A look at the history and culture of the complaints of Yiddish with chapters covering important topics like sex and death and why the slang terms for male and female genitalia aren’t semantically equivalent. This was a fun and educating read and a lot more in-depth than I was expecting.
An Oz-adjacent story--you’ll see a lot of names you recognize but the plot really doesn’t work out the same way--about family and belonging and dreaming and how to deal with complex feelings. Beautifully drawn and well crafted. A little more complicated than you think it’s going to be, in a good way.
Graphic novel about being a Black teen learning more about punk and who your people are in a rural racist town. When your mom is a well-meaning but self-centered White woman who doesn’t get you and your dad is a Black womanizing bodybuilder who lives a continent away it’s a tough road. Spooner talks about how he grew up during this period in his life and what friendships and school were like and how he dealt with everyday racists while also being part of a punk band.
I sort of knew from reading the reviews in the back the way this book was going to go. It was a feelgood story about a man who is difficult. As the book goes on you learn more about why he is that way and more about the lives of the people and places around him. I still enjoyed it despite some predictability. The book had some genuinely funny moments, and overall it was a very sweet story.
This may be the first large print book I’ve read. It was the version they had at the library so it’s the one I took home, I enjoy this series a lot. Another great book in this mystery series, this one has a slightly lower body count than the last one. More gratifying relationships between people and a littler less lying and skulking about.
Got this book from the friends of the library bookshelf because I liked the cover and I figured “Award nominated, why not?” It became one of those books I kept reading not so much because I liked it (it was fine, not great, not terrible) but because I was curious what the message was at the end. The book takes place mostly through the eyes of the protagonist talking about his awful ex-wife and his new life without her, and then she disappears, or does she? The ending was an odd unexpected one, with a pivot to a totally different perspective near the end. And I’m not sure I was there for it. A novel about marriage what it means to be female, and a lot of rich people
A novel about what it means to be big and female and Black (and queer) in a Harlem that is rapidly changing around you. This was a book I had to read to the end of to be sure what message it was trying to send; I was pleased how it turned out. There’s a lot going on in this book and it’s mostly told through the interactions of a lot of the female characters including the main character’s mom and grandmother.
I’ve really liked other books by Helprin but after getting what I thought was a reasonable amount into this book, I still wasn’t sure what it was about. I read some reviews and decided I didn’t want to read a book full of WWII.
Branum is in my trivia league. I missed Bros when it came through my town, but decided to ILL this to see if I’d like it. It’s a fun story about growing up big and gay (and gay sounding) in a rural California area and figuring out what you want to do with your life. Branum talks a lot about his family, his career trajectory and what was expected of him versus what he delivered. Funny but not a joke-a-minute.
A story about a woman working in the comics industry in New York City in the 70s. I had originally tried it out as an ebook but there are some comics panels in there which tell part of the story so I picked it up in print from the library. A few comic panels in addition to the central narrative help flesh out what’s actually going on. Some of the emotional tenor felt wrong in places--the lead character is compelling but sometimes it’s hard to follow her trains of thought--but overall a great read especially for people who are interested in 70s era comic book publishing and New York City at that time.
I’ve heard this is Archer Mayor’s last book and maybe that’s not a bad thing after 33 books. The usual Vermont whodunit with the ensemble cast of folks you’ve known forever (but not most of the ancillary characters that pop up from time to time), but I was more aware of the rampant classism & dirty cop antics with the ends-justify-means plots than usual. Not a huge deal but maybe it’s time for this series to wrap up.
This was the second book in a series apparently. I got from the free pile at the library which means it wasn’t circulating terribly well. The loose plot is that a CIA-ish trained psychic soldier needs to figure out why people are mobbing up to attack celebrities and other folks. We learn it’s because of a Dark Web site and then they try to figure out who is behind it and what their angle is. Lively and interesting, if trope-y.
A really interesting idea--remote manipulation of distant building projects via quantum entanglement and human operators--and a great plot with somewhat uneven pacing. Was hoping it would wrap up nicely by the end of it after a lot of ups and downs, but instead we’re poised for a sequel. A high body count.
A bit of a palate cleanser after a bunch of darker stories. This is a cute semi-magical YA graphic novel about what to do when your dreams for who you want to be are confusing and complicated. Everyone’s trying their best but conflicts still happen. Beautifully illustrated and a fun read.
This book has a great plot with some thought experiments about cryogenic suspension and politics surrounding it, but the overall dystopian narrative (with a very sick protagonist who is struggling and in pain throughout) was not quite what I needed right now. Just an awful lot of struggle, too few places of comfort and a lot of confusion that could have been cleared up if people talked to each other more.
A really fun popular history of plumbing and bathrooms by a guy who tried to learn some of it from first principles and sounds endearingly annoying as a spouse. He tries a few experiments in his own house, goes on a few interesting field trips, and maintains a positive attitude throughout. Better than you’d think it would be.
Just to get it out of the way, this cover is stupid. This book is pretty good. A much more emotionally aware time travel book than you may be used to (but not quite as mushy as The Time Traveler’s Wife) with many believable female characters. A small part of it takes place in the Late Triassic. Fast-paced but not enough to keep you up at night.
Once you know where this book is set, you have an idea where it may be going. A good story that I (somehow) wasn’t expecting to be quite so supernatural, or have such a long overly-described poker game in the middle of it. If it’s your jam, it will be very very much your jam, but I found it somewhat uneven and I wasn’t expecting it to veer from reality after establishing a pretty reality-based plot line at the outset.
I am always up for reading a selkie story, especially one about two young girls who kind of like each other. This is a well-told and sweet story that is gorgeously illustrated. A quick read, with some neat preliminary sketches at the end of it.
A great companion to the Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. It’s about how everyone’s gamifying everything, mostly poorly, in the service of capitalism. Creating artificial tediums which they then “solve” w/ game mechanics. No one is better to write about this than Adrian Hon who has run his own successful gaming company, worked in tech and researched some of the neuroscience. Get it.
If I had known that the title of this book was a Shakespeare quote I might not have picked it up. This would have been a mistake. This was a really poignant story about video game design, friendship, and growing up. This book took a very dark turn at about the 70% mark which I was not expecting and didn’t love. If it’s not your jam, it’s unclear if the book really recovers from it. Otherwise I loved being in this book’s universe.
I wished that Reynolds' last book was five times longer. This book certainly was very long, possibly that much longer! It was epic spacer with a small cast of characters learning about the millions of civilizations that came before them, and what happened to them. There’s a lot of traveling around, some deep sleep, some xenomorphic mysteries and a lot of 'splainy little passages in-between. I appreciated that Reynolds has a big vocabulary and knows a lot of stuff. However occasional parts of this book seemed to be just to talk about, for example, black hole theory and not to advance to plot. As a result, it was a little plodding plot-wise but really well-written
A thoughtful housewarming gift and a good read. The author does case studies of many woman in the UK who do a lot of walking, through the ages. It’s a bit too reliant on quoting every single word from others' writing but I enjoyed the author’s reflections on her own walking, as well as her assiduous research.
The next book in the “monk and robot” series which is a short and lovely metaphorical look at the conflict between the natural world and the built world, as manifested in the friendship between an anxious robot and an introverted tea servant. This one was a nice extension of the last book with more relationship-building between the two main characters and a lot less general world building. There’s still a good amount of new world stuff in it however. I liked this one possibly more than the first.
I usually have a “no Nazis” rule for fiction, but it came up against my “always read the books about librarians” rule. This book was actually a bit more about the French resistance character and it was stronger for it. There are two main characters in it and you watch their story arcs bend towards one another. That said there are a LOT of Nazis and if I was going to do it over, I might not have read this even though I enjoyed it. Decent historical fiction.
A short book that grew out of a Humans of New York story about an older Black woman who used to be a very popular burlesque dancer (among other things) in New York City in the 1970s and talks extremely frankly about (some of) her experiences in that world. It has some neat illustrations, but they didn’t all match--some were illustrations of places in the book, some were actual photos of the people in the book--and the book had an oddly large font that made it seem less of a real book than it might have been otherwise. My friends who follow HONY on Instagram were already aware of this story which was serialized there and starting from that point might have made this narrative make sense. For a book that started out as a sort of “tell all” there were a few reveals at the end of things that didn’t make it into the book that were surprising to hear were left out.
A really good take on the idea of a possible future where people don’t need to sleep, or maybe some of them don’t need to, and the implications for that and the lengths people will go to control that situation. It starts off with a mysterious murder at a media agency and expands from there. The lead character is hard to get a handle on as he stumbles through things but the overall plot is good, complex and doesn’t go TOO deep while still managing to be interesting and entertaining.
An intense “Go back into the past to fix the future while someone tries to mess with you from the far future” book which could have been about five times as long and I still would have really enjoyed it. It’s a great story that gradually reveals what the hell is going on but you don’t know for certain until really the last few pages but it doesn’t feel confusing or smarmy. This novella really stuck with me.
A really engaging book of essays by trans, non-binary, and intersex writers of various backgrounds talking about the times they felt RIGHT in their bodies and happy about who they were and/or where they were in their lives. A lot of different stories. There is definitely some trauma among the good news stories but it’s not the overarching dynamic. Joyful and a good read.
A neat take on a post-contact future where translators have to be employed to help the aliens communicate with people from Earth, on Earth. And translating makes them woozy. And it’s a real JOB job. When a crime is committed against one of the people from another planet, this set up gets complicated fast. I feel like the wor5ld that Robson built is believable and yet somewhat foreign. This book is ambitious but I think it delivers on what it’s trying to do.
This is the last book (so far?) in this series which I have overall really enjoyed. Jones now has a co-author and the books seem slightly less complex but with better interpersonal interactions and character growth. Not a lot of bush piloting in this one. Active is working out some of his own stuff which can be frustrating sometimes (when you’re reading thinking "Just go to therapy!!") but the case itself is interesting and I hope Jones continues the series.
The most recent in this series which is really supposed to be after Allon has retired, no seriously this time for real. Almost no Israeli assassin stuff and chock full of art world stuff for those who have missed that aspect to his novels. The story felt a bit implausible and needlessly complex, but it’s the same old characters in a less-harrowing-than-usual story.
Henry does a great job talking about his frustration with and anger about American racism (and White nonsense) and his creative and strategic responses to them, and the friends he lost along the way. This book covers his gradual self-awakening about someone who not only cared deeply about racial justice but wanted to (and did) DO SOMETHING about it. The more he got involved, the more he shed White friends. Eye-opening for me as someone who means well, tries to do well, but could easily fall into a “white friend” category and needs to be more careful and thoughtful.
This is the second one I’ve tried in this series. It was fine, not great. There was some implausible science--people swear they’ve seen an apparition which turns out to have been created through entirely normal means, I didn’t buy it. It’s too hot to read about people suffering through intense heat waves.
This book was a deeply relatable set of essays about growing up a certain kind of poor boy in rural MA and the complex class issues surrounding that. As someone whose parents also left the MA cities for the MA rural life and kind of lost it, I read it with interest. The book coheres a bit unevenly in that it jumps back and forth in time a little because of the nature of some of these essays. Fitzgerald was raised by parents with problems in that “raised by wolves” way some people talk about. At the same time he’s currently a white man in America doing well. He’s mostly aware of this essential odd juxtaposition, and occasionally isn’t. He probably has (or had) a drinking problem. He had a poor body image and now he’s doing okay. He’s made up with his family. I probably dated a LOT of guys like him in high school and so it was weird to read something like this, but also very very useful.
This was the first in this series which Jones wrote with his co-author Patricia Watts. The book seemed shorter and slightly more linear than some of the previous ones. There was more interpersonal stuff, maybe almost too much as one of the characters struggles with her feelings towards her pregnancy, and the usual cast of characters you’ve grown to expect.
I had mixed feelings about this one. It’s about Vish Puri, an Indian detective in Delhi by a White British author. I enjoyed the mystery generally and the setting was fascinating. At the same time, I don’t know enough about the culture to know if the author was being true to it in any real way (his bio implies that he has background but then of course it would). While reading it I just had an odd gut feeling about it because of the pronouncements it made about India and the quirky nicknames that the main character gave his employees. I will try the next one. Also it was fully too hot while I was reading it and everyone’s sweaty and borderline miserable in the book so it was a poor time-of-year fit.
Another graphic novel about the life of John Lewis, taking place after the events in March. This is Book 1. I assume there will be more based on the title but since Lewis died I am less clear on that and it was not mentioned in the afterword. This book talks about the South after the Voting Rights Act passed (and how little changed) and Lewis’s ouster from SNCC which changed his life dramatically.
I have just been plowing through these Alaskan cop procedurals. This one also includes a dippy female Alaska governor who seems vaguely recognizable from former news cycles. There’s less bush piloting, more snowmobiling, and a lot more crossing and double-crossing. I liked how it wove this particular story with all of its complex parts.
A super fun book about what you would need to know if your time machine crashed in the distant past before most stuff was invented. It’s flow-chartish covering topics like metallurgy and agriculture with a bunch of fun appendices about how to do specific things. The whole tone is a very wry “Whoops, sorry you got stranded. Well here’s what you’ll need to do to stay alive and.or make inventions from scratch” and is delightful to read.
Another Alaskan mystery, this one was maybe a bit harder to take. It was less good to read, because it deals with possible sex work, mental illness and complicated and failing relationships. It sets the groundwork for a few of the later books, but that’s very unclear at the time. It was still a good read, but not as coherent as the other ones.
If you like stories of bush piloting, this Alaskan mystery is for you. A lot of remote village travel and nitpicky details about what it takes to make a successful (or not successful) flight. This one is messy with a high body count. The mystery in this story is almost secondary to the vivid descriptions of Alaskan life and travel.
My library has this book & it’s just so good. It’s very inclusive of all genders (never uses the words male/female except when it’s specifically discussing gender identity) and choices about body autonomy and sexual preferences. There are large sections on safety, consent, porn, pregnancy and peer pressure. The book comes with great illustrations by Fiona Smyth in a variety of colors (none of which seem like what we’re used to as “skin tones” which is a smart choice for this book). The slogan is “There is no right or wrong way to have a body” and it’s a great healthy message.
Another pretty interesting multilayered Alaskan mystery story, this one having to do with based-on-true-characters early Alaskan contact with white Christian colonizers, centering Native experiences. It went a lot of interesting places and I felt like I learned some things. Happy that there’s a whole bunch more of these.
Another little free bookshelf book about a Native (raised by White people, so they call him nalauqmiiyaaq for "half white") Alaskan State Trooper trying to make sense of what seem to be unrelated suicides that may involve the big multinational mining concern in the small town. Lots of good Alaska atmosphere and great to read during a Vermont heat wave. The author is not Native but does go out of his way to explain the terminology he uses and I’d be very interested to learn what the taks on this series are from Native readers.
A random find in a little free bookshelf, this was a surprisingly interesting novel about the discovery of some old negatives and a bunch of lessons about how things aren’t exactly what they seem, set in 1990s Seattle which was a place I used to live so I liked it more than I might have otherwise. Some extraneous bits but ultimately a story of trying to figure something out. Not quite a mystery, not quite not.
A graphic novel about grappling with the early days of Covid, police brutality, and navigating complicated relationships. Originally released as a series of panels on Instagram and there’s a big afterword talking about its reception there. Not quite my jam, really uneven and I didn’t like the illustration style, but I hope it finds its audience.
A fantastically strange novella about being a content moderator for a large social media platform (which reminas nameless) and how it changes you. Goes in a bunch of directions you might not expect as the moderators befriend one another and get into and out of relationships, and has a hell of an ending. As someone who has worked in the moderator space somewhat I devoured it.
A really interesting mood piece about a woman with a difficult past and one (difficult) best friend who winds up married to a probably-gay man and living a nearly self-sufficient life in the Galapagos in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s got odd pacing but is good reading. The afterword which talks about how the author came up with the idea is, itself, fascinating.
What an unusual and interesting book. It’s a single story, sort of, told four different ways, but it takes you til about a third of the way through the book to figure out exactly what’s going on, but somehow you don’t mind at all. Lots of female characters and a writing style that is evocative but not too flowery. I loved it.
I love sugar but this book was a bit of a slog. It was interesting to look at the history of sugar and plantations and slavery and the increasing demand for sugar. It was a lot less interesting to read long pull quotes from ancient texts supporting the general thesis as well as recitations of various references that backed up the assertions of the author. For a book written in the 1980s it dealt with the issue of enslaved people and what their lives were like with more sensitivity than I expected.
This book is about the interweaving lives of two-maybe-three people with differing relationships to Deaf culture (CODA, multigenerational Deaf, raised oralist w/ cochlear implant). It’s set against the backdrop of a Deaf school in danger of closing. There are lots of Deaf culture and ASL lessons tucked in-between chapters which will be interesting for people who would like to know more about Deaf culture (I knew many of these points so they felt a little bolted-on to me). There’s a lot going on here and there’s enough young person angst that it reads like a YA novel but also some more mature themes that make it not really read like a YA novel. I had some trouble getting a read on exactly what it was trying to say at times. Very good.
I had said back in 2018 that I was going to go back and read all of Brown’s other books. And then I forgot and noticed this one on the New shelf at the library. It’s got two intertwining stories, one with William Faulkner and one about the two barnstormers he maybe met once in the 1930s. It’s well-written but there’s a lot of drunken nonsense and not enough women who are actual characters. If you really love Faulkner and his history, you might enjoy this book’s exploration of parts of it. If you don’t much care about him you might be confused why this character takes up so much of this novel
A very small town in Italy needs to raise some money to fix their municipal water. One man, possibly the mayor as well as a hotelier as well as the local vacuum repairman, launches a scheme which unfolds with amusing, if predictable, mishaps. You get to meet all the characters, you worry it’s all going to fall apart. It does fall apart and it gets put back together. Funny as well as heartwarming.
I liked Hirahara’s last book with this cast, the first in a series, but this one was more uneven. You could see how the plot outline was set up, and then it was filled in irregularly. Some parts of the story felt fleshed out and others felt unfinished. I appreciated the Hawaiian setting and really diverse cast and discussion of the some of the cultural issues. Still got hung up on what felt like confusing pidgin and I’m really not sure if it’s me or the author who has it somewhat wrong.
More light fiction set in a library/bookstore! This one is about saving a small library in the UK, which many librarians know is still an ongoing thing. Our protagonist is a librarian without much of a life, who finds her voice and helps her community. Sweet and straightforward, goes nowhere surprising, doesn’t end quite like you think or maybe like you want, but a good read in these tough times
A Flemish thriller! This was a really interesting take on the “dark web hitman network” idea that I also saw in R3eaper. What if a hitman decided, for their own ethical reasons, and then becomes a target themselves? Surprisingly non-gruesome despite the topic and some pretty tough story lines. Felt a little too pat in some places because you’re in the “Grappling with people with nearly infinite resources” category. I’d definitely read more by this author.
Figured I’d try the next book in this series and see how I liked it. I liked it! This one involves the death of a wine reviewer with a fancy wine blog and a large number of people who could have done it. A lot of ins and outs but the same general cast of characters. Engaging. More good food descriptions.
Very similar to the Inspector Bruno books, or like a cross between those and the Commissario Guido books. However there is a little less machismo and a few more female characters, and it’s set in Italy and not France. Also unlike the Bruno books there aren’t so many loanwords inserted in italics as if it’s important to use the foreign word for certain things that also have words in English. Nico is a “retired” policeman, recently, widowed, who moves back to his late wife’s homeland, in small town Italy and gets wrapped up in a mystery. Lots of good foods. Faithful pup companion. Enjoyed it, especially the nuances about people from different parts of Italy.
I will read nearly any book set in a library or bookstore. This was an above-average one of the genre with a female protagonist with a dark/murky past that you gradually learn about. She does have some friends despite her generally low-seeming self-esteem. Meets a guy, pushes him away, some stuff happens. It works out. Some wordy tattoos which were, surprisingly, my least favorite part of this.. Some poetry. Well told.
I both loved this book for its central theme--a non-colonized but modern day US, all Native characters--but also had issues with some of the mental health tropes that rubbed me the wrong way. People who are used to these tropes in writing, tropes that blame the mentally ill despite the mentally ill more often being the victims of crimes than the perpetrators--can see these coming a mile away. A lot of sorrow in this book. A great read and an interesting story.
A loving novelization of one of NYCs best Mac repair places, a place that really exists. Anyone who was around in the early Mac years will appreciate this nostalgia trip and all the tiny details that made us Mac lovers to begin with. There’s very little actual story here and I’m not sure that matters.
If you grow up with a sailor dad you may have read more than your average share of shipwreck books. This is about a ship that hit an iceberg & sank without enough lifeboats. Some passengers went down with the ship. Others got into the lifeboats only to be tossed overboard to die. This book spells out the whole situation, from who was on the boat, to what happened when it sank, to the murder of some of the lifeboat passengers, to the weird set of decisions about how to seek legal justice for those murders. And then, finally, some of the ramifications of what was decided. Interesting to note that there was a time before an honorable captain was supposed to go down with the ship.
Chaon has this fascinating ethereal style that he brings to stories usually not getting that treatment. This one has an oddly sympathetic murderer at the heart of it, working out some shit about what family means, against a backdrop of a dystopian future US. You don’t know quite what happened and his life’s story comes out in dribs and drabs but its all very interesting even as our protagonist does not at all seem like someone you’d want to spend time with. Quite well done.
Henry writes lightweight books you can read on vacation and they are fun and interesting. This book goes nowhere unfamiliar which is just fine. The author really enjoys Hallmark movies and wanted to write a book about the other side of the equation: the person back home whose significant other falls for someone in some cutesy small town. This story is not quite that, but close and it was actually a fun read.
A graphic novel about being diagnosed with ADHD before it was really a thing. Page went through a lot of “What is WRONG with that kid?” interactions with the medical establishment before getting a good diagnosis that was helpful. And he’s got a home life that is sort of messy with a dad with a tempeer problem who may be part of the problem as much as he also needs some help. A combination memoir and good factual information about lots of aspects of ADHD. Engaging and interesting.
I enjoyed this mystery based in Hawai’i, 1st in a series. The main character speaks in pidgin with her family/friends (and not with strangers) but narrates the story in Standard English and it was a bit of a stumbling point for me trying to understand what was being said and why the author chose to make that split in that way. Reading the afterword it seems that the author herself doesn’t speak this way (though she had sensitivity readers who okayed this) and maybe that was why it felt weird. A good story, with good characters who have complex relationships with their family, with their community, and with outsiders.
A great fun and funny look at the history of some of the bigger-name invented languages, what makes them work and not work and who were some of the personalities behind them. Okrent is a linguist, so she actually gets involved with some of these languages, tries to pass a Klingon proficiency tests, attends an Esperanto conference. She has a good sense of humor about a lot of this but also bring s a lot of good background knowledge to the topic, so her takes are well worth reading.
A pretty straightforward technothriller about the upsides and downsides to having unlimited funds to work on your dreams, but there’s always some kind of a catch. A somewhat pat ending but not too terrible. Some interesting ideas of the ramifications of totally anonymous online payments and what you could potentially buy. Sort of one evil overlord and the people beholden to him. I’ve liked Peper’s other books and I liked this one even more.
I loved this book which took place in 1920s Bangalore. So many great colors, and so many rich smells described. There are real friendships between the women and the woman gets along well with her husband. She’s a female protagonist in a supportive relationship who likes to untangle mysteries which they eventually work on together. So good.
This is a sequel to the earlier book, with the same general vibe. A LOT of rural poverty and ignorance-informed trauma including both of the daughter’s parents getting ripped away to prison and getting abused in prison for being an interracial couple. Some vocational awe in there too for good measure, about how noble librarianship is and how you should do it even at great cost to yourself because it’s so important. Some good facts about 1950s Kentucky including some information about Moonlight Schools, the Pack Horse Librarians and women serving as fire lookouts. A decent ending, a good read but not my fave.
This was the most uneven of the pack, veering between a lot of complicated relationship stuff and walls of text about dust, weather patterns, the nature of memory, and then a tiny conflict wrapped up way too quickly. It follows the same general trajectory as the others but whereas the others, the final conflict is introduced significantly earlier in the novel, in here it felt jammed right on to the end. And the overall wrap-up seemed weird to me. Glad I read it, happy it’s over.
A pretty decent look at sex work in Alaska during and after the gold rush. Done in a sort of person-per-chapter format, with a lot of newspaper and other research going in to filling out some not otherwise well documented stories of these women in early Alaskan history. There are some photos as well so these are well-illustrated stories about many different women (and a few men) who contributed to the culture in important ways. This is as much a story about Alaska as it is about sex work. People who are up on present sensibilities about how we talk about sex work may find the language somewhat outdated and.or offensive.
I like where the worldbuilding is going in this series but this book has long passages of just geology/planetology even more than the first. I like the human aspects and how all of that interacts with the choices people make about the planet, but one person talking for five pages about a crater, is a LOT less my jam.
How have I gone this long without reading this? I like most of KSR’s stuff. This was a little more epic than I expected and could sometimes get bogged down in long Martian geography/worldbuilding passages, but overall a neat look at a possible Martian future. One of the things that is the most interesting about all of this is that we’re in a future world where we’ve traveled to Mars, but at the same time, there is ubiquitous network but... no social media? So some of the interactions which occur seem weirdly quaint now because in the actual world with both ubiquitous network AND ubiquitous social media it’s hard time imagine things unfolding the way they do.
A weird story about a dramatic apocalypse and the only people left at the weird startup are the temporary workers who try to find a way to make things work out. And you’re not sure for a bit “Wait, did nearly everyone in the entire world DIE??” Not quite a romp but not fully serious either. I liked the main character but... he dies? I found the entire thing basically a black humor situation where I felt the author was maybe not entirely clear if he wanted to it be super dark or not so it wavered. The plot was interesting, the conclusion was unsatisfying.
This was on my Kindle forever, I finally got around to reading it. A guy is depressed because his startup got stolen from him. But they pull him back for one last job, building an AI to go inside a lifelike humanoid that... only speaks Chinese? And then you as the reader have to deal with this completely incomprehensible cyborg and it just didn’t land right with me. Like I liked the idea in general, but the execution and especially a few specifics (like the Chinese thing, come ON) made it a really uneven read.
I read Dune earlier this year and was looking forward to seeing a graphic novel treatment of it, but I gotta be honest, I wasn’t wild about this. There’s a lot jammed in there & I think I’d have had trouble following it if I hadn’t just finished the book. For a desert planet, there were a lot of blues and greens in the illustrations and the style just wasn’t to my liking. I found the book a lot more evocative and the graphic novel a lot more kind of standard comic book fare with really busty improbably built women and lots of brooding and.or evil dudes.
Once your generation ship makes it somewhere, then what? A really good exploration of the compromises that need to (maybe) be made in the name of survivability. A colony that is almost too small to survive, on a frozen ice planet, suddenly realizes they are not alone. Gets real creepy at the end in a surprising way. Mostly female characters, lots of interesting social dynamics.
Emily is a great writer and a great Twitter follow who’s written a friendly and useful book about helping the non-disabled understand good, constructive ways to interact with disabled folks and what it really means to be a good ally. Well-designed with friendly illustrations and a positive attitude that you just have to make an effort, not always do each thing exactly perfect. Emily is very good at explaining how sometimes different disabled people can want different things out of interactions and talks about how to negotiate those interactions.
A great story of a generation ship approaching a new planet (after over 5 generations) and all the last minute stuff that occurs. Our plucky hero is in officer school (despite being from a family where that’s not the norm) has to work some shit out to both keep himself and his family from getting in trouble, but also to solve a weird mystery about why the ship isn’t behaving the way it’s supposed to. A lot of deconstruction of the various kinds of class/caste privilege and how they might shake out over a multigenerational voyage.
I knew the bare facts about this holiday but it was an entirely other thing to hear about Gordon-Reed’s experiences growing up as a black girl in Texas in a family that had been there for generations. She talks about wanting to know more about her family’s experience during the time when Texas was a weird world unto itself. Great essays about her life as a child but also where she is now as an adult.
This novel was outside of my usual reading, a suggestion from a friend. It’s a straightforward story of a family with some mysteries, takes place in and around the Springfield Armory during a wartime production period. Lots of bad parents, and people trying to do better. The two sisters have an almost Frozen-like split up and eventual reuniting. The mysteries get meted out slowly. I liked learning about Springfield, I found the rest of it a little higher drama than I’d prefer.
I had heard about this book but it turned out to be somewhat hard to find. It’s kind of an intellectual successor to the Rabbi Small books, this one features Rabbi Vivian, a lesbian assistant rabbi in Providence RI. The story is engaging and entertaining with a more social justice oriented approach to the tenets of modern Judaism. The basic issue is “Hey maybe as a community we need to not just continue to focus on our own oppression but look outward and see who else could be helped by some of the power we’ve accumulated” I really appreciated that view and the author does a good job outlining a story.
Picked this up because of the title and it being on the new shelf at the library. Liked it a lot for about the first three-quarters of it. It’s a multiverse book and a monster book and I was confused how those two connected, like I felt there was something I was possibly missing. The characters are great, a wide range of types of people and the ways they interact. The discussions from within the co-op meetings felt super real. But, there was some realistic active-shooter stuff, in a long-feeling chapter, at the 3/4 mark which was too scary and too real-life horror for me to really stick with the rest of the book. I finished it but only just.
Usually I don’t enjoy books that jump around in time and have a many-narrative perspectives in them, but this book somehow made it work. It makes it clear where you are in time and who is doing the talking which is really all I want. This is the second book I’ve read this year about simulation theory, and another book that has a pandemic as a plot point, so if you liked this one you might enjoy The Anomaly or How High We Go In The Dark. This book covers a range from “old timey” to “distant future” and does it incredibly well. I was sad when it was over.
It’s nice to be back in the library reading print books! I plucked this one right off of the “newish” shelf. This is a great tale about the end of the lumberjack era as told through the eyes of a 99 year old man after what may be his last fight. So it’s mostly told in flashbacks but you get little snippets of what happened later. A just-barely-magical tale, maybe not even. Made me miss the PacNW something fierce. A better lumberjack story than most of the rest of them I’ve read.
This book was on my dad’s nightstand during my childhood seemingly forever. I picked it up when I was too young to get it and hated it: confusing names, nothing happens in the first 1/5, snoresville. Finally picked it up again at the suggestion of a friend of mine and didn’t hate it, even liked parts of it. It was a little long and dragged in parts but I appreciated the “palace intrigue” quality of it and a lot of the worldbuilding. Wished for more female characters because even though there was a lot of gender diversity, it felt like a very masculine book. Not going to read the other seventeen books (possibly a few, certainly not all), but might now go watch the movie.
A straightforward, well-told recounting of growing up in rural Iowa in the 1930s in a big family during the depression. Kalish’s family was almost entirely self-sufficient, making their own clothes and all their own food and she recounts what a huge amount of time it was every day to feed and clothe a family of this size. The bulk of the book is about being one of the Little Kids and chores and school and whatnot, but the epilogue about what she did next fills it all out.
This is the last book in the series, and there’s no satisfying wrap-up since it’s the last book only because Kemelman died. A lively mystery with a snow storm at its center, and a new rabbi at the temple and this one goes jogging! There’s a lot of drama and a somewhat confusing setup with a lot of lawyer and the rabbi and his wife splitting their time between Boston and Barnard’s Crossing but this story wraps up well even if the overarching tale is left somewhat unfinished.
It’s a joke that the rabbi almost-resigns in each book. But now he finally does, seemingly in a good way. As this series progresses the plots get kind of complex with what can feel like too many characters and this one is definitely like that, but I enjoyed this penultimate one.
A story told in oral storytelling fashion about a Stone Age culture right on the cusp of the Bronze Age and the day to day things they do to trade and survive. This was suggested to me from someone who saw that I liked teh KSR novel Shaman. I also enjoyed this one. Many branching tales with (perhaps) one central true thru line. Well-told.
Another Maisie Dobbs novel, still in WWII. No Nazis in this one though there are some good old fashioned US white supremacists... and Eleanor Roosevelt! Maisie is in a stable domestic situation though there’s some weirdness at her adopted daughter’s school. Everyone lives through this one I believe and there are some other romances afoot. A lively novel and mystery; if you liked the other ones, you’ll like this one.
I was away from home, misjudged books to bring on my Kindle, and had to find a book in my dad’s house that would be OK nighttime reading. I’ve read other books by this author and they are just fine: period mysteries, not too complicated, delve into a lot of “the status of women in the gaslight era of NYC.” This is a mystery where a terrible man is killed and nearly everyone has a motive. The two main characters (the actual cop at a time when cops have pretty low status, and a midwife who is unusual for being a well-to-do woman with a profession) get along in a way that is pleasant and not the kind of smoldering intrigue that the last book I read in this series seemed to have.
The rabbi goes to Israel again, gets mixed up in some nonsense, helps keep an innocent (but annoying) kid out of Israeli jail. A lot more scene-setting than actual mystery time, but it’s got a fair amount of the folks you like in it and you learn a little more about the more Orthodox style of Judaism. There’s definitely an aspect of pinning the bad stuff on the Arabs so it may be worth avoiding if that’s not the kind of thing you’d want to read.
Not too surprisingly, these books are getting kind of samey but I liked this one because it has some political machinations and a guy who wants to run the temple like a business which, hey hey, the rabbi doesn’t like. So the rabbi is, as per usual, threatening to leave but then has to help get the Jewish person off the hook when they’re accused of doing something dastardly.
A really well done near-future dystopia where giant corporations (or one in particular, that seems an awful lot like Amazon) take over more of the day-to-day lives of Americans as the planet becomes more and more unlivable. There’s a great attention to detail about the surveillance state that crops up and how much of what is happening is evil people being evil and how much is people just trying to make the best of bad personal situations. I didn’t love any of the characters but you’re maybe not supposed to.
Every so often I feel I should try to get my head around calculus & some nice man offers me a book they say is “Not like all the other books.” And I read, once again, about a pissing match between Newton and Leibniz with a roller coaster on the cover. Basically there is a jump that happens between understanding the concepts (which I do) and understanding how to plug them into formulae (which I don’t understand) and I always wind up lost in the second half of these roller coaster books.
This would be a great book for someone, it was not a great book for me. A grimdark near-world dystopia which is trauma-laden from the getgo and each time you think “This can’t get more dire, can it?” it does. So much tragedy and just unrelenting pain and sorrow. I read at night, usually, and need less nightmare fuel.
I loved this book and also wanted it to be 10-15% more subtle. Like there are some mysteries inside it where if you guess that the guy with the nickname is ALSO the other named character in a different part of the story, you kind of know what may be about to happen. It’s a wonderful story about maps and map libraries and the weird line between the map and the territory. And nostalgia. And just a little bit magical, but only a tiny bit. And based on some true history. It had some twists that I wanted to be a little bit twistier. Tiny gripe, great book
This was definitely my least favorite of the series. A lot of unlikable characters that you had to spend a lot of time with, and while there were a couple interesting twists it just didn’t do it for me. There is basically an antisemitic older man who dies and a LOT of people might have wanted to see him dead. Unfortunately he’s still alive for a lot of the earlier parts of the book and so you just have to listen to his awful tirades and poor treatment of those around him.
A great snack of a book. It was really so nice to read something set in modern (i.e. COVID) times without leaning on that & having an entirely other plot. Funny and very relatable for the Extremely Online even as there’s nearly no internet in the book. A guy who gets shafted by his start-up get a random new gig which turns out to be even stranger than he imagines. And then he gets to get a teeny bit of revenge on the grifter CEO who shafted him. I enjoyed how aware of itself this book was, and how funny.
The Boston Post, a newspaper in Massachusetts, sent engraved canes to towns in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Rhode Island in 1909 with a request to give them to the town’s oldest man. This book tracks the ones sent to New Hampshire and gives info who the canes were given to in 1909. Also, if known it discusses who currently owns the cane or if it’s still given out. This is clearly a bit of a homemade book, but it’s made with love and you learn a lot about what old timers were like in New Hampshire at the turn of the last century.
As I was reading this, I could easily see it being a time-slipping thriller movie with Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s a very visually compelling story of a hotel that is a stopover place for time travelers but then there’s some sort of anomaly that is hard to pin down leading to the hotel detective having to rty to figure stuff out all the while suffering from increasingly concerning “slippage” due to the mount of time travel she’s done. A lively book, with a bit of confusing timeline back and forth (not always easy to tell when “now” is which I think is intentional but still kind of vexing) but ultimately one that delivered.
I’ve been reading a lot of clone books lately, this is one of the better ones. It looks at ethical issues of making exact replicas of people--ones that emerge as the same general age as the original--while also just being being a solid colony-ship type of story. The main character is fallible yet likeable, and the histories of failed colonies are so interesting. While this book wraps up somewhat tidily there is a sequel planned and I am looking forward to reading it.
This is a different tour through Bechdel’s life than some of her recent titles, it talks about her preoccupation with fitness through her whole life (before it was really a thing) and reflects on what that might have been, or is, about. She goes to a lot of discursive places some of which were more interesting than the others but to me what was so interesting is that I really didn’t know she was sporty at all. And as someone who had an upringing that was like hers in some ways and very unlike hers in other ways, I am always curious to read more meoir-style stuff from her.
These are sort of ripped from the headlines and this one involves a bombing at a local college where the rabbi is teaching briefly and the real differences between the “tough on crime” establishment versus the “hey they’re just kids” folks. I felt like there was more that could be done with this and I felt like they set up the one Black student to attract a lot of suspicion and then you never really figured out what happened to him when his name was cleared.
I really enjoyed No You Can’t Touch My Hair and this is another great book by Robinson. Funny and unapologetic, I really enjoyed how much she OWNS her life and is willing to talk about the good and the bad parts of it. She’s got a white boyfriend, they used to travel a lot and didn’t spend too much time together then the pandemic hit and they were ALWAYS in each others' space. There’s humor, there’s snark, there’s a bit of name-dropping. A really good romp of a book.
Maybe a YA novel? This book takes place in Scotland, where there are a lot of haves and the have-nots are really just barely eking out an existence. There’s a weird library and some supernatural stuff going on. Our plucky hero is a young woman of color managing a lot of stuff--poverty, supporting her family, learning magic, threats--while trying to learn a bunch of stuff and figure out a bit of a mystery. Very engaging.
A really interesting collection of short stories, many with different positionings of what a “monster” is. Sometimes it’s someone with weird features, sometimes it’s someone with a bad attitude, sometimes it’s someone who treats others badly. Rarely is it an actual supernatural being or a Frankenstein type of thing. Some I liked more than others, but all of them were good and worth reading and some have continued to stick with me.
This title has a double meaning because Rabbi Small takes some time off and also takes off for Israel which is a very different place in the late 60s than today’s Israel, I’m guessing. The country is not as much of a country as it is now and there’s a lot more random violence that is a bit more mysterious. Small, as usual, is not sure what to do about his job at the synagogue and so he takes an unpaid sabbatical to think it over. Was interesting to learn some about this part of the world at this point in time, very snack-sized books, these.
There’s something comforting about these small-ish town, very Judaism-focused, New England mysteries. This one has some casual racism in it along with some white-savior stuff (pushed back against, mercifully). I liked it but it wasn’t quite as interesting as the others I’ve read in the series. A quick read.
This book was co-written with Louise Penny of the Inspector Gamache series of mysteries. This is exactly the kind of book you think it’s going to be from reading the cover: a diplomacy-based thriller w/ a dose of difficult decisions and cameos of a few people from the Penny universe. And the main character is a middle-aged Secretary of State who has to use her diplomacy chops to get to the bottom of a global disaster-in-the-making. I liked it, but it didn’t go anywhere I wasn’t expecting.
These are nice simple mysteries that take place in familiar (to me) locations in Massachusetts and have some little lessons about Judaism as part of them. The rabbi isn’t super charismatic but he’s a man of principles and you wind up taking his side a lot. I enjoy brushing up on my Yiddishisms by reading along with these stories.
A 1960s-era set of mysteries about a Massachusetts rabbi which I decided to read because I was getting a little tired of “ambitious” scifi for now. Jim suggested this series and I like it. The Rabbi of a small town in the North Shore of Massachusetts gets drawn in to local mysteries but it’s not like he’s an amateur sleuth but more like he uses rabbinical tactics to help figure out what happened. Very much a product of its time but a good story overall.
I am learning that a book that is described by many reviewers as “ambitious” may not be the right book for me. I really liked this book generally, but felt confused by the ending somewhat and felt the author had a Big Idea that may or may not have really worked out. Sometimes I have to get all the way to the end of these “climate disaster” books to tell if it’s a story of hope or a story of doom, and gosh I’m still not sure about this one. A great read told in a before, during, after way. A little scifi, a little fantasy.
This book had been on my shelf for a long time, picked up at a library booksale somewhere in Michigan. It’s basically a history of telescope technology as told by a telescope nerd. Well-illustrated. A bit on the dry side but no more than I was expecting. And he really tries to acknowledge the history of women, usually as doting sisters to astronomers who didnt get enough credit at the time, and I appreciated that. I learned things about the night sky and I enjoyed learning about old astronomer drama.
I has misgivings as soon as I saw that this book was dedicated to Joss Whedon. And I’m not sure if my dislike for it was really because I had thought it was going to be something else? There are some vague descriptions of this book and I think I thought the two very different superhero women were... going to team up somehow? They do NOT. So ultimately this book was not my jam. A two-superhero-one-good-one-evil story which was hyperviolent and too trauma-filled for me. A good plot and there’s some good writing but there is also some bad writing. Would have made a good comic book (and the author’s background is sequential art) but just relentlessly sad as a novel.
Another one of those books taking place in a near future where people with genetic modifications and people without them fail to get along. In this case there was an all out war, called The Stupid War that is in the country’s near past. Now something else is going on and there’s a group of plucky teens who tries to figure it out. This is a weirder-than-usual spin on that trope, nearly YA in its approach. Readable and somewhat strange.
A Goncourt-winning novel originally in French which manages to be both ethereal (in parts) and didactic (in other parts). There were a lot of long chunks of philosophy in the middle of what was otherwise a story about a really weird thing that happens. Hard to talk about without giving plot details away. I enjoyed it but went to Goodreads after reading to check “What did I just read?” and figure out how it ended because even though I was giving it a close read, I wasn’t sure I understood. Neat weird plot twists, big cast of characters. Would I recommend it? Not sure.
It’s been a long time since I’ve put a book in my Best In Show category but I really enjoyed this book despite the fact that it takes place mostly during a global pandemic (not this one, a different one). A perfect example of one of those “stories which overlap but you’re not quite sure how until much later” novels. It’s about people trying to do their best despite living through really extraordinary circumstances, in a few different time periods. Can sometimes be a trick to link all the stories together. Incredibly poignant in a few places and I’m sure it’s not for everyone. One of my favorite reads of the past 12 months.
A book with one central conceit: an anthropologist goes back to check on an older Earth colony on another planet. His tools and knowledge make them think he’s a wizard. They can’t communicate well enough to clear it up. They have to solve some problems. It’s a really well-done story. Some humor, a great tale, not too long.
Fascinating premise--what if there was a way to determine exactly when you would die and companies competed to sell this information to you--kind of ruined with an unlikable protagonist and a supernatural backdrop that never entirely cohered. I really liked these stories when they were about managing a world in which you could know your death date. I liked the supernaturallish stuff a lot less so the ending was just a swamp of “What the heck is going on?” Promising but didn’t make it work.
A WWII-era mystery that focuses on a lot of spycraft and London during The Blitz. Decent storylines that all kind of fit together, not too twee, good to see familiar characters again. There’s an awful lot of kind of up and down Maisie and her latest guy as well as a pretty big helping of Patricia Is Dramatic (for good reasons but still) so if you’re looking for more of Maisie-the-Detective, this book doesn’t have as much of that.
Found this in a free box at the library. Can’t tell if it’s not funny, I have no sense of humor, the authors are way younger than me, or the pandemic rendered any pre-pandemic discussions of anxiety moot. Some things seemed to be making fun of anxiety and some seemed to act like it’s the most serious big deal thing in the world. In any case, not my jam.
As you might imagine, this collection by Ed Yong is terrific, encompassing the urgency of COVID and global warming, among other science and nature-y things. It felt like the authors were mostly female writers, with a thread of hopefulness not typical of these books. I did get the vibe that many of the essays were from the Atlantic which was the only real “sameyness” about the collection. Compared to last year’s collection which was notable in the absence of COVID coverage, this was a nice return to the types of collections I am used to finding in this series.
An interesting premise about a galaxy-wide war between “modified humans” (neural nets, DNA mods &c) and what’s become a cult of non-modded humans who want to destroy anyone with mods. The beginning of this book was a few unlinked story lines that were much more interesting once you figured out how they all fit together. Overall there’s a good story arc, a bit slow to get going but with a “pink mist” level of violence that probably wouldn’t lead me to pick up a sequel.
This is the most recent in Silva’s Israeli-assassin series. The enemies this time are “the Russians” which was better than many other books which seem to have some Islamophobia issues. The story has an interesting main plot about money laundering and Swiss banks with a very bolted-on Jan 6th denouement and dramaz at the end which I did not at all enjoy. Clearly the author working out some stuff and he says as much in the afterword. A good but not great book in this series.
I checked reviews for this one before I read it because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t another all out civil war type book the way the second book was. It wasn’t. It wrapped the series up really nicely and was a lot more interesting to me than Book Two. You do lose some main characters but you understand a lot more about everyone and about the xenosphere in general.
This book was the sequel to Rosewater. It took a path kind of like the novel The Outside where the first book sets up the human vs. alien struggle which is pretty interesting and raises a lot of questions, but then the second book is a lot of All Out War. And, I’m just less into the all-out-war stuff even though it continues to be interesting and the story lines continue. It wasn’t bad, it was quite good really, but there was an awful lot of trauma and I’m hoping the last book won’t be more of the same.
This was a fun political thriller even though it laid out who the bad and good guys were pretty early on and didn’t vary much from that course. Stock bad people, fairly interesting good people, not so many in-between people which I often think of when I read thriller type books, like you never know who is good or bad, or who the good person can trust. This was a book with good legal intrigue but didn’t get bogged down in it. If you wished Grisham were better, or had decent female characters, read Abrams book.
Another winner by Thompson about a strange alien thing that crops up in Nigeria and the people who try to make sense of it. I’m not sure if Thompson embraces the Afrofuturism moniker but this feels like it to me even though except for the alien thing, this is a modern day story. The protagonist is a slightly unreliable narrator and you’re not sure if he’s smart or stupid in several pivotal points in this book. The sequencing is a bit herky-jerky in the chronology--it goes back and forth between modern day and events in the past and sometimes it’s tough to tell where you are since the protagonist basically seems like the same person--but not a major issue. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I’ll definitely be picking up the next installment.