely trauma-centered. This is the first of a series and definitely worth continuing.

The Resistance Man

Full of French trivia about the French resistance and the Neuvic train robbery, this was definitely a better read than the one before it. More food-and-woods, more new puppy. Maybe one of the love interests is finally gone though in a somewhat unsatisfying way. Am getting the pattern of these & like them.

The Devil’s Cave

Maybe not my favorite of these. I enjoyed it but it was a little high on tawdry-drama (naked lady found dead in a boat floating down the river, maybe something satanic going on) and low on woods-and-food stories, but there was a lot of interesting cave discussion.

The Orphan’s Guilt

These come out every October and I read them every October. It’s nice reading books set in Vermont from people who live in Vermont. They feel samey, but sometimes so does October. This one has more of Rachel and Sally, the two younger characters and I’ll be honest, I don’t like them as much. And I feel that the inclusion of people with children always putting themselves in harms way (as they do again in this book) is a trope I sort of don’t like. The overall story here is good, though it’s a little less-than-politic with how the seriously disabled character is treated. Overall a thumbs up for story and everything else, just a few points that weren’t my faves.

All the Devils Are Here

I liked this but didn’t feel like it was her strongest work, but maybe it just didn’t have enough of the things that I was looking for. It barely touches on Three Pines and many of the non-Gamache characters you’ve grown to love. It is in Paris however, if that’s your thing. And it’s very heavy. A lot of Nazi talk and maybe some retconning of Gamache’s background. Did we know his grandmother was Jewish? It’s got a lot of other Penny touches: some good librarian/archivist work, some family drama, people you think are dead. I was happy to see more of Gamache’s son and family but you still feel like there’s more going on there than was explained in this story.

The Odd Woman and the City

This was a particular kind of memoir--about growing up and now being an older woman who is single but hasn’t always been--of NYC, delivered as a series of vignettes, some pretty interesting and some less-so. Very nostalgia-heavy with some name dropping of people I didn’t really know. Was nice to feel like I was inhabiting a different place for a while.

The Runner and the Keeper-Of-Song

A lot of mixed feelings about this book which was a gift from friends, a local author. I really enjoyed the mythic aspect to this story which is a sort of pre-historic telling of some time in some part of the world where matriarchal culture and emerging patriarchal culture are having their first interactions. The world is full of superstitions. I had somehow assumed I was reading a book written by a person of color and when I looked more into the author I learned that I was not. And I’m not sure how I felt about that. The book has a glossary in the front so you can learn all the local names for things like boygirl and man/woman as well as the names for the animals. I found these somewhat distracting. This was a good tale, and well-told, but I was the wrong audience for it.

The Languid Belly of the Beast

When your biggest complaint about a new sci-fi series is that the books in it are too short, you know you’ve found something special. Second installment of this female cargo pilot spacer. More backstory and a little bit more of soft-Inez at the same time as it’s still an action-packed adventure. A little more procedural and scheming, a little less wandering-around-injured. Fun and enjoyable. And too short!

Love Poems from Vermont

I got this book because I was a reviewer. A really nice idea, and a beautiful cover, but the poetry wasn’t particularly my taste and I would’ve enjoyed if the photography was more specific. Some pictures just say “Central Vermont” and I felt that could’ve been a little more specific. I appreciate that this was a work of the heart, so I don’t want to put it down too much, but as a work that was mixing poetry with photography, I found I wasn’t into either in this case.

The Crowded Grave

I am inherently suspicious of an author who kills the protagonist’s dog. Sorry for the spoiler, but it’s something you should know about this installment of the Bruno books. In this case, there’s a lot more diplomacy than food talk, and you learn a little (not much) about the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), or Basque separatist group which started out as an armed militia and wound up being disbanded some time after this book was written. Had a bit of a “ripped from headlines” feel. Still good but, man, killing the dog is not cool.

Life List, Field Notes of a Maine Birdwatcher

I got this book as a freebie because I was reviewing it for IPNE. I am so happy I did! This was an absolutely gorgeous book of bird photography from the Maine coastline. Just enough written details, lots of great well-taken photographs. It’s split into seasonal sections with small date and weather notes for each of the sightings.

American Eden

A long history about a botanist, naturalist and doctor in early New York. The guy himself was kind of interesting, had many famous friends (eventually married rich!), but this book had an excessive attention to detail that made it overlong and dry reading. It’s one of those painstakingly researched stories where even though you might have a historical record that the guy bought this and that plant at this or that plant sale, it doesn’t ALL have to be in there. Ultimately, this guy had a failed garden, did change the face of medicine and botanical medicinals somewhat, and married rich so now people have heard of him. Book was too long but glad I learned about him.

Black Diamond

I am always suspicious when a White author decides to summon the spectre of “Asian gangs” as part of their crime/mystery books. I think Archer Mayor did it badly and this one is somewhat better but still gave me the raised eyebrow. The food you learn about is truffles (appreciated it) and the drama in the background is Chinese gangs and their bullying of Vietnamese merchants in smalltown France.

The Loneliness of the Deep Space Cargoist

My only complaint is that this was too short! I’ve really developed a niche for cranky spacer in creaky ship narratives, particularly the “dragged back in for one last job” type. This is a fun and funny novella about Inez who has been through some STUFF, stuff which you gradually learn about. Now she’s on her own dealing with a bunch of dicey scenarios and dicier gigs. Would have liked it less if I didn’t know there was a sequel, because some stuff resolves and some stuff definitely does not. Inez is oddly likable and relatable despite her crotchetiness and her backstory that is jaw-dropping in its awfulness.

I appreciated how Gilson gave us a sense of Inez’s story without dragging us through a whole bunch of awful flashbacks (and even then, I could have used maybe a few sentences less of them). I liked the motley assortment of different kinds of people. I liked how Inez is kind of down on herself but also really eerily competent, more competent than she thinks she is. If you enjoy Becky Chambers, Valerie Valdes, or R. E. Stearns, you will like this.

The Dark Vineyard

The second installment of this series, a bit more lively than the last one. Good food, good wine, a vexing mystery on top of a mystery and a quaint old-fashionedness to the storytelling even though the setting is more or less modern times.

Atlas Alone

This one was a little over the line for me in a few ways. Great story line, some characters you know, but a lot of consent violation and too much time spent in in-game “mersives” for my tastes. The character, like many of Newman’s other characters, has some mental health challenges, but unlike the other ones, it doesn’t work out for her. So given the things she has to endure all through this story, it’s a tough and kind of brutal ending. A great book, clearly, but to my read a very unhappy ending. Given that this may be the end of the series, it kind of gives a bad taste to the whole overall arc.


A sweet summer romance book with a kid who isn’t sure what he wants and a handsome guy in town for the summer with his own backstory. Lots of friend dynamics stuff and some family issues slowly working their way out. Plus lots of baked goods.

Dragon Hoops

Gene Yang at a pivotal point in his life/career decides to write a book about a basketball story, despite not ever liking sports very much. He works as a math teacher and is looking for a story. And he finds one, and also kind of makes one. As a fellow non-basketball-enthusiast, I really enjoyed getting the story told to me in this way. A masterful book.

Before Mars

This series is intense & keeps improving. It’s about a small Mars colony & a woman geologist/artist who’s maybe psychotic, maybe being gaslit about what she experiences? And you’re wondering for a while there while the story unfolds wondering what is real. It has a real Reach Trilogy feel to it, with a kind of background strangeness to it. Ties together nicely w/ the other two books. Very thriller-y. Interesting family stuff.

They Called Us Enemy

George Takei (rhymes with OK) tells the story of the years he spent in an internment camp as a child. Well told, beautifully illustrated, tied in nicely with current govt. malfeasance. Tough read, good read. It doesn’t have so much graphic detail that it’s not appropriate for kids, but at the same time it’s interesting how it totally elides over Takei’s gay advocacy work even as it does casually mention his husband. A curious book, a story well told.

Bruno, Chief of Police

Kind of a small-town cozy mystery in a small village in France. Lots of eating and drinking and trying to work things out in small-town ways. Enjoyed it enough to try the second one but not so into it I’m going to get all 18 As far as cozies go, it’s really nice to read something that isn’t US or UK and Bruno’s an interesting guy with a good backstory..


My software doesn’t let me credit the illustrator and the writer of books so I’ll mention here this was written by Rainbow Rowell. It was a delight from start to finish. Could totally relate to autumn themed nonsense being about to head into it in Vermont, and also enjoyed all the snacking. A lot of fun stuff going on in the background of this one and each page is worth a longer look.

Chilling Effect

This is another one of those books which has a cover that is a little wacky (and has cats) but the book is less wacky and has fewer cats (I mean they are in there but not as major plot points). I enjoyed this but got a little hung up in it at times. The main characters is a stocky (tho not on the cover) Latina who runs a cargo ship doing stuff that she tries to keep in the legal realm. But then her sister gets kidnapped and she’s forced to do a bunch of things she otherwise doesn’t want to in order to straighten the situation out. And then it gets more complicated. Meanwhile there’s an inter-species romance and a lot of interpersonal stuff going on with her crew and within her family. Complicated!

Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin

Read an ARC of this eagerly-awaited book, it’s so so good. Think you know stuff about books bound in human skin? Think again. This book gives you some good facts and a compassionate look at what can seem like a ghoulish practice. Plus Megan’s a librarian! She tries to look into this practice to see if what we think is true (this was a practice mostly done by creeps and ghouls) is true (no). A few deeper looks at extant book where the provenance is well known and some speculation about cases in which less is known.

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

I neither love nor hate these cozy mysteries that take place in a small village in the Cotswolds. Agatha Raisin is a not-super-likeable woman who is independently doing her thing and things happen around her. In this case, a mystery death of a person she thought was one type of person but turned out to be an entirely other type of person. Lively enough and not super challenging but I like the small-town vibe to these books.

After Atlas

Second book in the Planetfall series, this one looking at one person who has been “left behind” when the whole last book happened. He has a kind of rough backstory and is now basically an indentured slave to one of the megacorporations that runs the world. But! He is also highly trained and has to investigate a murder which brings him right back in to the community (the cult!) that he left behind. A good read and has a lot of weird and complex parts to it, not a lot of tie in with the other book, works fine as a standalone, but fleshes out some of those stories a wee bit more.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Picked this up right after the previous book because I liked the way this guy’s mind worked. This book reminded me more of Stephen Millhauster, a lot of tiny details that make up one whole weird story. I didn’t really love what happened to the women in this book (or the last one, come to think of it) but enjoyed the weird city with the weird rich guy and the sort of low affect kid who was trying to figure it all out.

All That Remains: A Life in Death

One of those great books about forensic biology, this one by a woman who works teaching anatomy-via-cadaver in Scotland and also is part of a forensic exhumation team. A lot of different and interesting parts to it including exhuming mass graves in Kosovo, trying to ID random remains in Scotland and just talking about life and death within her own family. Not everyone’s thing but I really liked it.

Version Control

Similar to The Intuitionist one of those books which is kinda about time travel but also kinda about race in America. A little sciencey didactic at times, there are some VERY long digressions into various topics. The ending was not to my taste, a thing on which reasonable people can disagree, but overall a different kind of time travel book, in a good way. Ultimately I was a little confused as to what the actual plot was (there were some multiverse things going on) so I will have to read up on this book on review sites, but I care enough to look it up which is the sign of a good book.

The Intuitionist

I hadn’t realized when I picked this up, somehow, that it was by the same author of Underground Railroad. It’s very good and kind of a sleeper novel in many ways. A book nominally about elevators but really about race in America and a whole bunch of layers of how that can shake out against the background of something as banal as engineering infrastructure. A low affect female protagonist (my favorite!). Good, and thought provoking.

The Relentless Moon

It’s nice to have a book to look forward to that you are pretty sure you are going to like. This book has almost none of Elma York in it but her husband is in it a little. It mostly follows one of the more minor characters from an earlier book. t definitely had a different vibe than her earlier books in some ways, more thriller-y. More “Wounded protagonist encounters deeper and harder challenges and obstacles but has to keep pushing on to save the day” but I enjoyed being along for the ride.


I’d found some of Suarez’s earlier books a little too edgy for me, but this one was in a sweet spot. It could get a little wonky talking about the mechanics and economics of asteroid-mining, but the result is a straightforward near-future story that doesn’t seem that dystopian because it seems more plausible (even though, sure, also dystopian). It looks at the shiny-shiny but also the gritty underbelly of what goes into sending people to go be asteroid miners in a future that is more or less like where we are now (i.e. not a lot of huge tech advancements make this possible). Mostly works, occasionally doesn’t.


This book was an Iditarod version of Bryson’s Walk in the Woods: guy who is in really over his head decided to do a really complicated thing and write about his process. I felt bad for his wife, though I’m not sure if I should have (maybe projecting?). Nice to read a winter book in the dead of summer, good to get to know the dogs and read stories about the remote wilderness of Alaska. Paulsen is a bit of a cipher--not only in this book, but in life in general if Wikipedia is to be believed--and this book ends weirdly and abruptly, though my understanding is that his story doesn’t.


I probably need to check before I start a book if it’s one in a series or not, because if it is, I can be sure the ending will have some holes in it. This was a complex pretty good colonizing book with a main character with mental health issues that are part of the overall arc of the plot. It was confusing for a while but unlike some other books I’d read recently, that mostly worked for me. It was one of those gradual-reveal stories that is worth the “I’m not sure what is going on” time spent. Great female protagonist (a bisexual hoarder, of all things) and an interesting take on the role of religion and colonization, in community and in life. Will pick up the next book but hope it’s a little more interesting-tech focused and a little less search-for-god focused.

Fall, or Dodge in Hell

By the end of this book I was very very sick of it. It’s like 1/3 cool story (which is how it starts out), and 2/3 plodding fantasy legend (which is built into the middle and increasingly becomes the major plotline of the book). I have so many questions about why, when you can have a built-it-yourself “uploaded brains” world, it turns into the same old dick-measuring quests and wars. Which are as tiresome to read about in the uploaded-brains world as they are in just the plain old world. I was hate-reading it by the end just to see who won. I think the book may have lost me in the first chapter where I was like “Really a billionaire is going to have a medical procedure done and they tell him not to eat anything and he DOES ANYWAYS and doesn’t tell anyone? Bullshit.”

And Then There’s This

I had started this book at some earlier time and finally picked it backup again. It was fun to read something about viral culture but less fun to read it as a memoir of the guy who maybe invented the flash mob. Because, he talks about virality but in some ways injects his own attempts at making things viral into many of the chapters. And I’m sure he’s fine but I didn’t want to read about his experiments (many of which failed) I wanted to read more about the things that happened, not just him talking to his friend and BuzzFeed founder Jonah Perretti. Read like a long New Yorker article but not one I would necessarily finish.

The Other Side of the Coin

A book about the woman who dresses the queen. More interesting than you’d think, but also a look into the odd fawning environment surrounding the aristocracy. You get to see a lot of great photos of rarely seen outfits and a few behind-the-scenes shot, but it’s also super clear how tightly the Queen’s image is controlled. This is highlighted the most where, in the photo credits at the end, you learn that the cover photo is itself a composite of two other images, and that image itself never actually happened. Kelly herself is a bit of a mystery, eternally grateful for her job, but with the rest of her life pretty unknown.

Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s

A look at women and WKKK activity in Indiana in the 20s. Including interviews with elderly women looking back at their KKK involvement (many with “those were the days” sentiments). Creepy and very well-researched look at how the hate machine works, or worked. The author goes into some detail explaining just why information on some of these groups is hard to find, and just how, in many ways, the groups were simultaneously money-making machines as well as racist hate groups.


I didn’t read the reviews until after I had finished this. This book felt long to me. There was impressive world building, but living inside the mind of an anxious female protagonist who everyone is kinda gaslighting is really a bit of a slog. Mixed feels. I read it all, I wanted it to go somewhere; it felt like a lot of philosophical thought exercises masquerading as a fiction story about life on socialist Mars vs. life on capitalist Earth, felt very didactic. When I learned the author was also an economist, I was not surprised.


Loose idea: What if there were wormholes in in IKEA-like store? And this is layered on top of two overworked/underpaid employees managing a trip into one while they come to terms with their own dissolving (or evolving?) relationship. I enjoyed it, it went in and out of being weird. I didn’t quite relate to the main relationship of the two characters, but I enjoyed that it was complicated and that they didn’t quite seem to know what to make of it either. The story ends with a definite “What’s going to happen next?” vibe.

Girl, Woman, Other

Reviews I’d read called this novel ‘experimental’ and I didn’t really see that at all. It’s a great novel that interweaves the lives of many Black British families, primarily women, many GLBTQ, with an emphasis at looking at where people came from to reflect on where they are now. Rich and evocative, complex lives Sometimes it’s a little extra work to figure out how and why you might be reading about any one character but it ties up kind of neatly towards the end.

The Lost Book of Adana Moreau

Another book that is a story of stories, a little more cohesive than Starless Sea. It all revolves around this woman’s book but it’s a web of stories about all the men in its orbit which was kind of the good news bad news. The title woman is only sort of in it, it’s mostly a story about her son, now much older, and... another young man whose story also interweaves with his. The book has a dreamy aspect to it, there’s a lot of longing in it and it doesn’t all get requited.

Hyperbole and a Half

I’ve been a big fan of Allie Brosh’s work, it was fun to revisit, in the run-up to having her new book come out. The graphic novel is full of well-illustrated funny stories about dogs, grappling w/ depression, self-doubt, being a weird kid. It ended on a dark note, w/ her talking about how shitty she actually is (in her own words, not in mine) which left me feeling sort of odd. Like it was clear that she had worked a lot of stuff out--hooray--but also that she was still working on some stuff and maybe didn’t realize that she had more work to do, possibly.

Haben, the Deafblind woman who conquered Harvard Law

A story about this woman’s life told through a lot of anecdotes. I liked hearing about what she went through, I was surprised at some of the things she knew and did not know (such as disability accommodations and her legal rights) and wanted to hear more about her day to day life being at Harvard and being in a relationship (she seems to be in but it’s actually unclear). I very much enjoyed her perspective especially since she is also a woman from Ethiopia (and culturally Eritrean) which put a bunch more spins on this story. Worth a read, was looking for more of a “warts and all” story but her voice is not like that.

A People’s History of Heaven

Another book about friendship, one that deals with the interconnected lives of mostly young women who are growing up in a slum in Bangalore. There is a lot going on here and it’s really nice to see it through the eyes of girls who are somewhat hopeful while at the same time dealing with some of the grim realities of their lives. You get a LOT of complex backstory and it gives you a lot of insight into why things are working out the way they are in tiny specifics while the overwhelming generalities about how global capitalism works are always there in the background.

The Starless Sea

This book was great but only once I decided to just roll with it. This started out rough for me b/c of a bunch of (wrong!) library stuff, but I got into the story aspect of it over time, stopped asking questions, and it was the right kind of fairy tale for me. A very 10,000 Doors of January vibe to it, link uncanny in some ways. I’m not totally sure there was a throughline to the story but there was a lot of atmospheric library and bookish stuff and a romance and friendship at the heart of it that wound up okay. I know a lot of people just didnt' finish it and I can see why but it worked for me.

The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders

A great book by an Australian author about some of the great stories in the history of the world’s libraries, some I knew and some I did not know. I’ve read a LOT of these kinds of books, libraries are easy to love. But they can get a little samey in many respects because a lot of them have a lot of the same stories. This one had some new stories (as well as some old ones) and I learned some things and enjoyed reading it the whole way through. The author is a notable rare/old book collector so his interests point in that particular direction.

Tau Zero

Finished this sexist/heteronormative book just to figure out which kind of morality play I was reading: one where the awkward jerk guy comes out on top, or winds up getting killed by his shipmates? He winds up with two hot wives so... the former? Pedantic. There’s a lot of really interesting hard science in this book, and then it’s interwoven with the really not-great interpersonal aspect which was just awful. So on balance not the worst? But I couldn’t in good faith suggest that anyone read it. I just sometimes take for granted how mostly-normal even mainstream scifi is today in terms of reflecting the wide range of ways there are to be in love and be a couple and be a good person. This book was awful in that regard.

The Shape-shifters Guide to Time Travel

I received this book from the author who thought I might enjoy the time-travel aspects. And I did! The general storyline is a good one: there is a totalitarian country somewhere in Eastern Europe which is the only place where shape shifting is possible. And there is a tyrant that many in the population want to overthrow. We are following two older teenagers--one American who is from there but visiting and one who has grown up his whole life there--as they try to deal with the political situation and getting to know each other. The book was marred a bit by some lack of proofreading and also some lack of consistency. The main male teenager seems to both know and not know about American culture in ways that can be confusing. And there’s a lot of chivalrous behavior which doesn’t look terribly different from sexism and so it can be hard to know how to read. Ends on a cliffhanger, I will definitely read the next one.

Network Effect

What a flat title for what was a great book. This was basically as good if not better than I was expecting. That said, for people who haven’t read the novellas which preceded it, there are a few name checks that might not work. I did get a little confused with all the names and callabcks and I HVAE read them all. Just sad that it’s over. A story of... friendship? And murders, of course. And media watching.

Barn 8

I am touchy about portrayals of activism and did not love the way it worked in this book. It’s always interesting, when you see people writing about activists, if at the end the activists are victorious or are not. This is a book, sort of, about chicken liberation. And the activists mostly don’t win, which makes a lot of the characterizations about them seem a little more mean-spirited than it might if they’d won out at the end. The chickens win, sort of. Got this because I was looking for new library books. Could not really figure out the throughline of the story. It starts in one place, it ends in a very difference place and the epilogue puts it straight into scifi. Didn’t understand character motivations. The plot, however, was tightly written and I could appreciate the author’s craft here even if I didn’t much like the story.

Jews in America: A Cartoon History

500 years of Judaism! This isn’t all about the United States though it does draw trendlines between what was happening in Europe and then what eventually happened in the US w/r/t Jewish people. Some attention but not overly much about the Holocaust. Not as many woman as I might have liked but that might be history or it might be sexism, so hard to tell. As a graphic novel, it’s not great (a lot of tell-not-show) but I don’t think that was what it was going for, really is more like is says on the cover “cartoon history” and it was good at that.

Aloha Rodeo

This book is also by David Wolman. I was given a copy by Julian Smith who thought I might like it. And it’s really good! It’s basically a one-time event (a rodeo in Wyoming which features “cowboys” or paniolo from Hawai’i) that is fleshed out into a whole book.Often I have no patience for that sort of framing and you see it a lot in New Yorker writers and etc. For whatever reason--liking Hawai’i,enjoying the old-time trivia, or just it’s a good story--it wasn’t a problem here. The authors deal with some of the more problematic issues like the overthrow of the Hawai’ian monarchy and a lot of the casual racism in the mainland US with a decent amount of tact and awareness. Not the same as this book being written by actual Hawai’ians but a step towards that at least.

Eight Perfect Murders

Eight Perfect Murders. A great twisty “wtf is going on here?” mystery. The author is same age as me and clearly grew up where I did, so it had nostalgia twist as well. A mystery book about mystery books, set mainly in Boston. If you haven’t read all the mystery books that are on “the list” you may find that some of them are spoiled for you. I don’t think I’d read a single one but I enjoyed that a lot of this mystery thriller took place in a bookstore. Did not go where I was expecting which is always a joy.


A noir thriller but with several different species interacting in a weird frontier town somewhere in the frozen Arctic. Lots of good tropes. A bit too sadistic for me, especially right towards the end, but that’s really a lot more about me than this book. Just barely magical, in a way that is interesting without being like “And the answer to the crime is MAGIC” which I appreciated. I’d read more by Stout, he’s a talent.

Now, Then, and Everywhen

I’ll read most time travel novels that aren’t history retcon. This one is mostly not that and is a prequel to a series I hadn’t heard of (might explain why it was confusing)? I enjoyed it but it ended in a really weird place. I also found it hard to keep track of the characters in a way I might not have if I had read the other books in the series. Not sure if I will pick them up or not. I like this book, it was smart and creative with time travel considerations, but it bounced around a LOT and clearly wasn’t intended to be a standalone novel.

Book Lust To Go

I enjoy Nancy Pearl’s Reader’s Advisory books, considering them very readable on their own. However I LOVE travel books and needed some inspiration. This book, loosely organized by country and region, is a wide-ranging look at what you might want to read, both contemporary and older books, fiction and non. There is, of course, a bit of a Western slant to these suggestions, but Pearl does a pretty good job at trying to round out a certain kind of “White people go places” books, with books written by people who live in the regions she’s covering. I made my own sub-list of travel books to read from this book.

An Instance of the Fingerpost

This is the longest book I think I’ve disliked nearly all of. And yet, I finished it. I like historical fiction. I like UK fiction. I like weird unreliable narrators (sometimes) but this was just not for me and at the same time I knew many other people had LOVED it so I slogged along figuring there might be some great payoff. And there wasn’t.

All the women worth a damn die, and there are precious few of them in the first place. I didn’t know enough history to know which of the characters were real (I mean other than Cromwell and John Locke and the King(s)) which is my own failing. Everyone was an asshole most of the time. Stuff was wrapped up in religion in a way I knew was important for the time but I didn’t care about. And the length of the book meant that some of the unreliable narrator stuff (which might have been okay if it was a Rashomon-length movie) got confusing by the end and felt like a memory exercise. I could figure out a few of the “Oh this is going to come up in the future” points, but many I just couldn’t remember after 500 pages.

Add to this that most of the characters are kind of actively noxious, either personally or just in how they treat people because of the class/status hierarchies of the time, and I just felt like I spent a long time with people whose company I didn’t enjoy. If this period of history is your jam, and you don’t necessarily expect any female characters, you might actually like this. For me I was just kind of curious about why I finished it.

Best American Comics 2017

Finally done with this series in terms of what I have at home. This one was interesting in that it included a bunch of “outsider” comics. Some of their work didn’t translate well at small sizes, but as always, a good assortment.

Best American Comics 2011

This one was both the best and the worst of the bunch. I love Bechdel’s stuff when it’s telling stories (Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For) and less when it’s sort of more navel-gazey (Are You My Mother). SO this collection has some great long form stories which I really liked, but some of them are incredibly upsetting (totally OK, just not my speed) including some massacres and a child rape. So! On balance another good one and a great addition to the series, but also had some mixed feelings.


This was the book that had to tie the trilogy together and it did that. However it brought us back and into the mind of one of the characters who may be the least stable. In the last book we had a strong female lead,but one who had some nagging doubts about her path etc. In this one we meet another strong female lead with some really bad self-doubt and it feels like more of a trope.Like, I get it, but I’d love to see some other model for a protagonist other than one wracked with doubt.Some good comeuppances in this volume and a good overall wrap up.

The Best American Comics 2012

These are all different, I enjoyed this one more than the last. Mouly was a great editor. Comics for kids included are in the back which is something I haven’t seen in this series before. Panter cover, what’s not to love? ARC was choppy but I bet the final is grand.


Another book series I started over the summer and picked back up again. Peper writes borderline tech bro fiction but this one had a female lead who I basically appreciated. The central conceit is really interesting: what happens when there are tech companies that make tools that are used worldwide which gives them power that eclipses traditional nation states? I liked Peper’s attempts at funding an answer. And didn’t miss out on much because I couldn’t remember the earlier book that this is a sequel to.

Best American Comics 2018

I did a sprint through a lot of these over the summer and I have some left. This was an ARC so it wasn’t in final form which matters more for graphic novel types of things than novels. So,slightly uneven but basically okay. Some great stuff, some creepy stuff, and some weird stuff (or all three!) which is exactly what I’ve grown to expect and enjoy out of this series

The Hidden Girl

Great short fiction some of which clicked with me, but a lot didn’t. Liu’s themes are steady and constant (memory, humanity, machinery, family); many of these stories seemed like chapters in longer works. Unresolved non-endings. Beautifully written. I appreciate that Liu can’t be pegged into just one genre but it did mean moving back and forth between fantasy, scifi and sometimes just historical fiction

Going up the Country

As someone who has lived in Vermont since the 90s and was early-on drawn to the combination of counterculture and what we tend to call “Traditional Vermonters” I really liked this well-researched book by Daley which talks to a lot of the people who were early hippies moving to Vermont. She talks a lot about why they came, why they stayed (or didn’t) and how they got along with the people who were already here.Their influx changed the face of the state, in many cases for the better. This isn’t totally just nostalgia, there are a lot of ups and downs, but it does try to get at a lot of different stories, women’s stories in particular,without spending too much time on any one commune or town. Amusingly, I went to college with at LEAST two of the children who are mentioned in this book.

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

This is a book full of many different kinds of stories but they all have some themes threaded through it: memory and history, humanity vs machinery, families and responsibility, justice. A few stories were a little tough to take (one theme is wartime atrocities also) but the writing here is so good and specifically the title story is one I’d like to read over and over again.


This was a gift from someone who had gotten it from a library book sale. A book written on the interesting topic of Sherlock Holmes' arch nemesis. And yet, sort of a mess. The parts that were good include a lot of pitch-perfect period piece information about London in the 1900s. And of course it’s nice to know more about this weird creepy character from the Holmes novels. However, it’s weirdly “up itself” and makes reference to a lot of facts so that you know the author did his research. Footnotes in a sort of pulp fiction book kind of don’t help. Plus, there are almost no female characters, no adult women that aren’t sex workers. And ultimately, as another reviewer described it, it’s just a story of evil vs. evil, there is no one to root for here.

St. Clair’s Blues

Did I thing I never do and read a book a random stranger sent me. And it was pretty good. Could have used a little more editing. A whodunit in a run down town with a motley cast of characters. Wraps up nice. Glad I read it.


Waited as long as I could to read this and am now predictably sad that it’s over. I had forgotten basically all of The Peripheral and it did not matter! Though I did read up on it again after I had finished Agency just to get a little more depth into the story I had read. I can always read them again in tandem. “If you like Gibson, this is one of his books” is all I need to say.

Barbary Station

I wasn’t the right audience for this book, a social justice-aware spacer w/ a neuroatypical female couple working to defeat a murderous AI. A captain of uncertain gender. A lot of discussion of calming/soothing techniques.Had a hard time getting oriented, too much struggle/fighting, not enough plot. Likely a good book for someone else.

Dear Girls

This is a book nominally written by Wong as advice to her young daughters. But mostly it’s a pretty good memoir of what Wong’s life was like til now. Funny but not TOO funny, and has a lot of backgrounder information about her marriage, her pre-marriage life, her family and making her way as a stand-up. If you’ve liked her other stuff you’ll both know what to expect and also probably like this.

Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America

For whatever reason Box Brown writes books I almost love and then don’t. I’m not sure if it’s his drawing style which is good but sort of stilted, or his “ripped from headlines” approach where you get the feeling he’s maybe just illustrating news articles he read. In any case, this is a good story to be told and it outweighs the downsides basically talking about the exact specific ways weed was made illegal in the US and in the world. I learned some things. I got annoyed. I was hoping for a broader approach but was happy with the one I got. A great book to have in your library.

This Is How You Lose the Time War

I put off reading this for a while because I think I was concerned it might have been too experimental for me. It was not! It’s an epistolary novel, told by two nameless (I think?) warriors in some future time where time travel, both backwards and forwards, is just how things work. Two opponents find they have a lot in common. Huh! My favorite thing about this is how you see the characters subtly change, not just the obvious ways but some of the smaller simpler ways. Clearly a masterpiece of work doing this, I was sad when it was over.

The Gone World

Super complex thriller/time travel combo book. It’s both really thinky and also a little... basic? I sort of knew where it was headed by not too far into it, but it was cool to see how it got there. And then there’s an epilogue that kind of knocks you on your ass. Neat! I enjoyed a world where there were possible futures and some interesting limitations places on time travel/time travelers. And space stuff but it’s mostly hand-waved away. This book was right at the outside limit of my tolerance for gore though, how much “pink mist” can I read about?

Doonesbury: Squared Away

It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a Doonesbury book and I was a little concerned I might no longer know the characters, but this book sort of nudges you to remember, even while it’s telling the story of a whole new generation of hippies and political people and military people. This all took place before Obama’s election so there’s a lot of current US politics basically missing but the undercurrents are the same. Nice to see a bunch of different complex/interesting military threads, not something you usually see interspersed with hippies and academics and the like. If you have enjoyed Doonesbury in the past, you’re likely to enjoy this book.

The Overstory

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot since I read it.Many of the things that happen within it are things that I had at least some interaction with while I was living in Seattle in the 90s--the stuff that was set on fire, the tree-sitting. So that part of the story felt a little more real and alive than some of the other parts. I feel like Powers had a narrative he was in love with, and then some others that he was less attached to. This novel is about the lives of 5-10 people whose lives intertwine, sort of. And the main thread, about what drives eco-terrorism and other sorts of political statement making, is well-explored. At the same time I kept getting vibes of... hyper-masculinity and I felt that when characters with permanent or temporary disabilities were introduced it was not in a person-forward sort of way (there is one character who uses a wheelchair and I found frequent references to his “withered” or “useless” legs to be sort of negative and took me out of the story. In general: terrific. In some specific ways: I wish it were better.

The Book of the Year 2018

I will forever be that nerd complaining about books that are about the year but are published during the year. What about stuff in December! This was a fun and engaging trivia book organized alphabetically which was maybe just a little too cheeky (a lot of see also references that were kind of jokes but also kind of exhausting) but otherwise a great manifestation of one of my favorite podcasts.

Supernova Era

I’m not totally sure why I picked this up after I found Three Body Problem sort of dense and difficult. I think it’s because I really liked the central plot idea. *something happens* and everyone over the age of 13 dies.How does civilization go on? Well as it turns out, it’s easier in China because there’s basically an AI that helps. And so the central part that I was the most interested in gets handwaved away a little bit (you get some foreshadowing in the form of author notes that things are going to ok and humanity doesn’t die off) and then the rest has a lot more to do with global politics. And to me the logistical parts and the human stories are what is interesting. To the author, there was clearly one part--a massive Antarctic War--that occupied way more of the story than it should have if it was just one plot device. Took me getting to the Afterword by the author before he admits that the Child War was the first thing that convinced him to write this book. It was obvious once he said it. So, I think certain people would like this book, I liked it enough to finish it but not enough to look back on my time investment in it.

Famous Men Who Never Lived

This was a terrific, if occasionally confusing, story about a world in which... the reality timeline splits into two sometime around 1909 and there are (at least) two existing earth. Something happens to one of them and it becomes doomed, someone develops a mechanism to transport a few hundred thousand people from the dying world into the other. This is how a few of them find meaning in their lives. I didn’t like the protagonist and I don’t think you’re supposed to. Everyone’s a little broken and part of this is thinking about the trauma of leaving not just your family or your friends but your TIMELINE and having to learn to live in another one,similar yet slightly different with 100-ish years of difference. Thinky but not TOO thinky.

Go with the Flow

A great high school friend story with the added storyline of girls talking about their periods. Different girls, different experiences including “Why are all the pad dispensers always empty?” and “Why does this hurt so much, am I broken?” There are also the usual ups and downs about meeting people, sexual preference/orientation and just the usual school things. Super well done and without any uterus diagrams.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

Mostly liked this? It’s tough because I generally admire Becky Chambers a lot and I enjoyed her Wayfarers series. I am happy she exists in the world and I think she writes well. But some of her stuff just leaves me sort of feeling like a curmudgeon. Like, she seems young as a writer, there is a whole extra nearly-chapter after the end of this book where she and her mom interview each other. Which is sort of cute but also just kind of... seemed more geared towards fanfic than an actual book. And to be clear, this book is a novella and maybe if I’d approached it as a long short story I would have felt warmer towards it. Because it’s a fun hard science romp to a number of different planets, but there’s some... lack of consistency to how they interact with each other and the worlds they move through. Has some similarities to Noumenon (which I read before this) which were fun to think about.


One of those epic multi-generational spacers. This book has a lot going on, most of which I liked. However it does the same thing that Semiosis does where each chapter is some random amount of time in the future so I spent a lot of time trying to remember who was whom. Lots to unpack in terms of nature vs. nurture, class vs. actions & some pontificating on what might the planet be like if you came back to it after 2000 years. Will definitely read the sequel.

Good Talk

The librarian at the library handed this to be so I could read it before it was even on the shelves. A great, complex story of an East Indian woman dealing w/ encroaching Tr*mpism, her racist in-laws (who don’t think they’re racist), her White (but Jewish!) husband, and their young son and the questions he asks while growing up in NYC. Beautifully illustrated with drawings cut out and collaged over a number of different backgrounds. I had not read Jacob’s novel which I think is what many people know her for. Was so happy to read this.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

This book should have been a lot better. Hammer is a journalist who, I think, stumbled on the story of the librarians and their quest to save all these books that had been lovingly collected in Mali and environs. He writes about it but also writes about the serious civil unrest happening around that time. Which, I sort of get, the climate is part of what you have to know about to understand what the threat was to the books. But really? This was two books sort of smooshed together and I only wanted to read one of them. The stories about the kidnappings and which warlord said what to whom did not interest me and were not actually critical to the librarian story. And ultimately, there’s mostly one librarian and I wanted to hear more about the books and what happened next. By the end of this book, the books aren’t even back. A good but ultimately disappointing book.

The Poser

Another of the books I got over the holidays from the library booksale. This book was super uneven but I liked the central point. The main character is a guy with a gift for mimicry and less of an ability to know who he is. He gets famous but there’s an emptiness to it and his life doesn’t go where he thinks it will or even where you-the-reader think it will.I liked the ending so much it made up for parts of the book being a little tough and hopeless.

The American Agent

This book takes place during the Blitz which is a real organizing factor for a lot of what happens.Maisie and Priscilla are driving ambulances, the American Mark Scott shows up and is mysterious, people need to sleep wherever they wind up when the air raid sirens go off.I’d read a fair amount about the Blitz but it was nice to see your characters inside a bit of history to give it a little more rounding out. The central mystery to this book was better and more interesting than the one in the last book too which I appreciated.

To Die But Once

Wound up taking home the sequel to this book from the library and then realizing I hadn’t read the one before it! This was kind of a sad story with the death of a young man early on in the process and a lot of trying to figure out whodunit. I liked it but did not love it, a lot of interesting historical stuff about the war but most of the characters we spent time with besides Maisie and her regulars, seemed to be having a tough time of it.

Spag: An American Business Legend

This book was a gift from my SO who also grew up going to Spag’s as a kid. This book is written by Spag’s sister. I expected a puff piece hagiography with this book . But it was good! I shopped in this store as a kid, and as a teen, and I loved being there again. The one super weird aspect of this book was that they talked and talked about how much Spag loved his family, his mother, his wife, etc, but barely mentioned his three daughters who wound up inheriting the store. I’d really love to hear their take on this story.

Medusa Uploaded

Always good to do a palate cleanse with a bad Tor book with a better Tor book. This is the book i think i was hoping that Binti or Ascension would be but both of them had characters experiencing too much raw pain and I found it hard to take. The main character in this one is a little more reserved (thought she is a killer) and seeing the story through her eyes was a helpful way to look at things. I enjoy generation ship stories and this was a good one.

The Pixel Eye

Picked this up from a library book sale, saw the futuristic blurb and that it was on Tor and thought I’d try it. Definitely not my thing. The central conceit was interesting enough--oh hey maybe we can implant spying devices in small mammals for security purposes--but the implementation was off.Like, the main character was so sexist I found myself wondering if it was a plot device that would be his undoing later (i twas not) so I just had to spend a lot of time with a sexist low-level jerk of a main character.Interesting enough but overall not for me,

Green Mountain Boys of Summer

Really enjoyed this comprehensive and well-researched book about people who were born in Vermont and played (even a little) in Major League baseball. There are a wealth pf photos and interviews, many not published before, that flesh out the history of baseball in Vermont as well as some of the history of Vermont itself. Many of the early players came from immigrant families and it was interesting to read how they got to where they were and/or the challenges they faced playing baseball. A well-done book with a few familiar faces.


This is the finale in the trilogy about the weird Area X in the Southern Reach which, once you read more about the author, you know to be somewhere in Florida. I didn’t get a lot of closure but I wasn’t expecting much. I got to learn a lot more about an unsympathetic character from the first book and lost sympathy for some of the characters from the second book. Overall this was a great trilogy and I liked how each of the books was a little different in its approach to the same weird stuff.