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« May, 2020 »
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.