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USA Stars and Lights

I got a review copy of this from the publisher. It’s got great lighthouses-against-stars photography, laid out a little clunkily but whatever. Even greater are all the “How I got that shot” stories at the end which involve a lot of travel, permissions, boats, external lighting, Macgyvering, and just a little trespassing. Zapatka is a cameraman for CNN who lives in Rhode Island and some of these are local to him and others involved extensive travel. He clearly has great respect for and interest in his subject and I loved reading about all his journeys to get these shots

Tongue of a Crow

A collection of poetry by my uncle, inscribed to me, with stories about, among other things, my family. This book was interesting to read since I knew the facts of many of the poems--some stories about old partners or wives, stories about his parents, my grandparents--but not his impressions and they gave me a richer understanding. He’s got a way with words and a gentle way of telling which reflects his spirit.

The Dog Stars

A 2012 book about a worldwide plague which kills nearly everyone, told from the perspective of a survivor, who has a Cessna. He has a little life carved out for himself, and his dog, and another random guy who lives near him. It’s a very “day in the life,” except occasionally when the marauders come. And then one day he goes traveling, and comes back. A surprisingly gentle story, well told.

People We Meet on Vacation

My librarian misled me somewhat that this wasn’t going to be a slow burn romance will-they-or-won’t-they novel. It kind of was. I’m not sure if this was the book she felt I needed, or if she didn’t understand my usual allergy to this genre. I liked it decently, more that I expected. It’s funny, and even though the conclusion is pretty pre-ordained you like hanging out with the characters as they figure their lives out.

In Short

A long book of super-short essays, all under five pages. I put this book down for a long time and just picked it up again and really enjoyed it (possibly b/c of my new shorter attention span). Some authors you’ve heard of--Sherman Alexie, Barry Lopez, Michael Ondaatje--some you probably haven’t. Good biographical blurbs in the back and a truly terrible index.

Comfort Me With Apples

I should have paid closer attention to the fact that this book was classified as horror since that’s a genre I don’t usually like and this book, though inspired in parts, was no exception. It’s an allegory, hard to explain without spoiling the best part of it (the gradual reveal as you figure out what is going on) but has an unsatisfactory ending and just was weirdly short which I guess was okay for a book I didn’t like much. The author is clearly super talented, this was just the wrong book for me.

Harlem Shuffle

I read this book the same week I saw the documentary Summer of Soul which takes place at almost the same time and in the same location and they were a great pairing. I love Whitehead’s writing so much but the last book of his that I read, the zombie novel, was not as up my street as this one. Carney is a guy who had a crook for a dad and grew up kind of in that life, but went straight, sort of, married “up” and runs a furniture store. But he keeps getting roped into illegal schemes and this book is three vignettes which talk about how he manages the overlap between the way he was raised and the way he sees himself now. So good.

It Didn’t Start With You

This is a self-help book about the idea of “inherited family trauma” which both made sense but also seemed a bit like woo as I read through this book. The idea is sort of like you could have a grandfather who drowned before you were born and somehow you are hydrophobic. Which makes sense a little--i.e. the people in your family would have some knowledge of that trauma which they could pass down even if they didn’t talk about it--but sometimes there was the implication that there were genetic ways this could affect people and I was not on board with that.That said, a lot of the concepts and framing and ideas were useful even if I was skeptical of some of the quick solutions some of these discoveries of family trauma seemed to bring on.

There Is No Antimemetics Division

A weird, complex novel with the premise “what if memes could affect reality and there were such a thing as anti-memes?” all about a quasi-government organization that tracks, contains, and fights these anti-memes. I did not know that this book was sort of crowdsourced written by a group of people who share a weird wiki together? And I still don’t know much about that part of it but it can explain how uneven some of this is, how it picks up and drops off themes without as much continuity as you might be expecting. I enjoyed it but I’d be careful who I recommended it to. Strange and compelling.


Mary Roach is sometimes a little too jokey for me, but in this book that talks about how humans and wildlife manage to interact with each other when wildlife are bothering the humans, I actually liked it just fine. The chapters range from looking at how we try to keep bears out of our dumpsters, to how we keep mice out of our houses to how they try to keep monkeys out of basically everything in parts of India. I enjoyed her approach and learned a lot about robot birds and other odd techniques to try to manage wildlife and our incursions into their spaces.

Leviathan Falls

Eagerly awaited and not disappointing. I wanted slightly more of the OG crew than I got in this final installment of The Expanse series, but enjoyed the story they wound up telling. I had no idea how they were going to pull off “satisfying ending” with this epic series, but I feel like that’s more or less what I got.

This Weightless World

This was a moody book about (sort of) first contact, and Calvino, and cellists, and toxic Bay Area startup culture. There was a lot going on and it was sometimes tough to figure out who to root for. I liked all the parts, I felt they cohered a little unevenly. This was Soto’s first novel and I’ll pick up his next book and see if it’s more my jam. His writing is good and felt strongest when he was talking about characters and less good when he was talking about conflict.


I like Lahiri’s work generally. I did not enjoy this as much as her short stories, but I think that is because this is all about the inside of one woman’s head and that woman is cool-seeming on the outside but deeply melancholy. So you go back and forth seeing these little scenarios that she enters into but then is unsatisfied by. Over and over. The writing is great but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. No real plot, a very moody book.

Way Station

A classic novel, but one I hadn’t read. I didn’t know quite how old it was when I picked it up, so some of the archaic phrasing and worldviews seemed off to me but made sense in hindsight. An isolated man who seems to not age lives up in the hills and people mostly leave him alone. Until they don’t. A really enjoyable story, well told.

The Apollo Murders

I’m a big Hadfield fan, but this was not the book for me. A mystery set in space, kind of. With astronauts, kind of. During the Cold War when the big enemies were the Russians. Too much engineering detail, like way too much. And not enough women, they’re mostly used as set dressing (and as comfort to have the book wrap up nice at the end) which I didn’t appreciate. The book is based on some real-life stuff and some totally made up stuff, and I wish I’d known more about what was real and what was made up before I’d read it, might have been more interesting. Skip it unless space data minutia is your thing.

Covid Chronicles

This was a graphic novel compilation with different artists responding to the pandemic. The time it covers was from early 2020 til October, so taking place during some of the bleaker pre-vax times. It’s not an easy read, but has a lot of different takes on a collective public health disaster and people’s personal responses to it. I really enjoyed the overview it gave me of people’s individual struggles and the interactions they had with people experiencing a thing that was kind of the same but also kind of different.

Newton’s Madness

This was another score from my mom’s house and a better read than the other older light-science book. It’s a bunch of shortish essays on various neurology conundrums, some from the present day & some more historical (and some fanciful - like one on Sherlock Holmes). I love this type of medical mystery and Klawans does a good job recounting patient stories with empathy and curiosity even when his patients are difficult or terminal.

The Man Who Died Twice

This is the next installment of the Thursday Murder Club books. It’s a nice cozy mystery with a bunch of elderly friends who like to look into unsolved crimes and find themselves in the middle of them more often than not. This one concerns a man from Elizabeth’s past who is maybe dead, and maybe a bad man, or maybe not. Not too fluffy, nice wrap-ups, not too many cops.


A freaky near-future thriller about a clone attempting to solve the murder (she thinks) of her “original.” Goes a lot of interesting places with some neat twists and has a bunch of useful/strong female characters. Seems to be set up for a sequel which is almost too bad because this was a pretty great story (with a decent ending) in and of itself. I’ll definitely pick up book #2.

Himawari House

I had a slow day subbing at the library, this was on the NEW shelf so I read it all at once. A story about feeling “not at home” in different ways, seen through the eyes of a Japanese-born young woman who moved to the US when she was small and spends a year in Japan in a group living situation with a few other young women and men from other Asian countries. There are some flashbacks to her earlier life and some to the lives of the people she lives with. It’s definitely got one of those summer vibes to it even though it takes place over an entire year.

The Man with No Endorphins

This was a book I rescued from my mom’s house as I was getting rid of boxes and boxes of books. I thought it was going to be a medical curiosities book, one of my faves, but it turned out to be a “humorous” science column which was okay not great and also from the late 80s so a little dated. You sort of marvel at the things this guy could get paid to travel to and write about but his insights weren’t that novel to me and he just wasn’t as funny as he thought he was. Funny cover though!

Far From the Light of Heaven

An exceptional spacer mystery thriller about a colony ship in which something goes wrong but it’s not entirely clear what. And the person sent to investigate it is a curious choice. It just kept getting better and better with weird little aspects and additional characters, though it did end what seemed like a little abruptly. I’m really hoping for a sequel. Afrofuturism from an author I hadn’t read before.

The Cabinet

This book was 95% totally magical & really interesting, very reminiscent of Strange Beast of China (but takes place in S Korea) but a late-book gruesome torture scene kind of ruined it for me. If that kind of thing won’t wreck a book for you, you’d love this, but man did I feel betrayed after getting so far in this book and having it wrap up like that.

Grave Reservations

Can’t even remember how I found this, a fun almost goofy book about a psychic (kinda) travel agent, her best friend, and the cop they help with a cold-ish case. The story takes place in Seattle which may have been why I had a sweet spot for it. A lot of familiar scenes and while the protagonist isn’t entirely likable--I wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be kind of annoying or if that was just my take on her--it’s also a tale of friendship and a lot of imperfect people who more or less get along which I did appreciate.

Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness

A first-person account of going from partially-sighted to completely blind and the author’s gradual adaptations. Hull mixes in his own personal observations, thoughts, and dreams with his experiences as a person of faith and how those intermingled. I was less interested in his accounting of his dreams and a lot more interested in his talking about his experience of interacting with his family, particularly since he had one child before he began to lose his sight and one after he was mostly blind. The nuance involved between “Can see a little bit” and “Can see nothing at all” is really a lot and I appreciated how detailed Hull’s story is.

The Last Astronaut

A very Watts-ian outer space first contact story that also had good/interesting characters including one who was a woman about my age. The author is usually known for his horror writing and it shows. Creepy and thriller-y--there’s a lot of non stop scary stuff happening--while also talking about space politics and tough decisions in tougher times. Not a super deep book but an interesting look at what aliens might be like.

The Fallen

I waited a long time to read this (it felt) after reading the original. A sequel, mainly about nine neurodivergent genderfluid people navigating past and present trauma set against a backdrop of a ruined world and avenging angels. There was really just a lot of trauma, people getting more trauma, people healing from past trauma, people trying to be mindful of others' trauma. It was definitely too much for me, more fantastical chaos magic than scifi and nothing got wrapped up.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2020

A really interesting and eclectic set of essays, possibly none of which were on the pandemic? I read this series from time to time and often there is a lot of gloom and doom writing about climate or about diseases or some such. No big deal, I get it, but this collection is more varied than most. Not too samey, not too grim. I learned some things and enjoyed reading it.

Marked Man

This October’s book by Mayor is pretty good in that none of the usual suspects is imperiled, there’s a side-jaunt to Rhode Island (coffee milk!) and I saw a cameo from one of my favorite librarians. It’s all about some super-wealthy people in Vermont who live in an improbable arrangement. And there’s a mafia side-story, kind of. Otherwise, it’s about what you’d expect. Good, but maybe not great.

The Thursday Murder Club

Taskmaster is clearly taking over my entire life. This is a really great debut novel from TV producer Richard Osman. It’s interesting with a good mystery at the core. The plot centers around mostly elderly people, a group of friends, who live in a retirement home without being saccharine or treacley. They like to look at cold case mysteries for fun and then suddenly find one that is not so cold. It’s funny without playing people’s lives for laughs.

Dressed for Death

I’ve enjoyed this series but absolutely can’t recommend this book with its super problematic treatment of sex work and male transvestite sex workers in particular. The mystery hinges around a man found dead, dressed as a sex worker. While it’s supposedly using people’s dismissive treatment of them to highlight that treating sex workers this way is wrong, there’s enough causal crappy speech about sex work that I found it overall pretty offensive. Finished it but suggest you don’t start it.

Activation Degradation

I liked but did not love Noumenon. Lostetter is clearly a great writer, just wasn’t my story. This was a sort of Murderbot readalike in some ways and very much not in others. A cyborg is part of it. There are a lot of non-binary totally normal characters. It was enjoyable, kind of a slow burn of plot development (I was worried at the beginning that it might be a little too hard sciencey for me and this was not the case) and otherwise too easy to spoil so I won’t get into it. A good read.

The Frequency of Aliens

This book was a sequel to The Spaceship Next Door about a small town Massachusetts after the spaceship (from the last book) departed. Similar story arc to the last one where there is a lot of character and plot development and then a lot of action and drama and uncertainty in the last third of the book. Also, like the last book, it wraps up decently with a door open to more sequels.

James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes

Got this as a gift because I’m a fan of Taskmaster and Acaster’s standup series that was on Netflix. If you liked him in either of those, you’ll enjoy these stories (all true!) about various Acaster mishaps, as originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s podcast. With drawings that he did himself.

Save Me From Dangerous Men

Picked this book up at the library because I thought the author of this book about a female bookstore owner and also sometimes-private-eye was a woman. It wasn’t, but it was still pretty ok. The plot has a lot of vigilante justice and mystery solving as well as a lot of mysteries in the past of our female protagonist. Also there is some good bookstore content.

The Spaceship Next Door

I had really liked Doucette’s book Apocalypse 7 and this book follows a similar arc. Takes place in a riverside mill town in Massachusetts, which was a familiar setting. The loose plot is: a spaceship arrives in the town but then does nothing. People learn to adapt to it, then something changes. Lots of quirky characters including a plucky female heroine, and a plot worth reading about.

Solo: Life With An Electric Car

Dartmouth professor Noel Perrin got an electric car intending to drive cross-country in it, in 1991. This was as a result of a student chiding him somewhat for being an environmentalist who still drove a car to work that relied on fossil fuels. This is that story. It’s amusing, fact-filled and a great peek into what we thought electric cars were going to do for us back in the 90s and just how hard it was to learn about them, maintain them, or even find ways to buy them.

Perrin isn’t an environmental purist, though he does have a few tics that get annoying after a while of reading (he refers to suburban mall environments as eczema as if this is clever, he also maintains two households and does not live with his wife which is another carbon footprint aspect that goes unaddressed) and ultimately he does not drive his electric car across the country for reasons he explains at length. I enjoyed this book as well as his previous books about his rural life.

The Scent Keeper

Pretty good for a book I randomly grabbed off of the library shelf. Loose story about a girl who grows up on an isolated island away from everyone else, with an eccentric dad who has a lot of secrets. Poignant, some of that good Maritime rurality, not too awful, some good things to say about family and how far the apple falls from the tree. A lot of discoveries though the end of the book felt somewhat rushed and there is a lot of random bad behavior. Evocative.

The Madness of Crowds

A post-pandemic Gamache story featuring unpleasant eugenicists, the usual favorites, a Malala doppleganger, a New Year’s Eve party and some “things you find when cleaning out parents' houses.” All content that felt close to home. You get a little less of that nudging “saying a thing without saying it” aspect of Penny’s writing that I don’t like so well--like really, no one knows if the house pet is a dog or a guinea pig?--and more exposition about people being complicated and stories being complex.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built

A person and a robot meet and get to know each other. But it’s so much more than that. The latest Becky Chambers in a new non-Wayfarer series is nicely contemplative, lushly descriptive and rings with some nice ecotopian notes. Basically there’s this future where a lot of the world is off-limits and wild. And this has to do with a robot uprising that happened and then... a deal was made. These two entities come toegther because they’re both slightly edge-case versions of their species and what they manage to do and find and make is nice to watch.

Surrender New York

I had read a lot of bad reviews of this book and it was... not great but it was okay. Some iffy forensics (and that’s the books main THING), implausible scenarios, and a telegraphed ending. Bunch of male gaze stuff that I wasn’t expecting. The book just seemed so weirdly old-fashioned but it was written fairly recently. I think Carr’s real strengths lie in more period-type pieces. This one bordered on the implausible in many places. I didn’t mind it but wouldn’t recommend it.

Calm and Sense: A Woman’s Guide to Living Anxiety-free

Not my usual, but read it for review purposes & was surprised how sensible it was. Many good techniques for managing anxiety. Very non-prescriptive (not telling you what to do, not anti-meds). A useful guide to a lot of anti-anxiety actions you can take and a useful outlook that encourages you to keep trying other options if what you’ve been trying isn’t working. The author herself manages anxiety (and has had a lot of health problems that she discusses candidly) and definitely comes across as a trustworthy source for this information.

The Art Thief

One of those books I grabbed right off the shelf at the library because it looked like it would be interesting. A super-quirky interestingly complex tale of interwoven art crimes and the ten or so people involved in perpetrating and solving them. Odd writing style (a lot of one-sided expository convos which felt super weird) but easy to not mind. The author is a noted expert in this topic and kind of a polymath so a lot of that seemed to come out in the writing of this novel.

The Coldest Case

One of the better Bruno books of the recent ones. This one was about solving a case of a mystery skull found the woods 30 years ago using fancy facial reconstruction techniques. That intersected with obvious excuses for Bruno to cook fancy dinners and some international geopolitics & a forest fire. No huge tactical shootouts for the most part and there was a lot more of the town involved in this particular book.

The Unlikely Thru-Hiker

An excellent first book by Lugo, a Black man from NYC, who has never really been hiking or camping before but decides to hike the AT from Georgia to Maine. Learns stuff, meets people, has adventures, relates it all with a sense of humor & warmth. I really enjoyed learning things along with him and appreciated his good attitude especially when facing challenges that were particularly difficult for him.

The Outside

A really good spooky “AI drawn to its logical conclusion” story with a queer female autistic protagonist and a robust story line. Stands alone as a great scifi novel but also has a sequel which I’m excited to read. There’s a lot going on here between AI that has evolved to be indistinguishable from gods and the “religion” that comes as a result of that. A few people manage to find/create some chinks in that armor. Complex and nuanced and a really good read.

Imagine Wanting Only This

My initial review of this was “A melancholy reflection about falling down buildings, health and family issues, and thinking a lot about what it would take to feel "at home.” Gorgeously drawn, doesn’t really go anywhere, even though geographically you’re in a lot of places." The graphic novel rubbed me kind of the wrong way but I couldn’t really put a finger on why. Just mopey white girl ennui I felt like. Then I read this review on Goodreads.

In short, that review is by the mother of the young man whose photos Radtke basically appropriated for a lot of the content in her book. And I think I got a bit clearer of an idea of why I hadn’t liked it. The story seemed to use the emotional content of a lot of people--her boyfriend, this young man, a lot of the people in her life--without being clear that’s what she was doing. And those people were treated badly by her. She starts out kind of obsessed with the pictures of this young man, carries them with her everywhere but then just... loses them somewhere on a trip to Europe. Ick.

Strange Beasts of China

I’ve been trying to find more Chinese scifi that I liked (after reading a few that weren’t my thing) and this book is great. Part cryptozoology exploration, part meta-story of loss and belonging. Spooky and masterful. Each essay starts by giving you some facts about the various odd beasts that live in this one weird town and by the end of each essay it’s revealed that there is much more to each beast’s story. There’s a meta-narrative that ties it all together.

Class Act

A look at one of the other kids from New Kid, this is another Jerry Craft high school story looking at issues of race, class and self-identity by watching a group of friends struggle with (new) feelings and their old lives. It’s really well done and it’s nice to see the kid from the last book doing okay, while a lot of the other kids grapple with issues and the ups and downs of their relative social strata which are somewhat transparent but becoming visible to them.

How To Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America.

Picked this off the new shelf at my library because it looked interesting. Have already told three people to read it. Serious essays with a throughline of humor that talk about being Black in Mississippi, in academia, in the world. Reverent and irreverent, this is a book of essays that was initially published when Laymon was newer in his career. He’s added to it since and it’s just a very evocative and well-crafted bunch of essays.

Satchel Paige, Striking Out Jim Crow

Big fan of Sturm and this is a good graphic novel, but it’s mostly NOT about Paige but rather racism in the Jim Crow South. Worthwhile topic! But not what I was expecting. I was really looking for more of a baseball book and this was definitely not it. I had questions about the appropriateness of the AAVE dialog that were not really answered by me reading more about the book.

The Paris Library

I usually have a No Nazis rule but made an exception because this was a book about libraries and I figured how bad could the Nazis be? Well turns out there were a LOT of them in this book and some of it got pretty brutal. This was a historical fiction story of the American Library in Paris during WWII as seen through the eyes of a young librarian & also about her life later when she lives in the US. A lot of questions about how she got from Point A to Point B. A book about forgiveness. Good but very uneven.


A fairly chilling graphic novel about the Canadian graphic novelist’s trip to North Korea to briefly help out in an animation studio there. While he has a relatively straightforward role there, he notices that the people around him are all kind of bending over backwards to pretend that what is going on there maybe isn’t really going on. Delisle is always watched, always followed, frequently lied to while believing that many people there are also lying to themselves.

Apocalypse Seven

This was an interesting take on various “surviving the apocalypse” scenarios. A “something happened, now there are only seven people alive in the world... maybe” story. I enjoyed this more than I might have otherwise because it takes place in Boston/Cambridge. Well-written characters, somewhat unsatisfying when you learn what the something is that happened. I liked the problem-solving nature of the early parts of this book a lot and have now gone on to read a few more of his books.

Midnight Water City

A gritty cop novel in a future that is part utopia and part dystopia with a deep look at the one brilliant woman who (maybe) got the planet there and the cost of doing so. It’s a future with a stark distinction between the haves and have nots which affects how the cop (a friend of the brilliant woman, sort of) can get his job done. A lot going on, other reviews call it “neo noir” and I think that is spot on.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

Other than the Sinead O’Connor earworm, this book was a really great year-long sketchbook of being the trailing Canadian spouse of a woman working for Doctors Without Borders. There’s a lot going on in Jerusalem, between the various border walls and crossings, to the relationship between the non-profit workers and the people in the surrounding communities. Delisle doesn’t get too judgey about it but does do a credible job drawing what he sees.

The 22 Murders of Madison May

A multiverse story by Max Barry about a spurned man who becomes a murderer and the pursuit of his target... across worlds. And some people who try to stop it. Some somewhat difficult (for me) violence, because you see the main female character getting brutally killed over and over again, but a complex story that wraps up well

The Quiet Boy

A vaguely disturbing legal thriller of sorts with a lot of gradual reveals and more than the average amount of sorrow. The Quiet Boy was raised in a family where he was supposed to be the protege to his father, the dad who has a final (we think) undoing. Then there is a murder, and a conflict, and it needs to get sorted out, and it’s complicated. Had read another book by Winters, this is nothing like it but was equally good to read.


I definitely judged this book by its cover, a weird technicolor rabbit, even though the book has basically nothing to do with rabbits. This is the book Ready Player Two (or One) wanted to be. A weird technothriller where improbable things always bear further scrutiny. I was left w/ a lot of questions, but unlike w/ most books, I didn’t mind. Seattleites of a certain age will especially love this because it goes all the places you probably went and it was nice to see those places alive again.

Solutions and Other Problems

It’s a pretty rare humor book that will get me laughing out loud. Brosh has a really wacky sense of humor and an ability to laugh at her past self that feel authentic. She goes deep into some low-key stuff and skirts over some heavier stuff like her own mental health challenges and a serious breakup. This is a thick volume that cohered (I felt) better than her last book and I was happy to read it.


The companion to Saints. No idea why it took me so long to read these, they were wonderful & have sent me down a rabbit hole of getting straight on my Chinese history. Yang has a marvelous way of finding a personal thread to weave through an epic time in history. This book shows some of the same characters as Saints but from a very different perspective.

How To Mars

Fun and quirky “The Martian meets The Truman Show” (kinda) which didn’t go in the directions I was expecting. Six people are selected to go on a one-way trip to Mars for a reality show. The cameras roll while they live their lives and this story is broken up by occasional quotes from the company that sent them there, telling them ridiculous things that aren’t super helpful. They mostly handwave the science aspects of this trip and talk a lot about interpersonal dramaz. Enjoyable all the way through.


I’ve been making up for the last year of no graphic novels from the library with a vengeance. This was great, I knew it would be. It tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion from the perspective of the Christian converts who were on one side of it. I’ve got Boxers in the queue.

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel

I did not read the novel this graphic novel is based on but the story comes across pretty well. It’s a really gripping story about growing up in a tough neighborhood, with a moral code that doesn’t always serve you, where revenge is not optional but you’re not always sure you’ve got the right person Lovely watercolors by Danica Novgorodoff that are so well done. Written by Banned Books Week honorary chair Jason Reynolds. Have not read the longer novel, I suspect it’s heartbreaking.

The Order

My mostly-favorite Israeli assassin/spy series, but this one is mostly about... the pope? I learned some things about Pontius Pilate and about the Vatican (and their library) but it was maybe a bit too much time with Jesus for me. The loose idea: someone kills the pope and there is a shadowy conspiracy to put in a new pope and Allon is called in to help out. It was a good read with a memorable storyline but at the same time you wind up with a ton of sympathy for his long-suffering wife (also a spy!) and their kids.


A look at the Japanese internment camps through the eyes of a modern Japanese American teenager who grew up in a family who had family who were there and never talked about them, and are now living through the Tr*mp years. The story is told through a sort of time travel lens where suddenly a modern girl is put back in time and in the camp. Poignant and informative.

I Was Their American Dream

An excellent graphic novel about being an American kid of immigrant parents from 2 very different cultures--Egyptian and Filipino--and forging your own way while still remaining close to your family. Gharib does a really good job at showing you not telling you how her family’s cultures interrelated as well as talking about herself in a way that is poignant and funny at the same time.


A sequel of sorts to Quantico. I both liked it a little more as a story but also grew tired of Bear including every possible near-future technology that he knows about. And yet, pretty interesting future predictions from a book over 10 yrs old. A page turner.

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas

A great graphic novel about Cass Elliot’s life and times before The Mamas & the Papas really made it big. I had their albums growing up but never really knew too much about the band and this was really interesting. Elliot does not always come across as likeable but then again you understand what she’s about and how the Mamas and the Papas ticked more or less.

Death In A Strange Country

Another of the Commissario Guido books which was enjoyable. Where the Bruno Chief of Police books are about food and small town life, these are more about the interrelationship of various parts of Italy, and a lot of interpersonal relationship stuff. This story in particular takes us into the American military base which is nearby, and a crime that some people want to solve and others clearly do not. Good reading.

Flying Couch

Started this book at night but realized 1. it’s non-fiction (meaning it’s for daytime reading) 2. it’s about the Holocaust, in part. A story of three generations of women all somehow coping with the legacy of the concentration camps and what “family” means. A lot of stories gradually getting told. Wasn’t wild about the illustration style, but was going to put it down entirely and the story drew me back in.

High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing

This is a great book for someone who could use a little help understanding that institutionalized racism is a real thing. This book looks at one housing project and how it was managed, and mismanaged, and how that unfolded over one long time in Chicago while families were born, lived & died in Cabrini-Green. Well-written, mostly from the voices of people who lived there. A lot of complicated stories.

The Searcher

I like most of French’s novels, haven’t liked a few. This one is exceptionally good especially after reading Dervla McTiernan’s books. A Chicago policeman moves to Ireland to (sort of) escape his past. Buys a fixer of a house. Meets the locals. Finds himself in the middle of a mystery. Does things his way, learns the ways of the locals.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Great spin on the time travel trope. What if you kept getting reborn as yourself, in the same timeline, but with memories intact? What could you do? What about the other people who were like you? What if you were hellbent on destruction? What if you wanted to stop that person? This is an interesting thriller which doesn’t get too into the “how?” aspects but tells a really good story that has time travel as one of its elements.


This is a very good but also hard to read story about Walden’s younger years as a competitive figure and synchronized skater, while also experiencing being a lesbian in Texas with a not-particularly-supportive family. She gets comfort from unlikely places. Walden has said that she wanted this book to be more about a feeling than a specific history if this time in her life. I felt a lot of it was familiar (weird uncaring parents, peers who could be truly awful) in ways that weren’t always confortable but which felt really true and honest.


This was a book I grabbed off my sister’s shelf because I left home for a few days and FORGOT TO BRING A BOOK. Bear is reliable and this was a book of his I hadn’t read, even though it’s over a decade old. It was a near-future bioterror thriller that was pretty interesting and lively with a lot of moving parts. I always appreciate Bear’s writing and I’ll pick up the sequel to this.

The End of Men

A book about a killer virus (that kills only men, but 90% of them) that was written before COVID but published during the pandemic, and before there was a vaccine. A really interesting look at the various ways this scenario could play out ranging from how dating apps have to adapt to what infrastructure looks like now. Women finally get bulletproof vests that fit them. Medicine works better for them. There is a lot going on and a lot of the people you know die, but this story, told in chapters from various women’s perspectives, doesn’t dwell on the horror aspects of all of it, though it’s not just a flat infrastructure examination either.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Another great graphic novel from First Second, this one about a complex world in which the person you are with isn’t maybe the person you should be with. We’ve all had these bad relationship situations and this one is told empathetically and honestly. It’s another great story by Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, looking at a confusing and complicated teen romance and all the conflicting feelings you can have about things that aren’t really going your way. Some really solid friendships help round this out.

The Shooting at Chateau Rock

I’ve read a lot in this series, this one was a mishmash of local intrigue, too many cooking digressions, and a dog’s first breeding described as “losing his virginity” o_O Did not like it as much as most.


Not a sequel--Cipri has said they are happy to have that be the dominion of fan ficcers--but within the same dystopian interdimensional Ikea-ish universe as Finna. This is a short fun read about one person discovering things about himself and his environment and a LOT about work/life balance. It’s a weird romp and a masterfully woven little story.

Death at La Fenice

This book put a stop into my “sci fi’s greatest recent hits” reading. I have moved on from Inspector Bruno to Commissario Guido, and from the Perigord (in France) to Venice. So far so good, this was an entertaining mystery with a lot of Italian ambiance. You like the new policeman. You learn some things. You want to know more about what is going on. I’ll keep on with this series.

The Lost Pianos of Siberia

My partner’s best friend is from Siberia, as was my first boyfriend. How did I find this book? I am not certain. It’s a great companion to The Owls of the Eastern Ice. Looking for hard to find things in out of the way places, a search for some pianos with a story leads to the author learning a lot more about Siberian history. She has friends in Mongolia who are looking for a piano with a history and so she goes looking and digging. Doesn’t find as many pianos as she expects, possibly, but does turn up a lot of stories from out of the way places that many have not been to, or only hear the lore from.

Hummingbird Salamander

After really not liking Ambergris that much, I was hoping for a redemption with this book and I mostly got it. Such a poignant tale of a messy, compelled search for the source of a mystery as the world slowly falls apart. Unusual female protagonist who is not particularly likable. Cover features a different bird than the one in the book. More like Southern Reach than Ambergris with some unexplained weirdness and other mostly-explained weirdnesses.

Fugitive Telemetry

Heyyy more Murderbot! I found this one easier to follow than the last one. Fewer characters, especially ones with names the same. On the other hand, this felt more like the older novellas than the longer novel, so my main complaint was just: too short! It was good to see Murderbot back at it, solving mysteries and awkwardly trying to figure out how to interact with people. No ART or 3 which was too bad but that just means more to come.

Project Hail Mary

A lot more like The Martian (but w/ less poop) than like his second book. I enjoyed all the little science-y problems and seeing how they got solved. Would love to read an explainer about how was based on literal facts and not just extrapolations. And in a book that is all dedicated to the sciencey science stuff, it seems weird that there are a few areas where the narrator is just incurious. Don’t want to give away a bunch of spoilers but it was an odd aspect of this. The last part of the book gets a little bogged down in “Oh no YET ANOTHER wrench thrown into this that we have to science our way out of” but overall I enjoyed reading it.

The Body in the Castle Well

I’m getting a little tired of these, just as I am getting to the end of what’s been published so far, but they still hold up for low-end french food-and-cops books. This one doesn’t have a huge tactical shootout scene which is AOK with me though there is a little bit of a “Promising young woman gets killed in a somewhat brutal manner” aspect which does get old. Good mystery, some neat French history, not too much of the endless food narratives.

The Good Turn

Another interesting Irish cop story, this one with a few separate story lines all exacerbated by some terrible winter weather. And it’s mostly not really about Cormac Reilly, who is working out some relationship stuff in this installment. Relatable! It’s an even-smaller-town mystery and a lot of family drama both among cops but also among the people who all are interdependent in a small town. A few discarded stories tho which was too bad by the time it all wrapped up. Hoping for a sequel.

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space

I got an ARC of this and it took me far too long to get around to read it. It was so good! Leduc, who lives with cerebral palsy, takes a critical look at the stories that fairy tales tell us about disability and how it fits, or doesn’t, into the larger world. Mixing old & new interpretations--including a lot of well-deserved side-eye at Disney--with her own life’s stories as a disabled woman creates a powerful narrative. I had somehow been concerned that this was going to be too academic for me but instead it was a more personal view of the notion of “happily ever after” stories and how they can erase the narratives of people who don’t necessarily have the same “happily” goalposts as the rest.

Eladatl: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines

A fever dream of an art project + novel about an alternative history of LA where dirigibles roamed the skies after climate disasters that I never quite got a handle on, but mostly enjoyed being along for the ride. Great art accompanies this novel which is told as a bunch of overlapping vignettes, not so great on my ancient B&W Kindle.

I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories

An odd little collection of two stories written as a wedding proposal (you learn this at the end of the book) and a confusing (for me) pair of metaphysical/philosophical stories sandwiched in-between. Worth it for the title story, but an uneven read.

Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975

A look at the rise and fall of underground comics during the late 60s thru early 70s. Well-illustrated. Not sure if this is narrrowbanded to cishet men intentionally or if that’s just who wound up in it (so many penises!), but I missed diverse voices. There are a lot of great illustrations but even though this book is large format, many of them are still reproduced too small to read well.

The Ruin

I’ve been trying to read fewer mystery-genre things unless they’re written by women. This was a really interesting small town but not-quite-cozy cold case-ish mystery taking place against a backdrop of the conservativism of Irish cops and family law. It’s the start of a series and so there’s a lot of getting to know you types of things against a backdrop of a bad thing that happened a long time ago. You think it’s going to get super dark but, mercifully, it doesnt.

The Scholar

Same author, different book. These are really great cop procedurals. Complicated and interesting without all the hyper-violence we seem to see in US cop books. Lots of smart women. Lots of drama about what can be obtained by the hyper-rich. This book has a little more to do with the main cop and his relationship with his longtime partner who has a tragic past and also gets mixed up in something going wrong in the present.


So many highs and lows in this book. I reallty enjoyed his last trilogy but this one was really only batting about 500 and it was LONG. I reached the end of this epic three-in-one urban-gothic set of tales and really wasn’t sure what I felt. First book: mostly good. Second book: a slog. Third book: fave but also grimdark. Helped me get my head around life during wartime somehow. Not sure I’d really recommend it.

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl

A terrific account of a naturalist working on wildlife conservation with these giant owls in a rugged part of far eastern Russia. Slaght tells a fascinating travel story, full of the complex balancing act with human and wildlife needs and wants. There’s a lot of chilly cabins, near misses, bizarre owl trivia and a few good photos.

Barely Functional Adult

A great set of illustrated essays talking about some life lessons Ng has learned over the course of her life so far. Not laugh-out-loud funny the way Hyperbole and a Half is but it also feels more grounded and coming from a place of stability. Amusing and reassuring, starting out metaphorical and getting more specific. I read it in one (and a little bit) sitting.

Infinite Detail

An oddly hopeful apocalyptic novel that has a lot more nuance than you think it’s going to. I always love to read books that start from the premise “What if the internet suddenly died?” & this is a real best in show look at that from a UK/US perspective. There is a little neighborhood that seems to be doing okay, and you’re not sure why, and through a series of before and after vignettes you kind of figure out what’s been happening and what’s going to happen. A lot of people who you think you understand, only to find out there’s a lot more to them.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

I really like Chambers' work but I find a lot of it confusing. She’s talking about alien life forms who all interrelate to each other and she clearly has an idea in her head about what they look like and how they interact but kind of dribbles that information out slowly and I find that there’s a long while in the beginning of her books where I have trouble really getting a visual image of what is going on in the book.

This book is a nice wrap-up with some people you know from this universe, unlikely folks tossed together b/c of a crisis and then have to manage a crisis. Good to see these folks again. Book was good, though since it’s been so long since I’ve read her earlier books, I got the feeling that there were characters here that I maybe should recognize but I did not.


One of the better books from this year so far, and I found out I internet-know this author’s partner which made it extra interesting to get some backstory on the writing. This was recommended to me after finishing We Could be Heroes and it was just so so good. An interesting tale of all the people that help support the ecosystem of the superheroes and supervillains, and all the inequalities in there and what some people decide to do about them. A long time in the making & it shows, quality book.

Mississippi Solo: A River Quest

Harris talks about his trip canoeing from the head of the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans. It’s a great memoir, many river stories and a lot of contemplation about what it means to be a black man doing outdoorsy stuff while heading southwards. And Harris isn’t coming at this from an aggressive anti-racist viewpoint, just his own viewpoint. He’s had a decent amount of privilege, but has also experienced racism, in his life and on this trip, and mulls over some of that but also just spends a lot of time learning about the world he’s inhabiting.

A Taste for Vengeance

I am nearing the end of these, or at least the point at which I am catching up with the publication calendar. These books are starting to feel super formulaic (why is he using the French word for this word over and over when the rest of the book is in English!?) but then again so is my life a bit lately. This one’s got even more great food, it’s not particularly gory, and has a somewhat interesting backstory about the IRA.

The Space Between Worlds

Such a fascinating multiverse book! Often multiverse books get too bogged down in paradox-resolving situations or explaining the sciencey science; but this is a really human story about power and class and a woman trying to figure out how to balance what she is with what she wants. There’s a lot going on but it doesn’t get overly confusing. The characters have depth and more is revealed over time, it’s such a well-written story.

We Could Be Heroes

[I noticed in my Twitter thread of the books I’ve been reviewing that this is the second book this year (after Sourdough) that I’ve called a “fun romp” but there it is] This book is a fun romp with some unlikely extraordinary people. Basically a superhero story but you only kind of know that going in and the two main characters aren’t sure who they can trust or who else is like them. Would have worked well as a graphic novel too, and in fact there were definitely parts of this that I wanted to know a lot more about. A lot going on here but ultimately a tale of friendship and getting to the bottom of things.

Take the Cannoli

Why haven’t I read more Sarah Vowell before now? Just means I have to make up for lost time. This book of essays was more readable & personal-feeling than Wordy Shipmates, so I liked it a bit more. She talks about her relationship with her gun nut dad and her twin sister, among other stories. RIP David Rakoff it was sweet to see you in here.

The Templar’s Last Secret

One of the better ones of this series though the trope of “Weird tactical skirmish/shootout during some other small-town event” is getting a little threadbare. Like how often can you claim you’re just a little town where nothing ever happens when all this stuff... happens?! Some good history though the actual mystery part of this is a little confusing and rushed. Some good food. Mostly not gruesome and the plot is kicked along a little.

The Wordy Shipmates

Growing up in New England you get kind of exhausted reading about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, Sturbridge Village and all the Colonial times stuff. This is a new (to me) take on what the heck these people were about. Vowell’s partial Native ancestry gives her a different take than the usual narratives and she’s done a lot, an awful lot, of primary source material research. Sometimes this can bog the book down a little because quoting at length from people writing about religion in 1600s Massachusetts and Rhode is land is deadly dull, but it picks up a lot when she interweaves it with stories about her own family and upbringing.

Zone One

I didn’t know anything about this book going in except liking Whitehead’s work with The Intuitionist. I was somehow expecting this to be some sort of commentary on race. And it wasn’t, not really, but there was still a lot of social commentary within it that you might like or hate depending on how much you agreed with it. Plus it was super weird to be reading it during an actual pandemic, and right after some weird end-times level shit going on in this country. A zombie apocalypse! I had no idea. It’s both gruesome and sort of not-gruesome because of the quality of the writing. So well told and masterful, though also chilling to read about near-future end times and plagues at this point in history.

The Absolute Book

I wanted to love this book, a book about books, which I was sucked into from the very beginning. However, I wound up only liking it. It’s a great story, but it takes a pivot about a third of the way through. At first you are kind of bopping back and forth between the “real” world and a fantasy world alongside the real world. This was fun. However, after that 1/3 point, the book inhabits almost exclusively the fantasy world from that point forward and it’s not as interesting. A lot of those fantasy encounters where both people are basically magical and so the outcome of whatever scuffle they have is completely based on their powers etc. The human parts of this book were great and if you’re less ruffled by fantasy world stuff, you’d likely like it a lot.

The Year Without Summer: 1918

I probably should have read the reviews before I picked up this book. I love weird weather and knock-on effects of meteorological happenings. Unfortunately, this book was not that. It was a somewhat interesting but tediously-told story about all the effects of one volcanic eruption that ruined harvests and affected weather worldwide. Drawn to a large degree from primary source material, the book focuses on a few major historical event and then quotes liberally from primary source documents. There’s very little about the actual explosion or the effects of it on the local region. Instead, in true “News is where the reporters are” fashion, we hear a lot about Lord Byron, what’s going on in France, why so many people from Maine moved to the Midwest, and the death of Jane Austen! So many weather and crop reports! Really hard to keep reading it and while there is a bit of a decent epilogue, this is one of those books that could have been a New Yorker article.

Fatal Pursuit

I was really worried after the last book that I would no longer enjoy this series, that maybe it was ramping up to just be more and more gruesome for whatever reason. This book was significantly less gory. The story was about trying to figure out what happened to a super rare Bugatti that went missing sometime after WWII, maybe in the general area that Bruno is in. There were some other side mysteries, some local policing done well. Lots of good food descriptions, and while there are two corpses, there’s no gore.

The Causal Angel

I read this book as the culmination of a trilogy and did not like it as much as the others. A series of big all-vs-all wars in a mostly-virtual space meaning anything goes and there are shifting rules/constraints. So there would be a few really large battles without obvious constraints like the rules of physics or what-have-you. While some plot holes from the earlier books do get filled in, ultimately, this series ended on a sour note for me. I missed the storytelling of the earlier books.

The Salvage Crew

With AI-written poetry, and dice roll-determined plot points (and weather?) this book had its formulaic aspects. I mean that stuff was all outlined in the preface so it’s not like I somehow deduced it. I liked the idea of this book but part way through it turned a little more into “How much suffering can these people take?” which is a less-favorite trope of mine. I liked the basic arc of this “gig-workers run into trouble on routine op” tale, but there’s some “pink mist” style hyperviolence that wasn’t my thing


This was a fun romp through tech and bread making in places you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever been to the Bay Area. So much of it rang so true from hipster food “makers” to tech gargoyle vampires. Female protagonist and a lot of funny Loises. Plus, there’s always a librarian in a Robin Sloan book.

Frozen in Time

The quest to figure out what happened to the doomed Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage where they were never heard from again (spoiler: lead poisoning! cannibalism!). Written by scientists and not professional writers and it shows, but still a pretty interesting look at what can go wrong when you’re far from home in an inhospitable place.


A very slow-motion prehistoric story, not his usual thing. You follow a few years in the life of an early homo sapiens clan, at a time and place where they were co-existing with Neanderthals (who they called "the slow ones"). It’s a lot more survival focused than narrative in some ways, but you get little parts of learning more about these people. Felt a lot like someone who had seen some cave paintings and wanted to create a backstory for all of them. Enjoyed it in these chilly dark nights.